17 Months


The seventeenth month anniversary of my psychiatric incarceration occurred on January 22nd 2021, two days after Joe Biden’s inauguration.

My ex girlfriend Khair was the start of it all, a beautiful Somali with high cheekbones, full lips, big brown eyes, a rapier wit and a taste for danger. We met in 2017 when I was 34 and she was 25. I didn’t know at the time that she was an occasional escort, but when I did, I realised to my unhappiness that it didn’t matter: I was in love. We had a tempestuous relationship, breaking up and getting back together numerous times. She moved to Glasgow, believing she would stand out better than she had in the mostly black South West London where we had both at one time lived.

We travelled from my flat in Bromley to Glasgow, with the intention of getting married or getting pregnant, whichever came first. On August 19th 2019, she took her phone out, pointed at me urgently, then deliberately called her phone from mine. It rang, but she’d put it on silent.

“I’ll be gone for three days. Don’t try and call me.”

She had left no food, no electricity, no cigarettes, no weed. Three days later, and in a fit of rage, I trashed the apartment, and left with the insane idea to live homeless in Glasgow on my benefit money. This struck me as a stupid idea after only twenty minutes, I didn’t know the area, it was a suicide mission. I decided to turn back, and saw Khair on the road opposite her flat, walking up to me with a look of terror in her eyes. She had been hiding out somewhere local, for who knows what reason. She called the police, and minutes later, I was in the back of a police van, charged with criminal damage. Without a lawyer or an interview, I was taken to court, and to my bemusement, remanded to prison for the night.

That was seventeen months ago. I spent every single day of 2020 in lockdown, the first half of the year in Woolwich Tarn, a secure unit in London, and the second half in Green Parks House, an Acute unit in Bromley. When the pandemic started, I didn’t believe it was real. Khair emailed me in June to say it was over, she’d wound up getting pregnant with a punter and had decided to keep the baby.

I miss you though. Remember, looking at other girls counts as cheating… x

The heartbreak I felt came on in stages. It was at a record low when the staff came into my room, kitted out in visors, masks, plastic gloves and gowns to give me a Covid swab, two weeks ago. I tested positive. From that point on I, along with the rest of the patients, had to self isolate. I had numerous symptoms: a painful cough, a fever, exhaustion, runny nose, headache, dizziness, wooziness, lightheadedness. I barely ate, and my dreams were full of her image, laughing at my pathetic love for an escort who had never been faithful.

On Saturday 23rd of January, the lockdown in lockdown ended, and we were allowed out into the communal areas of the ward, and half an hour escorted leave to the entrance of the hospital. We weren’t allowed to visit the local shops. Some years ago Green Parks had banned cigarettes from the ward. We had to hide them in the bushes in a plastic bag to prevent rain damage. Another guy on the ward, tall as a bean sprout and meek as a baby lamb, had hidden his tobacco close to where I retrieved my sodden bag. I checked the box, and was surprised that the cigarettes inside had not been destroyed. The staff nurse escorting us hid around the corner and lit a sneaky fag. I sat down outside the hospital and lit my first cigarette in two weeks, adjusting my earphones to No Time To Die by Billie Eilish:

I should have known/

I’d leave alone/

Just goes to show/

That the blood you bleed is just the blood you own/