A Year in Squares


A year in squares

 Sometimes you need a diary but

Sometimes no words will come out

Sometimes all you need is a pen, and

Sometimes just a pen and a square.

 I knew that it was time to have chemotherapy again. This would be my third go at it so I knew what to expect. Well, as much as you can know. Every time is different.

I kept a diary with words and pictures and thoughts and fears and EVERYTHING the first time. The second time, I drew pictures; simple black and white line drawings onto A5 cartridge paper but this time I needed order. This time I wanted to condense everything, to put it in all into boxes, to compartmentalise. I drew four walls around objects and feelings. I contained them. I anchored down the clues.

On the first page I travelled to Bath on my own. I took a train and then sat in a cafe drinking coffee and then I looked at the rooftops and the birds flying past and I started to draw.

 I never let myself draw more than one frame at a time. I drew one square frame and then I filled it up. It became a framing of thoughts, a framework in which to create, unfurl, expel, externalise.

Photographs are in squares or rectangles…snapshots…freeze-frames… a storyboard for a film…my life as a film…

A year of my life in freeze-frame

A year of my mind in freeze-frame

A year of my life in squares.

Chemotherapy is clinical, whitewashed, sterile, bleached, germfree and poison.

There were hospitals, spotlights, cubicles,

Wires, tubes, gritted teeth and pain.

My calendar had square sections for each day. I watched my life in those squares on the wall and in the squares of my book.

No, not today’s square…tomorrows square has the needle and the drip… then comes the week of squares that I lie down and hurt like bad flu all of the time…no respite, no rest.

I looked forward to blank squares and squares with smiley biro faces that let me know when friends would come and squares with lines through when they cancelled. When I cancelled.

I tried to draw without interference but the TV often crept through the cracks left open by the drugs. Radio snuck in. People passed by my window and I overheard conversations, observations, ideas and birthdays.

The medicines affected my drawing and chose the pens that I used. Sometimes I was on Dexamethasone, a fast drug, a speedy drug. Other days I was half asleep, vacant and empty or dreaming. I didn’t go out for months. I travelled out of my head and down my arm and out through my pen. People spoke to me, woke me up and interrupted.

There were days filled with abstract shapes or clues for later…the future. Flags and signs became markers. I liked some of them and I hated others but I had to leave them in. Like life. You can’t wipe out a day .You can’t rub out or cut out a day. You can try but it’s still there somewhere…cellular.

On the last page I knew it was over.

For now.