dark am i, yet lovely, a lily among thorns, majestic as stars in procession

dark am i, yet lovely, a lily among thorns, majestic as stars in procession

Friday, 12 February 2010

JENNY (my valentine)

I did some voluntary work over Christmas that involved reading some creative writing from people in secure mental health institutions, and I think I came across a gem. Not in the quality of the poem to follow, but because of who I suspect wrote it. I’ve actually been inside a secure unit myself, when visiting a friend, Clarence, back in college, and I’m 90% convinced that one girl in particular I met there, on a number of occasions, was the same girl whose entry I read for this years Koestler competition. Same Christian name, same hospital……I think it is her. There is no way of checking, but in my mind I will make it her anyway, for my own pleasure. Although I’m sure I don’t have to.

Although I was there to see Clarence when I found myself inside one of these institutions, it was actually Jenny who I was most interested in laying eyes upon. Clarence didn’t need me, he was having a great time playing darts with and taking the piss out of a pyjama-clad slobbering nutter from Ireland. Her room was just by the table where we sat. We weren't in a visiting room, oh no, but right there in the middle of the ward. Dangerous. Clarence wasn’t on the high-risk floor, but you still had to watch your back. The slobbering nutter, to me……(this might be difficult to explain, but here goes)……okay, the slobbering nutter looked like he felt he was armed, with those darts. That’s it. He looked like he felt like he was armed. Hence I didn’t play. I just sat watching Clarence act like he was still down the youth club.

The first room I would see whenever I came onto the ward would be ‘Jenny’s’ room. The door was always open. The window was always open. She was always fully-dressed in brown corduroy pants and a heavy red wool pullover. She always had a small porcelain angel on her table, and she was always sat on the edge of her bed, hands resting on her knees, staring out the window. She had short thin dark hair, kind of like a big fluffy flattop brushed forward, and thick-rimmed specs. She never moved, like a statue, peaceful.

Whenever I left I would see her turn at the last minute, as if she had made a note to say goodbye but saw me too late in the corner of her eye. I never had the courage to retreat a couple of footsteps and lean back to smile or say hi. Until the last time I was there, when I knew Clarence would be getting out, and I would not be coming back. Then I stuck my head in and said, “Bye, Jen.”

The look. That look on her face. The warmest expression I’ve ever seen. So welcoming and hopeful. So warm. Not a single haunt or shadow in it. From a block of concrete to animated light. She edged further along the bed as if expecting me to sit down next to her, which my stupid idiot self didn’t do. I’d always wondered why Jenny was in such a place, as she looked perfectly normal, but now I could see how her arms were horribly disfigured. There were tidy blocks of neat slash marks, as if she was counting the days of every month and ticking them off in her flesh.

She explained, apologetically, embarrassingly, “Days without masturbating.” Then it was time to go. A nurse was telling me to leave the room. So I did, saying bye again. Jen said goodbye back. And that was it.

Not much of a verbal exchange by any means, but there was so much of a connection deep within I still feel it to this very day, and often wonder if she still ever thinks of me. She was so pretty and gentle, so delicate and soft in nature. I could tell immediately, within seconds; it was in her aura. She would never harm a fly, or a soul, but inside I could not imagine the complexity of whatever turmoil felt it necessary for her own hand to guide blade over skin. And yet I wanted to know every detail. I wanted to fix her. The bad part was knowing for sure in my heart that I could fix that girl. The even worse part was believing that she would have actually liked me to fix her.

A Trip to the Shops by Jenny

I unpeel myself from bed and dress
Then realise I forgot to wash
I face the morning with empty guts
Treading warily as if lost

Taxis, wagons, planes and trains
Assault my senses in the light
Counting pennies in preparation
Groggy from my medication

I stand in the queue for things I need
And I cannot breathe
It is rush hour beyond the automatic doors
My will is melting through my pores

Chocolate and cola until I am sick
Then water and today’s fresh drugs
Radio and telly till midnight comes
Take me away if this is my home

No comments:

Post a Comment