The Left4Dead tattoo on my arm is starting to piss me off.
It's been happening for a while. The tattoo still looks good, although it's faded. It's not the problem. The problem is I've changed.
It's been so gradual I've hardly noticed, but it's there. It's in my wardrobe, where the low-cut dresses and slogan t-shirts have been replaced with high necklines and tailoring, and the three-inch heels with biker boots and trainers. My flat used to be draped with feather boas and fairy lights and piled with cushions. Now it's a plain space, almost severe. The wall I once entirely papered in pictures I liked - art prints, fashion shoots from magazines - is painted light grey and the only thing hanging on it is a reproduction of one of the original posters for The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. I have kept a lot of my old books, but now they sit on a reclaimed wood bookcase. My kitchen cupboard holds smoked paprika, barley and two kinds of balsamic vinegar instead of Pot Noodle and tomato sauce. A tub of expensive moisturiser sits by my mirror, next to the tube of Touche Eclat I use to hide my hangovers.
When did I grow up? I didn't even notice it had happened. This is the home of a grown-up. A slightly eccentric grown-up, yes, with a penchant for sequins, good food and gory horror films, a grownup with more money than sense and an insatiable love of beauty, but a grownup nonetheless. This is who I became, the adult who was hatched out of the limitless potential of child-me. And, all in all, she's not bad; pays her own bills from money she earns herself, votes - and thinks about who to vote for, has close and closely maintained personal relationships. Could have turned out a lot worse.
The tattoo. Back in my screamy, punk, angry days I had it done as a permanent reminder. A permanent "fuck you". You left me for dead, and I'm still alive. You thought I was done with, I was over, but look I grew up, I graduated, I got upgraded, I'm smarter, tougher and faster than you and I'm going to pay you back for it. All of it.
I used to have fantasies about tracking Matthew down. Becoming his nightmare. I'd need to monitor his house, see who he lived with, whether he lived alone. But sooner or later there would be a night when he'd be on his own, and then I'd break in, say at 3am, with some duct tape and a selection of power tools.
I'd make sure my DNA was contained as far as possible, of course, but even if it wasn't I'm not on file anywhere. I've never committed a crime. And to be honest once the police got a look at Matthew's internet history - one imagines his specialised interests were not an isolated incident - they might not be so bothered about finding his killer. I worked it out; I could do it. And I could get away with it.
These days, I know I can't. It's not in me to do it. Matthew does deserve to be punished, to be sure, but do I?
If I did such a terrible, bloody thing I would damage part of myself fundamentally. I'm not sure what to call that part - the psyche? the spirit? the soul? but I do know that it is a fragile thing. I would never have peace again. My hands would never be clean again. It wouldn't matter how many times I washed them. I would never be able to tell anyone what I had done, how I had got hurt so deeply. And I would punish myself for the rest of my life.
I'm leaning out of my window. The air smells fresh and cold and I can sense a change. Spring is on its way. I'm a grown-up now, in charge of my own life. I can decide for myself where the rest of my life will take me. Maybe I can move on, change my life. Maybe it's time I left Matthew behind, forgotten in the dark where he belongs.
Sometimes, at my times of worst depression, I would lie in bed and watch the clock. Watch the hands go round, ticking my lifetime away. One minute less. Two minutes less. Three minutes less. And however long you are given, when you are lying in your hospital bed with a drip in your arm and less than an hour left on the countdown, it'll seem like it all flashed by in a hot minute.
There are people out there who sleepwalk through their whole lives, lost in the poisonous stories they are telling themselves to mask their inadequacies or their drinking problem or their abusive relationship, whatever maggot is eating away at their brain, because the way time drips away slowly through your fingers is somehow more bearable than confronting yourself and dealing with your shit. Personally, I have dealt with my shit, to a large extent, but letting go of it is a different matter. Holding on to an outmoded way of thinking is safer than finding a new way, right? Comforting.
I look in the mirror. I frown. I need to get the tattoo covered up.