Monday, August 11, 2008

Breakups

Hi,


Here is another chapter that I'd like you to look at and get feedback on. A particularly difficult one to write and one that gives a bit more insight into Raymond.


The chapter takes place after Raymond has had his breakdown, in a previous chapter he begins to look for answers as to why he had a panic attack and why he felt so down. He decides to make changes to his life in order to get himself back on track, but is he making the right ones?



(please forgive any spelling or grammar errors as this is still draft format)



Chapter 4 – Hope forsaken

Raymond stood in Esperanza’s living room, his palms sweaty; his heart beating fast; his stomach filled with a thousand butterflies. Even though his body felt like a charged electrical wire, the feeling was juxtaposed with a strange sense of comfort. He was no longer listening to his body. His mind was occupied with what he knew he had to do, not with evils lurking in the shadows. To Raymond, this was a sure sign he was making the right decision.

Esperanza stood over the kitchen sink, picking up another perfectly clean dish from the dish stack. She had taken one look at Raymond when he’d knocked on her door, before retreating to re-scrub the already pristine dishes. One look was all it took. Raymond had walked over to offer help but she waved him away. So he sat himself down on the couch, staring at the same photo of him and Spera, that he had over his TV. The only sound between them was the sloshing of suds. He waited. And he waited.

“Can I talk to you, Spera? Please?”
“I’ll just finish the dishes.”

“Ok,” he said and hit the remote. She didn’t use my name, he thought. Names, so simple and yet so meaningful – the first brick to be laid in the foundation of a relationship and the last to be razed when it crumbles. The last time Spera had dispensed with Raymond’s name was when he refused to go to her niece’s communion. So many relatives. All wanting to ask questions. “They’re my family,” she had said. “Why don’t you want to go?” He had made some excuse about catching up with work, but spent the whole afternoon downloading music from the Net to his MP3 player.

Raymond changed the channel on the TV. How am I ever going to do this? he thought, his determination wavering. He remembered the first time he had seen Esperanza, at a training course for Call Centre Managers. He had not been well, but his employer had paid good money to get him on the course at the last minute, so he’d been determined to be there. She had wandered over unasked, to offer him a tissue and a lozenge. Such a simple gesture but one that had resonated to his very core. It’d been a long time since anyone cared for his well being, unasked and unconditional. It had made him feel beyond good; a feeling that he’d previously learned to do without.

“Can I help you finish off those dishes?” he asked.
“No, it’s ok,” she replied.

He remembered that day on the course like it was yesterday, looking up to accept the tissue and seeing Esperanza for the first time. He’d had many experiences with women before her, he was not without his charms; but with the others his eye had been drawn by the physical, his lust stirred. She had been different. Eyes that spoke of warmth and kindness. Her hair as black as a crow’s feather, thick and lustrous, hung down over her shoulders to fall about her breast. A fullness of curve that had captivated many of the men in that training room, but unlike them, Raymond had felt her spirit touch him more than her sensuality.

“Have you nearly finished, Spera?”
She ignored him and continued wiping down the sink, a sink that had been spotless for the past 10 minutes.

Raymond turned back to stare at the television; his mind still replaying the events of that first meeting on the training course more than 2 years ago. How he’d chanced many a furtive glance her way, reddening on the odd occasion as she turned to catch him in the act, but feeling his spirit soar as she smiled warmly at his obvious embarrassment. He’d learned nothing that would have been of value to his employer on that day. His body had been infused with an unusual desire, one that he had not felt before, one that he felt through his whole body, one that was not a rush of blood, an eruption of heat. He desired to hold her hand. He desired to feel her warmth flow through him.

He changed channel on the television once again, hoping the invisible beam from the remote would do the same to the images in his head: stolen kisses, laughter, hugs, closeness. He had sought her closeness often when they had first begun to share their lives. Sometimes he’d felt like holding her tight enough to squeeze himself into her very soul. And she had given of herself without question, asking little of him in return for she had sensed in him a desperate need to be held. Esperanza been happy for Raymond to bask in the warmth of her love, but as they became closer, she wanted to know more.

“Spera, I really need to talk to you,” he said.

She’d wanted to know everything about him, why he could be so euphoric about his dreams and yet have periods of melancholy and reflection that would see him become distant. She’d pressed him to share his thoughts in times when the world weighed heavy on him, but he could not. Not out of cowardice or shame but because he did not truly know what it was that had changed his mood. He preferred to push all her questions aside, telling her not to worry about it.

“Spera, if you don’t come and sit down, I’ll come over to you.”
“Would you like me to make an espresso?” she asked.
“No, please, come sit down.”

But as lovers do, she had worried about it. Esperanza had wanted to know why. Why he’d been spending so much time on Facebook, why he’d spent so much time at work, why he’d go out and get drunk every Friday night. “Why won’t you let me in, Raymond?” she used to say. He had not been able to tell her, he didn’t know.

Esperanza’s return to the couch broke Raymond out of his silent reverie. He watched her pick up the remote and press the button to silence the TV. There was no lightness about her movement as she sat down beside him, slumping into the couch with the heaviness of one who has just given up. As he met her eyes he could see that they were moist.

“You know,” she said, “you used to call me sweetheart all the time, sweetie, honey, my love…” she let the words trail, shook her head and closed her eyes. “For the last few weeks it’s been Spera.” She stared at Raymond looking for signs that she was overreacting, but what she saw only confirmed her worst fears. She should never have let him have his two weeks to ‘think’. But what could she have done, as her mother would say, souls are not birds to be caged.

“You want to leave me, don’t you?”

Raymond could not look at her. There was a part of him that hoped she would eventually tell him to go, that enough was enough, it would have be so much easier. Everyday for the last few months he felt like he had let her down. She was so full of life, so giving. And he, was no longer the man she had fallen in love with. He did knot know why, but he knew it to be true.

“You could at least look at me,” she said.

He met her eyes. Here was his opportunity. He doubted he would ever have the courage to finally say what he felt he needed to say even though he had attempted it many times before. He decided his silence would do the talking for him.

“I always thought,” Spera said. “I’d never ask this question if I ever got into this situation…” she paused. “I always thought I wouldn’t want to know.” She searched Raymond’s eyes making him feel as if his insides were being scorched. “Is there someone else?”

No. No one he’d ever contemplated being intimate with. There were women with whom he’d held alcohol-fuelled conversations with on Friday nights, after work. Women that had not known him, that hadn’t got close enough to him to see the emptiness behind his alcohol-fuelled bravado. In that Friday-night world, he could be whatever he wanted, dream the big dreams, and the potent elixir of attention and alcohol added fuel to the fire of his convictions, intoxicating him beyond any self-doubts and releasing him from the chains of his melancholy, even if it was just in that Friday-night world.

Raymond shook his head.
Esperanza looked at him. “Then why? Why? Is it worth talking about?”

They’d had their troubles before. They’d talked about them before, always scratching at the surface only for the real issues to remain hidden, buried by an avalanche of logistical concerns. They had resolved their issues by making monumental decisions – buying a ring, booking a holiday. Always it had been Esperanza who proposed the jump. Hoping that these acts of union would somehow provide the gel to bring them closer. It had not; all it had done was make her feel guilty for the attempt.

“You’ve made your mind up, haven’t you?” she asked.
Again, Raymond met her question with silence.

Esperanza dropped her eyes away from Raymond and turned to look into space. He could see the tear rolling down her cheek. “Do you remember,” she said into space, “how we used to sit on this couch on Sunday’s and-” She stopped and wiped away the tear and then let out a mock chuckle. “Yes I know, we’ve been over all this before. I tried to prepare myself for this…” the words got caught in her throat. She pulled her knees up to her chin and hid her face in her lap. Raymond could see her shoulders convulse as she tried to muffle her crying. He had never dealt well with her tears before and even now at the end, she still tried to do the best by him in her attempt to hide them.

He remained mute.
Esperanza lifted her head and looked back at Raymond, her eyes now dripped her sorrow. “Did you ever love me?”

He truly did not know the answer. His father had loved his mother and now she was with another man, his sister had loved her husband and now he was gone as well.

“I love you, Raymond Figg,” Esperanza said imploringly. She no longer held back the tears. She sobbed as she stared at him with fear and the fading light of hope in her eyes.
Raymond wanted to reach over and tell her everything would be all right. That he just needed some space to work some stuff out. But as he formed the words in his mind, they sounded empty and clich├ęd, selfish even, and he wasn’t even sure if those words would be spoken in truth. Esperanza had given him everything, opened up her heart and soul and what had he given her in return? Nothing. And now he was giving up, he had no stomach for the fight; instead he sought the smoother cobblestones of the path of least resistance. And after all, he did need to make some big changes to his life if he wanted to stop feeling like crap.

He stood.

Esperanza watched him from the couch, her cheeks forming a canvass for the trails of mascara that ran from her eyes. He paused to look at her, his face betraying the signs of inner turmoil, igniting the light of hope in her eyes to a brilliant flame. She was about to leap up from the couch and take him into her arms when he turned away.

She watched him rush towards the door and fumble the locks in a desperate attempt to leave. She watched him burst through the entrance like a thief making a getaway. The door banged back into place. It all happened so quickly; one moment he was there and the next, gone.

Esperanza sat on the couch mired in her grief. Tears rolled unchecked. A thousand thoughts raced through her mind - Did I tell him I loved him enough? Was it my fault? What am I going to tell people? She could not understand how everything could have gone so wrong for her. She had been brought up to believe true love would get you through any hardship. An unshakeable bond. She had seen as much in her parents, in her family. She came from a world of love, hope and faith.

She turned her attention back to the door, she did not know what else to do. And there she sat, on her couch, hour on hour, staring at the door. Until finally, in the hour before dawn, she cried her last tear. She rested her head on the pillow and closed her eyelids. And finally, the last dying embers of hope in her eyes were extinguished.

Raymond Figg was not coming back. He was gone. And with him went her faith in love.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Quandary

Hi everyone,

Hope you're all well.

As all writers do, I've found myself in a bit of a quandary over Raymond's story. I had written 8 chapters and then started questioning myself over the order of the chapters and the flow of the story.

Initially, I started in the present with Raymond on the pier wondering where everything had gone wrong, before dropping back in the past and telling the story of the buildup to Raymond's breakdown (you can see these 2 early chapters posted in previous posts). My thinking was, we often see people at there very worst before we ever realise anything was wrong, but we are curious as to how they got themselves in such a mess. Slowly, over the ensuing chapters I planned to give readers more and more background on Raymond's life and in the process, insight as to how he came to melting point.

Then I thought, is it better to start of with Raymond's life, the reader knowing that he is not happy but with no idea that he's on the road to a breakdown and slowly build to the breakdown point.

Hmmm....not sure which would be more interesting to the reader?

Any comments appreciated.

Joe

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Raymond's meltdown

Another extract from my book - tell me what you think

regards,
Joe

Chapter 2 – Meltdown

12 months ago.

Raymond Figg stirred half an hour before his alarm was due to sound. He remained in bed stuck in that half-world between dream and consciousness, not able to return to a peaceful sleep and not willing to come fully to his senses. Before long, images and thoughts of the day ahead began to knock at the door of his mind with a ferocity that demanded they be let in: meetings, angry customers, stressed co-workers and managers needing answers ‘pronto’.

He propped himself up on his elbow and groggily pulled the sheets away from his body before moving into a seated position on the edge of the bed; he realised he still felt very tired. The day through his window was gloomy and overcast, all of which seemed to add to Raymond’s lack of motivation. He thought about returning his head to the pillow, pulling the sheets back up to his chin and closing his eyes; even if he couldn’t sleep, he could rest.

Raymond reached over to the bedside table to grab his PDA, yawning repeatedly as he flipped it open and retrieved the stylus. Part of him hoped that checking his diary would provide the jolt he needed to get himself going but in reality, checking his diary only heightened his level of disinterest.

He let out a sigh of frustration. Being a team leader in a call centre had its advantages, he got to work closely with other people, and sometimes he even felt like he made a difference in their lives. On top of that, the money was good; the company share plan a bonus, nice office buildings, superannuation and free health. I should count myself lucky, he thought as he summoned the energy to push himself up off of the bed.

He stood and swayed on the spot for a few seconds while he waited for his body to adjust to the pull of gravity. Once he felt steady on his feet, he shuffled slowly from the bedroom to the bathroom, yawning again as he lifted the toilet seat and emptied his bladder. An image of himself as a boy flashed in his mind – he was urinating off of the pier, his father laughing, telling the young Raymond he was about to kill all the fish. He shook his head in an effort to clear it.

Strange. Memories of past days seemed to be visiting him more and more frequently in recent times. Wisps of disconnected images that lacked clear form; a mist of faces and places that always left him with an uncomfortable sense of melancholy. These were interspersed with images of times present, igniting in his mind like rapid-fire flashes from a camera’s bulb, illuminating brilliantly for a split second before disappearing an instant later; their phosphorescent wake leaving Raymond feeling anxious. Making him feel out of control: did I send that email, was I fair to the staff when I asked them to work after-hours?

Raymond walked over to the shower and drew back the curtain. He turned on the taps and stretched as he waited for the water pressure to improve, and finally, after seemingly hundreds of corrective adjustments, he stepped under the shower’s flow. The feeling of water cascading down his face elicited a memory of himself as a child swimming in the shallows of the beach where his family holidayed during the summer. The memory was so strong he could almost taste salt on the shower water as it passed over his lips.

Raymond shook his head trying valiantly to clear it. Why am I remembering this stuff? He knew the recollection to be a harbinger of mixed emotions and he was in no mood to deal with them. I haven’t got time for this, he thought and began furiously and systematically lathering and rinsing. His demeanour not helped by a lava-hot spurt of water that scorched his chest, causing him to slip as he jerked sideways to escape the heat.

He turned off the fickle water supply, exited the shower and yanked a towel from the towel rack, vigorously moving it over his body. The pit of stomach broiling with the emotions that he’d tried so hard to ignore; each one churning the mixture in rebellion, leaving Raymond in a state of agitation.

He wrapped the towel around his torso and retrieved his foam and blade from the cupboard underneath the hand basin. A quick swipe of the mirror with his other hand removed enough of the mist for him to see a foggy reflection. Raymond paused, examining his image in the mirror; it felt as though someone else was staring back at him, a momentary feeling of disconnection that was so disconcerting he had to look away. He stared down at the basin as he applied the foam to his face and neck. When he looked up once again, he felt a sense of relief - the reflection appeared with a generous covering of foam.

After shaving, he headed back to his bedroom. Normally, he would go straight to the closet and select his clothes for the day ahead. Instead, he felt light-headed, like he had risen from a seated position too quickly; he felt the onset of something like nausea. The feeling came on suddenly. The emotions fighting for their head in the pit of stomach ceased their agitation as they were smothered by a cold blanket of worry, overpowered by the more powerful and primal emotions of confusion and fear. Instead of selecting his clothes, he headed for the bed where he sat on its edge to wait for whatever it was that was making him feel strange to go away.

Couldn’t have been something I ate, I haven’t eaten anything yet, he thought. Raymond focused on the walls so as to give his eyes a balance-point and noticed the walls in a way he had never noticed them before. Are they real? he thought, and then tried to shake the thought out of his head. He took another look at the walls, now they seemed animate, capable of moving. He felt his heart quicken. He felt heat rush to his face; he felt his sphincter tighten. He felt as though he was about to collapse. What the hell is going on?

This was not a simple bout of light-headedness and the realisation made Raymond feel scared in the same way he had felt scared when he first saw his father collapse; the image of which now flickered in his mind, unformed and disjointed, like poor reception on a TV screen. Was this how it started for dad?

He desperately looked around the room - the alarm clock, the wardrobe, the posters and paintings. All of them seemed ethereal. His breathing began to shorten; the tendrils of a cold sweat climbed from his thighs, up his spine and over his crown to form beads on his forehead.

He reached over to the bedside table and quickly touched the copy of ‘Harry Potter’ to make sure it was real. His breathing continued to shorten to the point where he could feel his throat tighten and his chest heave, he felt as though he was about to empty his bladder. What is happening to me?

He wanted to get up off the bed but the floor seemed insubstantial, incapable of supporting his weight. He felt trapped. One step from the bed would mean falling into an unknown abyss. How am I going to get to the phone? He felt a steel collar clamp around his windpipe; he felt his heart pounding against his ribcage threatening to beat its way out of his chest. What’s wrong with me!!!

He felt the need to run but his feet where rooted to the floor. He began to hyperventilate. His brain went blank; his body flooding with adrenalin. He felt like his limbs were charged with electricity. He leapt off the bed and charged down the hallway to his study, wheezing loudly as he tried to suck oxygen into his lungs. He burst through the door and spotted the mobile phone resting in its charging cradle. He snatched at it, knocking the charger and phone to the floor underneath his desk. He fell on hands and knees, trying desperately to locate the phone that had bounced into a jungle of cables, adaptors and power boards. When he did sight the elusive object, his arm flashed out at it like a striking cobra, his hand clutching at cables, missing the target several times before finally getting a firm grip on the phone. His fingers shook violently as he flipped it open, his chest continued to heave as his lungs desperately sought air. I don’t want to die, he said to himself as he struggled to focus, as he struggled to aim for the three numbers that would dial “Emergency”.

Monday, June 16, 2008

My place


My Balcony



My Sunset














My friends












So how did I get over not feeling like writing - I spent time on my balcony staring out to sea, daydreaming; then I watched the sunset and wondered what the captain's boat would look like if it sailed past me, all the while I listened to opera, namely the "flower duet" from Lakme. And then my friends took me out (me in the turtleneck) and we drank Butterscotch Schnapps, danced and had some fun...too much fun perhaps, because I woke with a very sore head...

BUT my spirit was soaring.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Moods

Hi everyone,

Well after a frenetic start to writing the manuscript - 7 chapters boom boom boom - I have done the writer's equivalent of a hamstring injury.

I am struggling to get myself to the keyboard to continue exploring the incredible lives of Raymond and Captain Angus. Some of it has been forced on me, in that I have had to hold the narrative while I research some of the more technical details of the story - like the boat. My vision of Captain Angus's boat is that of an old wooden schooner. I have had to undertake a lot of research to get the terminology, sailing lore and stuff like rigging, dimensions, construction material and so on down pat. I have even visited many docks to try to find a model upon which I can base my descriptions. Although the boat is not a major part of the story, I feel I need to paint the picture accurately if I am to make the reader's experience a believable one.

I have also had to refresh my knowledge of Scottish folktales, common language and geography so I can be true to Captain Angus's background. I have used many friends and associates to check my interpretations as well as devouring volumes on Scotland and its people (I have visited myself but it was a while ago now. I fell in love with the place and maybe that's the reason for Captain Angus's background).

So anyway, all of this has distracted me from the lives of Raymond and the Captain, a necessary distraction though. The upside is I have much more landscape information from which to draw upon to add to the tapestry of the story. The downside is I now find it difficult to steel myself for the challenge of reentering into the Captain and Raymond's lives and tackling the enormous challenges that I know they are both facing.

So, in a nutshell, I am looking for every excuse possible to ignore Raymond and the Captain at the moment: beautiful day so I'll go for a walk, do my tax return, clean the house....I've even set up a group for writers in Facebook called "Writer's Almanac" just so I feel like I'm doing something productive while I steer clear of Raymond and Captain Angus.

And, everything seems to be magnified a thousand times over. Jack the cat, whom I love very dearly is dying, he is not in pain but he is not long for this world. He is not even my cat but has been a big part of my life - am I being overly sensitive here? The news depresses me so I don't watch it anymore. I watched a documentary on a group of people, volunteers, that look after orphaned elephants. I watched a baby elephant trying to get it's dead mother to stand up and the vision tore me in two.

So I need to get back my inspiration and courage to tackle what I know I must, and that is the story of Raymond and his battle with anxiety and depression, his battle to find happiness; and Captain Angus's struggle to fulfil his last promise to his beloved wife. The story of the unlikely friendship and bond that these two men strike up, and the beauty of hope, love and faith.

I don't have writer's block, I know what I need to do. I just need a little push to get back into the zone. If anyone has any good tips on how I can get back in the zone, I would love to hear from you. Usually watching an inspirational movie, or listening to music does it for me, but not this time. Maybe I need to get horribly drunk...hmmm maybe not.

Joe.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

What is the "glue" that binds?

Hi,

I hope everyone is doing well. I have received many positive comments about the poem by Zephyr which is great. Some readers were moved to tears which is testimony to the power of the writing.

I have discovered through many and varied discussions with Captain Angus that he has had a wonderful life with his soulmate, lover and wife. But she is gone and all he has are his memories of her and their love. He is on the verge of giving up on his last quest, and joining her in the hereafter, he misses her that much. I wonder what it is that makes two people stay together for a lifetime? What is the glue? Is it one thing or many?

I wonder what you think?

A lot of people have stayed together for their kids, because their is no better option, because of threats of violence, because of the stigma of divorce, because of money. Occasionally though, we have all met couples who we just know are genuinely happy, who were meant to be together. You see it in the way they look at each other, there is a glow and energy about them. Couples whose love is so strong that when one passes away, the other dies as well or simply becomes lost. What is this glue that keeps a couple together so that they become one, and they are happy?

What does it mean to love another human being so deeply that the thought of ever being with someone else is never entertained? Is this a natural state or do we give up something of ourselves when we love with this intensity?

Does love need to be sowed, planted and watered like a field of barley so the harvest can be continually reaped? I have heard men brag about serenading their wives, on a monthly basis, with guitars while watching sunsets. I have seen their partners swoon as the tale of the serenading is told. I have seen onlookers wonder why their partners do not do the same. And I have seen the serenading couple separate a year later. And yet I have seen couples who show very little in the form of public intimacy that have remained together and happy for a lifetime. So what is this glue? Is it practical and logistical, is it the physical, the spiritual, or is it undefinable? What is the glue that holds a couple together, forever?

Captain Angus has given me his answers, I wonder what you think.

regards,
Joe.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The beautiful things you find on the net

Hi everyone,

Hope you had a great weekend. The Internet is an amazing tool. To be able to share my thoughts with people I have never met face-to-face, from all parts of the globe is truly a gift. It also allows me to see what others are writing and thinking out there, and I am thankful for that because I have come across some real gems. Firstly thanks to Shannon for the link. It was so great to get another persons perspective on mental health and happiness, and it will help me in my writing - the more knowledge you have the better your frame of reference, which all leads to better writing.

I have realised that most of this blog has been one-way traffic, the nature of blogging I guess. But I just want to share a poem that I came across as part of my research. I find it astoundingly beautiful and insightful, I have asked the author for permission to put it on my blog and she has graciously said yes. When I read it, I think of a young Captain Angus.

If anyone has anything they would like to share with me on the nature of love and happiness which inspires or causes us to think, feel free to pass it on. So without further ado, here is the poem

To a Soulmate - By Zephyr

If I tell you my story and explain who I am, would you listen and love me as me?
If I paint you a picture to explain how I feel,
would you open your eyes to see?
If I sang you a song about what makes me laugh,
would you hum to the tune everyday?
If I wrote you a poem about what makes me sad,
would you kiss all my sadness away?

******
If you ever felt down when you were alone,
if your face was missing its smile,
If a voice in your head, told you what id have said,
would that sad moment to you be worthwhile?
If I waited till you were asleep late at night to whisper my feelings for you,
Would those words stay stored so deep in your heart that no other words could get through?

******
Do you know how complete you could make me feel,
just by saying you understand?
When these thoughts in my head don’t make any sense,
but you’ll still reach out and take my hand.
Or In a crowded room as you catch my eye,
at that moment my heart skips a beat,
Would you turn round to see,
no-one else there but me... and feel that your life was complete?

******
What if one night I was miles away,
blank expression, away in a dream…
Would you wonder what I was thinking about and play out your own little scene?
Do you miss that feeling when you’re so full of hope,
looking forward to what lies ahead?
Do you miss lazy Sunday mornings, just cuddling up in bed?

******
There are wonderful places I’ve seen in my dreams,
where the stars are like jewels in the skies Faraway places that exist just for me,
that I’ll see when I look in your eyes.
Will you be thankful for all that we get to share,
the giggles, tears, smiles and laughs?
And when we’re apart and miss each other,
the late night texts and photographs?

******

There’s a saying which states that when we are born,
our hearts are divided in two,
One half goes to your soul mate,
and the other half stays with you.
We spend our lives searching till one day we meet,
so our hearts can then reunite,
So keep searching for me,
as I will for you,
so we can find our wings and take flight.

To see more of Zephyr's work - go to http://www.writers-network.com/index.cgi?m=1&view=48423