Before I was a novelist (I am a novelist, I have proof. I got a royalty statement today, which if all the numbers add up, looks like I owe my publisher a small amount of money), back in the day, I wrote memoir.
You have to be careful of memoirists they are shameless and fantastic and they plough the ruins – and the delights but more the ruins – of their lives for fodder for paragraphs. Plus, they’re known to knap unsuspecting sentences off their family and friends. When I do it, I say, ‘Wait, go again, I want to write that down,’ and haul out my little red notebook.
No shame. A microscope. And a keyboard. That’s all someone like me needs. You can take the novel out a memoirist but you’ll never get a memoirist to leave a thing alone if there’s a blank page at stake.
So it makes sense that today, at the doctor’s getting my prescription for an anti-depressant, that I was thinking, remember this. Remember how this feels. I closed my eyes and listened. The doctor tapping away at his keyboard, the fast electric sounds of the script being printed, the sound of the pen making his signature, quick, curly, hollow on wood. And the surprisingly loud noise of the page tearing along its perforation. Remember this, you’ll want to write it down.
It’s been a couple of years since I was on medication. I’ve been trying so long, most of this year to not be on it, but today, that’s it, I give up.
For some reason, perhaps his enormous patience, the doctor got through to me. Finally it made sense; if my mood is elevated, if I’m less tired, less sad, I’ll be more open to the rest of my life. It went something like that. A tablet can’t bring Libby back but it may make it less hard. May. I went into his small room with its two chairs, desk, bed and sink, expecting a B12 shot and walked out with Esipram. They’re small and white, easy to swallow and guaranteed to make you feel shit before you get better. Can’t wait.
And while I was at the doctor and doing a five-minute interior journey from no-way-cranky through to okay if we must, I thought, well, that’s ironic. I have written this character at the doctor, devastated to be prescribed an anti-depressant, cracking wise at chemist, then crying when he’s kind to her. I have written side effects and withdrawal, it’s all in the book, and here we are discussing them in real, awful, brilliant life.
When I started Days of Hilda I didn’t know where it’d go. I knew it was memoir, of course it is, but I thought it’d be family and my bike. I wasn’t planning for any black dogs or anti depressants (it’s shame I can’t give the tablets to the dog then she could worry about insomnia and weight gain).
Like I said, memoirists, we’re an unseemly bunch, we’ll tell you anything and you don’t have to ask. If it’s in my head, it will be on my face, and not long after, it will be on paper. We don’t mind a little bit of pain if we can scratch a sentence out of it and I don’t mind a little bit of pain if I can drag some learning from it. This afternoon I learnt I should have been listening harder. To me, to my counselor, to my doctor. But I did listen and in less than an hour I went from, fuck off, I can’t, to okay, I’m ready, let’s do this.
Let’s do this.
Little Jerry has nothing to do with black dogs or medication but he’s gorgeous, the flowers are pretty, and Libby would have loved him