About thirteen years ago I sat next to a boy wearing a leather jacket. He gave me a biro and a smile and I spent the following five years being utterly obsessed.
He turned out to not be a very nice boy, as is how these stories sometimes go, unfortunately. He fed my paranoia, openly flirted with other women knowing it upset me, tried to control who I spoke to, became aggressive when I caught him in a lie, convinced me the truth of a situation was all in my head, took his (many) insecurities out on me and started fights with me in front of friends.
We were still living together when we broke up. We continued living together, which we can all attest is an excellent idea. We’d scream at each other and keep our housemates up. He asked me to keep sharing the bed with him, and to lessen the guilt from being the one to break up with him, I agreed.
And then my Nanna died.
My fierce, formidable Nanna. My crafty, wind-up merchant of a Nanna. All-seeing, all-knowing, could make a grown man quake, nothing Mary Berry could whip up that Nanna couldn’t bake. Rooted deep in the earth, constant, timeless, but mortal after all.
This is my Nanna.
And then we found a list, written neatly in blue block capitals on folded graph paper. No mistakes, nothing crossed out. A final draft.
‘My Basic Rights as a Free Person’
1. To state my own needs and to set my own priorities independent of any role I have in life
2. To be treated with respect as an intelligent, capable and equal human being
3. To express my feelings
4. To express my opinions and values without ridicule of belittlement from others
5. To say yes or no for myself and to be believed instantly
6. To make mistakes
7. To change my mind
8. To say when I do not understand
9. To ask for what it is I want
10. To refuse to be responsible for other people’s problems
11. To deal with others without being dependent on them for approval
We’d always known she was pretty ace, if you’ll recall…
But here were her words, her cool, considered words (Poppa had been a poet, Nanna had been blunt) reminding us that no matter how frail her body was at the end, she had never been weak.I wondered what prompted her to write those words down. How many years it took to reach that conclusion. Who had been in her life that articulating this was a necessity?
After the funeral I flew back to him, quietly got my ducks in a row, and in a not-so-quiet way, I left. For real this time. I moved to another city and began living a life I’d once suggested we could live together. He’d been so angry at me for even thinking about it. I imagine he still quietly fumes at my audacity now.
It’d be neat to say I had Nanna’s list memorised, that I didn’t need social media to remind me of it at the same time each year. But as I’ve grown older, wiser and wider, I haven’t needed to memorise it. I don’t remember the exact words, but I carry them.
Thanks for reading! Reply with a prompt for next week’s and I’l turn it into a script or a poem or a doodle or a clunky personal piece but whatever it is you can bet I’ll leave it until Tuesday night.