Sunday, 10 March 2013

The Empty Jar - -1/03/1986

{NB - all the work on this site was written by and is the property of Craig Guthrie. I originally chose the name of Emily Ellis Parker and billed the whole site as being her work, but after a publisher refused to consider the work on the basis that "you might not have written it" and advising me that the name Emily Parker was the subject of some discussion in a current affairs story, I changed it and put my own name on the site and changed the protagonist's name to Rebecca - however, she will always be Emily to me, as I had when I invented her, partly in my mind, character traits, as I imagined them, of the brilliant poet Emily Dickinson. To me, the change has taken some of the magic from the site, as I originally presented it as solely the work of the protagonist and was happy to work under this illusion. I have nonetheless complied in the hope that no more questions should be raised as to the author of this work.}

No, Emily it is...

“What should you write in your diary tonight Emily?” I asked myself.
Then, “Why are you writing in your diary tonight Emily?
“It is Kitty and she needs to be filled up, all those white spaces, like a teddy bear’s heart without the love of a child,” I answered myself.
And I began writing… The Empty Jar…

            There were two jars at the back of the large cupboard, in the dark place which saw no light.
            “It’s been so long, I've forgotten what’s inside me,” said the half-full, sticky on the sides with white mould growing on its innards’ jar.
            “At least you have something inside you,” replied the empty jar, “I can never forget that there is nothing filling me - no substance within.”
            “Wouldn’t you rather be empty and clean with a definitive wisdom about yourself, than infested and green, contaminated and confused about what exists within you?”
            “Empty? Empty? Anyone old fool can be empty!” exclaimed the Thorpe’s Strong Vinegar bottle suddenly from the narrower, cleaner shelf above.
            “Any old fool can give up on empty. You need to have aspirations jar. Sell something. Moreover, you need to have something to sell. A gimmick, a catchphrase, a tagline like mine: Thorpe’s Strong Vinegar – The One That Sucks Your Cheeks In. You need to sell yourself.
            “What would you like to be filled with empty jar?”
            “What would I like to be filled with?” replied the empty jar, “What do I desire to be filled with or what do I think would serve me best to be filled with?
            “Well, I should more than anything wish to be you, Oh Lord of Condiments. You, who is most full and empties but a little each time in altruistic nature due to your three-drop stopping cap. You, who have the power to extend life beyond its natural ends. You, who can preserve and enhance, blend and adapt. You, who have the power to provoke a reaction.”
            “You would not be satisfied as me,” said the vinegar. “You would desire always to be full, forever in torment through the heartless irony that your life should begin to diminish once you had begun to serve your purpose. Your tiny, paradoxical imperfection should torture you. In eternal torment from the day you began to fulfil your purpose.”
            “Then I should wish to be full of jam,” stated the empty jar. “Yes. Sweet and carefree. Oblivious to the fact that what fills me is disappearing and what remains is spoiling each new day.”
            “Jam would suit you well, but you’d still have to sell yourself. Any fool can remain empty, I've said, but selling is a different thing. Label yourself if you're empty. Label yourself with aspiration and something shall fill you. You have to have something to sell, you see? That something has to be what is inside you. A thing that may make life a little sweeter, or perhaps something that will make life a little more bitter - what we all have in common though, is that our purpose is to give and to be consumed. And therefore you have to advertise.”
            “But hold your horses Thorpe’s, isn’t this a bit rich coming from you, aren’t you in a disposable bottle, Oh Mighty Thorpe’s, Oh Preserver of Life,” the half-full jar said pensively.
            “How dare you speak to me in such a derisive tone,” blazed the one filled with malted liquid. “Can you imagine returning to the million grains of sand that you once were? I return to another state of consciousness when my purpose is fulfilled. You may have to bear many substances, good or bad, but I, I will remain pure and resolute in my existence, I have purpose and no distractions.”
            The empty jar spoke, “But I am not empty. I am full of air – a space to be pushed out when needs be.”
            “You are empty,” said the vinegar. “Empty and alone and you should never forget it.

I put my pen down and yawned, not sure who I would hold allegiance to.
Who am I?
I am Emily Ellis Parker.  A teenage girl in 1986, but I am not confused.
I exist in two dimensions to some, three to fewer, yet in just one to myself.
I am Emily and no other.
I am myself and I’m sure my purpose is to explore, experience and explain – my diary, my Kitty, is both my friend and my vehicle.
Mummy and Daddy have been arguing again tonight and Thorpe’s Strong Vinegar is the only thing that can remove the bad taste from my mouth.
And so here I am Kitty, trying to get to sleep while I'm unsure of whether I am selling myself, or Thorpe’s Strong Vinegar…

Saturday, 9 March 2013

An Ungrateful Child - 02/03/1986

            I am alone and feel imprisoned in this “luxurious” big house. I am a privileged child in the way of the comforts that money can buy, but wish I wasn’t. From the earliest age I have been told that I am an ungrateful child and I now believe this to be true.
            I consider Daddy to be the most distracted buffoon these days, God love him I know he cares for me, but his head has become so full of stuff and nonsense that the mechanics of everyday life have rendered him a fool.
            Mummy, too, cares for me, but as she sits in the big chair sucking through her teeth, I see her sucking over the bitterness of her own youth and the lack of  love or compassion taught to her through example.
            I. I am an only child. I have no friends to speak of and no relatives visit this pristine empty castle of ours. I understand that it is a certainty that, usually, from the moment we enter this world our bodies grow stronger for the first 20 years or so and then we begin to slowly decay, if we are lucky, and go out like a light. I know nothing of what happens before this time or after it.
            I know I am currently refusing to go to school.
            Mummy and Daddy both utterly detest me now as they are getting into trouble for not getting me to school. I threatened Daddy sufficiently with a painted Dutch wooden clog when he looked though he was going to attempt to physically move me and I am now, officially, a source of great embarrassment to both of them. Still, I will not be moved, either on the matter, or from this room.
            This has to be short entry, Kitty, because Daddy will be home soon and barge in talking of psychologists and responsibilities and shall disturb us in our exchange. I say exchange because, although I am perfectly aware of being the only organism communicating through the medium of words, I believe that you give me something back, Kitty. I confide in you and you repay me in kind.
            I suppose one could say that I started this diary, my Kitty, to order and prioritise my thoughts. One could say I started to reach out in the darkness. One could say my Kitty exists through my desire to be noticed or due to my fear of forgetting my dreams.
            More than this though, I know that it was my Kitty who called out to me in the dark. It was her who entered my life and not me, hers.
            I shall finish now, for the time being as I hear Daddy rattle his keys. Till, tomorrow dear Kitty, I leave you the view from my window: the shining silver birch in the sunshine, the dust thrown up and settling again between the sparrows’ hedgerows and Anthony Esposito ambling carelessly, flopping his coat over his shoulder, kicking stones and either singing or speaking to himself while his head flops from side to side as he turns to climb the messy drive which leads to his family’s home.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Anthony Esposito - 03/03/1986

Dear Kitty,
      I must apologise immediately about two things. Firstly, I neither set out nor desired to give this entry the title I have, but sometimes one finds that outside matters overtake you and impose themselves upon your thoughts, like immortal parasites, they lodge themselves to your internal streams and suck away quietly. So partly, I have decided not stick my head the sand, but to expose these alien intruders, I have taken the path of siding with nature and not turning from what unnaturally occupies my thoughts. But I have also gone with this title because it seems to embody so much of how I feel right now, that everything is so unfair in the world.
      Secondly, I must apologise for using bad language this morning to Mummy. It is no excuse, but I was furious with her blank words and even blanker stare at such an early hour. I usually have the fortitude to control my words, even faced with such heightened emotion, and remain civilised in the hope that I might exist in a civilised world. I don’t really believe that mother is what I called her, although I’m not sure she didn’t deserve to feel the sting of it.
      Though I might hate Mummy and Daddy for their lack of understanding and compulsion to compromise to societal norms at the moment, I positively despise Anthony Esposito. He is everything that is wrong with the world.
      It is not that I find distasteful the fact that the little red-brick bungalow across the way looks decidedly out-of-place and unkempt among a lane of large, well-established rare Georgian sandstone dwellings. It is not his uncle’s rotund, perpetually uncovered beer-belly with its brown-leathery sideways horizon sporting horrid grey hairs  that bothers me. It is not even the apparent idleness of Master Esposito’s entire demeanour which sickens me. No. What I really hate is the noise he makes. At every given opportunity he seems to be hammering at the drum kit in his little garage, or revving his uncle’s car when his uncle happens to have gone out on foot. He veritably drowns out all the nature in the world and fills it with inane, pointless, repetitive, grating noise.
  After mother and I had our obligatory morning shouting match and she left for work, I decided that I would venture up to the attic at some point today - a place I haven’t been for years - to explore what will seem to me now, like a new space. I took one of Daddy’s screwdrivers and the stepladder from the utility room and carefully removed the catch so that no-one could detect where I had been when I re-attached it.
I fed my bedside lamp up by an extension lead in the hall and was soon scanning round the classic graveyard of items removed from our main living space, due to a perceived uselessness or just plain ugliness. This graveyard to me, however, has a tonne more character than our clinically-arranged, neutrally-themed modern-minimalist existence downstairs.
I was in my element: rummaging through old suitcases of photos of people I never knew, emptying bags of cuddly toys I’d long forgotten, blowing dust from the thick, beautiful editions of books I never imagined could exist between these four sterile walls. From under a stack of sun-bleached, dog-eared board games I pulled a dusty old eighties Smith Corona electric typewriter. It had been bashed around beyond repair and the stickers which donned the half-cover plastic case had been scribbled on, years ago with biro. A a red oval sticker which should probably have said “Bisto” or something, instead said “Kill Me Now” in a bold black font and scribbled around it, in different inks in a dreadfully messy hand was “Concept of time” above, “grandiose ideas” below and “I have a gun and I’m not afraid to use it” at the side.
As I was putting it back, I noticed a slot at the frontin which contained an old floppy disk port. I pressed the mechanical eject button and was surprised to find a yellowed plastic square simply marked “back-up” in neat freehand, which I duly popped in my pocket.
After a good rake around and satisfying my curiosity sufficiently to call it a successful day, I replaced everything the way it was, except for the dust, and bolted back the attic.
I wonder if I will ever be able to see the contents of the floppy disc. I am curious to find out if it has anything on it and who it was by – and this brings me directly to my old ted, Mystery, and one last apology. You see, Kitty, you are not my only friend, old Mystery was here before you and I apologise profusely to him for forgetting about him. Sorry Mystery, you have always been there when I needed a hug, you are my first, best and foremost friend and you shall now have the honour of being Kitty’s guardian.

Mother has just been in to shout at me again about my attitude, the great school debate and my wasted potential. Potential, potential, if I hear that word one more time I should positively scream these four walls down.
For now, goodnight Mystery, goodnight Kitty, let tomorrow bring some adventure for once.


     Have just been woken up by that foul, inconsiderate boy across the lane. Strolling home at 1 am, singing loudly and out of tune like an idiot. I doubt I shall get back to sleep for another hour thanks to that degenerate boy. His noise irritates me, his voice irritates me, why, even the way his uncombed hair stupidly flops over one eye irritates me! Goodnight again Kitty, hopefully his uncle will sell his house soon and the boy will end up in some detention centre or rehabilitation camp where he belongs.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

My Long Lost Friend - 01/03/2013

          I think you could safely say that today was a day full of surprises. I have found this diary I had lost twenty seven years ago – my Kitty - complete with three entries and I vow to now continue on with it from where I left off, if such a thing is possible!
         I am no longer a teenager and had long forgotten this “Kitty” – half begun and never given the chance to run to her natural end.
         After reading what I had originally written, I distinctly remember the day I made the last entry in this lucky book - the same day I lost it - because it was the day my life changed forever, it was the day another soul truly touched my own.
          I was 15 when I wrote the last entry and am 42 now. I am trying to think of how I would describe myself back then but find myself quite unsure of the generalities of it all. The specifics however, come easier to recall.
          I believe that from day to day, hour to hour, our moods change, our outlook on life, our purpose, our religion, our passions. Now I suppose what I am looking for to describe myself then, are the differences – the differences between the me then and the me now. I’m sure I would better define myself then as largely what I am now, but the differences, the change, interests me more. I suppose, I think, I was quite excited by life and its possibilities back then, whereas now, I wouldn’t say I was more jaded… well, maybe yes, a little more jaded, but also perhaps, a better-rounded person.
          A lot has happened in the last 27 years and I shall tell you dear Kitty, my long lost friend, for each entry I make, I shall have to catch you up with the past.
         For now though, I leave you, as I have sat in this wheelchair writing for long enough already today. But on parting I leave you the poem I finished earlier, before we were re-united, my dear, dear Kitty and I dedicate it to you.


Boxes, boxes,
Endless boxes,
Of things and stuff,
Filling the rooms,
From floor to ceiling.

Mark the boxes,
Give them names,
Like This and That.

Look in a box,
Seal it - move it -
To another room.

One contains The Toys and Magic
And that long-forgotten face -
Keep moving the boxes.

From one to the next,
While losing the last,
Until a single circular stain appears,

Seal it - move it -
Attend to the next.
Pray it's not the box
Which contains you.

          I hope you like it Kitty. Such a lot has happened and now I am at another crossroads in my life you see. Moving on and leaving behind all the drama and laughter and tears that this big, empty house has seen.
          I am so happy to see you again – but for now, I leave you till tomorrow, and moving day.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

A Fresh Start - 02/03/2013

          Well hello dear diary, how nice to see you after such a busy day.
         Today I have moved from the house which I occupied and which has occupied me for the last 42 years. Today I sit amongst half of the boxes I did yesterday, but in a different location. Today I sit looking out to sea from a small fishing village nestling on the mouth of the Tay on the east coast of Scotland – 500 miles away from life in London. And I am happy.
          I have left behind the painful solid, memory of Tony and exchanged it for ethereal nostalgia. I have left behind also, that aching, burning, painful desire, the longing and that frustration of a contentment constantly just out-of-reach. I leave behind clutching at straws and my reliance on another to fulfil my life. I leave behind that day he came bounding over our wall and begging me for help.
          Mum and dad left for work as per usual that day and I solely occupied the house by 7.30 am. At around 7.32 am there came the banging and shouting on the patio doors from the 17-year-old fool from across the road.
          In 1986, I had light brown, shoulder-length hair, usually in a pony tail. I wore jeans and a yellow T-shirt – always – and always flat shoes, if any.
          I jumped down the stairs, as I could at 15, took one look at the flustered boy through the glass and unlocked the patio doors to have him pile in and land in a heap on the floor.
          “You’ve got to hide me,” he said, “I’m really sorry, but you have to let me in for a few minutes, just until my uncle is gone. He’s going to kill me you see.” He panted and attempted these theatrical puppy-dog eyes with his hands clasped.
          I looked at him in a different way from that moment on. For the first time I saw the glint in his eye, and I realised that his mind had the ability to trivialise all of life’s horrors and disappointments and by doing so, he could see some sort of pleasure in the pointlessness of it all. He got something, but not a conventional thing, from nothing. He was half smiling, always, he was half-smiling.
          “What in God’s name do you think you’re doing,” I shouted.
          “Saving my own life,” he replied.
          And from that point on, I’m sure we spent every waking moment together for the next three weeks. At least it felt like that, because you see, very suddenly, very unexpectedly, we fell in love.
          But I don’t know where to begin with this at such an hour of the morning.
          Perhaps this will be the shortest entry and I apologise for it Kitty, but the story requires too much thought and it has been too long a day to even contemplate beginning at this hour.
          I must say, the water is beautiful though - watching it makes me feel complete and I have suddenly realised that I have been missing it all my natural born life.
          - Rebecca.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The Fruits of the Rebellious Mind - 03/03/2013

          And still more boxes, boxes, endless boxes. The end of another day, dear Kitty, and a day filled with pointless "putting away". But I suppose it has been ultimately satisfying.
          As I look out of the window this evening I am horrified to see a huge may bug on the window sill - one of the only insects I cannot, and have never been able to abide. It took me right back to the last thing I said to Anthony before we left the clearing.
         "You have a may bug on your back," I had said to him so many years ago.
         From the moment he fell into my life through the patio doors that day, I had no option but to listen for an hour or more, slack-jawed, to the condensed version of Anthony Esposito's unfortunate life. He talked non-stop, giving me no opportunity to interrupt. He talked about the sad demise of his parents, he talked about a domineering uncle at whose hand he had suffered many beatings and even more threats. His uncle, a violent and unpredictable man. His uncle, who had supplemented his irregular and ill-gotten income by touring care homes for the elderly and making despicable, secretive threats. His uncle, with a powerful right hand and powerfully weak sense of morality.
          Anthony went on to explain how he had approached the police in a bid to end some of the suffering that his uncle was inflicting on his latest frail victim. His uncle had been arrested but in a cruel twist of fate, the elderly victim had passed away while he was in police custody. The charges were dropped and he was released just a few hours ago.
          The young man before me told me that his uncle was looking for him with a knife - that he had spotted him jumping over the back fence of the house and would knock on every door in the lane if it meant finding him. I believed him. I looked into his eyes and I believed every word he told me without so much as a passing doubt.
         There was a loud knock at the door which made us both jump.
          I looked at Anthony sitting on the floorboards in exactly the same spot he had fallen in on. His eyes were wide enough to see a good section of white between iris and eyelid.
          "Shhh," he said shaking his head and screwing up his nose, "Hide me."
          My heart started to pound as my body slipped into automatic and took over, acting independently of the frantic brain. I bundled Anthony into the pantry, closed the door on him and straightened my pony tail in the hall mirror. Opening the front door revealed a stocky, tanned, 40-odd-year-old in shiny tracksuit bottoms and a white vest. He had dark, wiry hair and a thick, handlebar moustache. Half way down his neck the line of where he shaved suddenly stopped and a forest of horrid chest hair imposed, thick and tangled, creating this ridiculous boundary in 3-D.
          "Have you seen Tony?" he barked gruffly, making me feel icredibly uncomfortable with a top-to-toe stare.
          "Good morning to you, too, Mr Esposito," I replied indigninantly, "I wasn't aware that we were dispensing of the common civilities of everyday greetings or that a calling gentleman should no longer state their business politely to the householder while extending them the courtesy of a smile. However, enough of that, it shall do no good. My father is busy with Sergeant O'Rourke in the sitting room at the moment, but I shall certainly drag him away from that to answer any questions you might have for him."
          I played a cool bluff and decided to stick to it no matter what.
          "Never mind," he grumbled, turning on the top step, "if you see him, tell him I am coming for him."
          "Certainly Mr Esposito, it was nice to see you, too," I said smiling disingenuously and nodding my head.
         I closed the front door and marched back to the pantry, opening the door quickly to find Anthony, as casual as you like, eating a pancake.
          "How can you eat when all this is happening?" I yelled. "What have you got me into? Look at the position you have put me in. You have to phone the police."
          "I don't have a very good relationship with the police," he said, "It might do more harm than good. I'm very sorry to have got you involved in all this though, I didn't intend it."
          "I'm going to have to ask you to leave, please."
          "I understand and I'm sorry to have troubled you."
           As I put my hand to the key in the back door to unlock it, Mr Esposito's face suddenly appeared looming  in the glass behind it. The shaft of light which had been raining through the door was suddenly blocked out by the broad shoulders of the intruder and shocked both Anthony and myself into jumping back.
          "Go away," I shouted as his eyes found Anthony and his hand began to rattle the handle of the door.
          Anthony grabbed me by the wrist and pulled me through the hall towards the front door. As he did, I heard a brick smash through the glass of the back door accompanied by the sound of boot and wood.
          I was terrified - I had suddenly been plunged into a violent nightmare, with some hairy psychotic foreigner smashing through the back of my house towards me. I took one last look at Anthony's face as we barrelled out of the front door together and started bounding as fast as we could up the lane.
          All my school years I have run and I kept pace with the older boy easily, though we ran faster than most people could, spurred by adrenalin, shock and fear. We must have ran for about 4 miles and found ourselves at The Ponds and away from the eyes of houses and cars, we stopped to catch our breath. The Ponds seemed like a natural sanctuary, but moreso for Anthony. As we walked on a little-used path, he suddenly veered off to the right into the bushes pulling me through the thick undergrowth where the parkland meets the woods and there opened a little clearing, completely enclosed, canopied and surrounded. Two threadbare, green deckchairs sat on a tarpaulin sheet and an upturned wooden box sat on an old palette.
          "I'm sorry," he said once more as he sat on one of the chairs, "I'm so sorry to have got you involved."
           "I'm not involved in anything," I said. "I shall simply catch my breath here for a moment and then seek out the nearest officer of the law. Your uncle shall be arrested and my home shall be made secure."
          "If there's anything I can do. I'm sorry about your back door."
          "You should have been placed with social services years ago. You shall have a brighter future without this millstone of an uncle round your neck."
          "He'll always come back."
          "Then you should get far enough away from him so as to make that impossible."
           "That's easier said than done."
          "You have to speak to the police with me, you're no rebel. Don't pretend to be."
          "No, I'm just a walking misdemeanor, but you'd know, wouldn't you?" he laughed derisively.
           I suddenly felt my cheeks go red with a burst of rage for his stupidity and lack of awareness of the gravity of the situation.
          "You wouldn't know what to rebel against," I told him curtly.
          "No, of course not, he said. Not the authority of the assumed few who impose upon our personal freedom, not the obscenely rich who prosper at the expense of others, not the pressing inanity of modern life and its pointless trappings. Not my uncle's belt? But what about you? You would know what to rebel against? What would that be? The tendency to be some sort of rich, obnoxious, sociophobe?"
          "I believe that only two of those words accurately describe me."
          "Oh, but it must simply be the classic then - the parents - you would have us all rebel against Mummy and Daddy and the fact that they don't recognise your true brilliance as a human being and are positively distracted to the point of neglecting you."
          "I don't like you, Anthony Esposito," I lied quietly as we made our way back through the undergrowth and to the path.
          "I don't like you either," was his reply.
          "You have a may bug on your back," I said to him - and he ignored me.
           I remember it like yesterday, him ignoring me, but the lines on my face must be ruled by a harsher concept of time.
          And now I refuse to ignore that ghastly may bug on the window sill any longer, so I sign off, Kitty, to arm myself with copious amounts of tissues, and say goodnight.

Monday, 4 March 2013

I Wore Black Eye-liner - 04/03/2013

          My mind is full of memories and nostalgia Kitty, I cannot sleep.
          I had on black eye-liner.
          I had on heavy black eye-liner and the vivid memory of it has taken my breath away. I remember my heavy black eye-liner because it was the only make-up I ever wore. I had big eyes then and I liked the look of a felt-tip outline to them, like a cartoon. I liked looking at my eyes in the mirror, not in vanity’s sense, but more curiosity and a sense of appreciation, a sense of God.
           “What’s up with the eye make-up?” Anthony said as we walked along The Ponds' path. “Are you a Goth? Are you into The Damned?”
          “Gothic fascinates me,” I had said, “but I am no more likely to label myself with a pop-culture reference, than call myself a chick or a bird."
          “So you really are all Edgar Allen Poe, ornate spires and bats in the belfry. Come to think of it, you look like a Scooby Doo character, too.”
          We walked towards the main road.
          “If we don’t see a policeman before, we shall make our way to the village station,” I said resolutely. I was very resolute back then.
          “So what fascinates you about the Gothic then? Your yellow T-shirt doesn't go, you need a black one. Have you a teenage crush on Dave Vanian?”
          “Death,” I said smiling. “That’s what fascinates me about the Gothic. Death and Art.”
          “You have huge eyes,” he said, staring at me with a puzzled look all of a sudden, as we stopped for a moment to cross the road.
          “You have a huge ego,” I replied.
          “Where do you get that from? That was totally uncalled for? You barely know me.”
          “I know that you are inconsiderate enough to drum all night, at the first chance you get, with no regard for your neighbours at all.
          “I also know that look on your face which says you are satisfied that you have worked me out. That condescending smirk which mistakenly says “you are no mystery to me”. I'll have you know that we are all mysteries and it’s your arrogance I can’t stand - that arrogant, know-it-all self-satisfaction.”
          “You have beautiful eyes,” he said to me, so sincerely that, for the first time, I felt threatened by his presence.
          “I’m a respectable young lady,” I said. “And if you speak to me like that once more, I shall be forced to flatten you.”
           I remember how I wore my eye-liner that day, thick, I liked it so much, putting on a little too much, so as to make me special and set me apart, a little, from the mindless crowd.
          I remember every word we said to each other and I remember my black eye-liner surrounding my big eyes, which made me look so special.