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Day ten (again)

January 18, 2017

I shouldn’t have done it, but I did. After I got home from yesterday’s rehearsal, for the first time in a long time, I reread all my old email messages from my dead Welsh friend. Then I charged my old UK mobile and read all his old text messages.

I know the last time I wrote about him I mentioned the long, better-out-than-in message I woke up to one morning early in 2008. Rereading it yesterday, for the first time in a long time, made me cry. The last two paragraphs in particular were almost literally killers.

Suicide. The thoughts have become a constant, unbidden companion to me. They pop into my head at some time on most days, and all the time on some days. I try to acknowledge them, examine them and let them go in the Zen fashion, but when they keep coming back again and again, it becomes like trying to hold back a flood with your hands.

“This last week has been one of the hardest I can remember. My brain seems to have acquired a processor which runs beyond my control. It has now calculated which beams in the old barn would hold my rope. It knows where the fields give access to the swollen, flooded river. It is working out where the sharp blades are. It is betraying me. My weapons against it are weak and the blackness of despair seeps over everything like the swirling rain.”

Even though he assured me that writing this long message had been cathartic, it’s no surprise that a month later I was in Wales, checking up on him. (It would have been a lot less than a month if my workload at Free Tibet at the time hadn’t made this impossible.) While I was there, he showed me that beam, said it was somehow comforting to know it would take his weight, but that he was no longer in that place. And I honestly didn’t think he was. Perhaps it was just me being there. I don’t know. But his texts and emails and our phone calls in the following months never suggested he was walking down that road again. Yes, there were the ups and downs involved in the ongoing attempt to find the right cocktail of meds, but I felt safe. He wasn’t going to leave me. And then he did. And then I was travelling up to the farm again, because I had to look at that beam again, had to see it to get the image of his body hanging from it out of my head.

Buried in the archives of the BBC website is an interview he did with them more than a decade ago. After rereading all those messages, I tracked it down and watched it. A glutton for punishment.

Why yesterday? I don’t know. Perhaps, buoyed by Catherine’s visit, I felt safe to revisit painful memories.

I wasn’t. After watching that archive footage for the fourth (or fifth or sixth) time, I went straight to Spider Solitaire. Even though part of my brain was screaming “No! Don’t do it!” I opened the link and went down the rabbit hole for three hours. I suppose this is what it’s like for alcoholics or drug addicts – moments when, overwhelmed by memories of bad things they cannot change, they reach for oblivion. Anything, no matter how bad it is for you, to keep the memories at bay for a while.

At least I didn’t keep going until 10pm. At least I stopped myself, made dinner from some of the weekend’s leftovers, sat down with my book at the diningroom table to eat and read. At least dinner wasn’t a bowl of popcorn devoured in front of the television. Always look on the bright side of life.

If I thought the worst of the day was over, I was wrong. When I got into bed last night to read for a while, it was as if my back had suddenly started screaming.  It seems all those delightful tickles from Catherine had not soothed the savage back, but awoken it. Stockpiling had not worked. Reminded of the nearly forgotten ecstasy of tickles, my back wanted more.

Well, like the rest of me, my back is shit outta luck. I know Catherine wants to come back in March to see the actual performance of my play, but her workload is crazy  and it simply may not be possible. My angry, touch-deprived back needs to go back into hibernation.


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