Hlr

tracks

CONTENT WARNING: SUICIDIAL IDEATONS, DEPRESSION, MENTAL ILLNESS,

MENTIONS OF DRUG  AND ALCOHOL USE

By the time you had finished
reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy,
grass had begun to sprout along
the edges of the railway tracks
where we used to lie.

How I loved filling those empty hours with you at the train station in my town, in that same spot, off the main platform, over the safety barriers, under the concrete stairs. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Autumn and Spring. Never the times in between. Always evening. Always vodka. Side by side, sky high, putting the world to rights. “What we think, we become,” you said one night. “I fucking hope not,” I replied.

 

I cried a lot back then. You let me. But you never let me get too close to the fast trains, even though it seemed like my mind had already hurled itself in front of one. Warning. The train now approaching platform 1 is not scheduled to stop at this station. Please stand well back from the platform edge. I’d always stop talking when the direct-to-Kings-Cross trains rushed past, you’d feel my body leaning away from you and towards the speeding metal, you’d grip my hand a little tighter. You were splattered with the viscera of my brain through my words, my stories, my secrets, my ideas, my reactions and overreactions.

 

No one likes to have their train delayed. Not by a technical fault, not by staff shortages, and certainly not by a jumper. We hate so much for our train to be delayed even by a few minutes and yet we willingly delay so many great things in our lives, out of fear, out of diffidence, out of our minds. You did not delay in telling me that you loved me. That was a great thing you did. It was urgent, as if you’d been waiting your whole life to love me. I think that staying alive is delaying me from attaining the greatest thing of my life: nonexistence. I am causing my own delays out of fear, fear of the unknown, fear of failing to achieve the perfect death, the beautiful death I deserve after enduring such an ugly life.
 

By the time I had finished
reading the 1Q84 trilogy,
the grass had grown up
and over the railway tracks
where we used to lie.

Where are you? I don’t even know for certain where you are. I wonder what your piece of sky looks like. I am sure that your sky looks different to mine, even though we’re under the same one. We lost each other, somehow. Perhaps we lost each other deliberately, although I prefer to think of this divide as a tragic accident, our totality sliced in half by the universe and her clumsy yet ungovernable path. We used to share so many things: you know what, so I shan’t patronise you by listing them, all those things we shared, all those things we lost. Our propinquity, the most intimate entwining of untethered souls, now lies cleaved, seemingly irreparably. The only things we share now are this sky and the sun and moon that live in it. And, even then, they are not shared equally or fairly. But at least we can say that we’ve still got something, we will always have something.

 

I know that you see the sun more often than I do. You adore her, you worship her, you welcome her. You actively seek her out. You chase her. She makes you happy. I loathe her, I hide from her, I dread her arrival. I can’t stand the fact that she is so committed, so steadfast, so predictable, so fucking resolute. I hate that she never stays away for long enough and I hate that she always returns. She bores me. I am bored of the sun.

But we will always have this in common: we are both her dependants, entirely reliant on her for life, even though we never wanted to be. I’m angrier than you are about the fact that we need her. We are her slaves, we exist at her mercy; and this is a situation that we will never have the opportunity to challenge or change, a reality that was forced on us all without warning or argument or even explanation. None of us ever agreed to be solely dependent on a faraway celestial body, and yet here we are, going along with it, accepting that we will die without her, but we will also die with her. It reminds me of the fact that no baby ever asked to be born.

 

We will always share the sun, this sun of ours. And while you worship her, I wish she would hurry up and explode. Then our sky would look the same no matter where we are because I suppose we’d be nowhere, but we’d be nowhere together.

I always believed that wherever we are in the world, however far apart, we would always share the same moon. But the more I think about it, the more I realise that even this is not the case. I spend so many hours now just watching the sky move on the other side of the glass. All those days where I am too sad to get out of bed, people assume I am reading in bed or writing or painting or watching movies or sleeping but, really, I just lie there and watch our sky performing its never-ending dance, with its clouds and colours and weather and stars and sounds and speeds and aircraft and fireworks and pollution and promise and a stray green balloon. I spend so much time just watching the sky and wondering what your slice of sky looks like. I hope yours looks happier than mine.
 

By the time you had finished
your undergraduate degree,
the grass had faded and collapsed
between the railway tracks
where we used to lie.

I am infatuated by the moon, obsessed with her in her many forms. I always feel a strange sense of relief when I see her and I am disappointed when she doesn’t turn up, worried even, as if the sun might have burnt her to death while I was in my windowless bathroom where I couldn’t keep an eye on her. I don’t know what I’d do without the moon: if she died, I would miss her so fiercely, with the same stifling intensity that I miss the propinquity we once shared on evenings like this.

 

I know that you have always liked the moon too, especially when it’s misty, or on those stoned Sunday nights we shared years ago when we’d look for words on her skin, convinced by the crater edges forming silver tattoos on her blinding, imperfect shell, like when we couldn’t unsee the word ‘SIN’ branded diagonally across her left side. We like the moon. We trust her. But she shows me a different face to the one that she shows you. We see the same moon from different angles, at different times, in different stages, in different moods, in different countries, in different lives, with different eyes. The moon that I see and the moon that you see are the same, but different.

 

Like us, I suppose. We’re the same but we are different. The same, but different. Same but different. We are different people now, but some things will always stay the same. So as long as there is a sky above us, and a sun and moon within it, I’m yours.
 

By the time I have finished
writing this, the grass will
have frozen and died
alongside the railway tracks
where we used to lie.

I am not as brave as you. I used to be fearless (you know that, that’s when you loved me). Now you are fearless, just as I taught you to be, and thousands of miles away according to your rarely updated Instagram page, while I am still at the station and I am afraid. Nobody holds me back from the fast trains. I don’t know how and why my feet stay behind the yellow line, blood frozen in my vodkastream, thumbs tapping out messages to the phone number I know you don’t use anymore, my attempts to reconnect with you immediately locked up in the purgatory of my outbox.

 

Our initials are still spray-painted underneath the seventh stair, above where we used to shelter from the rain. The black letters look as fresh as the day you sprayed them, over a decade ago. I remember the black paint dripping down to your wrists and staining the cuffs of your white shirt; when I pierced your ear and you pierced my nose with jewellery so cheap it turned our skin green; how we once lay our heads on the tracks and listened for the heavy electricity coursing through the rails and cables, the static jolts of the approaching train, stronger and longer, nearer and louder; how we moved out of the way at the last moment and laughed for England when the police turned up and chased us away. But we have grown too tired and too cynical to thrive on adrenaline and blind faith like we used to. London has caught up with us: you left, I stayed.

 

You said you’d always be here, there, somewhere, not necessarily visible but present – I suppose like the maggots you said, “are hiding in every bottle ketchup.” And while I delay in finding peace by sustaining my daily misery in the (admittedly absurd) hope of one day receiving the magic chemicals that will cure me, I will not delay in saying this: I am still here, there, somewhere, not necessarily visible but present, like the empty vodka bottles that lie abandoned under the stairs, at the station, where we used to shelter from the rain, by the fast trains, by our graffitied names, by the railway tracks where we used to lie, under the same sky, chasing highs we’d no longer dare to dream of, under the spring sun, under the autumn moon, under the influence, out of our minds, in love.

17 February, 2021

HLR (she/her) writes poetry and short prose about mental illness, grief and trauma. Her work has featured in The Hellebore, Constellate Literary Journal, In Parentheses, and many others. Her debut prosetry collection 'History of Present Complaint' is to be published by Close To The Bone in February 2021. HLR lives in north London, where she was born and raised.