Lulu sat on the edge of her bed and contemplated it, before she started slashing. And so the violence began, controlled violence though it was, down the arms, across the chest, down the back of legs; none of it designed to inflict real damage but enough to draw attention to the inalienable fact that Lulu wanted someone to listen to her. She lay down on her bed, with the razor blade between the bed and herself and gently allowed it to penetrate the skin of her shoulders as well, just to emphasise the point. She then sat on the edge of her bed and stared at the razor, with it between her legs, and decided that she’d had enough, for now.
The images she carried around with her, such as sitting on the hood of a boyfriend’s Dodge, or being on the stage as she delivers the final lines, erupted from her as she examined the damage she had caused herself, before draping herself with a towel so as to ensure equally that there would be no mess to clean up. She created her own poetry as she carefully made the incisions – “sitting on the hood, feeling so good.” The “hood” was a much more appropriate name to describe the lid that opened up the engine, even though she was barely old enough to hold a licence, than what the English would refer to as the “bonnet”, which is what you put on the head of a one year old English belle who’ll grow up to marry a gentleman of the aristocracy. Besides, Lulu’s boyfriend would own an American car, he’d have maintained the original left hand drive of the steering wheel. And it would drive like an American car should, all muscle and energy and James Dean swagger with the packet of Lucky Strikes under the turned up sleeve on the t-shirt.
Lulu didn’t have a boyfriend, nor was she thespian in disposition, although she’d auditioned for a school play. She was good with words, and at the moment it appeared to Lulu that her words were being disregarded. She would make others bleed by making them recoil at what she had done to herself. So she cut herself again, one more scar to remind herself, with this one scar, that she was in control. Lulu walked to the bathroom and examined her work, for Lulu it was indeed work, something that needed to be rewarded, perhaps too strong a word for most but for Lulu this was work. The work of an underground artist, something to be proud of.
She sat in the edge of her bed and waited.
“My, my, my,” her mother, Amanda, would say to her, and she rushes to her side to pour all her empathy over her daughter. “Why do you do this?” and puts her arms around her daughter LuLu. “Let’s get you tidied up.” She would then kiss LuLu on the cheek so she understood. But of course, Amanda didn’t understand. Amanda didn’t say anything more. LuLu didn’t say anything, she allowed Amanda to wipe her, wash her hair, wash her clean, stroke her and cry with LuLu as LuLu cried gentle tears.
“Do you want to tell me something darling,” Amanda would ask. But LuLu didn’t respond, other than to say, “I’ll be late for rowing. Can you drive me?” The salt water was good for LuLu’s skin, it helped it heal, the scars on her arms were hidden by the uniform. Her muscles strained, sinew, thighs worked, here LuLu was being heard loud and clear, so why her mother asked. There appeared no point in asking her husband, who also asked, and helped by paying. “It’s not a matter of the money,” Andrew would say, “just organise the best help you can find.”
“What can we do,” said Amanda.
“I can’t do much,” said Andrew. “It would appear conspicuous. I know some people, maybe they can help. I’ll ask around.”
“No, don’t do that,” said Amanda. Senator Burn could not ask around. “Let’s respect Lulu. I’ll arrange a psychiatrist.”
Lulu trained extra hard after she had cut herself, rowing herself to exhaustion, making her coaches notice her. “Still time before it gets dark,” LuLu would tell her coach. “Two more repeats,” she’d say. She used the harm she had done to herself to redeem herself, to somehow make amends. She also knew that Andrew, her father would want to keep things quiet, her father was a politician whose trajectory had levelled out but nonetheless, he was content in his place. “Does Dad know?” LuLu would ask her mother. “Of course Dad knows, we can’t keep this sort of thing from him sweetheart, he doesn’t love you any less. He just doesn’t want you to hurt yourself anymore.”
This information, of course, was more than LuLu needed, she just wanted to know whether her father knew. “Doesn’t she have any control over her own feelings?” Senator Burn asked. As if having control was going to provide a solution. If Senator Burn’s daughter was to gain control then where does that control go? Where does one put it? Does that represent success? Is that the end of the matter?
“How is her schoolwork going?” asked Andrew, via telephone from Canberra, where, as a Senator, his work was based. He kept in touch with Amanda and Lulu using this and other modern ways, such as Skype, it partly assuaged his guilt, although it didn’t really assuage anything; something for Andrew to work on.
“Her schoolwork is fine, she’s doing well. She wants to go overseas and write a story.”
“Where does she want to go? What sort of story?”
“Ask her,” said with perfunctory madness. Rapid fire. Dare you to ask her. “She was thinking of Nepal or Israel.”
“Think about it Andrew. When are you back home?”
“Two weeks.” Just enough time for Lulu to cut herself again. It would be just enough time for Lulu to cut herself again, although she would want to be strategic about it. Exams were coming up, as was a regatta, which would probably have to give way to the exams if push came to shove.
“What about we all go somewhere.”
“Where? For how long? When?” Legitimate questions all. Amanda didn’t expect answers to these for whilst Andrew’s business, that of being a Senator, dealt with solutions, in theory anyway, he didn’t himself have any. Even if his job to review things one would think that Andrew would be capable of providing the odd solution here or there. This view was held by Amanda, albeit an unfair view, but one she would process in her own head, to the odd close friend and to strangers when she was caught unawares. Andrew wasn’t different from most other progressives and merchants of chance, he made the most of what was before him. Nothing wrong with that.
“You say she wants to go overseas? What about the overseas school trip? Isn’t that enough for her.”
“Lulu has hurt herself again. It’s the third time.”