You’re An Original

This story is based on the Sheryl Crow song, “You’re An Original.” I love to use songs as inspiration, and Sheryl Crow is one of my  favourite artists. “You’re An Original” is one her lesser-known songs. It’s take from her “C’mon C’mon” album.

 

glitter

 

You’re An Original

 

“Hey, Lomi, come over here! You have to meet this person.”

“All right, all right. Let me finish my business over here, first.” The girl in scarlet hot pants and a glittering, green bikini top waves her hand to dismiss the man with thinning, sandy hair. I watch this girl as she takes the rolled up £10 note and inhales the magic powder. 

I knew this girl; once upon a time. She was different then. My best friend. We did normal teenage things, like going to the mall, shopping for shoes, and discovering boys. I recall Lomi chatting non stop about her first love; a wiry, acne laden boy called Will. But, life has changed. For Lomi, at least.

“Steph, come with me,” my friend says, holding out a heavily tattooed hand. “Stuart wants to talk to me, and I’ll only forget what he says if you’re not there.”

We approach Lomi’s manager and wait for him to speak. His eyes are fixed on me as he speaks to Lomi. “Tom Philips wants an interview, Lomi. He saw the show tonight, and he wants to meet you in the morning.”

“Yeah, sure, Stu. Whatever. Come on, Steph, let’s get back to the party.” 

Lomi is already dragging me away when Stuart says, “Wait. Lomi, you can’t screw this one up. He’s from ‘Celeb Weekly,’ and you need them behind you. You remember the heading last month, right?”

My friend stares at Stuart, and her blank eyes reflect a lack of understanding. She has forgotten. I haven’t. She was caught driving drunk after a two day bender. The headlines were brutal. True, nonetheless. ‘Celeb Weekly’ said, “In your cadillac, reaching for your Jack, there’s nothing we can say to stop you because you, Lomi Burnette, are a star.”

“Don’t worry, Stuart, Lomi will be just fine,” I say, not really believing my own words. With so many vicious stories hitting the celebrity magazines, it makes her behaviour worse. After the drink-drive story, rather than stopping or cutting back, she started to drink at ten in the morning, rather than waiting until mid-day.

A couple of weeks ago, some one-night-stand sold his story to a magazine. He said Lomi was, “deadly in the sack.” It earned her an army of new fans. 

“Thanks, Steph. Now, where did Josh go with the magic dust?” she says, glancing all around. 

I grab her arm as she starts to walk away. “Don’t get wasted, Lomi. You have to nail that interview tomorrow. You have to be sober.”

“Chill out, Stephanie. I’m Lomi Burnette. I can do anything I want.” As she shakes off my hand, she walks away, throwing over her shoulder, “Why are you here, anyway? You follow me around like a ridiculous, little puppy; stifling my fun.” She shakes her head as she says, “You’re pathetic. Just get out of here.”

Latching onto the first body who passes by, she heads toward the restroom with him. I’m caught between saving her and letting her set fire to her career. I decide to let her burn.

Stuart yells at me as I leave the party. I ignore him. I’ve had enough. Lomi was right, it is pathetic how I do everything for her and get nothing in return. I thought I was being a good friend. But sometimes friends have to do the right thing, even when it’s not the easy thing.

I hear nothing from Lomi for eleven days. Then, ‘Celeb Weekly’ publishes her exclusive interview. It seems she was not sober for Tom Philips. He found her to be, “A little, wannabe queen; dirty mouth and mean.” 

From what I can make out, my ex best friend was barely coherent. Tom’s final conclusion was aimed directly at Lomi; “Yeah, you’re an original, baby, like we’ve never seen before. You’re an original, baby. Turn around and you’re looking at a hundred more!”

Remorse tugs at my heels as I throw the magazine in the trash can. Right about now, Lomi  will be screaming and throwing things around her penthouse suite. Despite the fact that her rise to stardom came through reality TV, she is genuinely talented. It’s such a shame that couldn’t be enough for her. That’s the thing about Lomi: she could never be satisfied. Sure, her strong will ensured success. But the flip side of that came too easily.

********************************

Tom Philips’s article started the decline in my friend’s career. A photograph appeared of her falling out of a cab at an exclusive London club. The headline ran, “Caught you in a pose that everybody knows. You’ve done that a million times already. We thought you had something special. Seems we were wrong.” It was hard to return from that one. 

When my doorbell rang this morning, I didn’t expect to see Lomi standing in my porch. A spiral of sadness wound its way through my core as I took in her skeletal frame. Her skin—covered in acne—stretched over her bones, and she couldn’t meet my eyes.

“I’m so sorry, Steph. Please don’t hate me.” Her voice was a whisper, and my heart constricted. Pulling her close, I ushered her inside before anyone could see her. I knew, deep down, this day would come. Now it has, the vindication I imagined hasn’t appeared. The only feeling I have is sadness. My best friend is broken, and all those people who rode on the back of her fame have dumped her now things are tough. Well, not me. She is my best friend. That means something.

 

An Open Letter Regarding Mental Illness

MH2
Dear everyone,

I am writing this letter because mental health, or mental ill-health, is something I have quite a lot of experience dealing with. It would be good to use my experience to help others who might be going through the same kind of stuff. A lot of people who live, work, interact with people who are mentally ill don’t know what to say that might help. For that reason, it’s often the elephant in the room. People don’t want to upset the person with the illness or make things worse. Which is understandable. I get it; I really do. But, sometimes, it’s the most unhelpful response. So, these are my thoughts. They are things that do and don’t help me. Everyone is different, but these are my experiences, based on my struggles with depression, anxiety, and PTSD …

The most important thing to say is never, ever try to minimise what we are going through. All your, “Ahh, there are those worse off than you,” and, “Sure, you just need to make up your mind to get better, and you will,” speeches are the most unhelpful you can give. Don’t tell us, “Just get over it, you’ve been wallowing for long enough now. It’s time to move on.” You don’t simply move on from mental illness. You don’t just get over it. The amount of times my dad told me to do just that. Even though he constantly battled depression and anxiety, frequently giving in to it. If only it were as easy as just moving on. I suspect there would be very little mental illness in the world.

For me, the most important thing people can say is that they care about and support me. To tell me they are here for me if I ever want to talk, and that they love me whatever my illness makes me say and do. I appreciate this isn’t an easy thing to do. There are times, I’m not an easy person to like, let alone love. It takes a lot of patience to watch someone relive the same nightmares every night for years. It’s hard to understand how things don’t improve. Or, even harder to understand how they do improve, and then revert to a place that seems worse than they originally were. But, please remember, if it’s frustrating and heartbreaking for you to watch, imagine what it’s like to experience it first hand. You won’t understand, unless you’ve been there, but understanding isn’t necessary. You just have to listen and let them know they aren’t alone.

It’s important to remember we are speaking about mental illness. I know it’s been said many times before, but it is an illness. Physical or mental, if you’re ill, it isn’t your fault. Don’t judge mentally ill people. Don’t be afraid of them. You can’t catch their illness. Spend time with them. We are people who deal with an illness in the same way that someone with angina carries their spray around to help them out if things get bad.

I think it’s important you aren’t afraid to discuss difficult subjects. I know it’s easier to ignore the things that scare you. But, ignorance can have terrible consequences. Please, never be afraid to discuss subjects such as self harm and suicidal ideations. When people are experiencing these, I guarantee they are feeling incredibly alone. So, let them know you’re there. Hold their hand. Ask them if they have any plans to end their life. You may be surprised how big a difference getting them to open up and talk about their plans can make.

So, what helps? Patience. Support. Love. Friendship. Time. Being unafraid. Understanding. What hinders? Ignorance. Judgement. Unwillingness to try to understand. Impatience. Hate. Fear.

You know what helps the majority of the time, though? Being treated as though I’m a normal person. Because I am. Every single person on earth is unique. That’s how I look at it. My illnesses dont’ define me. But I do deal with them every day. I used to be ashamed, but not any more. I’ve been through a lot, with mental illness as the end result. But I’m not just mental illness. I’m a writer, a wife, a friend, a niece. All of this things come before my illnesses, and I want everyone to remember that.

Rachel

She

Before I move onto the poem I’ve written today, I want to remind you all of my post from yesterday. There is a contest running (which I will extend until 5pm EST today. Yesterday, I wrote a piece of flash fiction that was packed full with titles of US sitcoms from the 80s and 90s. I asked you to guess how many titles I included. The winner will get a poem or piece of prose featured on my blog. At the moment, there’s just one entry. That’s such a shame. I would love to see some more before the contest closes today.

For now, though, here is my poem, entitled ‘She.’

 

FAme

She

She passed by today,
didn’t notice me standing there,
it’s like all those years as
best friends
mean nothing.
I guess she doesn’t need me now,
like she did when we were young—
all her hangers-on
mean more;
they have the right look,
the perfect bodies,
the ability to grovel and
say whatever is required to make her
feel good about
herself.
What they don’t realise, those
falsifiers and fakeries,
is she is fragile,
she’s a little girl in a
grown-up body,
acting tough,
playing dirty.

I saw her today; her
mother sent me tickets
to attend her show and
after party.
The invitation was
intoxicating.
Three years since words we last
exchanged,
my world still the same; hers
set in another galaxy.
As I listened to my
one-time best friend
sing, I closed my eyes and, in that moment,
I was a teenager,
listening to Rick Astley in
Stacey’s room,
and she sang along, with her voice so
sweet
and untainted,
but tonight is different.
I saw her crew of yes-people, all cooing and
pouring praise over her,
watching, as she ingested the poison
she could no longer resist.

She passed by me today,
didn’t even notice me,
all alone in her suffering,
with matted hair, she was shuffling,
her clothes hung from her
bones
and her eyes sank deep
inside her skull,
I called her name,
and she turned and, in that moment,
she finally saw me,
and she blinked,
and just kept walking.

Impromptu Contest

My prompt for today was to write a piece of flash fiction containing as many names of US sitcoms from the 80s and 90s as possible. Quite a task! Very enjoyable. So, I’m going to share with you my writing. It occurred to me I could make a little contest out of this.

The contest is to read it and reply to this post with how many titles you think I’ve included.

You have until midday GMT tomorrow (so, 24 hours from now), and the person who guesses right (or nearest to right) gets to feature a poem or piece of their writing on my blog. How does that sound?

If lots of people guess correctly, I’ll feature all of you. It will be wonderful to be able to share some of the talented people I’ve met through blogging.

So. Here is my story:

The Memory Chest

treasure-pirate-chest

 

Emptying my mother’s house is harder than I anticipated. This intricate little box incites butterflies to float and dance in my stomach. The box, which is shaped like a pirate’s chest, is a deep plum purple and decorated with tiny green rhinestones and cut-out silver spoons. Mum was obsessed with spoons. I have already taken five complete sets to charity shops. I kept her favourite for myself. On top of the chest, Mum has written “Small Wonder”, her nickname given to me following my miraculous, if somewhat arduous, fifteen hour birth. It is a perfect title for the snippets of life I find inside. I lift the lid to a plethora of old photographs, newspaper cuttings, and letters.

The photographs are bound together with a length of purple lace so dark it reminds me of aubergines. I smile without trying when I see the first picture. It is taken at our old house, 227, Benson Road. Three girls, as yet untainted by the traumas of adulthood, smile awkwardly at the camera. On the reverse, Mum has written “Roseanne, Kate & Allie”, 1989. My smile falters when I look at the background scene. I see the looming figure of Mr Belvedere, our creepy next door neighbour. I could never understand how he made a living out of driving a taxi. He smelt of mildew and feet and was always watching us from his garden. One time, I ran straight into him when I was late for the school bus. I got to see his (not so) lazy eye study me carefully. It was too close for comfort. I was happy when we moved to our new house on Alf Tyler Street. Our new neighbours, The Jeffersons, were much less intimidating and, as far as I know, they never once smelled of feet.

I dig deeper into the chest and find my mother has lovingly documented every stage of my growing pains; all my happy days. There is a newspaper cutting, which evokes the fondest feelings inside of me. The picture is of my two friends and me. This time, we are smiling with all the confidence our new-found adulthood and sexuality has brought. The heading reads, “Three’s Company For This Homegrown All Girl Group” and underneath, the article continues, “The Golden Girls of Tucson land their first top ten hit.” Not just our first, but our only hit. I read the whole article, which gushes huge helpings of praise onto Saved By The Bell, a decidedly average song which, somehow, made it to Number 6 on the Billboard Chart. Mum almost burst from her pride in me. It was a magical time, a different world to the one I inhabit now.

Today, I am married … with children. Three children, they are my world and I am a full time mother to them. My life is still full of cheers. My full house of loved ones is more rewarding than all the bright lights and fame in the world.

Even so, I think I’ll keep this treasure trove of memories. When they are old enough, I will show it to my children. Maybe I’ll create my own box and fill it with my new beautiful family ties.

Final Betrayal

FINAL BETRAYAL

A Tale of Friendship Told Entirely Through Dialogue

Ski Lift

 

“Isn’t it beautiful, Lacey? It’s gotta be . . . what? . . . a mile down to the tops of the trees , or something. Woah, wait a minute. Did you feel that?”

“Shut up, Dani. That’s not funny.”

“No, seriously. Shit. We’re stopping.”

“Oh no, no, no. Why aren’t we moving? Is this supposed to be a joke? Because, okay; you win. I’m scared. Now let’s get moving along.”

“Why would I want to scare you? Geez, it’ll be a backlog up ahead, or something equally boring. Like an axe wielding maniac taking over the wire.”

“Shut up.”

“Haha. The look on your face! C’mon, we’ll be moving again any moment. Take advantage of this down time to check out the scenery. It’s beautiful. You must see that.”

“I could see it better if I was stood on the ground, in amongst the trees.”

“I can’t believe you’re such a baby. How did I not know this about my best friend of twenty years? I mean. You really are scared of heights, aren’t you?”

“Not scared. Just prefer to be underneath them. Not dangling from a zip wire fifty feet off the ground with a pair of skis attached to my feet. Skis, Dani. I can’t even stand in them, let alone land from a fifty foot drop. I can’t believe I let you talk me into this.”

“Excuse me? I didn’t lock you in my suitcase and smuggle you through customs. You jumped at the chance to holiday in Italy. You’ve always wanted to go to Italy, you said. I would have been just as happy with a week in the sun. But we all know Lacey gets what Lacey wants.”

“What are you talking about? You’ve been a bitch ever since Jackson’s party last week. What gives?”

“Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Just focus on hoping this lift starts up again before it turns dark.”

**********

“Stop! For the love of God, Dani, stop!”

“What? I’m not doing anything.”

“You’re swinging your legs. This whole seat thing is swaying.”

“What’s the matter? Afraid I might swing us right off?”

“Stop it. For Christ’s sake. I don’t know what’s going on with you, and I don’t really care, to be honest. Just stop swaying the sodding chair. I do not wish to die like this.”

“Fine.”

“God, I don’t know what your problem is, but you’re right. This holiday was a bad idea.”

“You would know all about bad ideas.”

“What?”

“Or maybe not. Maybe you wouldn’t understand there are things you don’t do, places you don’t go. Maybe you’re oblivious to everyone around you. So long as you get what you want.”

“Seriously, Dani. What the hell are you talking about?”

“You want me to spell it out?”

“Ugh, yeah!”

“You’re unbelievable. I’m talking about Jackson.”

“Wh—what? I d—don’t understand.”

“Oh yeah. Not so confident now, are you?”


“I have no idea what you’re speaking about, Dani. You’ve always had a vivid imagination. Why would I sleep with Jackson? He’s my best friend’s—“

“So you admit you slept with him? How many times?”

“Well, just . . . just the once. C’mon, Dani. I was drunk. You saw how wasted I was that night, right? I would never do that if I was thinking straight.”

“Oh. Well that’s okay then. I’ll forget about it. My best friend and my fiancé. No biggie. It’s all right because you were wasted. That’s fine.”

“Okay. I think you need to calm down. You’re rocking this chair. Shit. It’s a long way down. Calm down, breathe, and I’ll explain.”

“Has it not occurred to you I don’t give a shit what excuse you want to tell me, Lacey? Maybe I just want revenge. Maybe I know the person running the ski lifts, from my holiday with Jackson last year. Maybe he agreed to stop the lifts just as our chair reached this point. Maybe I know how to lift the safety bar just enough to push somebody out. Somebody who betrayed me. Somebody I hate.”

“No no no. You’re crazy. You’d never get away with it. Everything about me and Jacks would come out, and you’d hate that. No. You wouldn’t dare.”

“Haha. Really? You are amusing, Lace, I’ll give you that. Haha. Now. Which button do I need to press?”

“HELP! You’re insane. HEEEELP!”

“No one can hear you, Lacey. We’re all alone up here. Haha. Oh. Here it is. Pop. Oh, look. The bar moves.”

“Stop it, Dani. This isn’t funny. Stop!”

“Ummmm, no. Are you ready to fly?”


“Okay. Here. You push me, I’m taking you with me. I’m not letting go of your arm. I die, you die.”

“Yeah. I kinda thought you’d say that. But, you see, the problem is I don’t care. So are you holding on nice and tightly? Ready? I’ll hold you, too. Just in case . . . go!”

“Aaaarrgghh! Nooo! Aaarrrgggghhh!”

“That’s the last time you betray me, Lacey! Hahahahahaha.”