writing exercise

The day my brother died

I just found this piece of writing in a book of notes that I was looking through for something else entirely. I think I wrote it a few months after my brother died in 2009, I just edited it a bit and posted below.

Once my current book Coding: a user guide is submitted to Penguin, deadline 1st January 2018, I’m going to write my autobiography. Suicide is a really hard subject to write about, this piece of writing is what happened and my immediate thoughts after my brother died. I’ve written a few other pieces related to this one:

Falling into the abyss: what depression feels like to me

Young Rewired State and my brother Stephen

Raymondos

Happy Mother’s Day

If I can do it, so can you

I hope you enjoy them. I’d love your feedback on anything I’ve written about. Going on an Arvon writing course a couple of weeks ago has really made me realise how much I love writing and want to do more of it. 

Thanks for taking the time to read my work and I look forward to hearing from you ❤ 

 

The day my brother died

My phone rang. Well actually it didn’t ring, it barked. I’d spent some time recently changing some of the ringtones on my phone so that I would know who was ringing before I looked at my phone. I’d chosen a barking dog ringtone for my sister because she loves dogs.

It was 11.30pm. My sister Sarah never rang late in the evening, so I knew something was seriously wrong.

 “It’s only me.” Sarah said.

“Have you got someone with you?

I felt a terrible tightness in my chest. My existence suddenly came into sharp focus with an acute hyperawareness of everything around me. The room seemed to buzz with silence.

“Yes, Paul’s here.” I managed to whisper.

Dread filled my heart. I somehow knew what she was about to say. I fell onto the sofa, moaning.

“It’s Stephen.” She said and started crying, a dreadful animal cry.

“Oh God.”

My head started spinning. I knew what was going to come next. There was a pause which seemed to last for ever, but was probably just a second or two.

“He’s dead.” She said finally.

“What happened?” I said. Inside my head my brain was screeching.

“He hung himself…in the garage.”

“Oh God.”

“Where’s Rachel?”

“She’s at the hospital with him, she had to cut him down.”

“Oh no, and the boys?”

“They’re with Rachel’s parents.”

“Oh God.”

I started wailing and couldn’t stop. My whole world started collapsing in my head. My little brother Stephen was dead. By his own hand. My little baby brother. Dead.

Paul put his arm around me. I sobbed and sobbed.

“My brother’s dead” I cried.

“He’s hung himself.”

***

I thought we had all escaped. I thought we had all put that pain and abuse behind us, and moved on with our lives. But now that Stephen was dead, I knew that wasn’t true. We had not escaped. The dreadful experiences we had gone through as children had caught up with us.

I thought we had beaten them into submission and walked away the victors. But Stephen’s suicide now meant that I’d been kidding myself. We hadn’t escaped at all.

We had tried to escape, but some of that rotten, maggoty existence had stayed in our minds. It had stayed in our minds for thirty long years slowly and almost imperceptibly gnawing its way through, rarely lifting its head.

Now, the game was up. I’d spent thirty years congratulating myself on escaping, on my brother and sister escaping and feeling ridiculously proud of what we had all achieved in our lives. But now?

What now?

Now that Stephen was dead, now that he had killed himself, my life, our lives were exposed as a sham. Suicide is the opposite of success.

I had thought that we had escaped and gone on to lead normal, even exemplary lives. But no. The maggoty rot had returned.

Our lives had been a sham. We were dragged back, like it or not, into our past lives where we had no control, no self-esteem, no life.

We had lost.

 

“Raymondos” – an exercise in writing dialogue – Arvon non-fiction course 2017 at Totleigh Barton

“Raymondo’s” – original version

My nan was great fun to be around. When my brother and sister were small she used to pretend that they were top hairdressers in their salon called “Raymondos” she would get all of her hairdressing accoutrements out of the cupboard and Sarah and Stephen would do her hair for hours on end. Or so it seemed. I would be sitting on the sofa watching and chatting and reading a book. Probably something by Enid Blyton.

Nan had loads of hairdressing paraphernalia: grips, clips, Vitapointe cream (which I can smell now as I write about it), curlers, pins, brushes, combs, setting lotion and papers. I must have joined in too sometimes as I can remember putting Vitapointe on my nan’s hair and then brushing her hair with a bristle brush. It makes me smile to think of those times.

*****

“Raymondo’s” – dialogue version

I was at my nan’s flat with my brother and sister, Sarah and Stephen who were around 5 years old, playing hairdresser’s with my nan.

“Now Raymondo, I’d like a shampoo and set. Please give me a lovely hairstyle, I’m off to a ball tonight in my best frock and I want to look beautiful.”

“Yes, nannie. I’ve got the brush, I’m going to brush your hair and make you look lovely.”

“Now Cynthia, can you please help Raymondo with the setting lotion and papers”

“Yes nannie. Raymondo here you are.”

Sarah picks up the packet of papers and the setting lotion ready to pass them to Stephen.

“Can I have the lotion please Cynthia” Stephen said with a giggle, delighted to be calling his twin sister by a made up name.

“Here you are Raymondo” Sarah replied and handed over the lotion, accidentally squirting some of it over nannie’s dress.

“Oh no! Raymondo, Cynthia, you are such naughty hairdressers!”

I looked up from the sofa and we all burst into laughter.

*****

Many thanks to Arvon Totleigh Barton, Lois Pryce and Sukhdev Sandhu for a wonderful week.