Sunday, May 30, 1999

"Last week, I decided to end it all. No one understood me. No one liked me. And here's why…"

The editor writes: `Last week, The Observer learnt that columnist Richard Geefe had attempted to take his own life. Despite his need for rest and medication, he insists that he continue writing and I have, after much thought, agreed. We will, of course, review the situation continually, in line with Richard's true interests. For The Observer, prurience is and always will be inexcusable. We have also agreed not to alter his work in any way, however uncomfortable that makes us feel.'

I guess the only reason I can write this at all is that the humdrum-rattle of a hospital is easier on the mind than the crucifying black anxiety of those last few hours in my flat. If I could have written anything as I lay on my bed, staring at the ceiling for the best part of 10 days, it would have read like this.

There's a stack of unread mail in the hall. Newspapers, magazines. It doesn't matter; I can hardly see them. The last thing I did before going to bed was paint the walls and windows black. Methodically daubing the treacly floor paint all over the architect's white and grey glaze walls, the waffle-textured bamboo wallpaper, the skylights, the portholes, the glass, bricks and the panora-fenestrals. It's not a neat job. The bleached wood floor is covered in tarry splats. They said my loft was light and airy.

Well I'd love to see the face of the agent showing someone round this bituminous catacomb now. That's one reason to live I suppose. To see that face. Not a very strong one since they'll only show the place when I've gone and then I won't be able to see anybody's face. That's what happens to anything that feels like a reason to live at the moment - it glimmers for an instant - easy to see because it is alone - and then vanishes like a mirage...

This time two weeks ago, I was in bed. Panic attacks had given way to a smothering, toxic dread. My voice had dwindled to a pathetic quaver. If I answered the phone, my friends would say: `Is Richard there?' I, of course, would say: `No' and hang up. I think I went to bed on a Friday. Two hours after getting up. I was simply unable to do anything else. For days, I lay in a waking paralytic hell. The ansamachine quacked with calls I would never return. I remember being vaguely intrigued by this since I'd chucked it in the fishtank to shut it up. Such destructive acts often rise from extreme paranoia - the drivelling, sweaty foreman of bipolar disorder. But experts say I am categorically unipolar. I remember sinking the machine in a rageless, blank trance. Just as I clearly recall tipping ink in after it to stop the fish looking at me.

I don't remember reaching the point where taking my life seemed an answer. I simply became aware of it as I was burning various personal effects to avoid anyone finding them after I'd gone. That was just after I'd phoned my 12-year-old son for the first time in eight years in order to say goodbye. I was surprised to recognise his voice. `It's Dad,' I told him. After a short pause, he simply said: `Go away' and hung up.

I've contemplated taking my own life before but it wasn't like this. I was 23, watching my girlfriend destroy herself with heroin and had just lost two friends in a road accident. Why did I stop myself then but not now? I had more reason to die then. But maybe grand reasons stop you because they excuse your mood. Reasons are not the reason. You decide to kill yourself at the point when the momentum of being born simply runs out. Spiritually we're all born at different speeds. A few of us reach the end of the arc before we plough into the blades of car crashes and coronaries. And at that point, we decide to kill ourselves. I am probably not explaining this very well. Sorry.

Anyway, at 4am last Wednesday, I necked the requisite number of barbiturates and slugged half a pint of absinthe and a bottle of Day Nurse for good measure. I placed a bag over my head and waited. And to kill time, I checked into a chat room. I asked the kids in there if I could sit down and if they minded if I didn't get up again. Someone called Bushbabe117 (no doubt a bloke) asked me what I meant and I told her she was hard to read through the condensation on the bag. She told me to take it off. I wish I hadn't. A short while after, I passed out - the wormwood must have made me sick.

I woke up in a bright room. Some insufferable creep in the chat room had called the web server. They'd broken the confidentiality of my contract agreement, looked up my address and called an ambulance (and doubtless spent the whole week with a bulbing great high moral hard). I had even signed off a note with `If I am revived, I shall sue anyone who aided in this', like the good Derek Humphry says. All the rest was crossed out because it was meaningless, self-serving guff - like this column. The ambulance crew said they didn't see the note. My lawyer says that gets them off and, anyway, he won't represent me any more.

Since then, I have received cheery visits from friends, most of whom would like to think this was all an accident. My family have tried to be kind in a way that just makes me embarrassed for them. And the editor of this paper brought flowers and chocolate from colleagues (and Lewis Wolpert's latest blubsheet from the biggest twunt in journalism who I have named here: if you don't see their name, it has been censored and our no-cuts agreement already lies in ruins). I would like to say for the record that the editor did not dissuade me from my decision to take my own life, though touchingly, he tried till he wept (bet he keeps that in), but he did suggest that I delay it for six months and this I have agreed to do on the spurious grounds that some fucker (probably him) may benefit from my burbling. Nor incidentally did he even mention the idea of my taking a lodger - a minder - into the loft. He just sent someone round to clean the place up and they haven't left yet. His name is Thad. He has some kind of jazz beard.

And I hope he can lift my dead weight without popping a hernia (or a slithering, goatee'd turd) into his Shinex cycle shorts.

Next week the Observer begins a new series of columns unprecedented in all journalism. In Time To Go, Richard Geefe will chronicle what remains of his life - a life he has vowed to end on 16th November 1999.

Sunday, May 16, 1999

`I've started following sad foreign women. I'm not a stalker - I just love their exquisite erotolachrymalia'

There's an idea. Out there. I haven't got it. I did have it. But now it's gone. That's how it's been all week for me - and actually for longer than that. You see, I was going to tell you about a problem I've got with a friend who is dying. The problem is that I have started to fancy her. But only because she is dying. So what? Well, I've also started to fancy another stricken girl I talked to on the same ward. Without being particularly attractive in a Mercutio Banadzani kind of way, both have infinitely more allure than all the non- terminal bints in the world. In short, I have become a moribunderast. So I was going to tell you that, but I couldn't remember why.

Then I was going to tell you about my habit of following sad-looking foreign women on the Tube. I don't bother them, you understand. I just stay on the train for as long as they do so I can bathe in the exquisite tragedy of their remote erotolachrymalia. Does that make me sound like a stalker? I don't think so, but I realise that if I go on about it you will think - she doth protest too much, La Geefe. So instead I will tell you about how much difficulty I have had getting up in the morning.

I've become a past master at shaving time off my day. We all procrastinate most of the time. How else do you contrive to stay in a relationship for 10 weeks longer than you should? How else did Nato manage to pick the worst possible moment for action? How else do writers like Allison Pearson, India Knight and Julie Burchill produce such witless tripe except by waiting till the last possible moment before they drivel out their columns? All right, one of Melvyn Bragg's berk psychologists will probably argue that procrastination is a valuable facet of the human mind, perfectly evolved to some arcane end. But no one can persuade me that staying in bed all day is a good thing. If you've done it (and you're not ill), I flop my Homburg to you. It's an achievement - albeit a bloody depressing one.

The shock of realising you've done it two days in a row is actually scary. You have to do something to break the cycle. I phoned a friend and asked if I could work at his office. Next morning I set off on foot at a respectable 11.30. What exactly happened next I can only partly recall.

I remember feeling drowsy and deciding I needed a coffee. In the absence of an honest Italian café that wouldn't try and fob you off with a cappuccino made with filter coffee, I entered a shopping mall. American strongbean and cardboard franchises may be less welcome than chillis up your pisser, but they do use espresso and so strong you can't taste the toxic waste. To the exquisitely nasty soundtrack of Tears for Fears' `Sowing the Seeds of Love' (a band for whom I played keyboards in a shameful but well-paid lapse in the Eighties), I browsed around the plaza. As the dead hits tape broached the section in the song that is ripped off from so many other tunes it can destroy your love of music in one hearing, I stumbled into the glass-fronted cliffs of the Coffee Colony.

Now it's all very well charging £1.80 for a cup of coffee but when will someone spend less time dreaming up the perfect combination of halogen light and stainless steel, and more on the taste? You may have the perfect Skimmy Frap Precaff Enormo charmingly served by a foreign teenager but do we need the chocolate on top to be made out of plastic? The stuff smells like polystyrene sprue under heat stress. (Boys: remember Airfix kits - wiggling and waggling and sniffing the frames?) And does it need to be served in cardboard? The whole point of espresso-based coffees is to drink them out of chunky little miniature toilets that make you feel like you're sipping with a punched lip. And who, please, needs to be told that the contents of the cup are hot? Anyone with a shred of common sense, let alone a basic education in physics, could tell you that after you've seen steam channelled fiercely through milk for a minute the stuff might have a few celsius to spare. Don't people learn physics now?

For fuck's sake and come on! Our physics teacher may have blathered on about the regulator on his dynamo failing and his headlights blowing up (we were doing solenoids) but, Christ, we came away with firm views on heat transfer. Sure, sure, the engine's snore went four four but don't you send me to see your mummo in that dark room where the drunken shit unclimbs his podgy little conquests with a dagger pooh whoo good morning sir.

Now here comes the bit I'm not so sure of… although I remember ordering the coffee, I have no idea whether I drank it. The next thing I can clearly recall is getting out of a bus feeling sick, and staring hard at a reflection of myself in an oily puddle. At some point, I may have felt a pang of protective sympathy towards Sinéad O'Connor, but the rest is a mystery. God knows why I'm telling you when I haven't told a single friend, let alone a doctor. And the truth is that the more I write, the more I feel like I did when I was telling a friend how I was bottling all my bodily produce and storing it in a freezer and I suddenly realised that I should stop.

Sunday, May 09, 1999

`She is my best friend, my only friend and I have screwed her every which way. I am sewage'

I'm sitting with Bridget and I can't believe what I've done. That's not an idle phrase. I literally cannot believe what I've done… what I'm doing… you see I'm not actually sitting with Bridget, I'm sitting near her. She's unconscious and I'm half drunk.

It started when Bridget announced she was in love. This doesn't happen often. Her affection is fierce and beautiful but in the wrong hands she bleeds through it. Loverboy was someone I used to work with. A particularly efficient swivester called Bruno. In the old days he would win bets on impossible lays. Now he was doing accumulators. That's what he claimed at the party where I introduced him to Bridget. Usually when swordfish like Bruno hit on Bridget she memorises their lines and makes everyone else laugh at them. She doesn't end up banging the glans off the author in a bathroom and flashing her tits from the window. It lasted the weekend. That's practically a marriage for Bruno. Predictably, two days later Bridget started leaving him messages he didn't answer. When she told me she wasn't worried, I thought: `Yeah, sure - nor is a smackhead kangaroo in a minefield'.

So I decided to return Bruno's calls for him. Just to let her down gently. I knew I could do his voice because I'd once called his home with the `Mum, it's your son - I'm gay' routine. I knew Bridget didn't know my office mobile number, so I used that for `Bruno'. I still expected her to rumble me. We would laugh, she'd call me a bastard and I'd explain what a stain Bruno was anyway. But she love-bombed me. And I found myself flirting back. With every second I dragged myself further into a lie I couldn't possibly defend. We do this, don't we? Mmm… but why?

Bridget's vulnerability spurred me to protect her with a lie and at the same time fuelled a sick urge to impale her on it. The misanthropy behind this drive is flat and grey - a dead force - but it produces an icy thrill every time the lie takes you further than you thought possible.

Bridget called `Bruno' the next day and told me she'd bought two tickets to Paris for the weekend. I could have owned up then and paid for the tickets. But all I did was make my impersonation of Bruno more caricatured - put the onus on her to work this out. Did she bollocks. We arranged to meet in the pub the next day at seven to choose hotels.

The next evening, I casually `bumped into' her in the pub. `I'm meeting Bruno at seven,' she wiggled. I said I'd have a drink with her till he arrived. And I told myself how clever that was. When Bruno failed to show, I would be there to pick up the pieces and would serve my penance without the need for a confession. So I would never have to destroy the perfect trust that had built up in the between of us. So easy, so Nineties, so shit.

I suppose Bridget started crying about half seven. More drinks. I was perfect. `He's probably just late' segued seamlessly into the what-a-bastard bolero. At some point I switched to vodka martinis. I think I knew I wanted to relish this on a scorched rush - unleaded by copious beer or the blubs of gin. And after seven of these electric olives, she dried up, started to look mended, and the tiniest poisonous emissary of a mercy fuck cleared its throat in my groin. Oh no. Oh yes.

Bridget woke up shy and lovely. I made her toast. She is, you understand, my best - some say only - friend. But as I looked at her and sipped her coffee, knowing that she badly needed my friendship, my deepest dread was that this new turn would sour my planned pool-and-porn weekend with Robert and Jonathan. So what did I do?

I sent her home and phoned her up. Bridget? Bruno. And I made him say: Sorry about last night but he was already in Paris… a work thing… he promised to meet her at Gare du Nord and blow her fanny off. She agreed, of course. With added guilt. Then I just took the rest of the day off and previewed Anal Piss Machine for the boys.

So how surprised am I that Bridget got so slammed on the way back from discovering no Bruno in Paris she necked a bottle of Paracetamol? How unpredictable was it that she would turn up at 2am, announce her overdose, and collapse tear-blown and useless through my Taraquoia resin table. A remedial slug could have told you that, Geefe, you moron. I must have suspected it on some level because I had the sang-froid to heave her on to a couch, sit down and write this - clocking casually that I still had another hour to empty her stomach (if she had told me correctly what time she filled it). The main reason, though, is that I am a genuinely worthless bastard. I have friends who I think should not have been born and my medical record shows there was a time when I tried to kill my brother. But such feelings are as the deepest tender love compared to how I feel about myself. There is something so dizzyingly hideous about realising how callous you can make yourself if you try.

You get used to being objective when you write these columns. Hopefully you find in your own experience reflections of tiny universal truths. But you'll forgive me for failing this week. The only conclusion I can draw now is that I am the sort of fucked-up selfish sewage the world is better off without. And now I feel sick that I told you any of this. But it's 4.30, I'm late filing and wha the hell.

Somebody told me there's a snuff room on the Net…

Sunday, May 02, 1999

`Love of truth = death of love…'

I'm living a lie. We all are. You too. Yes. We lie to get by, smooth things over, keep things straight. Oh yes. The difference is that last week I did something about it. And I am about to fess up. First, here's a pound of truth for nothing.

Whenever I write in this column about `my girlfriend' I'm not writing about my current girlfriend at all. I use incidents that involved previous girlfriends who are in no way related to my current girlfriend - unless (as in one case) they started off as the previous current girlfriend's sister. I do this to protect their identity. I can always say `no - that's not you' though now I suppose there are two sisters who know damn well it is them - so I might as well name them: Lucy and Cillia DeStempel. There. I've done it. I've named two real people and you're not supposed to do that. And I don't care. So I'm not bothered about naming Sebastian and Muni - the couple whose ghastly wedding I attempted to sabotage last week.

I went with Bridget and 150 other people. The tables were arranged in the shape of infinity signs. I was sat next to Aubrecia - a fashion writer with a Burchillian arm wobble - who is often seen with her mouth open in tabloid pictures of famous people at parties. The speeches were full of sentimental bog gas: think of Althorp's Diana encomium filtered through a weeping Kosovan orphan.

Suzanne Moore, or a woman who looked just like her, was yammering all lachrymosy because someone had pointed out quite rightly what an appalling fraud she is. It was that sort of do. Everything was bogus, from the placecards which were love haikus, to the guy swanking round with a bottle of absinthe saying he'd been given it by Johnny so that everyone asked `Johnny who?' allowing him to sniff `Depp, of course'. And at the very heart of this odious farrago, the means of my undoing, a video booth for people to record their pious or merry little forevers to the couple. Bridget, who is used to reading my weather systems, advised me to leave. Instead I got drunk.

The first time I visited the booth, Bridget and I left a perfect little billet doux of hopes and thanks and smiles. An hour later I went back - every cell in my body smashed - and told the truth. Sebastian knew I had been unable to attend his stag weekend. Now he would know why. I'd spent the entire 48 hours with Muni, E-d and V-d to the cortex, gurning and juddering and splashing starch in her foyer. I repeated the message once to make sure it stuck and seven more times because I had no idea what I was doing. Eventually Bridget dragged me out. She looked ravaged. Her version of the truth game had been to go round offering filthy snogs to the soirée gays.

Five days later my copy of the video came through the post. And guess what? My first message with Bridget was there intact. But my second, ugly truth version had vanished completely. The perfect note for the perfect enshrinement of hypocrisy. Now I'm not saying anything new here. We all accept that marriage marks the final relinquishing of our dreams about truth. In real life things are never perfect - so let's pretend. Let's fake the dream. Yet surely when we do that, we die inside because really we cease to believe in love.

OK, so you're thinking what's his problem? We've all been sent nuts by weddings. Well maybe it has something to do with Vanessa. It was 16 years ago and in short it went she: me: love - yes - no. We shared a house. We spent every waking moment together, talking and laughing. I watched a succession of godlike Jasons trudge up and down the stairs and all the time I loved her. One day out of the blue, she kissed me and told me she loved me. She wanted to be with me till she died. And I, because I truly loved her, told her the truth. I said: `You think you love me but you don't - and the reason you don't is because you don't want to wake up every day with someone who is being treated for depression.' It broke her heart. And of course it broke mine.

True love impels you to tell the truth. Yet with Vanessa, the truth made the love impossible. The only way to protect love is with lies and yet lies turn love into indifference. In my late adolescence, I turned this into an equation. Love of truth = death of love. If you divide both sides by love you end up with Truth = Death. I thought that was clever at the time, then for years I thought it was stupid, and last week I realised it was true. Maybe Vanessa knew it too. Death is the one place where there is no hypocrisy and Vanessa died eight years ago. So there is no going back - not without a spade anyway and I haven't considered that since I stopped the Halcyon. Ha, ha - but I'm crying.

So from now on it's the truth and only the truth because the death it brings is better than the living death of lies. Sod it if I lose my friends, if they can't take the truth they're not worth half an air kiss. And in case you're wondering, Vanessa was not her real name, I love(d) her too much to tell the truth about that…