When I was a child I was obsessed with maps primarily the A to Z, my dad had an old decrepit one that sat in his drawer, in moments of boredom or curiosity I would take it out and look at it.
I would generally start at familiar areas, and then move on to the unfamiliar. I would scrutinize roads, which would cascade into open water, rivers, ponds, and grassy fields. The harsh and structured lines would lure me in a comforting way, minutes would turn into hours, my concentration would only break when I heard the shrill call of my mother. As the hours ticked by, I ventured into areas I did not know. I was young and had all the time, painstakingly learning how roads aligned and greeted one another. The terrain that once seemed flat and lifeless on the curled brown pages was now magical, I can’t tell you why I can’t explain it, it was just magical.
When I was old enough I bought an AZ for myself, it was newer and I noticed that new developments had been added, the roads were still familiar and the bold ‘A’ and ‘Z’ was still printed on the front bold and undefeated. I stopped looking at maps soon after…grew out of it, maybe this was my Father Christmas moment that many children feel when they finally grow, finally spring their wings and shake off the childishness from within.
When I was emotionally abused for the final time, I remember reaching for the map, it once again offered me some solace in a chaotic and abusive existence. For three weeks I had sat alone with a 10-month-old baby, just looking at him. I could tell you about every eyelash, every noise, every cry he made during that turbulent time. I sat and looked at him engrossed in my thoughts “what do I do?”
The paternal aspect was missing for three weeks, run away lol, entwined in a new victim, and I was here administering Calpol to a burning child, figuring out how the bills would be paid, figuring if I had absentmindedly walked into that place they call Hell, this hell place was not on the fucking A to Z, there were no obvious roads leading to it, but somehow I had ended up there. I had consistently said my prayers since I was eight both morning and night, yet I was in hell, Hell with a baby and Calpol.
I was still working full time, still maintaining, still living and still on occasion being prodded by the roaring lion ‘seeking whom he could devour’. At Secondary School, I read ‘Dante’s inferno’, the book they give gormless 17-year-olds at A level, detailing the nine stages of hell. It was at this point I began my own personal descent into hell I was at the first stage, the stage I deemed the fiercest, the most painful, and the most relentless. Down I went into its fiery pits, further and further, each flame represented something, the flame of despair, flame of anger, the flame of hatred, flames of loved ones revelling in my tears, flames of unsolicited advice, flames of guilt, and flames of fear. The flame of fear was the hottest and the most powerful, the most mentally and physically destructive. I had succumbed to that flame many times, this time however it was attempting to kill me.
By some twist of fate, hell had a laptop, so at night I turn on my laptop and looked at maps whilst the baby slept, whilst anxiety gripped, whilst I figured things out, I looked at maps.
Things had changed now, technology had moved on whilst I had sat married to insignificance and weakness; the A to Z had turned into Google Maps. Had I gone back to that place for Comfort? Or was I regressing back to my old house, surrounded by my old things, old smells warmth, love, and that old A to Z.
I will never forget that period of my life; it is only now that I can start to write about it. Time heals they say, this particular time I felt Jesus had dropped me in the sand and walked. The well-known Christian poem called footprints was not reading correctly to me, I had been dropped and left to sink.
I couldn’t pray anymore, I stopped. It didn’t make any sense I was a shadow sitting in the church pews watching cheesy and uncomforting grins from the brethren what were they smiling about? ‘God is good all the time, all the time God is good’.
My mother and father prayed for me on my behalf each morning tirelessly, every morning they prayed. Each morning I cried on my own behalf, each morning tirelessly, I cried. My tears were MY prayers, soundless words, surrounded in salty water. Whilst I sat in hell my tears travelled to heaven, the tears I cried for me and my baby spoke a desperate plea to the God they taught me about, the God they said would wipe every tear. The God whom gave me that old A to Z.
The other day I went to my old home my parents are still there and so is the A to Z. I leafed through it, pages curled and brown trying to remember childhood. What do we cling to that recentres us? A toy or stuffed animal? Old cards or love letters, pictures of yesterday? What do we hold on to that calms us and dulls the pain?.