I dislike visiting the library in St Augustine Street. Rundown and grubby, the pungent air announces mouldy age; furniture is beige and unloved; the nameless staff appear tired and broken.
As a repository of excellence and knowledge, it is not what I expect in a modern world.
Need alone forced me, twice weekly, through the door. Armed with coffee and dreams, game face on, I’d sit in a smelly booth, staring at my untouched notebook.
This mausoleum of misery was still a refuge from the cowboy boyfriend, and his nasty put downs.
When I met Toby at our theatre group, he was a brilliant light in a fog of disillusionment. The group, once a haven of joy in a bleak world, lost first our enthusiastic director, then several inspiring actors; leading to a gloomy and disheartened ensemble. Toby was my reason for staying.
I was slow to realise that Toby was bad news. Praise turned to taunts, encouragement to disparagement. Toby was toxic and I was in trouble.
I’d joined the group not as an actor, but aspiring writer. The creative process between the writer and director was exhilarating; the pleasure of hearing your words spoken by such talented people, shared with an appreciative audience, was uplifting.
Toby was a star from the start. My male characters began to emulate Toby and fit him like a glove. Which came first; Toby the person or Toby the protagonist? Was art imitating life? I was no longer sure. Then life began to blight the page and I turned away from the star.
My friends knew first, as usually seems the case. I fought what was obvious. Clichéd, and so blind. It took the closing down of our group, now left alone with Toby, to illuminate the danger I was in.
Writing had been both solace and enchantment; it now became a weapon. Cutting words and phrases; bloody intention and madness. Words to defend, to deflect; to destroy.
Each evening I return home to see what new damage has been inflicted on the once glorious love. Fresh wounds; old scars; a man subdued and diminishing.
In the dingy cubicle, I clench my pen, bend to the page and scratch out my revenge.