Chapter 5: Dee
Dee exited the train as usual at Queenstown Road, nodding her acceptance of the thanks proffered to her by Yummy Mummy whose daughter’s mind had already turned to hot chocolate, much to the quiet amusement of her fellow commuters. Dee loved those moments shared by strangers, when thirty pairs of ears were all trained to the same conversation, with little else to do on their faceless commute than eavesdrop on the passing lives of others whilst pretending not to listen as we know it’s not polite. And so, despite the shared humour or sadness of a situation, straight faces must be kept. But the girl’s request for hot chocolate when asked if she was okay following her near-death experience had caused several of Dee’s fellow passengers to expel a quiet laugh under their breath, or to look away to a corner of the carriage, lest they catch someone else’s eye and find themselves betrayed by their giggles. Children really do have the most wonderful way of looking at the world Dee thought. She replayed the situation again and again as she made the short walk to the bus stop where she would catch the bus back to her starting point of Vauxhall, completing the same rush hour loop she made every day. She had hoped and expected today to be different. With the infinite loop finally brought to an untimely end as she finally said goodbye to her life. But she found herself now shaken, breathless and homeward bound, with all sense of purpose evaporated.
She had not imagined life at this point. She had no food in the house – she had not expected to need to cook tea. The banality of this concern physically shook her as she found her thoughts returning to her original plan this afternoon. Was she glad she hadn’t jumped? That she had not ended up obliterated like that child’s teal ball? No, she decided, she was not glad. She had hoped that today would finally bring her release from the misery that had completely engulfed her for so long. She felt like she’d failed. Again.
The bus pulled in and she boarded it with many of the same people she boarded it with day after day. As the bus made its slow journey back to Vauxhall, Dee found herself wondering what one should do with a redundant suicide note? Is it a memento to be kept – a reminder of a life not lost, or is it a memory that should be torn up and thrown away with the day’s rubbish? She tried to recall whether she had dated her note or whether she could simply leave it in place and use it again tomorrow, when finally, she would carry her plan through. It was time.
She turned this question over and over in her mind as she made her way home on autopilot first travelling the few stops on the bus and then alighting and walking the few minutes to Semaphore Street. It was time, wasn’t it? She no longer felt so sure; an ambivalence introduced to the situation by her actions to save the life of another. To take her own life, in front of the self-same train, so soon after this incident seemed almost churlish. It certainly didn’t feel like the correct order of things – but then did suicide ever feel like wholly the right thing to do? She considered her motivations, of removing herself as a burden to others, absenting herself from the world, and of ending the suffering, misery and pain she had felt every single day for the last three years. A deep and torturous pain that would not go away no matter how many lives she saved, no matter how few suicide notes she wrote. She had thought, at first, that the pain might dissipate. That therapy or alcohol might make a difference. She had tried to walk away her grief, to sing it away and, in a final fit of resolve, to run it away on the treadmill. But however fast she ran, the feelings ran faster and threatened to overwhelm her with every step.
She turned her key in the lock, re-entering the house she’d been so sure she was leaving forever. She was confronted with her suicide note. It seemed childish now; not the writing of the note but the fact that she did not have a single profound thing to say. Even her brief apology did not feel heartfelt. She took the note in both hands and held it in front of her, like a specimen for study. Then she tore it cleanly in two. The sound of the tearing paper filling the room – sounding as loud in that moment to Dee as the sound of an oncoming train.
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Thank you for feeding back each day. I’m building in your edits and suggestions to the version held on my local machine so the initial raw version will remain here. When I’ve got questions, I’m going to ask them each day – don’t feel obliged to answer them, but if you’re happy to they’ll help me as I try to craft the story. If you have questions or observations I’d be keen to hear them too.
- Does the commuters’ shared humour sit right? I think this happens..?
- How do you feel about Dee’s state of mind, does jumping from thoughts of suicide to having nothing for tea feel plausible?
- Do I dwell too much / too little on her circular journey? I want people to realise that she takes this train every day, blending in with the commuters and then just goes home. She’s effectively pretending to commute, driven by a compulsion to catch the same train every day.
- What do you think she should do with the suicide note? Why do you think she tears the note in two?
I liked the reference to the “shared humor” in the train. However, I think I wanted more about Dee’s immediate reaction to what happened. How long was the trip before she just got off as usual? My sense was that if she had been planning this for some time, had expected her life to be over, she wouldn’t simply have done the usual. I also liked the reference to not having anything to eat for tea, and the knowledge of the daily circular trip and would use that, I think, but after I had said more about her still being alive and how that felt for her. I would have been at least dazed, shaken, tho sure what since I don’t know Dee well at this point, but something that shows more. Impact. I might have gotten off the train at the usual stop, but would I have just followed by usual route? I don’t know since it isn’t my story but the lack of more immediate reaction felt a bit off to me.
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This was really helpful feedback. Chapter 5 looks different and better now.. thank you!
ClarificationL. In the above, 4 sentences above last I meant to say “least dazed, shaken, NOT sure what. My apologies. I was finding it hard to comment and not be critical, I think.
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Critical is good!!
I was surprised that there was no mention of commuters with heads in phones in the opening section. I know you started writing it a whole ago, maybe we weren’t as hooked then.
Ooh this is a good point. I will have to think on this!… thank you 🙂