I love summer. But it’s days like this, where the sun is shining and children seem to appear from NOWHERE (seriously, where do they hide in the winter months?) and there’s loads of laughter, that my heart feels a little sadder. It’s bittersweet; I watch the world grow and thrive, and people laugh and enjoy the sun, and meet friends and somehow the sunshine makes the world look better…
But where am I left?
How can I truly enjoy the sunshine that once shone on her? The sun shone on her and now it does not. It continues to shine, ignorant to the fact it’s not mesmerising Holly anymore…
I loved Holly. I adored her, actually, but my life was too frightening and the threats too great. She had no idea what went on behind the mask. She thought it was a simple case of control-freak grandparents. I became scared; scared that they’d hurt her, that they’d rob her of her wide smile and twinkling eyes. I pushed her away. I felt broken.
What I didn’t know was how much it’d break her heart. What I didn’t know was how much her parents hated her for being gay. I didn’t know her being heartbroken would be the final straw for her parents. I didn’t know she’d get thrown out. I didn’t know her creepy uncle would take her in. I didn’t know he would hurt her. I didn’t know she’d be frightened, alone, heartbroken and severely depressed. I didn’t know she would have to die alone, triggered by what I did.
I remember the phonecall. Her hysterical friend shrieking down the phone at me “Holly’s suicidal. I don’t know where she is.” It had been a few months since I’d broken up with her, but I still loved her. I remember the sharp ice cold pain rip through my chest at her friend’s words. I remember thinking “my god there’s an earthquake” a little while later, only to realise that actually I was just trembling all over. The floor wasn’t moving; I was.
I remember just running out of that house. No permission granted, and did I give a toss? No. I just ran. Where could she be? Where did she even live now?
I remember breaking into her room. I remember hearing a scream; realising it was my own. I remember that somehow I got from the door to on the floor, the other side of the room. I don’t remember how. I remember her friend remaining by the door, howling.
I remember the empty bottles, and pills. I remember the cold vomit. I didn’t care. I hardly noticed. I remember heaving her cold body up and holding her to my chest, screaming and crying. Her cheek was damp. She’d been crying. She’d been crying here, on her own, feeling there was no way out. At some point paramedics arrived. I guess her friend must’ve rang them. They tried prising her away from me, but I didn’t want to let go. Not my Holly…you can’t take her. She’s safe her, let me keep her please…let me have her…she doesn’t know you, she’ll be scared. She needs me. Please…please
“Come on lovey, give her to me…” don’t call me LOVEY you ignorant stupid woman. Who are you anyway?
I remember them telling me at some point that she hadn’t been dead long. I had been maybe half an hour too late. It wasn’t the cocktail of alcohol and drugs. It was choking on her sick, whilst unconscious. The badness tried to escape, and she choked on it. She felt like she was choking. Her life was choking her. And then she died by choking. I wasn’t going to let her go. I held her head right into my chest, and buried my face in her hair. I think I was mewing or something; it was a strange sound. My screams had ran out, and I knew I was going to lose this battle. I just wanted to breathe her hair in one last time. To hold her properly. To kiss her again…
Her friend crouched in front of me “come on Jade…let her go. They’ll take her…she needs to go and be an angel” or something like that. Something about letting her go to be an angel. She was an angel. She was beautiful like an angel and had a heart of gold. Which I broke, without explanation. I broke an angel…I had to let her go. Slowly, I let the paramedics and whoever the other people were take Holly from me. She looked so peaceful; asleep. She’d actually put make-up on. I remember laughing through my tears; even on her most desperate day, the make-up was on. She never wore tons, just mascara and lip-gloss. But there it was, as perfect as any other day. I stroked her hair out of her face; she hated the way it tickled her.
I collapsed into her friend’s arms, and the screams returned. There was no abuser about to punish me for my emotions, so Holly was the first time I let the grief hit me with full force at the instant it showed its ugly face. We both screamed and sobbed, wailed at how we’d missed her. How could we have been too late? How could we have been faster?
I remember her parents blaming me and not letting me say goodbye properly. That destroyed me.
My family never knew. Or maybe they did, but didn’t say. I frankly didn’t care.
I remember the guilt which choked me, like her own pain had choked her. Karma, or something. Had I just explained why I had to finish her…or had I just been brave…maybe this wouldn’t have happened. Had I been faster… God did she die thinking I hated her? Did she die thinking I didn’t care and she was on her own? Had she known I was desperately trying to find her, would that have changed her mind? Would she have waited for me, and let me hold her? I could have held her and comforted her, and got her help…
But I didn’t know…
These are the memories I normally carry. That guilt hasn’t gone but is a dull ache now. The love is a painful poison I carry. Empty bottles of vodka still make my blood run cold…and yet I drink vodka. I didn’t for a while, but now I do. Vodka and coke. I sometimes gag, and other times I think… oh Hol, was this the last thing you tasted? Fire?
But summer days like today push those nightmarish memories back. Instead I remember the time I was with her. I remember lying down in the field, whilst she sat with her guitar and sang. Somehow she would pluck a new song out of thin air and BAM within minutes she’d written a new song; sometimes silly, but often not. We’d race up and down giving each other piggy-backs, and jump into the calm cool river to soothe our hot skin; the sun beating down on us. There we’d kiss, or talk, or sing, or laugh…and nobody was around, we were on our own.
It was our own idyllic haven, and I never realised quite how much of an escape it was for her as it was for me.
How can I watch the sun beating on rivers and grass now? I see couples lounging around by the river, giggling and splashing each other and I smile. But it’s a sad smile. I smile for their love and smile at my memory of being there, and sad for the fact she’ll never be back. I live in a new place now; she’d have loved it here. Water, river, grass, countryside, music… all her. All of this place is her.
Each shard of grass I either want to punch or play with. She’d just sit and absent-mindedly fiddle with the grass, or somehow make it squeak if she put it between her lips and blew. I could never do this. I told her to take up trumpet. She laughed and gestured back to her stunning guitar.
She was I guess a little bit hippy. That’s what I loved about her; she was very carefree and natural. Always with a braided anklet and toe-rings, and always bare-foot. Long hair with various flower decorations and gentle, natural make-up. She was the opposite to me, who lived in a forced pretence. I wasn’t natural; I was either very dressed up or very hidden in clothes which let me blend. I wasn’t comfortable with myself. She was, and it showed.
I remember barbeques in the field, and drinking coke. (She wasn’t allowed coke at home). I remember how we laughed about silly things, and planned our entire lives. We were teenagers; suddenly everything was achievable and we were damn sure it would happen. We planned everything, even to the smallest detail. “Well, when we’re older I’m going to do the breakfast and you can make the packed lunch for the kids.”
Sounds so silly now; so immature. But it didn’t feel it. It felt completely right; maybe part of me was so desperate for this future life that I yearned for it more, and she was so desperate to escape her disapproving parents. We were simply planning an escape, but a beautiful, organised and family-orientated escape.
Now I smell bbq’s and I smile. Firstly I get hungry. Secondly I think of Holly, squealing as the sausages spat at her, or scrunching her face up into a confused/fed up expression when she couldn’t get the bbq to work. I remember her sitting against the log and drawing the landscape, but adding her own fantastical twist to it.
How did the girl go from so carefree and full of dreams…to so broken and unable to see a future even in tomorrow?
It was Holly who saved my life the day I nearly threw myself in the river, earlier this year. I had emailed my friends saying something like “by the time you read this, I won’t be here.” I’d planned it perfectly; wrote the email some days before and saved it in my drafts. I checked I could access it from my phone. I spent most of the day asleep to try and make it quicker until the pain would stop. I tried to be smilier than normal so my friend wouldn’t suspect there was a problem. I lied outright to his face, which even now horrifies me, and told him I was going to campus to rehearse.
I took a razor blade and some ibuprofen with me. The plan was to cut myself all over, not to cause serious damage but to cause pain and to bleed. If I bled then some of the badness in me would seep out, and I would sink better in the river. That was the logic. Warped. If I made myself hurt, then people might understand why. They’d see my cuts and go “ah, she was hurt…see? Of course she needed to die.” More warped logic. But it made sense.
I cut myself, and threw the razor in the river. It’s okay little blade, you won’t be alone for long. I’ll be with you soon. I went on my phone and sent the email, holding my breath as I did so. Sending that felt so final. Suddenly I felt like I didn’t have a choice; I felt I’d be a disappointment if I didn’t live up to what I said I would do. How lost was my mind…
I sat there worrying about the loneliness of the blade, and smiling at the fact my friends must have been so happy. I imagined them finding the email, and imagined their woops “thank god for that. Now we don’t need to look after her anymore. We’ve got our lives back! Hooooray!” I smiled at the knowledge my broken mind was giving me. I had made my friends happy, I was sure. This was good. This was perfect. I owed them this.
Why were they ringing? I frowned at my phone, puzzled. I figured maybe they were making sure I really was dead before they celebrated. I thought about turning my phone off, but then realised if I did that then they knew I wasn’t dead. I imagined their disappointment with this and gagged. Gagged at the idea I’d disappoint them in my final moments. I threw up into the river; throwing out of me the bad thought of answering my phone, or turning it off.
So now they thought I was dead. Now they’d be celebrating, and now I had to die. Because if I appeared tomorrow and I was alive, how disappointed would they be? I imagined their tears and rage at seeing me alive. I imagined the panic they would feel; they thought the burden of me was gone, and now I was back. I sobbed. I sat by the river and sobbed at how much of a burden I was, sobbed at my warped logic that they’d be celebrating my death, and sobbed for the past that hurt me so much.
It was February. Late evening. Very cold. I would wait until I was extremely cold and then take the tablets, and then go into the river. I’d be too cold to swim, and then the tablets would knock me out. I would drown peacefully. Cowardly, but I didn’t care.
My phone kept ringing. Why weren’t they celebrating??
I perched on the edge of the river, no longer shaking with the cold. It had gone past that point. I was rigid with cold. With my numb fingers I popped the pills into the palm of my hand. This was it. This was the end for me, and the start for everyone else…
Bzzzzz Bzzzzzz Bzzzzz. Phone ringing again.
Something stirred in my memory. I felt Holly behind me, touching my neck softly. Her lips behind my ear “No Jade…” she whispered. I jolted. I remembered trying to ring her in her last moments. Had she thought I was ringing to check it was okay to celebrate? I remembered that panic, that absolute panic and fear and refusal to accept the dawning realisation that I was probably too late. I glanced at my phone again.
Was I doing this to them? Were they actually going out of their minds with worry? Did that not make me more of a burden? But then I was trapped. If my existence was a burden…but more of a burden by worrying them, then was suicide the right or wrong way out? I thought back to Holly, remembered reading her note and the pain that came with it. I remembered just wishing that I’d had the chance to say to her “NO I don’t want you dead…”
I was refusing my friends the chance to say what they wanted. Maybe I shouldn’t die until I’d heard what they wanted.
I don’t really remember past then. I didn’t take the tablets. At some point I was aware of being on the phone to the ambulance service. I think I’d dissociated, but kept slipping back. Everytime I slipped back I would suddenly break down in hysterical sobs – “I want to die I want to die”. The man on the other side was a hero; he refused to put the phone down for 20 minutes until the ambulance found me, and tried his hardest to keep me calm and to keep me alive. I don’t know if he realises how he truly saved my life that night. Holly saved me enough to call for help, but he stopped me from giving up and heading into the river.
Once in the ambulance my temperature was taken. It wasn’t great – 31 degrees I think. I suddenly realised how cold I was. I shook violently, and they wrapped blanket after blanket around me. And then those huge silver blanket things. I could feel my phone vibrating in my lap but couldn’t get to it. I was too out-of-it to think straight; I should have asked the crew to answer it. But I could hardly speak. I vaguely remember hearing the words “in shock” and “mildly hypothermic.” I didn’t register them though. I remember him asking me questions and only really being able to nod. I remember feeling extremely dazed and out of sync with reality. Like part of my brain had been expecting death by now, so had shut down anyway.
With warmth my brain gradually woke up. In hospital I was rushed to a quiet room and two nurses came in to check me over. One had a cup of tea, but holding it was interesting; I shook like a madperson. They took my blood pressure and temperature, talking gently to me and trying to see if I’d respond. I remember mumbling at them a bit, but I was still numb.
Suddenly my phone vibrated again. I glanced at my phone, my heart in my mouth. My friends hadn’t given up. But were they trying to find out if I was dead, so they could celebrate…or alive, so that they could relax? “Can I answer the phone?” I asked the nurse. She looked at me in surprise, and nodded. I picked the phone up and answered it.
“Jade?” I heard my friend’s voice. I heard various emotions. But they register with my current numb-brain. Oh yeah, emotions…those things. I heard hope..but hope for what, my death or my life?
“Hello…” I mumbled, feeling very lost and little. I vaguely remember hearing my friend almost laugh. Not a laugh, but almost. I couldn’t register what it was. She said hello hello… asked me where I was. I told her I was in hospital, and the tears started for me. Her response gave me the answer I needed “Oh thank God! Well done!” Her relief was audible even in my dazed state. She was happy I was alive. I remember hearing her talking to someone in the background. I remember hearing another phone ring and someone else passing on the news that I was alive. Suddenly it hit me; shit these guys had been worried. I apologised, over and over, crying my eyes out and shaking (much to the poor nurse’s alarm…I’d been so numb!) but my friends thanked me for calling for help. They weren’t disappointed in me for being alive. That bit registered properly, and suddenly I didn’t want to put the phone down. I just wanted to hear them all, and never stop hearing them. I wanted to hear their happiness that I was alive…because it was so against what my brain had been telling me.
Holly…I miss you everyday. It tears me apart you were on your own in that desperate place, knowing how painful and lonely that is. I wish you could have known what you meant to so many… but thank you for somehow saving me, and saving my friends from having to go through what I went through. Just like they said years ago…I had to let you go, so you could be an angel…