It was at the age of 17 my life became fabulous. And what I mean by that is that
a) I discovered alcohol.
b) I discovered sex.
c) I left home.
Drugs were to come later (and fortunately for me, because if they had been added to the mix, there is no doubt I wouldn’t be around today).
My unhappy oppressed soul had been searching for escape. Any escape. And the escape I needed, was to be an adult even as a child. Because an adult was free. Independent and outside of the control of her parents. And what adulthood meant to me was anything that happened after the age of consent.
Having moved to Cyprus in a bid to stop interpol tracking me down, I had settled down to the relative freedom of living with my father. Which meant being able to go out at night to perform illicit activities – even if THAT meant locking my bedroom door, sneaking out of the balcony doors and into my bathroom, locking THAT door and climbing out of the window 3 stories high, into the hallway which housed the elevator shaft. In high heels that I’d started wearing 3 months previously (and then later on when I climbed back, also drunk out of my mind). School started at 7am, and if I’d been out the night before, that meant I was usually still drunk.
My father is the king of the unspoken thought. I’ve never heard any comeback from events that happened around the time I lived with him, but he’s no idiot. Actually he’s one of the most intelligent – albeit least empathetic men – I know. And believe it or not, that description holds no judgement. It just is. My father (who must also be a product of his environment) feels very little empathy for others, he views them more as statistics and experiments.
“When did you stop thinking of Louisa as a little girl?” asked my stepmother over lunch.
“I never thought of her as a little girl.” My father replied. “She was always just Louisa. I remember when you were three” he said, chuckling at the memory “I watched you out of the window walking down the drive. You’d decided to run away and had taken your bag and your bear. I wondered how long you would survive on your own.”
Presumably those were the days it was safe to let your 3 year old walk off alone. Or not.
My stepmother looked horrified. “But why would she run away at the age of 3.” Good question, I thought. And who knows, one of the reasons might be because there was absolutely no empathy whatsoever from my father at home. He merely observed me.
When he and my boyfriend found me passed out after a suicide attempt with vodka and pills, apparently they held me upside down over the bath and punched my stomach until I threw up. It was my boyfriend who told me, my father never mentioned a word about it. He just drove me to school the next day as usual.
And when I told him the horrific story of what happened when I met my real father all he said was
“He doesn’t sound like the kind of person you should keep in contact with.”
And then we ordered a salad and talked of more pleasant things.
He also has never admitted (or as far as I can tell felt) any remorse. At anything. Not breaking all the plates in the kitchen during an argument whilst I hid under the table, not treating my mother like a second class citizen and certainly not for being absent from my childhood for eleven years whilst he wrote his first book.
Thus when my father clearly identified that my huge struggle for escape coupled with his absence from my childhood, meant that his authority held no sway over my actions, he did the most sensible thing he could think of, and said:
‘It’s time you left home. You obviously want to, so let me rent you an apartment. I’ll give you an allowance.’
It was really the most amenable kicking out you could think of (even though it had been preceded with an argument containing the word cocksucker).
The apartment where I lived out my time until going to university saw sex. A lot of it. Mine and my friends (whose parents were disciplinarians and who preferred having sex in my apartment rather than their boyfriends’ cars). It also saw alcohol. A lot of it. It meant backs of motorcycles without a helmet. It meant reckless sex with men I hardly knew. It meant cliff diving in the middle of the night drunk. Anything and everything which tested life itself. How far was I willing to go?
Fabulousness is all relative of course. At 17 I thought fabulous meant any life that resembled Edina and Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous. Even if it was a desperate cry for help. But you can be lost, searching and still happy (thank goodness otherwise, most of us would be unhappy).
17 was my first turning point. What it really meant was freedom. My life was a rollercoaster of disaster but I was happier abusing myself being free, than I had ever been before…even if my freedom almost cost me my life on numerous occasions.