Thursday 1st June
But that was one isolated incident, most of the time Jane was getting more and more depressed, and the fact that she knew she was unhappy simply contributed to her unhappiness. Her feeling of aloneness – because this was at the heart of things; this overwhelming feeling of aloneness – she just couldn’t cope with. She had never had to face the world alone before, Harriet had always been there before and alongside her. She had never had to face the awful desolation of being on her own before. And not just alone, alone – on her own was okay because Harriet was always around somewhere, the most terrifying aspect of this being alone, was that she was on her own with herself. And for the first time in her life she really had to confront herself, to ask what the hell she was doing here anyway, what was she living for she supposed, and the answer kept hammering back at her, knocking back into her dumb and numb brain. Nothing you fool, you are living for absolutely nothing at all.
And that was when she started hurting herself, because the pain wasn’t so bad really, and it made her feel alive, it meant something real at least when the compass points pierced the thin skin on the inside of her arms and the blood ran free, and at last she was alive and in pain and crying and at least she didn’t feel so bloody alone. As the blood ran down her arms she at last realised she was real. She may have been miserable, but she was awake at last. And then as the pain started to subside she could soothe herself, somehow the fact that she was so desperate that she was making herself bleed was some comfort, a secret comfort she hid from the world, but this was her pain, no-one else’s. No-one could reach her here in this capsule of pain, it was her own pain – she was immune to anyone else hurting her. Here she was in some sort of control, here it was her making herself bleed, not everyone else.
12) A brave new world, at last
As the Bentley swished gently away and the franticly waving hand of little Jane got too small to see anymore Harriet stopped waving, and picking up her quite small suitcase she turned on her very sensible low heels and entered the hall of residence. Her parents had already been in of course and inspected her room; what were they going to do – reject it, insist on a larger room for their precious daughter, or just nosily approve it; her father even going so far as to open each drawer of the small chest to see that they were running smoothly before declaring that she should be quite happy here really. Well, of course she would be. Harriet would have been happy in the dingiest of hovels, anywhere away from the stifling normality of Stowmarket. That was the whole point of University wasn’t it? Getting away from your parents, escaping the mundanity of life where you grew up, your first foray into the big world. Freedom at last.
Freedom, with no-one to clock you in at night, even if there were supposed to be rules as to when you had to be back there she was sure they could be avoided if need be. But what she had really craved was the independence, the isolation almost of being on one’s own, the sheer excitement of being free to do whatever she wanted. She had always had a certain freedom back in Suffolk, her parents were pretty relaxed about her. Well, of course she gave them no choice really – they could hardly have locked her in, could they? And she could always wrap her Dad around my little finger. Her mother was a bit more difficult with her constant moaning and watching, but somehow the fact that Harriet had sensible little Jane to look after must mean she was safe and sensible too.
So she was given a bit more leeway than maybe she should have been, but there was always that over-riding feeling that there was someone watching you, waiting up for you, or in the case of her father, actually turning up in the Bentley to collect her just as the party was getting really exciting. She craved the anonymity of no-one knowing who she was or where she came from; that feeling that she could be anyone at all, anyone she wanted to be. Everyone knew her in Stowmarket, that was partly her own fault as she was such a show-off, but here she could be that most delicious of things – a completely unknown quantity. She could be anyone she wanted, she could invent her own history, she could make believe and make others believe in her new identity.
She wasn’t really interested in her studies, Harriet had always found passing exams pretty easy, she just seemed to be able to do it, learning stuff she meant; and she couldn’t quite understand why other people like Jane struggled. But then, she had always realised that she was different. It sounded big-headed she knew, but she was aware from an early age that she was cleverer then all the kids in her class, probably the whole school. Harriet actually assumed that she was indeed far brighter than her teachers and it was no real surprise when she discovered that, of course, she probably was. It wasn’t that they were less intelligent than her, or knew less, in fact they knew or remembered loads more than she ever would, it was just that they had no idea what to do with that knowledge, except pass it on to the next generation. As if that was their sole purpose in life – to teach children all that they knew and then crawl under a stone and die somewhere, Harriet knew that there was much more to life than just accumulating facts, everything had to be for a reason, or if not, why were they living at all. She had known since she was about ten that her route out of the rut of Stowmarket would be to get to University, and then her life would really start, and to get to University she had to pass her A levels, to pass the exams she had to learn stuff – to jump through a few hoops and out to freedom. So, it was all for a greater purpose, she reasoned.
And the purpose of life was to live it to the full, to experience everything, to take advantage of all It could offer; let the ‘Janes’ of this world take life carefully and follow the rules, Harriet was there to break them and she couldn’t wait to get started. New people, new possibilities and new experiences; that was what University meant to her. This was 1968 and the world was exploding before her very eyes. Music was changing every few weeks, Fashion and Art and Cinema were full of new ideas, the old ways were being swept away, it was truly the time of the young.