The fact is I had no intention of being there when she died. I
could not face it. I am a woman of great energy, compulsively
active, given to fits of laughter, to sudden anger, to
passionate and impossible love affairs. But the truth is I am a
coward. Or was a coward.
I call my shrink, Shrink. Not to his face, of course. I also
call him Jacob. He seems as fascinated by my being American as I
am by his being black, a Londoner, and having almost no visible
hair on his body at all except this one thing, his graying
mustache, which he is often seen poking at with a slim
forefinger. He has the delicate hands of a surgeon, but
everything else about him is stocky, compact. His leather chair
is faded where his head rests, and there are cracks around the
edge of the cushion where his legs bend.
"So that's it, that's all you want to say about your mother?" he
says. He sighs, crosses his legs. His laconic air is in direct
contrast to my own pulsating, nervous energy. He says, "She died
and you weren't there. Okay, how about before that? What about
when you were growing up?"
My shrink is a man who wants to reveal me, and yet I know
nothing about him. I am sure this is the right and proper way
for a patient and therapist to operate, but it feels cold to me.
I cannot think of anyone in my life now who wants to see inside
me for what is good and right, only those who want to find what
is wrong. And that's so easy--everything is wrong. I tell Jacob,
"My mother was at work. I don't remember. It doesn't matter."
"Run that by me again?" he says.
"What about how I feel right now?"
It is as though I've eaten a vat of speed; my mind races along
trailing incoherencies and half-finished thoughts. There's a
continual restlessness in all four of my limbs; I am hungry
almost all the time, except when I eat. Two bites and I feel
sick. All this has come upon me gradually over the past months.
That confident, breezy woman who Stephen saw at a party all
those years ago is not me anymore. I am her shadow.
"Jacob," I sigh. "Be a pal and medicate me."
He says, "Melanie, you're going to need to relax about all that
or else we won't get anywhere at all."
But I can't relax, which is why I am here. I used to read books
by the score but now I find I am unable to concentrate. I go to
the library, trying to find a book that might help me, but even
the self-help books seem indecipherable. I'm lucky if I can
remember a phone number. So instead I wander. I visit all-night
cafés on the Edgware Road where teenagers suck sweet tobacco
from hookahs; I go traipsing round the New Covent Garden Market,
picking lonely flower stems from the shiny cement floor. I'll be
at a train station at midnight with no ticket. I might be
writing a list on a notepad held in my palm. Or staring at the
blank walls of the station or wherever I am, which is anywhere
you can linger instead of sleep. During the day, my hands
sometimes tremble with fatigue. I squint at sunlight, splash
cold water on my face, review the notes I have written to myself
reminding me what to do. I set the alarm on my ugly electronic
watch, a watch I found in a public toilet at Paddington, in case
I fall asleep by accident. I have children to look after, to
sing to, play with. I regard them as one might the queen's
largest jewels. They receive my best--my only--real efforts.
"I'm just after some help," I tell Jacob. "I am worried all the
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...