In lieu of pain

There are lots of ways to to deal with pain. Some people scream, some people cry, some people get angry and fight and argue, some people play relentless pong or gently tickle the piano until the feeling washes away. The question is do they work?
And maybe the bigger question for our still-spinning protagonist is how can you start life at sixteen years old, with nothing but fuzzy memories of the past year and a nice pair of new shoes?


1. Prologue


 I opened my eyes.

It might be true that there a a lot of things I can't remember about the things that have happened, things that I don't want to remember and things that I can't, however hard I might try. Things that I remember like fuzzy old photographs or stories somebody read me once, but not things that I remember like they happened to me. Opening my eyes however, that I remember. Squinting up at the white ceiling of the Resus Room, the way as it came into focus I could follow with my eyes the thick metal tracks of the emergency x-ray machine, and the small silver line at the end of one of the the strip lights that buzzed but never completely lit up.

If you've never been in a Resuscitation Room, it's a place in a hospital where they either bring people who have suddenly and unexpectedly decided to die in order to try and mechanically force their life back into them, or where they shove emergency patients they haven't got a room for. I was the latter, and if the thick foam head brace and collar weren't restricting my movement and therefore view so much it would have been quite an interesting place to be, all full of beepy machines and complicated diagrams and “simplified” emergency instructions for a zillion different unlikely situations, written in words mere mortals like me would be incapable of understanding but could have hours of fun attempting to interpret. I wouldn't say it's an overly pleasant experience, particularly if you can only see the ceiling, but I'd be lying if I said those who haven't seen one aren't missing anything because it's not like they're not interesting, if you're in the frame of mind to appreciate such things.

The best glimpse I really caught of all these things was after they'd thoroughly checked out the x-rays and CT scans of my neck, or spinal cord or whatever, and they were ready to move me to a ward. They wanted to see if I could move myself at all, or if I could drink, or if I could eat? Come to think of it I'm not entirely sure what it was they were trying, but I remember seeing the over-crowded Resus Room for just a couple of seconds before promptly fainting into the yucky plasticky hospital wheelchair. I also remember opening my eyes for a second time, lolling over the side of the horrible thing with one of those cardboard vomit thingies being thrust in front of me. And apart from that my memories of the Resus room are somewhat limited.

Later, on the ward, I remember looking down at my arm, looking at the faint trace of the thick black marker I'd written on that morning. “LOVE”, it read, in shaky handwriting. To write “love” on her arms, the anti-suicide initiative. I remember thinking how ironic it was, that it had been THAT particular day, that I could barely see the writing under my hospital ID bracelet and the IV needle in my wrist, and the wire crossing my arm attached to the grey peg on my finger. It wasn't an accident that I was there. And that was the most painful part.

If I had a million years to remember, then maybe I could tell you the whole story, but I don't, and right now I can't. It's not necessarily a nice story, but on the other hand I don't think I would change any of it. It's not exactly that I don't regret the things that happened, more just that I have absolutely no concept of what my life would be without them, and because of that I wouldn't HAVE my life without them. So I would not be me, so who I am right now, I would effectively not exist. So in a way, I sort of find myself actually needing the things that nearly killed me. Because by some probably flawed logic, I would be just as dead without them. So here I am, telling a messy, disjointed story I neither regret nor condone, for nobody's enjoyment but my own. I don't fully understand it yet, but like all well-loved puzzles, there are pieces missing. I guess this is my quest to find them.



My parents panicked, naturally. I hurt them in a way that I don't think it's really possible to go back on, although of course I wouldn't have chosen to do so had I had the chance to think about it. I had a motion sense baby monitor in my room so they knew when I left my bed. An alarm went off. It reminded me of the ECGs in the hospital which was terrifying, so I didn't leave the bed, and so passed a few confusing and empty days. The first time I felt anything after leaving the hospital, anything meaningful, was thanks to one of my parents friends who invited me to watch her baby while she was baking. Knowing my situation, she must have known that any normal person wouldn't leave a child with me but she did, and being less than one year old and appreciative of anybody who can roll a football at him he thought the sun shined out of my ass. I will never EVER stop being grateful to the two of them. Never. Even though she knew how much I needed her help, the baby couldn't do anything by himself, suddenly loving and needing me for no reason other than because him mother had left the room.


I don't care how much anybody might deny it, everybody has a desire to be loved and needed. I probably hadn't recognised mine up until that moment. It made all the difference.



Going back to school was the strangest thing. All funny looks. All rumours. All whispering. “Ah well we all know she fell but there's more to it than that...”. I didn't really care any more.

I only cared about Beth, having always assumed she was my One True Friend. We didn't speak the morning I came into school again. I asked her for a hug and she said “Oh for God's sake” and rolled her eyes and I remember in that moment my entire world fell apart. Nothing seemed to matter, a school day just consisted of menial tasks nobody really cared about anyway, just writing and talking and going through the motions, and the occasional unpredictable flashback to shatter my confidence.


I'm leaving my bag and my coat and asking to leave the classroom. Saying I have to see someone at the office. Mr. Black barely looks up as he gives me permission and I'm walking out of the classroom, one foot in front of the other. It feels like floating. I'm barely breathing.


There are a million things I could say about Beth and the huge impact she had both when we were so close we'd have died for each other and when it all stopped, but I don't want to. This isn't a story about her and however much she might dominate my mind, she will never dominate my writing. All that needs to be said is that I loved her and I love her. The things she did, they nearly killed me but it wasn't her that jumped, at the end of the day. And I love her. And I always will. And I will always consider her my sister.




I suppose, whilst I wasn't exactly enjoying my time at school, I was learning a lot every day I was there. Not about microbiology or the working memory model, but things about everyday life I hadn't really noticed before. The truth being, when I woke up in the Resus room and when I returned home to my baby monitor and to my new school, I found myself feeling much more alive than before. Not necessarily in a good way, because there was considerable sadness, but there wasn't really the same emptiness as before, I wasn't depressed in the same way I had been, and my memories of Before were fuzzy. I vaguely remember the jumping, although I didn't entirely want to, but I couldn't remember living at all, before such a time as I nearly died. I had none of the friends I'd had before, and I was at sixth form, and the last real memories I had were from nearly two years ago and even then they felt like stories and not like my own past. It's like waking up at sixteen and a half and finding yourself inside someone else's life, expected to know exactly who that person is and how they are expected to behave but really having absolutely no idea and about five minutes to figure it out.

I'm still figuring it out. This is my story.

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