I keep saying we just need to be strong but really I don’t know what we will do. It was so harmless, to start with, such an innocent thing. That's what's so shocking.
We were settling in for a long wait at Gatwick and my wife bought a copy of Bad Luck and Trouble. She had finished it by the end of the journey and bought a couple more of them. After that she couldn’t stop. At first I thought the best thing was to help her with her addiction, and if I spotted one she didn’t have in a book shop I would bring it home. I came back from a trip to the States the day Nothing to Lose came out. She was so pleased when I gave it to her. Her face lit up and it felt like I had my wife back again. But in moments she was back in her chair turning the page every minute, her eyes a pale shadow and her cheek sandwiched between her teeth, lost to me once more. She is altered somehow when she goes under. It is her but not her. Her legs twitch but don’t move, her lips move but I can’t hear what they’re saying.
The worst thing is, she wanted me to share this with her. I didn’t think I could do it, to be honest, but in the end I thought, it’s just a book like any other, and she really wants me to try one. She lent me Killing Floor and after a couple of days I picked it up. It’s just so normal looking from the outside, such a dull cover, such an ordinary title, but the first page beckons with its longing white space, the first sentences are so short and crisp, whispering insistently to you until you give in. In a second you have turned the page and then, oh god! You can’t help yourself. I thought I would be firm. I can try one and just put it away, I said. I am such a fool.
Why do you do it? – That’s what everyone asks. What nobody tells you, nobody admits to, is the sheer bloody pleasure of it. It felt kind of dirty but still I didn’t stop, couldn’t stop. I got all my Tylers, Atwoods, Kennedys and Kingsolvers off the shelf and stacked them with the spines facing the back of the bookcase. They didn’t need to see this.
It’s probably too late for us both now, Dawn and me. We go out occasionally but it doesn’t mean anything any more. Since Gone Tomorrow, we survived until 61 Hours and then A Wanted Man and then god knows how many others in a kind of netherworld, like living in a muslin bag. Everything is faint and distant and dull. Maybe no one can help us any more, but there’s still time to warn others. If only we hadn’t taken that flight, I keep thinking, if only I hadn’t encouraged her, if only I had resisted, if only, if only. Now we must face our uncertain future with what courage we can. Hope can be so hard to hold on to, but it is such a good thing, I don’t want to let it go.
Maybe you have suffered too. I will be hoping that this message finds you and finds you well and that you have found a way to beat this thing. I have to believe that. It will be so good to know that someone has read one of these devilish books and somehow found a way back from the other side.
Yours in hope,