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They didn’t know how David was going to react to her death. When she was alive he barely seemed to acknowledge her presence. But she was there, day in, day out, putting his needs first and putting his art above all.
Love does terrible unseemly things to some and to others it’s a joyous emotion that carries such depth that it cannot be simply articulated. To Joanne, love with David was a one sided battle of wits aimed at the constantly unattainable. Their love seemed to have been kept alive by the confines of the building they shared but it was the circumstances of the world that brought them together.
Outside in Brixton, they rioted. Enthralled within their own rebellion and for various reasons they stood up and created havoc. The frustration of poverty, created by unemployment and quality of living had weighed upon the shoulders of many and over the years worn down even the most optimistic. When people are trapped, some fight for liberation, in absolute belief that a brighter future awaits them after the storm. Some patiently wait, hoping for another way out and others feel they deserve no better. Joanne fell into the latter.
The 80’s had not started well for her. Unemployed, untrained and uneducated, she stooped into a deep depression. There was no light in the depths of the darkness for her and nothing seemed to change until she met him.
David lived in a world of screwed up paper balls, intricate characters and a mind full of dialogue that was waiting to be written down. His writing was infused with intelligence and such understanding of relationships that those who read it shed tears for the characters and the man who brought them to life. But in the real world, in the here and now, he was dishevelled, both physically and emotionally.
He cared mainly for his creations. He lived vicariously through them, feeding off the joy of their accomplishment and understanding the bitter disappointments he created for them.
Before Joanne there was nobody except a string of aggravated people who had tried and failed to understand him. But Joanne understood. She loved him from a far, admired him from a distance and felt the pain he caused her to her very depths.
They had met in this very building; she had lived upstairs from David when on her way out she had spotted an open door to the downstairs flat. After calling out to make sure all was well she found him sat in his one and only chair, legs crossed, delicately rolling a pen between his thumb and forefinger. He didn’t flinch when she called out to him but continued to be wrapped up in his own thoughts. His eyes were faintly glazed over, giving the impression that he was no longer there. The flat was freezing cold, dusty and in need of desperate attention. Everything but the paper cluttering it was minimalist. Only absolute necessary items were placed sparsely around.
Joanne will never know what made her stay that day; But she did and she came back every day after that. She wormed her way into a new life, into new hopes and into him. Every day she moved further away from herself and the life that circumstance had forced her to lead. It may have been, because that day, she had spotted his post on the floor and seen the name printed on it, a name that she knew very well, as did the rest of the world. The name was a symbol to those who knew it, the name of a literary genius, a recluse and of a man who held all the words and all the answers.
She had read his books and enjoyed the stories and cherished the moments portrayed in them and now, in front of her sat the very shell of what caused those emotive responses and from that very moment she adored him. When she had been at her lowest, when she seemed to have no prospects she had read his words and they had reinvigorated her hope.
She knew she didn’t have much to attract him with. Her looks were plain and sweet, a mountain of red curls that sat delicately on her shoulders, a few freckles, slim figured and good natured.
Every day she sat in that flat with David, watched him write, think and sleep. She didn’t go completely unnoticed to him, they spoke, simple words were swapped and those times when she wasn’t there he noticed. She looked after him, the flat was cleaned and the fridges were stocked. She dedicated her life to him as her own attempts of living were more than unsatisfactory. Out of any sort of work and due to the recession no sight of work in the future, unmarried and no family to speak of, she relished this new found version of love and held onto it. She ignored her pessimistic doubts about his feelings for her. He allowed her to be around and she worshiped him. There was obviously more to him than met the natural eye, his writings told her that much. But they never laughed together, or spoke about mundane, day to day things. Everything was either important or not discussed. Seven years passed this way.
Joanne was feeling a new version of happy, it was an emotion that however did not include fulfilment but she felt love and was grateful for it, she was able to watch a man work who she truly admired and she hoped deep down that her love would one day be returned.
The past few years had challenged her, she had hit rock bottom and resurfaced gulping for air. It was with a very heavy heart that she had realised that any sort of work was futile in the attempt of securing happiness. She could work forever and a day at a minimum wage job and afford no more in this life. In fact the way the world was going, she could afford less than the years just gone. But love and passion were free, and gave constantly, or so she thought.
David had such an intense personality that for Joanne to attempt to sift through his array of emotions and make sense of them was a task that day by day began to break her. She began to wonder whether he actually loved her or whether she just wanted it so badly that she saw whatever she wanted to see.
One day when David was stretched out on the couch, lost in his thoughts and completely oblivious to what was going on around him, Joanne acted on the urge to finally get some answers. She knew he would not bother her, when he was like this he wouldn’t move for days on end. It would seem that he wasn’t even in his body, the light in his eyes would disappear and he had no need for food.
Joanne ventured into his office and at once spotted his well worn notebook lying open on top of his desk.
A quick flick through the first pages made her heart plummet. A detailed description of the current heroin of his new book showed how deep David was possible of loving another person. The thought and effort that had gone into designing this woman, the insight into her hopes and dreams, told Joanne everything she needed to know. From the most intimate thoughts through to her habits, the way she spoke and moved was painstakingly thought through and written with such love and affection that it was obvious how much he cared for her.
In that moment it was as if the curtains were closing and Joanne was losing sight of her life and love. Her hands were trembling and she delicately placed the notepad back on his desk. As she walked through the living room and out into the streets, David did not stir, he lay there completely unaware of the shift in his life that was imminently occurring.
As Joanne took to the streets in a state of misery a hit and run incident took her life before she could learn the truth. If she had taken a few seconds longer to read through the notepad, if she had just turned a couple more pages she would have seen the very essence of David’s heart. Sketch after sketch of Joanne filled that notepad. So tenderly drawn with so few mistakes made that it would have been immediately obvious where his feelings lie.
David was a complex man, filled to the brim with art and intelligence and so obviously lacking in social skills he had been misunderstood his whole life. He had always kept to himself and held anyone who tried to come close at arm’s length. It hadn’t been until Joanne had entered his life that things began to change. But it became clear that things had not changed fast or obviously enough.
She now lies in a simple coffin in the graveyard opposite that flat. Her funeral was simple, a few people attended who knew her and David was there. He stood quietly at the side of her grave giving away nothing as usual.
People spoke that day, they wondered and they questioned each other about this heartless man who the woman had given up her life for. Harsh words were spoken and the man behind the stories became to be known as inhuman.
One year later David sits in the same chair, legs crossed and hands grasped. But this time if someone was to come across him as Joanne did that fateful day they would not find him holding a pen, contemplating his own genius. For today he holds in his hand a locket, a locket that protects a few strands of red curly hair. A single tear has fallen from his eye but he speaks no words and there are no more words to be written.
By Kimberley Warren