Used to work in the homeware department of this clothing store. Sometimes, when the flesh around my fingernails would crack from being too dry, they would bleed on the towels I’d have to fold but fold them I would. It was working there that I met Sarah. After we’d been chatting for a few weeks, I offered to draw her a picture of her choosing. She asked for a rat, and a few days later I handed her the image on a sheet of card with my phone number on the back in a sealed envelope. Later that night she messaged me, and the rest is history. Before she joined, I’d already been there for nearly a year. Fresh out of graduating from University with a Masters degree, I was soon folding towels and plumping up cushions for a living. Could’ve got myself a proper job earning good money, but there was a part of me that knew such a thing wasn’t going to help with what I wanted. And what exactly was that? To be a writer? I’m not sure, but as much as I hated folding those towels and stacking packs of curtains and dealing with brain-dead customers, it kept me angry, and to this day I still have that anger, and these words, they keep bubbling when others I’ve known along the way have traded in their youthful dreams for a slice of the pie. Stood there serving those customers, I’d think of how easy it would be to hand in my notice and get a better job. Maybe some gig in an office, or a car showroom, or even a teacher. As the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned to months I would work from 9-6 and then go home and write until it was time to sleep. And those words- Jesus, they were beyond awful, but I had a dream of telling stories, and so with no plan other than to keep writing that’s exactly what I did. During my lunch breaks, I would go to the toilets and masturbate thinking about whatever attractive women I’d served that day. When no one was looking, I’d hide in the warehouse and spend my time pondering the meaning of life until a manager caught me and ushered me back onto the shop floor. And then along came Sarah and several months later she fell pregnant. It took me years to open up about the loss of baby Bethany. I think I was so set on living in a fantasy world that when stuff in the real world happened I didn’t quite know how to handle it, hence the onset of depression and the drinking. And here I am all these years later still putting pen to paper searching for whatever it is I’m looking for. I’ve hurt those I’ve loved and lost more than I needed to. I’ve drifted around- spent whole chunks of my life feeling numb and empty looking in from the outside- a self-imposed exile. Is it because I felt I needed to suffer to write words with meaning, or is it because I’m just out of touch and don’t quite belong? I’m alive and dead at the same time. Inside my chest, there’s broken glass mixed with the scent of Spring and an urge to resist that won’t let go, and so it remains.
S.K. Nicholas writes at A Journal for Damned Lovers