The Empty Room
As she sat on the floor in the corner, surrounded by a sea of dark knotted timber, whispers of distant memories began to trickle into her mind. Beth scrunched her eyes as tightly as her face would allow, trying to block out echoes of her past.
As the torturous images of Christmas’s gone by began to stream into her consciousness, she flicked her eyes open. Immediately opposite her was a wall covered in old brown and orange flowered wallpaper, a tidemark of damp crept its way along the lower half, cutting two of the dirty orange flowers cleanly in half. She traced the line of rot along the surface of the wall in an attempt to distract her from her inward mental hell. The dark brown line tracked over the wallpaper like the cracks that ran through Beth's mind.
Broken by years of abuse and neglect, a shell of the bright young girl she had started out to be. So full of life and vitality she had once been, but then the beatings had begun. She remembered spending hours locked in rooms just like this one, empty and baron with not a stick of furniture to warm the harshness of cold, bare walls, and dusty, damp carpets.
'Is this anyway to spend Christmas day?' she mused to herself.
The timber beneath her had warmed from her body heat, such that it was. But the wind howled past the rickety wooden framed windows, and the chill in the air cut through to Beth's bones.
Beth had spent the last four of her sixteen years on the streets, and had hardened sufficiently to withstand a chill breeze from a neglected window. At least tonight she would have a roof above her and no need to sleep in fear of what fate may befall her during the night. Her life had become a downward spiral of exploitation and terror.
Tonight however, she would be safe, the door to this vast empty room had a rusty key in the lock and Beth had turned it keenly as soon as she had closed the thick, heavy, white door, that filled the frame.
Sliding her hands into the left pocket of her ragged grey coat she took out a syringe, the contents of which she had drawn up earlier in the day. From the right pocket a small thin belt.
Jiggling her arm from the sleeve of the heavy woollen wrapping, she secured the belt around her pale, thin, upper-arm with her teeth. She slapped her vein to the surface and slid the thin cold needle into a familiar patch on her skin.
Glancing up like a rabbit caught in headlights she cast her gaze around the empty room.
‘Merry Christmas Beth,’ she whispered to herself as she dropped the needle to floor and drifted into her drug induced haven.
As this was my first blog, written in February 2015, it seemed appropriate that it be the first one I post on the blog page of this, my new website.
Gone too soon
Of all the things I’ve written, stories, poems, a multitude of papers and assignments; one avenue of expression has so far been unexplored, the blog. So it is with much trepidation that I sit here on a Saturday evening writing my first.
So why now you may ask?
The answer is a simple one, I’ve been moved by events of this last week to reflect on life, loss and inspiration. At the start of the week a close colleague passed away suddenly, a passing which sent many around me into what I can only describe as a free-fall. The impact felt immediately by a relatively new, but close team, was all consuming. The air seemed to be sucked from the room as we were given the news and a shared sense of loss swept over us like a tidal wave. However the greatest sense of loss within the room was not for ourselves, but for the family of our friend and colleague. James left a young and unexpecting family about whom he spoke with an animated passion, as he did everything in his life.
It was this passion that inspired those around him and drew people to him, like a magnet of humanity, sincere, inspiring and honest. Whether he was speaking of his family, charity or church commitments, or about the services we provide to some of the most vulnerable people in society. James’s passion and strong sense of belief in humanity made those around him instantly trust one of the most authentic people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.
There will no doubt be many reflections on the time spent with James over the coming days and weeks, by those he worked with and those closer. But it is not an insightful comment or inspiring speech, of which there many, nor the way he managed to make even the most stressful situation seem manageable, that I will remember about James.
The memory that will stay with me will be of the Father, who sat with his young son, in my living room one evening in January, chatting about everything and anything, and the warmth and love I observed between Father and Son as James and I sat talking.
You have left a void that will never be filled and am pleased to have known you, if only for a short while.
Rest In Peace James