Since graduating from the Ruskin, I have been working in a post production house for documentary TV as the Operations Assistant and Head Runner. In my spare time, I have been focussing on my writing practice, both writing as an art form and writing about art on my blog ‘Art Review with a zed’, as well as publishing exhibition reviews on online artist publications. In March, I undertook an online residency with Orbit (@orrbbitt) where I shared some of my finished pieces of writing and more experimental works in progress, giving insight into my thought and work processes.
Working on a mixture of informal essays, personal essays, short stories, poems and experimental writing, I have been continuing with my exploration of the impacts of trauma on memory and day-to-day functioning, systems of care within society, sexuality, and oppression of femme identifying people. What I write about continues to change and evolve as I grow and learn more about myself and how I function in the world.
She met FATHER ten years ago when she had moved to the city, at a party where everyone had been pretending that their lives were busier than they were. HE had been the most arrogant of them all, a circle around HIM listening to HIS stories. She had decided not to listen to HIM simply to make the point that she wasn’t going to; to make clear the fact that she was different from the others. She had wanted HIM to want her without her realising. HE had found her later that night and asked her about herself, wanting to convince her that she wanted HIS attention. Spending time together, at first, she was weary, as others had been like this before, but soon she had grown fond of HIM. She felt like HE was not someone she had chosen for herself, but instead, HE was a pre-written part of her life’s narrative, a character that had been placed before the story had begun. It was more HIS choice than hers, and she wondered whether she would have chosen HIM for herself, and whether she would choose someone like HIM again, if the opportunity provided itself.
At first, she hadn’t wanted anything to do with HIM, but inevitably she had grown attached within a few months. FATHER had always protected her but HE would wrap HIS hands around her waist to stop her from moving, which she thought is what had caused her asthma. HE didn’t like her going places and doing things with certain kinds of people, the kinds of people who FATHER said were no good. HE had wanted her to be better, to do better, so wanted her to live her life exactly like HE had. But not to make the same mistakes HE had once made.
FATHER had asked her to move in with him straight away. HE didn’t want her to spend a night away from him, as HE knew what men were like. HE had cleared a room in HIS house to give her her very own bedroom with an ensuite, something she had never had before. HE had bought furniture and decorated the room before she had stepped one foot across the front door. Even though the bedroom was her own, to spend time in it as she liked, FATHER would spend time with her in there now and again. Although HE wanted her to have her own space, HE also had wanted her to know that HE owned the house, and therefore her bedroom and whatever was in it, which extended, at times, to her. If she was to live there with HIM, she had to accept HIS inadequacies arising from the fact that HE had lived alone as a single man for more than a decade.
HE never did succeed at sports or with music, and HE had a regular job that paid the bills. So HE took her running everyday, told her to look forwards, to land on the balls of her feet. HE taught her specific drills so she could improve her technique to win races. When they were travelling to a competition, HE said HE would buy her new trainers if she won. These items of clothing became symbols of HIS love for her, for what she could do, and what she could give to HIM. If she lost a race the air would become so thin that it would struggle to fill her lungs, and HE would not speak to her for days. She would have to sleep at the foot of their bed and bring HIM breakfast in the morning, not permitted to speak, her mouth only opening to sustain her body. Forgetting the way their voices sounded in her ears, she would spend time trying to remember how HE said certain words and sentences. Days would pass by and then unexpectedly a present would be left on her bed, labelled for her, neatly wrapped with a bow. What it was would vary, but it didn’t matter all that much to her. Then HE would return home and cook dinner for her, tell her that she was the most talented athlete there was, and they would go to bed together. She would forget the incident merely for the fact that HE had forgiven her for her shortcomings.
FATHER would often tell her that HE hadn’t had time to pursue his career, that HE was a failure because HE had to spend time looking after her. When HE said this, she was confused why HE had chosen to pursue her if HIS career was so affected by this fact. She had wanted to demand less from HIM so that HE would be happy, that HE would understand HE didn’t need to spend so much time with her. The weight of the pressure she was under to stay began to feel unbearable, and she had felt compelled to leave; however, for this same reason, she had always stayed. Her asthma started to worsen, preventing her from competing in races as she would have to pull out halfway through. HE would tell her that this was unacceptable. After all HE had given her, why would she fail HIM on this one small detail, so small, it would be insignificant and go unnoticed if it were not a problem.
Time had become much the same: she had stopped competing and there were few reasons for her to leave the house, instead spending her days waiting anxiously for HIS return from work, only to eagerly anticipate the next morning when HE would leave for the 8:07 train.
After an accident involving two men at the gym, FATHER fell ill and HE hadn’t been the same since. At first, it was small things like dropping HIS fork involuntarily at meal times and shaking in HIS sleep. Soon HE was not able to climb the stairs as easily, and eventually HE had stopped altogether. She had moved HIS bedroom into the living room downstairs, so HE only had access to the kitchen and downstairs bathroom, although HE no longer could cook a meal for the two of them. She had become a carer, a cook and a maid, and hadn’t been able to consider whether this is what she wanted, but, she had gained a sense of worth by deriving satisfaction from HIS dependence on her, although, she was certain HE wouldn’t have minded who was doing these things for HIM as long as they were being done. It scared her when she thought these thoughts, so she pushed them to one side in her mind, believing that if she ignored them then the thoughts would cease to have any resemblance to her reality.
HE had started to pick up in spirits and the doctors were hopeful HE would make a full recovery, despite the fact it was unlikely for someone of HIS age. She had felt dread on hearing this news as she had grown to love the man that depended on her. HE was not recognisable as the FATHER who had given her a room in HIS house and who had taken so much of her. She had realised she did not want to live like that again and knew she could not let that happen.
HE was given strict instructions that HE take HIS medicine twice a day to ensure a full recovery, and this task immediately became her responsibility. Instead, she would mix a tablespoon of thick honey with maple syrup and feed this to HIM, pouring the medicinal syrup in the plant pots, which began to flourish in the most unlikely of spots in the house. Soon, as she had hoped, HE deteriorated rapidly, HIS movements becoming even more confined, and, unable to move from room to room, she would bring HIM meals in front of the television as HE watched the news or re-runs of last weeks’ episodes. During this time, HE needed her in a way HE had never needed anyone before, in a way no one would hope to be dependent on another.
Whilst HE grew weaker and more fragile, she had grown bigger in all directions but could not yet perceive a life without HIM. Although she knew the inevitable would occur at some point, she realised she would have to find another or else she would have no one to do these things for. She would need another to depend on her in this way. She asked HIM if she could make one request. That this would be the only thing she would have asked HIM for, and it would be the last. To provide for her a way of continuing the way she was caring for HIM when HE was not here.
No one had set foot in HIS old bedroom for over a year since HE had moved to the living room, and she had felt it too inappropriate to sleep in HIS bed alone, leaving the door only slightly ajar so the air didn’t grow stale. It was decided that this room, now unused, should be turned into a nursery as they waited for the arrival of a child. Re-decorating HIS old bedroom had given her a preoccupation so to take her mind off HIS dwindling health and her increasingly difficult responsibilities in taking care of HIM. The nursery was ready just in time for the child’s arrival, who, to HIS dismay, used up most of her resources and time, leaving little left to sustain HIM. She could sense HIS envy filling in the gaps where she had started to become unavailable for HIS every need, it growing to make the space between them wider.
Although she had feared losing HIM, having someone else to care for had meant that the space where grief usually takes residence had already become occupied when the time came that FATHER was no longer there.