Wednesday, 6 December 2017

A collapsed star

A Collapsed Star 


My boyfriend tried to blow himself and his ex-girlfriend up in a cottage eclipsed by trees and starry skies, in the middle of nowhere. His face is all over the papers, his name splashed across news reports and television screens. We have a daughter together, a little five year old girl. She doesn’t know who her dad is, she thinks he’s gone away for a while. A long time. I don’t know what to tell her when she grows up. I’ve always encouraged her to count the stars in the sky, but now I'm like a collapsed star, fizzled out in fume. Without her I could crash, die. How many lives can you destroy before you become indestructible? 
I disconnected the dial between "happy" and "ending" an eternity ago. The moment your boyfriend tells you how fat you look in your favourite dress, the stars and scars you see right before he splits your lip, the abuse, the bruise. While she counts stars I count excuses. I was young, drunk, destructed, dazed. I should have left the first time he hit me. Before black turned to blue. Sometimes she’s sixteen when I tell her, sit her down and show her the papers. Others she’s fourteen, sometimes eighteen. Perhaps it’s easier to play pretend and erase this man’s monstrous memory from history. Rewrite the truth and fixate on the false. For now she thinks her dad’s just a “bad man” who occasionally breaks into the flat drunk, reeking of booze, cursing at her, at me. Ripping open her Christmas cards in the hope of easy cash. 
Life looks different to how it did yesterday. His face is all over the papers, front page. What he’s done blows up the news, just like he tried to blow up the both of them.  They're both on life support now, in the same hospital, two doors down from the other. I could have saved her life had I not gotten so disenchanted with his drama after so long. Now they're both in a critical state of devastate. I read the diaries, word for word. Despite knowing full well he ain't no saint, what he did to her shocks me to the depths of my system and I'm sick in the sink, acid rinsing my mouth with bitter bile. 

The two other blokes in her life fare better but have still let her down in their own destructive ways. I’m driving so far, from South to North because I feel Shea deserves her diaries, her photos and all the belongings he’d kept locked under his sadistic spell. I’ve read every word and gazed at every photo. I understand Johnny was her childhood sweetheart, the one who always walks back into her life at the wrong time. That her brother and his untimely passing has barred a barrier of resentment and blame that separates them from being together, from the happy future they both seem to want. That Jed was the one who walked away at the right time, after all those predictable promises.
I’ve dropped my little girl off in Dartford, at a friends’ house. She’ll be safe with him and his cats, Muffin and Bamf. I’d picked Muffin up and buckled under his weight, but breathed into his fur and wished I could stay. The house was at once familiar and like the only home I'd ever really known. 

At the hospital I stand over his bed. I can't bring myself to look up but the smell of burnt blood clings to the walls and suffocates my system. Rot in hell I'm too shook up to scream. I hope you rot in fucking hell for what you've done. The hospital corridor is hazy but there's a clutter of people who all turn to drink me in. I feel sunken under their stares. Her loved ones, the ones whose lives he's destroyed. Johnny comes thundering towards me. Unlike his photograph he isn't beaming cheekily towards the camera, head tilted to one side. He's got tears flaming down his cheeks and a trembling mouth. He flies towards me, yelling in my face. Words that bubble against a backdrop of bleed. 

'You sick bitch! The nerve! It should be you in that hospital bed, not her!' 
'Don't start on someone else, for God's sake! Leave the poor girl alone.' 
He backs off and falls to the floor, head against one of the clinical walls. Sobbing silently. They all stare at me still, eager for an explanation. 'I'm sorry. I could have saved her. Should have saved her. I stuck by him for so long and was in love with him just like he was in love with her. It's all my fault.' 
'Of course it isn't,' several of them step forward. Their kindness floors through me and I fear collapse. 
'He's just upset, it's hit him hard.' A man who must be Johnny's dad rests a reassuring hand on my shoulder. I nod my thanks, unable to speak. Lowering myself down to Johnny's level, I hand him the diaries and photos. Gasping down all the emotion lodged in my throat, I turn and run out through the heavy grey doors. 
Snow spirals down like frosty icing as Johnny runs towards me, shirt sleeves rolled up despite our glacial surroundings. His face creases into a sob, more sobs. Until he's crying out into the cold air, racking gasps of pent up exhaustion. I pull him into a hug somehow with the sixth sense that he won't mind, will be glad of an embrace. He smells like lime and mint and soap, just like Shea wrote. We stand together, cradling each other, two strangers linked forever through bruise and break. I will her to wake for him, even if it's just to tell him to piss off, that it's Jed she wants instead. Just wake up. 

'I can be a right prick sometimes. Sorry.' He steps aside from our moment, swipes tears away with his shirt sleeve and shakes his head, laughs. 'Thank you for the photos, and her diary. Bet all she does is boast about how fucking fantastic I am and what a great shag I was, right? As if my ego needs any more attention.' Despite the devastation I laugh with him and hope he doesn't feel too hard done by when he reads all about Jed. Johnny swallows and looks shattered. 'She will be okay, won't she? I won't ever forgive myself if she... you know. I said some awful things.' 

I give him a brief hug, try to transport all the hope and faith I haven't got from my heart to his. 

Today I am to blame, tomorrow I start a new life, a better life. 

A split second before the neon green line starts to drop, signalling Shea's heart to stop, her last memory is upbeat. The bridge between life and death, the sync between dream and déjà vu sees herself at fifteen, sixteen. But then she remembers, and it all falls through. There is no fight left. 

All the pain, I told him no more. But he never could take no for an answer. I love him in ways I can never imagine loving anyone else in this world. And him, he should stay away too. I loved him and I will love him until the day I die. But it’s over, all of it. Haven’t they both done enough damage to last me an entire lifetime? When will it stop? I want to see my little girl, and my brother. I want to be in a heaven away from this hell. A butterfly flaps its wings, a root breaks through the dirt and a sky bleaches black. 

My heart stops beating at approximately 03.48, December 30, 2003.