HOLLY MIRANDA SMALE

Writer, photographer, "rapper" and general technophobe takes on the internet in what could be a very, very messy fight. But it's alright: she's harder than she looks, and she's wearing every single ring she could get her hands on.







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Monday, 18 May 2009

Bookshelves

When I was little, I read a lot. I read anything that I could disappear into: anything that would let me hide in its pages, and be somewhere else. When the book was finished, I would carry it around with me. I couldn't let it go - I couldn't bear to accept that it was over - so I tucked this other world under my arm and took it with me everywhere: to Sainsburys, to the park, to playschool, to the bathroom, to the dinner table (where it would inevitably end up covered in little ketchup fingerprints). "Are you still reading that thing?" my mum would ask, concerned with my literary skills, and I'd say yes because I was too embarrassed to admit that I'd finished it and simply couldn't put it back on the book shelf.

I still do it. I might not carry finished books around with me anymore, but I still can't let anything go. It doesn't matter what it is - whether it's a person, a memory, an event, an emotion, a place - I carry them around with me. I spend my time hiding in things that have finished, because I can't accept that things I treasure - or love - are over.

And I'm saturated. I woke up this morning and realised that I can't hold anymore. My arms are full of stories that I've finished and I can't put down, and they're too heavy for me to hold. Men I've loved, places I've been, hopes I've had, songs I've adored, emotions I've clung to. Moments - literally seconds - that were perfect, and that I remember long after they've been obliterated by the weeks and months that came afterwards. People I hold on to because I can't bear the idea of never: of never seeing them again, of never hearing them again, of never being part of their story again. Jobs - Best or not - that I still think about, when they were over a long time ago; friendships I miss, when we haven't spoken for years. I miss my little sister - not just now, but I miss the little person she used to be: sitting cross-legged at the end of my bed - and I miss being picked out of the bath in a big towel by my mum, and I miss the boy I was with for three years, and the boy I was with for three weeks, and the boy I was with for three hours when I'd never seen romance so closely. I miss the walk to school when I was seven, and I miss lying in bed and singing to the guitar my ex played (which I can't do now, because there's nobody to listen). I miss all of it. I carry around memories and stories, and I spend my life never really letting them go, and never really moving on.

"Where's this book of yours, then?" my grandad asked me yesterday. "When do I get to read it?"
"When it's finished. It's nearly finished," I replied slightly curtly.
There was a pause while he looked at me and I tried to look at something else.
"How nearly finished is it?" grandad said eventually. "I mean, lengthwise. How nearly finished is it?"
"It's, erm. Well." I scratched my foot and became incredibly interested in a toenail for a few seconds. "It's finished. It's been finished quite a long time, now, actually."
"So what are you doing with it? Why can't I read it?"
"I'm editing," I said obtusely.
There was another pause, and we both watched the next door neighbour's horrendous-looking Siamese cat snake around the hedge.
"You're going to have to let it go one day," my grandad eventually said gently.
"Mmm," I said, feeling - inexplicably - like I wanted to cry.

It's what I'm scared of most. If I couldn't let go of books I read and loved when I was tiny, letting go of the book I wrote and love now is a million times harder. It's not just a fear that nobody will like it - although that's there, obviously: it's a terror of what happens when it's over. Yes, I can write another one, and I will. But it's not the same. I'll never love another book like I love this one, and I'll never be able to replace it. Just like I've never been able to replace any of the things I've loved. Memories are still stuck to me like bright feathers, as if I've coated myself in something sticky and rolled in them.

It's time to let go. When I've finished writing this blog, I'm going to print out my manuscript and I'm going to give it to my grandad and my mum (and maybe even someone who isn't guaranteed to like it). I'm going to stop loving the boy who broke my heart: or at least stop thinking about him. I'm going to stop torturing myself for not getting the Best Job In The World; I'm going to stop wondering what would have happened if I hadn't screwed up my Cambridge University interview; I'm going to stop thinking about a pair of shoes I had when I was 19 and lost. I'm going to stop looking at the past and turning it over like a seashell in my head, and I'm going to look, instead, at every world I have yet to hide in.

Maybe if I learn how to put my stories back on the shelf, I might eventually be able to pick up some new ones.