Today Fiction Romantic found himself in a mental hospital, not for the first time, but this was different. You could tell by the posters on the wall and all the telephone numbers (I even have some more of those now!).
This is the ballad of Fiction Romantic and how it came to this sorry state. Fast rewind to the early eighties when your correspondent was 17 years old. This was Thatcher’s Britain for any youngsters reading this. After leaving college, having spent more time drinking than studying, and gained a single ‘O’ level to add to the three I left school with (sociology if you were wondering) I joined the ever growing dole queue. After a few months largely spent drinking and having a good time (I’m sure money went further in those days) I was offered a place on a YTS scheme, Work Experience on Employers Premises. I duly started in an admin office within a large factory. After a few months (this was a six month placement) and much to our and our “employers” surprise we were told that we would be getting day release for 10 weeks to learn “life skills”, or how to make us look slightly more employable as it turned out.
So me and another lad on a placement in the same factory me ended up in an old converted house used by Essex County Council Social Service Department. We were joined up with other young folk in similar “jobs” for £23 a week (it was about a fiver more than the dole money at the time, we were easy to bribe then). We are in this room and my eyes are drawn to a beautiful young woman on the other side, and I fell in love. Anyway to cut a long story short this beautiful young woman became my best friend. In the pre internet era we used to send each other letters and meet up in town and go shopping. I sent her flowers on her birthday. Eventually we decided to share a home as we had no hope of affording anywhere on our own. (As it turned out we couldn’t even get close to buying a home with both our salaries.) We ended up renting a cottage in the country. We are still best friends at this stage but family and friends are beginning to ask if we are going to get married. We discussed the possibility but even at this point we can’t say those three little words to each other. Both of us were insecure. Eventually though we start to become a proper couple, but I couldn’t believe this lovely woman could love me and, in fear of being rejected, I rejected her. I now realise that alcohol and depression are not a good combination when making life changing decisions. As it turned out she did love me and I hurt her badly.
Fast forward nearly 30 years, Fiction Romantic returns to his home town (I live 600 miles away now) for a few days, mainly to see Bob Dylan at the Albert Hall. This was my first trip home since my heart attack and only the second time I had spent a few nights at home since my Dad passed away in 1998. Several times I found myself unintentionally in places that hold memories of our brief time together. On my last night something told me I would never see her again. That trip unsettled me and over the next few months she was in my thoughts more and more. She showed me the end of her life. My depression grew worse and I had to fight the urge to walk into the sea to find the peace of mind I was desperately seeking. Eventually I decided I would do the modern thing and send her a PM via Facebook. I agonised over the words, I didn’t want to re-open old wounds. I finally plucked up the courage to post those words to her. I couldn’t find her account (I wasn’t stalking her but I knew she was on Facebook a few months earlier). My blood froze, I searched on google and within seconds I was reading her obituary. What was sad was what it didn’t say, no “loving wife and mother”, or “after a long illness bravely borne”. All it said was her name, date of death, her age and the name and address of the funeral directors. This was half past midnight on what was now a Saturday. I was due to fly for the first time in years, on a business trip to Liverpool on the Sunday. For several days all I had was what I had seen in my head and what was in the notice (as a civil servant I know the minimum you can get away with in a statement and this was the minimum!). A couple of days after I got back from Liverpool I found the courage to phone the Co-op, who did the arrangements, and they wouldn’t tell me anything, they said they’d ask a member of the family to phone me. At this point the agony of not knowing what had happened to her was overwhelming and I fell apart, but I pulled myself together in time to take a phone call from her sister, who confirmed what I already knew. What I had seen was, indeed, true except that I wasn’t there through her journey, in reality I was 600 miles away. On one desperate day at the beach, before I knew the truth, I asked her to send me a sign, which she has.
Now, over the last few weeks I have tried to make sense of all this and have had to try and explain to several doctors, which is how I ended up in hospital today. Now I know the truth the dreams/visions or whatever else you want to call them have stopped.
Today, I am depressed, broken hearted and stricken with grief for all the wasted years. When I left her, I left my best friend, my soul mate and the love of my life.
The urge to go and join her has been very strong but somehow I am clinging on. The immediate risk is receding, but the darkness that has enveloped me for months is never far away. Death no longer bothers me (I think she also showed me my fate!), but I can’t say I’m looking forward to the process.
I wasn’t sure whether to post this here but I have found it cathartic writing this, and I am intrigued as to whether anyone in Afterword land has any rational ideas to explain any of this, because I know I can’t.
Right now I could do with cheering up, so can you recommend any tunes to sooth a troubled soul?