The International Writers Magazine
On Being Ten

Jodie Louise

I was ten years old when I first thought about killing myself. Months before Philip had committed suicide, and in my childish way I reasoned that I could too. I sat cross legged on the floor of my bedroom, a warped metal coat hanger in my hand. At that moment I wanted more than anything to be strong enough to plunge the hook through my chest and gouge out my heart.

Instead I content myself with rubbing my knees repeatedly on the nylon pile of the 1970s carpet until the skin flushed a bright pink with self-inflicted burns.

Philip was my mother's younger brother and was so tall that his head almost brushed the ceiling. Whenever we visited Philip we'd end up having a sing-along, normally to the Beatles, whilst he strummed away on his acoustic guitar. As well as playing guitar he painted watercolours of odd fragmented alien landscapes on grey card, and was also a gigantic fan of Pompey FC. All of my uncles could play guitar, and when any of them visited they would always turn up on the doorstep with a guitar or ukulele in hand, a bottle of booze in the other, along with a bag filled with lots of interesting presents for us kids. I expected uncles to be fun and was very disappointed when I met the uncle of my best friend; he didn't even speak to us, and instead spent the day sitting in an armchair looking at the women's underwear pages in a Littlewoods catalogue.

It was when on my way home from school one day that I spotted a police car parked around the back of our street. The other kids were jabbering excitedly, but for some reason I couldn’t share their enthusiasm - I felt sick to the stomach. I ran the rest of the way home from school, burst through the front door, almost knocking over a policeman who was in our kitchen sipping a cup of tea. My mum quickly explained what had happened - I knew what the word 'suicide' meant. I cried, my mum hugged me and started crying too. The next day at school the other kids wanted to know why I got a lift in a police car - they thought I had done something really naughty, or that my dad had been sent to jail.

My mother grieved. She drank lots of white wine, listened to sad music and cried every night. People tried to console her, saying "Philip is at peace now". Almost overnight I became her confidante; she told me all of the secrets grown-ups had been keeping from me, asked my advice and lent me copies of Bella to read. In one particular issue there was an article about schizophrenia and my mother told me to read it because that was what had made Philip ill. After I read the piece I looked at his paintings trying to understand what he had been thinking before he died.

Instead of drowning in water you can drown in your emotions, hoping that you’ll be able to fight your way to the surface to take air, to float happily for a while, before being pulled back under to fight to the surface all over again. I think Philip was tired of fighting and that is why he took that final stroll into the sea. I may have a different illness, but I am still in the same situation, using pills to control my mood. They are a chemical safety line ready to pull me back from the brink, and I hold on tight, hoping that the line won't snap.

© Jodie Louise October 2006

Jodie is studying for her Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Portsmouth

 More Stories


© Hackwriters 1999-2006 all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibiltiy - no liability accepted by or affiliates.