Monday, 18 October 2021

V Short Memorial Update

Hello. I hope this Monday morning (or when and wherever you are) is treating you with some grace and breathing room.

Thank you to those of you who have responded to my post and/or messages about a memorial service for Chris. I've made a provisional decision, but there is still plenty of time to send me thoughts and requests at CGEstate@griffyngilligan.com

This week, I'll be starting preparations on a small gathering for a moment of community and solidarity between those Chris left behind, for any who might wish to attend.

- -

My last update on Chris's death:

The final coroner's inquest hearing into Chris's death has now been completed, establishing the sole cause of his death as premeditated suicide in the early morning of 1 June 2021 in North East London.

I will not be sharing the details or any further circumstances around his death publicly, nor will I field any press enquiries regarding details of his death.

To friends and close colleagues (at any point in Chris's life):

For some, knowing the details around a death like this is an important part of being able to grieve properly. If you knew Chris personally, please feel free to contact me at the above email and we can arrange a private conversation. A few folks have already asked for this, and we've had some solid conversations. I don't mind the request, and will be careful to only undertake the conversation if I feel ready & supported to do so.

To any interested press:

Now that the coroner's hearing is over, this is the most appropriate time to publish an obituary, if that is something you would still like to do.

To be clear, I am not asking for one. I am simply aware that some publications were considering an obituary or memorial-style article at the time of Chris's death, and graciously responded for my request at the time to put that on hold. 

Journalists who were in touch around June/July are welcome to get in touch again if that's something you would still like to do and might like to discuss with me.

- - 

Hope that's clear.

Looking forward to my next blog post, which will finally be back to what this space was for - weird work I've quietly doing that has some ratio of animals, anarchy, access, & AM frequencies.

--

In care & solidarity always,

Griffyn

Thursday, 7 October 2021

Memorial - CG

Hello! Hi to dear friends, colleagues, and those of you who knew Chris and whom I haven't yet had the pleasure to meet.


Since Chris's death four months ago, I have been speaking with some mutual friends and reflecting myself on the best options for any sort of gathering or memorial.


My goal was always to hold an event that offers a chance to spend time in person with others who knew Chris and want to share their feelings on his life and death. One that, in having it, offers an opportunity for a bit of closure, a moment of coming together. Not to celebrate him or ritualise/bolster his legacy. Simply to acknowledge that for many people, his presence and work did affect their lives in strong and complex ways, and for some it might be helpful to have an event to mark that in some way.


 My first priority, however, is to not do or host anything that might cause more pain. And after hearing from people over the last few months, that's why I'm writing this question & invitation.


The time elapsed since his death has mostly been to give people time to process a flood of information about his life and death, without having an event people might have felt pressured or rushed to attend. It is also in keeping with my own family traditions regarding the distance between a funeral and a memorial service, which is held in order to allow for private grief, seeking out more intimate conversations, and perusing personal modes of reflection.


I know that many, many moments of private reflection and conversations have happened between hundreds of people - a number of whom I don't know and/or have no way to contact directly. I would not want to exclude anyone simply because they knew Chris at a time I did nor or because (due to the seizure of Chris's technology and accounts) I have no way to reach them.


For some, I understand that the very presence of any gathering might feel painful - even if they opted not to attend. I know some others find it painful that there has not been enough ceremony around his death, nor did K raise this question quickly enough.


Some close friends have very kindly tried to give me a better picture of how conversations and sentiments have been shifting the last few months. And I am very glad and comforted that it seems many people who knew Chris have been able to find ways to connect to mutual friends and colleagues over the last few months, especially during a pandemic.


In the end, I've decided that the best I can offer is this:


I am inviting anyone who would like to share their thoughts or requests with me about a memorial gathering (or lack thereof) to contact me at this email address:


CGEstate@griffyngilligan.com


If you’d prefer to have an audio/video/text conversation rather than write an email, please write this account and I’ll arrange something with you ASAP.


I created this address specifically for thoughts about Chris, people who want to connect or ask me questions about his life & death, business communications relating to his estate, and anyone who has input on his memorial. 


That's in part for my own mental health and in part so that I hope you feel more welcome to share your feelings if you'd like - knowing you aren't intruding on my work or personal inbox/headspace.


Please share this with anyone who you know who may not be aware of/checking my blog space or Twitter. Again, I could send out a mass e-mail, but I would certainly miss people and also would probably upset some people who wish to be done thinking about CG. My hope is that by having this invitation in a public space, people can choose to engage with it - or with a link sent to them by a friend - or ignore it entirely.


That being said, I will ask that people with only aggressive/judgmental things to say - especially anyone who did not know Chris - not just use this address as a comments section. I can't do any more than I have done to make things right in the world and (though it is wild to me I have to say this) using me as a target for your fury at him won't do anyone any good. Who knows - some folks might do anyway, and I'll still be fine. After all the things I've been told and sent the last few months, though, I felt it was worth trying the disclaimer.


Thank you all for reading.


Thank you to those of you who have reached out and let me know your feelings over time - whether or not they've changed.


Thank you to everyone who has been gentle & patient with me as we all have navigated all this - during a very strange time in the world itself - together & apart.


In solidarity and grief,

Griffyn

Friday, 10 September 2021

After . Suicide


This is part of my "After" series. For the series introduction, you can look here. As with every piece in the series, there will not be graphic details. In keeping with best journalistic practice, I won't discuss any methods of suicide. However, this is an honest and open piece and may cover a number of difficult topics, including suicide, self-harm, abuse, death, criminal offences, and the sexual abuse of children.


It's not really a piece in very distinct sections like the last video. But I've bolded sort of the main theme of each section at the start of each of them. Hope that helps a little with navigating.

-

The first time I imagined Chris killing himself was not long after I met him. Actually, it was sort of before. See, I'd read Men in the Cities the night before I was due to have a morning workshop with him for my MA course at RCSSD. We didn't have many "playwrights" on the course. I put my dinner in the microwave around 9:45 PM, I think. Maybe a bit after 10. It was a jacket potato with leftover cooked minced beef, barbecue sauce, and shredded cheese. 


I began reading. I fell in love. I didn't stop until the end. I ate a half-reheated dinner and fell asleep sometime around 1 AM and made it into the workshop I think exactly 90 seconds late.


If you're not familiar with the piece, it is about male mental health, suicide, and sexual violence. The opening of the play script begins with a quote from a 2014 press release on statistics about suicide in the UK.


If you are familiar with the piece, you'll understand why I imagined the author dying every way that was implied in all of the characters in that text and every which way in between. And then I met Chris. And then after I began to work with him, I began to see how deeply he meant everything. So as soon as he let me love him, I knew he had the capacity to die, and sometimes it was a pretty real threat. And I imagined that every day until he did.


Not every day. That's dramatic.


But. Most of the time. It became like breathing or a heartbeat; you notice is, listen to it and then must let it go - ignore it or you go mad. But you also are very aware of it several times a week, at the least.


And. And and and. The promise was always that the world is so very dark and if you hang in, if we both hang in, we will discover things together. We shall overcome. (As he liked to quote Pete Seeger.)


So. A year into our relationship, when Chris would not leave me alone because I'd been properly, completely suicidal for weeks. When my GP was desperate and could not get me bumped up on the mental health services waitlist and so assigned two colleagues to call me 1-2 times a day when she wasn't in...  


It might not surprise you that I was calm. I have the video I made several days before I tried to die. I met Dennis Cooper the night before I tried to kill myself. He was a hero to me - of queer, anarchist, free expression. Living in the face of it all.


And it didn't matter. The next morning, I looked Chris in the eye when he said he wanted to go out to pick up a prescription. I told him I was ok. I suppose that was a lie. I never lied to him; I always told him that. It didn't feel like a lie. It felt like the truth - I knew what had to be done so the world was more ok; so even I, in absence, would be more ok than I currently was.


If someone you love dies of suicide, there will always be deeply cutting, haunting questions. I think, if you've tried to kill yourself, you may have a few less of those questions, but you have more empathy for the person who died, and a more specific -and also complicated- hope of how they might have kept living.


- - -


When someone dies by suicide, they go to the hospital or coroner. At the hospital, there might be rescucitaion attempts made. If you are close to them, you have a certain set of visiting rights; the kind that apply to intensive care or dying patients. If the ambulance service declares a person dead at the scene, the coroner takes over.


The police may have little discretion over who they tell first and when. They may have excellent discretion. It depends only on the care, prejudices, and training of the specific officers who discovered the recently deceased person and what they learn about them while filing a report.


You should be told by police first. You may be told by a coroner first. Perhaps even a friend, if the police aren't being careful.


Suicide was decriminalised in 1961 in England. The phrase "committed suicide" is still fairly common, but it's not a phrase police or medical professionals should ever use with you. "Died by suicide," "ended their life," etc acknowledge the ways in which the dead person was also a victim and helps destigmatise suicide by using language that doesn't invoke criminal offence.


It won't surprise you that if the person who died was involved in crime, a complicated tragedy or large financial loss, some people (including the police) will have a lot less care, may appear to miss them less. And, it may surprise just you who will offer immense sympathy. The same thing goes for the reactions of friends & professionals if you survive a suicide attempt.


- - -


Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. 10 September every year. I've always struggled with this day, how to mark it. There is no simple solution or even a quick list of tips that is going to stop someone who is set on killing themself.


Talking about mental health and suicide to destigmatise it is a start, and is the main point of days like this one. Working to fight against all forms of oppression that marginalised groups experience also does massive work - we know suicide rates are far higher against LGBTQ+ people and those who experience racism, for example. 


Putting in place safeguarding, support workers, and clear signposts to resources like the Samaritans and other crisis centres at any job/venue helps. Anything to make sure those resources are known and useful to anyone who might consider giving them a chance.


Setting clear boundaries and self care. This one is especially important if you know someone who is currently suicidal (/or has any suicidal ideation). It can be a long and draining road as a supportive friend, while someone you care about tries to work on their mental health. It may feel cyclical. And it's easy to become very stressed, drained, even numb, and to feel responsible. Make sure you aren't the only person talking to someone who is feeling suicidal. If you become worried about them, it's ok to insist they seek out a professional or go to a hospital. 


Suicide, like many mental health issues, is contagious. Not, of course, like a cold - one person's struggles won't rub off on you because you talk with them or are close to them. But if someone isn't able to manage their mental health well and they continue to rely on you, it can be fairly easy to begin to fall into your own tricky patterns, especially if you are carrying the weight of supporting them all on your own.


And it's long-term, supporting someone. Only take on what you can. But it doesn't help to only check in around a crisis. For most people, it doesn't go away. Especially after a failed attempt. Suicidal thoughts and plans can pop up again days, weeks, years after, at any time, really.


- - -

I was in an psych outpatient group (in the US), three years after my first attempt. We had to say what we wanted on our headstones. I said, "Nothing. I'm going to be a tree."


The nurse said, "Can you elaborate on that?"


And I said, "Yeah. Like, there is natural burial in the UK. So, I've written instructions. When I die, my body will go in a shroud, it will be put in the ground, a tree will be planted on top of it."

Two wealthy cishet men then spent ten minutes developing (shit) ideas about how spots could be geotagged with obituaries, poems, videos, photos, etc.


And I finally jumped in and said, "Ok. Yeah, go make that. The question was, 'What do I want when I die?' " I don't want any of that. That --- none of that will be my life. I want to be gone. Do you hear me? I want to be gone. Completely. Eaten by worms in a few years. Just bones. And some of the rest gone into a tree. So people can just see the tree. That's what I want. Gone. And now there is something growing and visible and comprehensible. A tree. I'm going to be a tree."


If you want to be erased, how do those left behind remember who you were? If you loved the person, it is a paradoxical ask.


The only way to move forward is to be selfish. And that is not how we love. Sometimes, actually, being selfish is completely necessary to love at our best. We're taught that it isn't.


Or. You can imagine a version of the person who didn't want to die and create those memories and those ceremonies. And that -- if you know how much pain and work it takes to try to die -- that is far, far worse. Far more hateful towards who they were, especially at their strongest (if not their best).


- - -


Grief in suicide is different. Of course there is the stigma around it - perceived or expressed. But much, much more than that, there is a completely different set of responses. Especially if you understand what it feels like to decide to kill yourself.


Meet people. Meet people who have lost someone by suicide. If you've tried to die by suicide and you find yourself still alive, try to find people who have done the same. It is not easy. I hope those networks exist someday, exist soon. Some of my work the last few years has been towards that.


Take a long time. 


Whoever left destabilised part of the foundations of your life in the leaving. And I am sure they thought it would still be better than them staying. And also, it is devastating and they are not there to understand that. To answer you, to answer for themselves.


So, take your time.


Do not argue when parts of you call out to them. Expect them to be there. Are furious they left.

 

Do not hate yourself if you are sad. If sometimes, you sort of want to kill yourself too.


If you cry for more than an hour straight, call someone. Someone you know. It's better to cry with someone there than all alone.


If you feel free or happy; that's going to feel strange. Most likely, your happiness is actually something the person wanted. Of course it will still feel wrong and weird. But let yourself enjoy things when you can. And laugh.


Ending our lives is the one right we always have. You don't have to respect someone for making that choice. You don't have to be angry they made it. There isn't a magical thing you could have done to stop them. It's as gruesome and huge and scary and vibrant and loud as being born. 


That won't stop the grief. Much the way that parents/family members don't give up on the specific, often impossible hopes they felt the moment someone entered the world. The hopes and the grief surround us while we live and die.


But a life isn't ours to wait for or bargain against or have to hold vigil for. It just belongs to one person. So we watch, and we grieve, and it's fucking lonely. We can keep our love and our memories - they are all so very real. And we never have to. We can work to help people we care about going through a difficult time. We can work to help strangers. But we don't have to. And we can re-write the narratives again and again and again if that's what we must do to stay okay.


I don't have any concrete answers for how to prevent suicide. But I know it mostly comes down to a fairly simple thing. We can be less afraid of the darkness, of the most painful parts of ourselves and others. And then we can do whatever it takes for life to feel less impossible - for ourselves, for others. I don't know. But I think that's the beginning of hope.


In grief and love,

Griffyn G.x

-


For more info on World Suicide Prevention Day, or if you need to speak to someone, visit the Samaritan's page here. Their number is 116 123, 24/7. They are accessible by that number in the UK, Northern Ireland, and Ireland.


You can find a good list of resources, support groups, and hotline information for those who have had a loved one die by suicide at the Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide page here.

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

After . Domestic Violence

 This is the beginning of a series called, "After." If you have seen any of my recent posts, you're familiar with the death and crimes of my late husband, Chris Goode. 

After my experiences dealing with various institutions, resources, and my own emotions/journey relating to a number of kinds of abuse, I wanted to put together a limited series of reflections.

These are not intended to be any kind of complete guide or watertight safeguarding document. Instead, there will be a video for each topic and a blog post. The video will walk through some (hopefully) useful bits of info and my experience regarding:

1) understanding and identifying abuse

2) what the process of reporting/addressing it looks and feels like

3) thoughts on recovery and seeking support

The blog post will be a bit more personal and meandering and sort of reflective - it's more of a companion piece to the video.

There won't be any personal details or more news or info about Chris or anything he did. There's no reason or expectation to read this, really, unless you're curious about some of the nuances of these forms of abuse or know someone who is/might be going through it...or you just want to, I suppose.

I mention Chris a few times by name, but only in service of not saying "my partner" repeatedly.

There won't be anything graphic, but if you want support after reading, resources will be at the bottom of the page.

- - -

Domestic Violence.

There are a number of definitions for domestic violence. Some that conflate it with abuse or domestic abuse, some that use it as an umbrella term, some that give it a very specific/limited definition. As with most definitions, it's going to be used differently in different places, so I'm not going to point you to a specific one. And I'll probably use "violence" and "abuse" interchangeably here.

There's a bit of the definition that the organisation Refuge (see more below) gives that I think is always pretty key to these terms. And that is, "Anyone forced to alter their behaviour because of their partner's reaction is being abused."

As with any definition, there are a lot of ways to stretch and play with words within it; ways to lighten the weight of the most load-bearing words; ways to slightly change words in your head when you take your eyes off the page or step away from a conversation.

It's especially easy to do that when fear is involved. And it's tricky, isn't it, because we're all afraid to some degree. Being alone is scary and being in a relationship is scary, and truly loving someone can be terrifying at times. I might get proven wrong on this, but I think if you love someone for long enough, you're going to be terrified. Maybe not of them. Maybe because you hear there is a car wreck and they are late home from work. Maybe because they're very depressed or anxious or physically ill and you can't help them. Maybe because you have to leave, temporarily or permanently, and you worry about what will happen to them, or what they will do to themself, when you're gone..

For a long time, I thought that so long as I consented to something, it couldn't be abuse. That's a tricky needle to thread, made much trickier if you are with someone who doesn't believe in consent. Even after I was removed from my flat, I didn't consider it abuse - and I told my domestic violence caseworker as much. I recognised everything that happened. I wasn't in denial about what had occurred. I just trusted it wouldn't be that extreme again. Not if I handled it. Not if I set the right boundaries.

And then eventually, I realised, I was even told directly, that this was always waiting. Whenever I would have asked for respect and justice, it would have been waiting. There were always going to be reasons or triggers that my partner loved much more than me, could immediately open a gate somewhere inside and suddenly, absolutely hate me, in order to protect those bits of his life/himself.

And it wasn't, I don't think, that I was in denial about anything before. Like finding a new word for my identity, like coming out, I just suddenly had language that shed light on the last six years. That helped me connect things I had not connected or I'd taken complete responsibility for, even if I was not the one who had done them.

And when I realised that, I wasn't scared of being alone anymore. Or of what my partner was going to do to me or himself.

- - -

Again, much like coming out, there really isn't one kind of "reporting." I think I keep likening domestic violence to coming out not, of course, because I believe queerness to be inherently violent in any cruel or neglectful kind of way. But because the acts of coming out, of being queer openly, are always about resisting violence that erases, that is cruel, that is neglectful. We are in a relationship with society in which we are forced to change our behaviour, hide ourselves, avoid or self-shame our instincts, end or prevent caring/loving relationships with others, because of society's reactions. It is an abusive relationship with an entire culture; to an extent, an entire world.

That's a big simplification but, I think, a useful comparison. I'm sure there are few skilled academics who's written pages on this much more eloquently than I have.

Anyway. I told some friends what happened when the police took me away. I was so tired, I told the police. I told the hospital staff. I texted a couple friends from a hotel, before I went to the hospital.

I notice, as I write these words, that I feel, in the back of my head, Chris in the study or the bedroom. Before it is a fully-formed, conscious thought, I wonder when he will read this, where I will be in the house when he does, what I need to prepare for.

But, he is not here and he is dead. Well, right now, some of him is in a small wooden box in the hallway. But, y'know. It's not him.

And...that's going to take a while to go away. When I came back from hospital there was a conversation where he kept insisting I tell him what I had said. One of the few friends I had talked to had stepped away from a conversation with him about working together. I insisted I hadn't said anything about abuse. I repeated myself, "I just told them what happened. I promise. I just told them what happened. I told them what I did, too. I just told them everything. They said it was abuse. I didn't say abuse."

And it was really important I identified it as abuse. It took the patience of my friends. It took having to spend two extra days in hospital to wait for their DV team to talk with me. And it took...I mean it was sinking in through the month after I left hospital. And the final piece was being completely separated for two weeks, and the lightness and joy I hadn't felt in six years.

It was identifying it that lead me to go back to my DV advocate and have my case reopened. And to start to be more honest about details when talking with friends. 

But it wasn't the name that made it abuse or not. As I say in the video, I was hurt and silenced again and again. I knew that felt wrong. And no one deserves that.

There's this question of whether, as Chris occasionally said (and then took back), I was abusing him. I don't know. My fear of that question lead me to sort of freeze my criticism of things he did. I mostly froze that until I felt I had searched every corner, tried to see everything from his perspective, to be sure I was 100% innocent. 

And that was such an illogical and impossible ask of myself. And also it doesn't matter. Of course I wasn't innocent. And of course I would never be able to tell even if I was. And it didn't matter - what mattered was taking care of myself. In the end, I had to do that and Chris had to take of himself. Anything else is unsustainable.

And does that hurt? Yeah, it fucking hurt like nothing else. And loving someone is showing up knowing that one day doing the right thing for both of you might hurt beyond words.

The practicalities of dealing with everything are both pretty boring and private. The one thing I'll say is how important it was to have both a consistent professional advocate and a sort of personal support network formed by a few friends. They reminded me what unconditional care looks like. They were furious for me when I'd learned to be sorry instead of angry. They reminded me to take care of myself.

- - -

In the video, I talk about recovery. I know what that word means in mental health and addiction work, in physical recoveries. I've done it before, been in the process of recovering from abuse, but never thought to call it that.

Recovery begins way before you call it abuse, or can do. It can also pop up in relationships or interactions months or years later.

I know what to say with my work hat on. I know what kinds of resources and therapy to recommend, what kinds of check-ins and support structures to help someone put in place.

I don't know what I did before, personally. I don't know that it worked all that well.

But I've been dancing a lot. I don't know how to dance. I've been told I'm not bad at it in a show, like, when given choreography, but I have no clue how to dance. So. I've been dancing. "Of course," my therapist said, "being free isn't just in the mind. When was the last time you had space where every part of you was free?"

So, that. I've been writing a lot. I've been reading books out loud to Foley, my deaf rabbit, because I want to/need to hear my voice, to know what it sounds like.

I've been watching new kinds of porn. I don't know why that is yet, exactly. Something about coming into a new relationship with what -my- sexuality is, what it is -now-, what it is when it isn't only focused on trying to get one person off.

I sit with the worry and the flashbacks. Chastise myself less for feeling them because it's done - the person is gone (which isn't the same as the harm being gone or in unreal). Hold on to each moment of joy or freedom I feel. Enjoy and remember each moment I do something simply out of care or love, and don't worry in the slightest about how someone will react. Sometimes these moments will be a bit extreme, off the mark. And that's fine. That's good, its crucial, actually. I'll find a balance. I am a cartographer. I am not conquering or observing, but I am mapping new lands.

- - -

Resources

Note: LGBTQ+ relationships are known to have higher levels of unreported domestic violence incidents, due to fears of homophobic behaviour/abuse from doctors, police, and even support organisations. Also, as we know, abuse is cyclical, and LGBTQ+ children are far more likely to have been abused by peers and/or classmates.

Not much research has yet been done into the levels of abuse specifically present amongst the trans community. Fortunately, this is changing. What we know so far is that these levels seem to be far higher than levels of abuse experienced by our cis queer peers (try saying that three times fast). One reason might be internalised transphobia and expectations/acceptance of abuse from cis partners simply because one is trans. Another might be the way that an abusive partner can threaten to out a trans person and, in the UK, still has to sign on on their partner's official gender change if the two are married.

I spent much of my time in Ponyboy Curtis and, eventually, with Chris trying to explain that I believed the abuse I was enduring would not occur (or at least not in the same way) to a cisgender person. I only had cis people to tell, and none of them chose to listen.

If you would like to learn more about risk factors and patterns of domestic violence experienced by trans people, this joint report by Scottish Trans Alliance and the LGBT Domestic Abuse Project is a great place to start: report.

- - -

Refuge is a brilliant domestic violence charity, and they can be reached 24/7 for free on 08082000247


Galop is a fantastic organisation that supports any LGBTQ+ person experiencing violence from a partner, family members or friends, at work or school, or anywhere else. They can be reached on 0800 999 5428 10am - 5pm Monday, Tuesday, and Friday and 10am - 8pm Wednesday and Thursday


Solace works with women (I believe this includes anyone who identifies as a woman or AFAB, but check with them if you contact them). They provide counselling services, accommodation, and a number of support options and wellbeing services. They work with adults and young people 4 - 18.


The three above websites all have emergency "exit site" buttons that will immediately take you to an innocuous site, such as the BBC front page or a search for "healthy recipes," etc.


The Samaritans are available 24/7 on 116 123 for free, for anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts or planning suicide - or to talk about anything else that might be difficult for you at the moment. You do not have to feel suicidal to call.


Sunday, 18 July 2021

Ghost Static.3.Howl

Ghost Static.3.Howl
- -  -

A brief note to say two things:

1. I've been doing a lot of reflective writing. A fair chunk of it, I just keep for myself. Some of it, I write to possibly be shared. I share some of it in case a few folks might find parts of my grief process around Chris and what happened relatable/resonating/maybe even comforting. There won't be important news in here. And I don't expect any friends or anyone to read it. It's just in case you want to and it might be nice to see someone saying some grief things out loud.

2. I've been processing so much of all of this through music. In this post, I've included little footnotes to songs I've been listening to that really connect with some of the feelings I'm writing about in that moment (and throughout the piece). 

I know Chris did a lot of poeticising in his writing, in his abuse, in describing his abuse, and in his death. I'm not trying to romanticise something that of course is beyond summary in words. Just wanted to offer some songs I've found poignant & helpful. And then let you know what bits they sit with for me. As always, take/read/listen to what bits you'd like to; ignore the rest. X
- - -
Draft Written Saturday 17 July 2021

Last night and tonight, I went out to the steps of the patio of my back garden(1). Just like me, Foley, had been moping a bit during the week and took a bit of convincing. But he eventually joined me. He rubbed his chin all over all his favourite spots on the patio first, then on each of his favourite plants. Then he went back and ate some each of the plants he had marked. That's how rabbits tell other small mammals something is theirs. They have small scent glands under their chins, which they rub on the things they love.

It was the first time I'd gone out to relax this summer. That was something Chris and I would always do with Foley. (2) Go onto the porch with a glass of something and watch the sun set, watch Foley frolic, and talk and hold hands in the enormity of everything.

I took my notebook out with me and attempted to sketch some scenes from one of my favourite podcasts (more of a sort of closed radio story told in instalments). It's called Dreamboy It has dreams and a gay bar and saving an animal that may or may not still be alive. And some erotic content - fair warning. So, not a surprise choice if you know me. Anyway, after going outside and drawing for a while, for the first time in a week last night, I had ok dreams. Not painful and horrifying and repulsive. Just sort of either ok or baseline sad/stressful. And I woke up and felt ok.

So I went out tonight again. This time, I drew the garden. I don't love where I live. (3) I don't like why Chris chose it and I don't like why he lied about why he chose it and I really hate how far it is from everything. But I love the view from the garden; the same view I have from my queercave/study window and my bedroom door out to the garden.

The moon has been gorgeously bright. Even though it's not even quite a half-moon. It has risen through the sky, even before the sun is down, with that searing kind of glare that makes you think it's going to hit a magnifying lens somewhere and set everything on fire. (4) And it doesn't. Of course. But when the edges are that clear and it glows so brightly, you forget that you can't see the stars or that it's going to be harder to go to sleep. Or I do, at least. I sit there, sort of transfixed and sort of in love. Sort of wanting to land on it one day. Sort of wanting to never get any closer, so I can hold it in my imagination.

I haven't cried this hard in a fairly long time. It reminds me of when I cried as a child. I was talking to a good friend who visited me only two days after I'd heard Chris had died. 

Before she left, she held me for a while. Not because I was crying, just 'cause. I'm a lot bigger than her, but she invited me to curl up in her lap and be held. I think everything I got in that hug was sort of a condensed package of all the things I have needed to keep breathing and growing each day. Things from her, but also from a lot of friends.

There is a bit of a Doctor Who episode that has always stuck with me. It's from "The Beast Below," with Matt Smith and Karen Gillian. It's a bit cliche, maybe. But, it goes:

Amy: One little girl crying. So?

Doctor: Crying silently. I mean, children cry 'cause they want attention, 'cause they're hurt, or when they're afraid. But when they cry silently, it's because they just can't stop.

My friend and I talked about crying and I remember saying that I think I'd only ever cried because I couldn't stop (5). I couldn't remember thinking anyone would comfort me or do anything for me when I cried.

Actually, except for one time when I walked through a park all night. Feeling desperate, I let myself into the shared house where Chris lived to be comforted by him, because I didn't know what else to do. That's a different story.

Early on, very soon after Chris died, someone told me how ok it was to just howl. And I realised that was the word for how I cry. I suppose not when I was, like, a very tiny baby, but since I can remember, I've always sort of opened my mouth and silently howled. And I can't stop for a while, sometimes twenty minutes, sometimes three or four hours.

It feels like a very integral part of what I am is an eternal howl and when I finally let it out, it takes over a bit. And my body is too small in comparison to give it an actual voice.

I'm believing that theory less and less these days. Or, at least, the idea that the howl lives constantly and permanently in me, that it grew from something immutable inside me. That I have to listen to it every nanosecond of my waking and sleeping life to have any integrity.

It was Chris seeing something of that which initially made me decide I could and should trust him. And watching him die (albeit from afar), knowing he believed that darkness was an essential part of him. And having seen the days where he lived without it... I no longer believe that's how it works. At the very least, that's not how I want to believe it works for me (6).

There is a freedom in that. There's a liberation, of course, in realising during an enforced separation that my partner was truly and deeply abusive, how much better I felt without him. There was a liberation in the threat of his choices, compulsions, addiction, and perpetually care-less outlets of abuse, etc, finally being police knowledge. My worst fear came true and then I was free of that very tiny, high-density, six-year worry in the very deep, dark back of my brain.

But there is a much, much bigger something, an unlocking of reality, that comes into play when I no longer believe I need to be in pain and furious shame forever. Perhaps it was true that Chris would only love (I still don't know if "love" is accurate) me if that was part of our bond. Maybe that was mostly in my head. But there is a freedom in escape.

A lot of other feelings, of course. Especially if your home burns down behind you (7). And part of you will may occasionally glance over your shoulder towards where the ashes are. Would be. But there is always some wild ecstasy in the escape.

Chris wrote a letter to be read after he died by a few close friends. (8) He didn't include me in that list. Someone offered to send it to me (with an appropriate warning), and I read it. It was very long, which wouldn't surprise anyone who was familiar with him or his work. I don't know if I'll ever read it a second time. But fairly early in the letter, he wrote, "In the very first part of our relationship, I handed my then-boyfriend a loaded gun. Now, nearly six years on, for reasons known only to him (but let me assure you they are not the reasons he has apparently stated), he has pulled the trigger."

He told me incredibly dark things about himself. Very early on. I thought he'd done that with everyone - past partners, close friends. I'd seen it in his work. I hadn't thought it was a secret. I told him how much pain I was in, all the time. I told him about dark things that happened to me. I told him there were a couple people whose death would bring me peace.

(9) Somewhere around 6 hours into the 13 hours the police spent interviewing him, the lead detective called me to discuss the last few months of our home life. My understanding was basically that Chris had said the same thing to them - that he'd said that I always knew he'd had indecent content and that I, for some secret, personal reason, picked that moment to turn him in.

The thing about harm or abuse, I think, is that everyone has a limit. (10) And you can push someone way past their limit, but the second you cross that line, everyone involved starts to feel the effects.

Whether I was made more brave out of anger, whether I made the right or wrong choice about which wedding vows to uphold, and the whole, huge, tangled mess of gnarled roots that is everything Chris did for the last 25 years and my own faults, which got tangled in with his (along with so many wonderful moments) the last six years (11)... I don't know all the reasons that lead up to what happened. Chris didn't either, of course. The sequence of events is accurate. That's the story I can tell. 

The thing I know is that something always gives. Usually at the weakest point (12).

When I went out to draw the moon and imaginary places and aeroplanes underwater and streetlamps in cities the last two nights, that was a howl. Dancing in the middle of my study at 1 in the morning is a howl. Sexting a stranger from a queer dating app. Uncertain, rejoicing, still wild, a howl. Chaotic freedom and celebration and the things we love and are too searingly bright and if we ever put wolves on the moon, y'know, neither one would come out of it in great shape.

Foley (13) hasn't done this since Chris was arrested, but if thinks he's in danger, he thumps. He can't talk or scream, but he just starts thumping with his huge back foot. It's loud. He can't hear it. But he can feel it.

There's never danger. He's inside and there are no animals - it's just me and him. I sit with him. He keeps thumping. I give him some carrot. If that doesn't work, I cradle him in my arms, swaddling him. And eventually he resets. He lays on my chest and kisses my chin, rubs his chin on mine. On the off chance a sneaky rabbit sniffs me out in the middle of the night and tries to steal me away. The deep, loud, fearful, howling instinct isn't gone. But he knows the world didn't end.
- - -

1. Lemon Boy, Cavetown 
    (Apple MusicBandcamp)
2. Counting, Stick and Poke
3. Home, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes
    (Apple Music)
4. To Be A Ghost, Jeff Rosenstock
5. The Wrong Train, Ghost Mice
6. Brave As A Noun & Survival Song, AJJ
    (Apple Music, Brave As A Noun, Survival Song . Bandcamp)
6.b.Brave As A Noun, (beautiful, imo) cover by Local News Legend
7. House on Fire, Ghost Mice
    (Apple Music)
8. Darkest Heart, AJJ
9. I'm Not A Good Person/We Don't Get Tired, We Get Even, Pat the Bunny
    (Apple Music: I'm Not A Good Person, We Don't Get... . Bandcamp)
10. Doth Make Cowards, Local News Legend
11. Archive, Mal Blum
12. Beachboy, McCafferty
13. E for Estranged, Owen Pallett


"But promise me you'll always try. 'Cause I don't wanna hate you. And I don't wanna hate me. And I don't want to have to hate everything anymore."
-From Here to Utopia, by Ramshackle Glory or  Pat the Bunny

- - -
Some bad drawings:







- - -

G.xx

Monday, 28 June 2021

Ghost.Static.2 An Ineffective Vigil

 An ineffective vigil




I haven't slept. This morning, there is rain and fog, which is cooling and makes the air calm. I blocked my mom's number on my phone two days ago. I've been cleaning my house, front to back. There is a line on the floor in the kitchen where I stopped last night because I was tired.



Mammals call out, said my psychiatrist. If they lose a child, they will call out again and again and again hoping the child will reply, hoping even more they will find their way back. We are mammals, but we know it is pointless to call out if someone dies. We understand death. So we search in our mind for the dead person.


In vain. 


Especially in vain in this case, because I have been searching for someone who wanted to be dead. The vanity is a wish to find an impossible, superhuman path of love that saved my partner and kept myself safe. I don't usually love so selfishly, I hope, I believe. But in absence, I've returned to myself in a juvenile way.


Foley the rabbit is searching for Chris in an old shirt of his that I left on the floor for him. It was tucked in amongst my shirts in my clothes rail, on accident. It must smell of Chris a bit. I can't smell it. It has been losing its smell the last several days, I'd imagine, and so Foley is more still and withdrawn than usual.


Rabbits don't call out. Especially Foley, who is deaf. When I would hand Foley to Chris, usually Chris would cry. Sometimes he was too scared to even pet Foley for days, weeks on end. An impossibly soft animal that can't hear your own voice, the one you have been scared of your entire life, is a powerful force.


When I don't sleep, my wounds don't really heal. As tired as I am, I like that. Bruises on my shins and wrists from boxes, scratches on my arms and stomach, a sprained toe from where I kicked the wall during a nightmare. It makes it all a bit more real. The work of it. So much of the work is invisible, inaudible, incomprehensible.


I dream. When I do sleep. I dream that I am searching in a world where I know everything is already dark. I dream Chris comes to bed because he is visiting from death. He gets up and gets dressed and I ask him not to. He tells me he has to go to work - being dead is his job now. And then I wake up and I know he is cold and blue and bruised and bloated in a mortuary and I won't see him again.


I looked back through my instagram last night, which I've never been good at using. Or maybe I just kept using it the way I did back in 2012 when I started, because I'm a young dinosaur. I'd forgotten how much I'd survived. My therapist said suicide is a contagion. Like any disease. Maybe like abuse, definitely like HIV. You have to be careful, especially when you're queer. She's a fierce Greek lesbian who always dresses in black leather. You can try not to catch it, but sometimes it happens anyway. So just take care. Be brave; take care.


Our relationship was unsustainable long before Chris died, was over before he died, too. Except he was as clever at dying as he was at living. I was talking to someone who apologised before calling him a fucking cunt, and I immediately said, no need to apologise - he absolutely was. I think I even called him a cunt to my mom once in the last few weeks.


I then told that friend that Chris would have made much less of a mess if he'd simply blown his brains out all over the couch we were sitting on. He made one very bad bet that he was better at grooming me than I am at fighting. And he then made a very good bet that I'd clean up after he died because otherwise the violence and harm was too unimaginable.


I'm not a nice or a kind person. I try to be caring. I am often bruised and often tired. A different friend I talked to said he didn't know how Chris had described him before he died. I told him that Chris had said, "I never know whether he'll be basically ok or completely on fire." The friend laughed and said, "Oh, I'm always on fire." That sounds about right. But I'm very tired of being on fire. And I don't have to be anymore. 


But my mind is still searching, still calling out, still trying to construct a sensible picture out of a black hole - a complete vacuum - an infinity of density and absence of time and light.


And. The truth is, it's not as romantic as any of that. It's just harm. It's just death. There are no ghosts. It's just me learning the ways to put down the hope and love. Some days and especially some nights I am astoundingly bad at that. So I learn. I take a shower and eat three meals a day. I don't know. I don't have an answer. We are all free from Chris now. Sometimes there is relief and jubilation in that and sometimes it is just terrible.


I bite my fingers in my sleep and somehow there are three snails in my house now that I have to catch and in an hour, the police will be here to take more evidence. That's living right now. So we do what we can. Be brave; take care.



 - - -


"So we're up all night dreaming. We aren't alive as long as there's a prison guard still breathing. So, we're up all night scheming. We don't get tired, we get even. I can't sleep anyway. Wolves haunt my living room. They keep me up all night. Howling at the moon. And I'd still be on the outside of the world we dream of building. But that could never change any four walls are a prison to me. Whoa. Whoa. We might ride together 'til we reach freedom. And we might ride together 'til we reach justice. And I'll get out alone."


- "We Don't Get Tired, We Get Even," Pat the Bunny


"She was standing on the dock, trying to hit the moon with rocks. Along came a man with his cock in his hand. He said, ' What do you think?' She said, 'I think you stink.' Then she spit in in his eye, said, 'Bye bye,' and pushed him in the drink. Then she went to the pay shower and pumped quarters for an hour. Even though she made it, she still felt violated. Wrapped the soap on a rope around her throat. Said, 'Dear God I really hope you let me into heaven 'cause I'm only eleven and I got nowhere to go.' What goes around don't come around; not in this town."


- "Hadlock Padlock" Kimya Dawson


- - -


G.xx

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

There Will Be No Archive

 There Will Be No Archive


-


This is not a post about Chris but a post about how we consider what we hold onto and what we leave of him, the unique versions of him that each of us knew. It is a post not about his memory but one, I hope, for the good of us who knew him.


One of the last things Chris said to me was that he believed I was threatening his legacy. Speaking out was too big of a threat, no matter what good might come of it. He said he knew it sounded bad to admit it, but that his legacy, the story of his work, was more important to him than anything else. Explicitly, more than me, more than complaints anyone else had, more than anything else that had happened "outside of" his work. Which is a tricky phrase in itself.


We all tell or share or disrupt stories. Most of us for a living. Or we love people who do. And it falls to all of us to decide what we keep, what we lock away for a while, what we absolutely and completely burn of Chris. We each have this terrible mess of shards of not so much a story now, but a human being we knew. And we eventually have to put them together into something new.


And it all takes time, grief. I imagine. Well, I've been told by people much wiser than myself. And it certainly seems true so far.


The work Chris made may have done some people a lot of good. And the spaces that made it might have done, too. But he refused to protect any process, any show, any person, from the harm he knew he could inflict. I know that, many others know it, and he said as much directly in a few things he wrote shortly before he died.


Legally, I've been made much more of a keeper of Chris's belongings and documents and work than anyone. And I don't think that's unfair. I was also a keeper of his health, his wellbeing, the home we shared, many of his secrets (which I only found to be secrets after his death), and ultimately, what happened to him after he insisted on continuing with over two decades of participating in horrendous child abuse.


So, within a few days of the news of his death, someone from the Board of Directors of his (defunct-as-of-mid-May) company, reached out to me. They explained that they had been in touch with some people from the Arts Council England and some very high-level professional archivists. They mentioned (and I well knew) that there were a number of documents in Chris's possession - lots of early work that never went to publication. And very early stuff - sixth forum and university essays, a novel, poems, written in his childhood and teenage years. And because he was a publicly-funded artist for so long, there was a national interest in his work. They explained that in five years, ten years, people wouldn't be thinking about what he'd done. He was part of the national history, the national culture of theatre, and scholars and artists and students should have the right to see how he built up his career to the manuscripts still available in print.


There is a really thin, definitely not static or straight line between doing anything to allow a sense of legacy to continue, and still preserving evidence of what he did and how he did it, to allow for a fully-informed industry/national discussion now, or in five months, or in ten years.


My guiding thought on all of this has been that the evidence of his crimes and abuse lives with the police, lives with the people who survived and experienced it. And I know so much of it also died with child victims of his. And the little of that which remains will be reviewed by police, documented, and destroyed. Everything beyond that - the separate, dangerously incomplete and disingenuous world he wanted to create in his work - cannot and should not sit anywhere without full context.


And we don't get to have the full context. I'm sure I still know more of that context than anyone else. That's not a brag - it's an immense and terrible weight I must live with until I die. There is no way to put a warning preface or a plaque or a link to an essay on anything he did professionally. Because everything he did was so completely and totally in service to running away and having small moments of peace amongst the harm he was doing.


So. There will be no archive. I burned all of Chris's papers. Everything. I destroyed his photo collection. Everything digital will be completely destroyed by police as soon as they are finished the investigation, as protocol. I am in the process of clearing out his entire online backups and all the content he left online. 


I wrote the board member who had been in touch with me when I had done this to inform them. I simply said, "There will be no archive."


I'm aware there are some artists who interviewed him on YouTube or elsewhere or recorded episodes of their own podcast episodes with him, etc. I would ask those artists to delete and destroy those files as well. But, as I said earlier, this is a task that lies with all of us. And everyone should have the space to make their own decisions.


The evidence will remain. And the rest of it is much more terrorism from beyond the grave than evidence, I think.


I know some people I've spoken to (and who were quite friendly to me) will disagree with what I've done. And it may make their grief more difficult. We are, I think, in a sort of nuclear-war level of harm reduction mode. 


In the end, I hope this is a call that makes the world a better and more liveable place. Or even a slightly more just place. For anyone who knew Chris or even only his work.


And in the end, if it's not, then I'm sorry, but that's too bad. I won't be justifying this decision to anyone, and I don't need to. I don't owe ACE or the "Nation" or anyone else anything. I was his husband. There was enough private, and private-into-public, terror. And then all the public and personal - public terror that the bits of him left around in publishers and emails to friends, and all of that - that can all sort itself out without me if it needs to. Frankly, the lightest of what he left me with was his archive. And that is gone now.



-


Because it falls in the same vein, a short note on his memorial. Chris requested a direct cremation, which will happen. This means there will be no service with his body or remains. A memorial will eventually occur. After consulting with those he mentioned in his final wishes, we have unanimously decided that no service will occur and the ceremony (or, I would call it much more of a carefully-dramaturg-ed show) he described will not take place. 


There will be a gathering for those who knew Chris personally to meet, talk, process, and have some food and drink. I am working on the details of what and when that will be. I've agreed with those helping me that this will take time to properly arrange and time for people to privately work through what has happened to some degree before we invite people to come together. Anyone who knew Chris will have plenty of warning before the event, if they want to add it to their diary or if they need to travel to London.


-


A few people after my "There Will Be No Finale" post noted that there was no comfort in it. I don't imagine there is any here, either. But for anyone who takes a bit of solace in something more direct than the semi-essay I've written here:





You were dead by the time that I had found you.

You lived large until the day they finally caught you. 

...


And I wanna build a tower to all the nicer things you could have been.


But I don't like it.


- "Back Pack" AJJ





- - -


G.xx