Hey. I’ve been away a while due to illness. Honestly, I saw the gates of hell at one point. Satan himself grabbed me by the ankles and tried to drag me into the fiery pit, but I fought tooth and nail, and managed to claw my way back.
(Of course, I’m sure that those of you who know me will keep quiet about it only being a simple cold.) I’ve just checked where I got to last time and I will miss out the next few years which were full of work, partying, and having babies.
Around early 2004 I was volunteering at my children’s school. I would go in for an hour or two a day and sit with the children who had reading difficulties. I would read to them, and get them to read back. It took a lot of patience, finding just the right books, and showing them how the words interact with the pictures to tell a story. It was quite sad at times, especially when I had kids tell me how much they loved reading but had no access to books at home. Eventually I was approached by one of the teachers. She suggested that I looked into becoming a qualified teacher as I had a flare for it. Trust me when I tell you this, but after having two kids and spending years with no mental stimulation what-so-ever, to have someone tell you that you are capable of more than washing dishes is a big deal. I thought about it for a while and did a bit of research online. I had almost decided not to do anything because of the cost and time involved, and then I came across the Open University. Not only would they pay my fees, but they would also give me a grant, and I could study part time. I bit the bullet and signed up for a degree in Literature.
It was very difficult to get back into studying after such a long time, and the first year covered so many different subjects that I was quickly overwhelmed. Luckily I had a wonderful tutor that emailed and phoned without prompting just to check I was keeping on top of everything. As time went on and my assignments were returned with high marks, my confidence started to grow. Maybe my grey matter hadn’t turned to baby porridge after all. Over the following three years I studied everything from Shakespeare to Philip K. Dick, and even though there are writers I would rather have my teeth ripped out than have to read again, I can honestly say that I learned something from all of them. I am now in my sixth and final year, studying children’s literature, and providing everything goes to plan, I will be walking away next summer with a first class degree. Now to go back a few years to where my story really starts: my fourth year. After spending so long trying to study, work, and bring up my kids alone (oh yes, once I started my degree, my home life fell apart and I ended up as a single parent.) I really needed a break, but I didn’t want to take a year off. After browsing through the courses available I decided that creative writing would be an easy option; almost like taking a holiday. Oh, was I in for a big wake-up call.
I had this idea in my head that I could write. Of course I could. I’d spent my whole life reading book after book and knew I could do better. I wouldn’t even have to work at it. It would be a bit of fun.
I spent the first few weeks making a half-assed job of the writing exercises attached to the course. I was itching to get on with the first assignment. I wanted to do something spectacular, and I ended up writing something that I thought was very VERY good. I received my first ever critique (from my tutor) and had to face the fact that I wasn’t as good as I thought I was. That, truth be told, I had no clue what I was doing.
As it’s time for me to sign off and go to bed, I will treat you to that first story I wrote and you can see for yourself just how bad I was, hahaha.
Of course, showing you how bad I was is a good way into explaining how I am improving, what I’ve learned along the way, what I still want to learn, and who has helped and influenced me along the way.
Good night, and enjoy (cringe).
The Wedding Ring
Alan was sitting in the same chair he’d occupied for years, only now it was different, now he was alone. The room was cold and a thin veil of dust had settled on the glass coffee table beside him, but he didn’t notice. His dull green eyes were fixed on the lower left hand side of the window, not focused on anything beyond, but rather on something deep within himself. Sleeplessness showed in the glazed pupils and bloodshot whites, and tears had formed clean channels down his cheeks. The only signs of life he displayed were the slow rise and fall of his chest as his body unconsciously breathed for him, and the occasional twitch of a finger where he held onto her wedding ring. Greasy strands of grey hair clung to his forehead, damp with aging sweat, and his brown trousers were stained with urine. Once the smell would have disgusted him, he had always taken pride in his hygiene, but not now. Now he was lost to the world, oblivious to his surroundings, to the rhythmic ticking of the clock on the mantelpiece that echoed throughout the room as a reminder of passing time.
Night time approached and the light from the window gradually faded until the room was cloaked in shadowy darkness, yet still he sat. The only light was a subtle orange glow cast by a streetlamp outside that seeped unobtrusively into the room. Occasionally a passing car threw light across his face causing his pupils to contract sharply, but even this was an involuntary reaction. Noises drifted in from outside. Dogs barked in the distance, and the faint sound of music was carried by the wind from the local pub. A group of teenagers sat on the wall opposite, laughing and talking amongst themselves, exchanging obscenities with the resident drunk as he made his way home. The man living opposite made sure his door was firmly locked by shaking it back and forth before leaving for the evening shift, and a young mum returned home with her screaming son. Life carried on as normal outside, completely unaware of his presence behind the net curtain. The world beyond his four walls knew nothing of his pain and he knew nothing of it.
Then, all at once, he was startled back to consciousness by a loud ringing sound. Unable to recognise it at first he glanced around the room trying to find the source, then, realising it came from the doorbell, the mist disappeared from behind his eyes and he tilted his head, listening with anticipation; but only for a moment. He would have heard a key turning if it was her. But what if… no, she wouldn’t forget her keys, she was the organised one. The bell rang again. Alan made no attempt to get up; no-one else mattered; nothing else mattered. His eyes glazed over once more as he desperately tried to fight his way back to nothingness, but she wouldn’t let him go. The furrows on his forehead deepened as her parting words swirled like a hurricane inside his head; ‘it was never about you’. With those words his world had fallen apart, if it was never about him then what was their marriage about? She was his world, she was what he lived and breathed for, and she… she had walked through that door without even a backward glance. He should have hated her for leaving but it was too hard for him to hate her, it was too hard to feel anything. Every memory he had was tainted and every thought poisoned. Eventually his eyes found their spot on the window once more, his brow softened, and with one last deep sigh he sank back into depths of his mind.