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After Marcin left the city, I lost my mind and I tried to kill myself. When I look back on this episode of my life, I recall my actions with perfect clarity, although the logic which led them seems remote or incomplete. My memory of the suicide attempts has something of a soundless quality to it, as if I am helplessly watching an old black-and-white film in which a jerky little man crashes silently through a succession of calamities. The wits on the throne during my crisis were ineffective and had no just claim, like a dictator screaming dementedly in a bunker lost far below the earth. I vividly recall, however, that my father was in the city during the crisis.

My father had arrived in Edinburgh looking for money. I had received a brief, frantic phone call from my little brother, in which he told me that he had seen our father on Princes Street. My brother said that he was too frightened to speak with the old man, and that he himself was taking the first plane to anywhere, probably America. I had just been prescribed a powerful antidepressant, and I did not particularly register my brother’s warning. It was as if I was lying on an empty beach and my mind was a tiny little bird circling far above me. If I listened very carefully, I could hear its faint cries. I was still living in Marcin’s flat and my father had reached it by the following afternoon. He dressed me and then marched me to a cash machine, kicking my heels when my strength failed and I fell against him for support.

My mind had washed out and all that remained was a little insistent pulse, which powered me mechanically onwards. Walking through the reality of the streets was like climbing a very steep hill, and my heart groaned at every step. Or rather it was as if I was being beaten in the face with ghostly canes and sticks, and I had to remain totally unresponsive.

We finally reached the cash machine. “Tell me the fucking PIN number,” my father snarled (in Polish).

“The PIN number,” I agreed.

“Don’t give me that! Concentrate you dopey prick! The PIN number!”

I could not remember it. “Give me a minute…” I moaned.

My father beat me around the head, and shook me violently. “You can remember the sequence, the order in which you push the buttons?”

I started to cry. “I haven’t worked for months. I don’t have any money.”

Back at the flat, we bickered constantly. I tried to take my pills without my father seeing, but he quickly spied and then my medication became the trump card with which he could win any argument:

“Bastard!” I would scream, shaking my fist in his face.

He would smile magnanimously and suggest that I had misjudged the dosage again.

Marcin had left the flat without paying any bills, and both the electricity and the gas had been cut off. I had hoped that the old man would leave as soon as he realised that there was no money in the flat, but he hung around for almost a week, apparently oblivious to the dirt and discomfort. Like all the old Poles, he was a Catholic, and he infuriated me with his praying. He would kneel on the cold kitchen floor grovelling away and I would screech blindly at him, as if his prayers were bright party balloons floating upwards and I had to pop each one with an obscenity.

“The Resurrection of Christ!” I ranted. “Call the Ghostbusters! They’ll hoover him up and keep him in a little jar, like a semen sample.”

My father continued to kneel on the grimy floor, whispering piously to himself.

“Is it true that Christ fucked Mary and took his own mother’s virginity?”

I tried to cut my wrist open in the bathroom. I had rummaged through the filthy plates stacked in and around the kitchen sink and found a keen little blade which I had used to core apples. But if I tried to throw my life away like an apple core, it proved to be more like a boomerang and it shot back and hit me in the face. I should have bled myself in a sink full of warm water, but there was no running water in Marcin’s flat. I had wormed the knife into the ladder of my wrist and I was poking it about inside, mangling blindly, the pain rebuffing me like trees impeding the progress of a car as it slides down a hill. The bathroom floor was slippy with blood and suddenly the room turned a full circle and I was sprawled on my back, crying with vexation.

My father had bashed in the bathroom door. “Good one!” he growled. “Very good! Very fucking good, eh?”

The world tortured me like a cat which will not let a mouse die, and which only keeps it alive for its claws. When I returned from the hospital, I fortified myself for the great drop from Marcin’s bedroom window, but despite falling three storeys and hitting the pavement like a ton of bricks, I was up on my feet again within a week. My father called me a useless prick, and when I got back from the hospital for the second time he had vanished. I never saw him again.

Death was a bright butterfly which flitted merrily just out of reach, evading the frantic swipes of my butterfly net, soaring infuriatingly up to be lost in the blue of the sky. Sometimes, during the galloping days under hospital medication, the roof rolled from over the hospital and I lay on my bed beneath a summer sky. And death was dancing through the sky, on the light feet of a girl in love, and she reached out to me with arms full of love, with the tenderness of a lover and a mother. I threw open my arms to embrace her, but her smile flickered briefly over me like spring rain and her eyes twinkled beguilingly, and I crashed back down on to a hard bed beneath a featureless ceiling.