“I wanted change and excitement and to shoot off in all directions myself, like the coloured arrows from a Fourth of July rocket” – Sylvia Plath

I encountered The Bell Jar in my first year as an undergrad. Late in the day for a literature-lover to arrive at what’s considered such a modern classic. But as it turned out, it wouldn’t have sucked me in the same way if I had read it any earlier.

Six months after stepping out of the bizarrely comfortable battlefields that represented high-school, I had finally reached a settling point at college. The initial flurry of half-remembered nights giggling and stumbling out into the cold while whirling through circles of ever-changing people; the panicked fear and phone calls home as I imagined I’d picked the wrong courses; the slightly different stories told each time life details were solicited by new faces – all this had descended to its natural close. My best friends were made: we knew that forever after, laughter, drinks, and nights out would occur with each other, and we didn’t want it any other way. My work-ethic had dwindled to embarrassing depths, but emerged startled and refreshed: invigorated and ready for the challenges ahead. Hesitations and obfuscations had wearied me out: they faded out to welcome in an easier honesty and simplicity. I accepted myself without having ever realised how strongly doubts had lingered in my mind.

Strangeness interspersed with familiarity. Enough of one to be able to eagerly anticipate discovery and change; enough of the other to provide treadable, secure ground. It made me happy. I was happy.

So why the unsettling, niggling feeling of despair that, without warning, sidled into my stomach, my throat, and stuck there, choking me into silence? Why the sudden furrow in my brow that would appear as I looked down at a flashing phone? Why the half-bitten lip and shaken head as I resisted picking up and looked around the crowded room, suddenly feeling empty and alienated – empty and alien?

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Escape from Morality

What I have a problem with is his infuriating morality. His position, as he stands at a distance, with an eyebrow raised, and watches – skeptically, condescendingly, disbelievingly. Unable to fathom that people behave like animals, that a girl he once loved can’t resist temptation, and that a boy with razor-sharp stubble and bloodshot eyes would be able to stroll in and steal the impulsive fallen angel away from his moralistic mania, steal her the way he once stole her camera, years and years ago.

Yes, stole her camera. The boy with the slow, eerily slow, blink, and the steely glint that appeared the second you crossed him: he stole her camera, and lied about it – and yet she ignores this and allows him to pick her up as easily as he once picked up the little piece of pink metal. She steps away from her model citizen of a moralistic ex-boyfriend, best friend, lover, slipping under his outstretched arm and sprinting away, unable to stand as straight as he does, unable to judge till her tongue bleeds and her brain pounds from the sheer exertion of damning the devils that surround them.

His infuriating refusal to ever be wrong – because he, and everyone else around, knows he just never is. His insistence to view her character as a tainted golden that required only his buffing, polishing, meticulously careful attention, to shine – when actually, she and everyone else around, know it never glowed brighter than a dull bronze to begin with. His reproachful tone as he declares himself not angry but disappointed, not raging but hurt, not vengeful but wronged – because he, and everyone else around, knows that the only way to pull her back in is break her sense of spirit and self and independence and remind her that he relies on her too much to ever let her fly away forever.

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The Letter I’ll Never Send Him

18th July. 11.39pm

I just wrote you a letter but it got lost before I could even save it. When I realized it was gone, I dropped my head in despair: and that confused me. It’s not like you’re reading these, it’s not like you’re carefully savouring every word, trying to understand me, trying to get inside my head, caring enough to want to still figure me out. But writing them – I feel connected. I feel as if I’m talking to you, as if you’re listening, somewhere, far away – sitting in your London flat you get a flash of insight, a shiver of emotion, a realization that I’m straining to make you listen, to make you feel the confusion and loneliness I’m feeling.

Ironic; you’d probably laugh at that statement, saying you feel it ten times more. And it’d probably be true, because I don’t think I can feel as much as you. I don’t think I can feel as much as normal people: I retreat into myself instead.

That, actually, was the subject of the last letter. Well – one of the subjects. It started off wondering whether I was going to wish you luck on Monday night. What a question, right? I desperately want too: but will it be violating the terms of the treaty? Will it just be a crude, cruel parody of our relationship, when I make up for the missed exam-date last time, by remembering it this time, in this parallel universe where there’s so many barriers between us? Will it make a mockery of everything I said, of how I expressly forbade contract, saying I wanted none, and which you turned into a forever none?

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Not really about Fight Club

When you read too much Fight Club, you begin to talk like Fight Club.

Short, clipped sentences. To the point. Well, not always to the point – often it’s longwinded metaphors about airports and landing times and sleep. You get to the end and feel a bit weary and jet-lagged yourself.

Like I do now. Talking like Fight Club. Feeling like they do in the first fifty pages of Fight Club.

Despair. Loss. A drive towards death.

It’s not only because of the book, though. I guess I’m just a bit listless, a bit lost. Thoughts of suicide flash in and out – though, technically, it’s not always suicide. Often, it’s just an image of death.  Bomb blasts, car accidents. And the best: accidental death! The desire to step in front of a big red double-decker bus that zooms towards me as my foot hovers over the pavement and my eye fixes upon the stationary little red man who dares me to move. Dancing in front of my eyes in his stand-at-ease position, flickering ever so slightly and nudging me to be less like him, to seize the chance and take two steps forward, and make it all look like a very, very unfortunate event.

Related, perhaps, to the urge that courses through me every time I’m at a train station, or in the underground. Standing at the platform, behind the yellow line, looking down into the eight foot trench scattered with rocks and rabble and laid with two endless, smooth lines of steely track, tempting me forward. Toeing the yellow line I shut my eyes, straining to hear the distant whistle of an oncoming whizzing red-white&blue monstrosity.

If I time this right, I can step forwards and jump and fly through the air myself. Never even touch the ground of the trenches; never be down there looking up like an agonized soldier about to be bombed; never hear the screams of passersby resounding and the deafening pounding sound of vehicles approaching.

I’ll just fly through the air and never be seen again.

Empty. Gone. Cold.


Without the decisions that need deciding; the problems that attack me, demanding solutions; the continual reminders of the way my heart split into broken bits scattered across the earth in different continents – useless, un-whole, to anyone, especially myself.

I’ll fly instead.

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She fears the arrogance – the bristling arrogance and defensiveness – which can drive people away, which has already driven people away. People who are more open, more honest, more genuine, more committed – people to be thought about only in superlatives. People with passions and goals beliefs and values, people who don’t ponder how much is known or unknown. People who feel, who speak, who live instead of oscillating between agonizing extremes.

Claustrophobia induced by armies of perfect people marching around her in hordes.

People who live in a way she lost the ability to, when she began to realize that the more you learn, the more you will find you have forgotten. All the facts she took pleasure in learning, expressing, declaring – all these slowly disappear, crumbling into a dust which slips through an hour-glass too huge and heavy for her to lift up and overturn for a return to a time of blissful intelligence.

She fears the emptiness inside her, fears that people will see through the façade of brilliance and pretension to see nothing within. She seems a shadow of a self, a scammer who has travelled the world tricking millions into buying into her built up persona of excellence and achievement – which, to her, signify nothing.

She sits uncomfortably amidst groups of silkily dressed, silkily speaking socialites sipping champagne, now and again excitedly leaning forward, gesticulating, erupting into laughter – engaging in conversation after conversation about themselves, others, the world in ways she only wishes she could partake in, but she can’t because she has nothing to say except what she’s heard others say, and when those others are in a room in front of her, she can’t exactly steal their words and make them her own.

As she can, when you have escaped and flown thousands of miles away across the seas in a luxury cabin which impresses those in the new land because they think it means she’s exotic, beautiful, brilliant.

And you live every day in fear that they will see straight through you.

And you live every day wondering which form of slow suicide beckons.

And you spend every split second before stepping on to the road visualizing a bright red double-decker bus zooming right towards you.

And you spend every split second before opening an email seized with agonizing fears of the expectation of a witty riposte.

And you lie every day about how happy you are in this world.

And you lie every night about why you can’t sleep.

And you lie awake every night, flipping through facebook and seized with an unaccountable rage at the sides of your friends and enemies alike having a good time.

Flipping through the news and despising anyone from your nation who accomplishes an achievement before you had the chance.

Flipping off the world, for it’s strange injustice in creating an individual supposedly so bright and yet with a withering exterior and a hollow interior where bone knocks against bone and cracks against bone to create crunches which cause you to spasm and shake in the middle of the night.

Flipping off yourself for being so weak and frightened and meek, unable to remember anything, or think of anyone, think of anything you love, cherish, admire and spend time on – except some people, people, people, who will silently step to one side and sidle past once they see through you, and see with derision the nothingness you consist of.

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Sinking into the Night

Flipping over in bed and burying your face under a pillow to hide the sobs that will wrack your body after you’ve given up smothering after the first three minutes for the millionth time because your chest started heaving and your throat exploding eyes bursting breath releasing itself in a scream.

And living in the interminable silence of the night where nothing living can disturb you and all the swirling ghosts of the past present and future can emerge from the closets and gaps under the bed and behind-the-curtains to laugh demonically and chant and chill you with their hot cold hot presence of fear, anguish, shame.

And living till your eyes burn behind the eyeballs and cracked red lines appear, your limbs slow down and move in slow motion, and your head feels as if the heaviest book of your sins is resting atop it, weighing it down and down and down and down until the hammers start up in your temples trying to push it off by banging on your insides. Heavy drumming and your thoughts lift and wander into a dreamscape of mixed personalities, situations, and occasions, until your best friend from college is wandering into a gathering of the socialites and perhaps a dinosaur appears, or a wizard, or perhaps even your tutor to address this new lot and turn them into brilliance – because everyone can be turned into brilliance except you, who apparently are the epitome already.

Heavy drumming and the dreamscape lifts and shifts and bends and swirls around with ghosts who silently push their way through porous blurry boundaries and begin to float through worlds of possibility – in order to taint it with the dark mark of improbability and despair. Until dreamscape turns to fully-fledged unconscious dreamland haunting nightmare which forces you to open your mouth against the smothering and scream, scream, scream and then shudder into wakefulness and gasp, gasp, gasp as you tread the line between states of conscious being and struggle to recall which one this is – and, remembering – wonder which one could possibly be preferable.

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Recognition & Despair

You aimed lower, thought simpler, loved easier.

As sixteen passed, it began to change. He said so – and you didn’t believe him. He said so, as he watched the fourteen year old girl he had fallen in love with transform – and you chalked it down to jealousy. Now, as you walk back into your childhood room at the age of 22, it hits you with a stunning, painful – almost absurd – clarity.

Brasher, more arrogant, more worldly – looking down upon simple pleasures and craving recognition, status, intelligence, difference. She lost her innocence somewhere along the way, gained some weight and frown-lines, some attitude and defiance, summoned a truly magic marker that rose to scrawl across her forehead and then fell back into her hand – leaving her stained with the words: “I’ll do whatever the fuck I want, whether you like it or not.”

From a different angle it read more simply: “Fuck Off”.

She became defensive, aggressive, self-absorbed – wondering why the world failed to provide consistently and why problems lurked everywhere. As voices started to tell her people were talking about her, she grew more distant, more angry. Briefly, she sought refuge with a few simpler, happier personalities – ones who didn’t have an old standard against which to measure her – who loved her as suddenly and insistently as she thought she loved them. When the contented peace of adoration wore off, discontent begin to rise and he loomed up again in her view – yet again, she withdrew from all.

She lost her innocence, somewhere along the way. And, at the last, she wound up at this point, here: besieged with hopes and dreams that buckle under the overwhelming weight of fear and doubt and become burdens. Pondering possibilities of suicide and wondering who will cry the most when she dies; ready for death just so she can leave at a point where others will continue to predict greatness for her, a point before she fades into a stoned mess reflecting failed possibilities and disappointment. Imagining she has died just so she can predict that others – even, sometimes, him – speak of her highly, fondly, greatly.

What happened to the innocence? It comes and goes. But there’s a haunting sense of self-doubt which lurks most of the time, which refuses to go away, especially when pondered even briefly. Thinking about it is enough to command it into full, flooding view and impose a restrictive self-consciousness onto every movement. Thinking about it leaves you drowned in anxiety and stomach-clenching, stomach-churning fear of a slow, choking failure and a slow, choking, death alone, long emptied of emotion – emptied even of tears.

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