Save the date

For the past five or six years, which is a long time, I’ve bought the same diary. If I don’t write things down, they will absolutely disappear. Ask me what I did in April and I won’t know, but the diary can tell you. (I mean, it won’t have been important, whatever bullshit was happening to me in April of all months, but at least I’ll know.)

It helps me to parse time and to consider what’s happened — and what will happen. My plans! The way the diary has a grid at the front means I see time laid out simply and then I can visualise my life in ways I find impossible to do mentally. I like knowing. The simplicity of having it all there. It won’t surprise you to learn I also like lists, say.

I tend to keep a patchy record of how I spend my weekends — I scribble names and alphabet codes on Monday at work so I will know in the future when I look back. Sometimes I forget what the codes mean and I forget a whole weekend. The ones spent with you infect the diary, like a black spot of potato blight laced across the calendar’s calm lines, ruining entire months. When I’m reminded of those nights I feel awful and strange, like I’ve put my feet into iced water. I flip through my diary and spot them and then I’m transported backwards unwillingly, like someone’s taken me by the scruff of the neck into the shop’s dark stock room.

I’ve considered the ethics of writing this, about you. The day after you hurt me badly in the diary is written “SICK” because I didn’t go to work. Actually, let’s face it, hang on — technically speaking, I’m not writing about you. I’m writing about my diary. There’s a difference. There are no ethical considerations to mull over if I’m actually writing about the suede-covered empty book I keep on my desk.

I’ve had arguments and conversations about whether or not we are allowed to write about someone else, to “make art” about someone else. I even had one with you. Someone else that exists and may be hurt by it, or feel that their cupboards have been invaded and their past wrecked. What right do we have to take someone else’s private moments and distort them into something else for validation?

(But by writing about myself, aren’t I doing it to myself? In the mire of ethical considerations, careful of the impression of and impact on everyone else, we rarely stop to consider what we’re giving away of ourselves.

My life is not a sale of work. I’m not filling a bin bag for the charity shop, full of bits of my brain and emotional life I can’t make use for and need to drop. This kind of literary blood-letting is vulgar, I’m aware of that. But I’m in control. I’m writing this. I could stop it, any time I like. I’m the one who’s jimmying open the oyster and foisting its innards on people like it’s somehow impressive. I could stop this, any time I like. Except of course evidently that’s not true or else we wouldn’t be here, reading this.

You won’t be able to tell what parts are real, I’m sure of that, because I was there and even I can barely do it.)

It’s not a log of how I feel or what I think, my diary, but it anchors me in time. I couldn’t do without it. Remembering is the whole idea of a diary, but parts of it now are ruined and I can’t look at them without remembering. Which I don’t want to do, not any more. I’m finished remembering. Memories come to me like poison arrows, and I’m helping them by creating a catalogue of places best to strike.

The dampening of rage happened one evening suddenly, in a toilet cubicle with a blank mind, not expecting to think of anything at all, when I recalled, from clear nowhere: how you tenderly helped me wash blood out of my hair as I cried, helping me despite (you later confessed) desperately wanting to leave in anger at how awful I had been the night before. There’s no diary entry for that, no code. But there’s this.

In the second between seeing a notification arrive and clicking it, it could still be from you. But it never is.