Monday 12 October 2015

The Origins of the name 'Scarphelia'

I was 17 when I began to write her. The story had begun with a memory and ended in tragedy, but it seemed all my stories had to if they were ever to end. She was born out of the love of another. 

He was a gentle and humble soul, but never fragile. He once called me the most volatile person he'd ever known only after his own mother, and I could find neither a positive or negative reaction to give in retort, for in my embarrassment I didn't really know what it meant.

When I wrote then, it was the first time I'd ever felt the divine. I'd began writing - by hand on lined paper - idly in one of my schoolbooks. After the first half an hour, when I realised this wasn't just a half-hearted pastime but something a little more serious, I moved myself into the kitchen and sat at the big wooden table. My hand feverishly scrawled, my vision almost blind due to the visions of the lives of these characters I was merely observing and reporting upon, hardly inventing. Intermittently I would break focus only to look up at the little flickering LED numbers upon the oven. Three, five, seven hours were passing in a matter of minutes and a flurry of biro-embossed pages.

After it was completed, I announced my retirement. 

"I will never write something as good as this ever again." I whispered after my first read-through. This tale had poured uninterrupted from my brain, but the prose and grammar were near perfect. And I knew it was because he had been my muse for it. 

I'm reluctant to call him my first love because I don't think he was. But upon the discoveries of my teenage diary recently, I laughed aloud at the amount of times I declared my undying love for various boys, but with him, it seemed I could never seem to make my mind up what it was that I was feeling. It chilled me a little to read back on.

She became not the protagonist but the love interest - more he than I. She was a combination of everything I adored in him, and everything within me that would ruin it. For we were never compatible forces. However much we understood of one another, my soul was blackened with tar, and his was pure and gleaming. And that was something we both knew, perhaps he more than I. 

Ultimately she became quietly intellectual, innocuous to some, but a lure to others. She was smart and wise but didn't take any shit, and had a wicked dark side to boot. She was rebellious and courageous but quickly became reckless, for a mind so sharp came with a price. She had a preternatural ferocity but it fell away quickly and she fled in the face of turmoil. She was the one who always ran and left the others to pick up the pieces.

Her creation was a confession. And there was only one name that seemed synonymous with her. She became Scarlet.

Inevitably, I lost him. However kind and loving he'd always seemed to me, it became clear that he deemed me an insidious force, slowly contaminating his light. I like to think it wasn't arrogance that saw him cut me off, but self-preservation.

How curious, then, for the purity of one to bring out the darkest part of me, and the darkness of another to evoke my innocence?

This other 'he' was elusive and mysterious, brooding often but open to me, with passion and fury that melded into something divinely irresistible to a teenage girl. He was a musician, and a rebel, deliberately outcasting himself in a way that I'd roll my eyes at now, but had the entire female population hanging off his every word. He was bad, so very bad, but I could see through it. Because despite the stark differences in demeanour, I knew deep down they both had souls made of the same stuff. They both profoundly cared and they both knew that profoundly mattered. 

Because alongside his careless and often criminal attitude, beneath those identical layers of smut and sin which obscured the light of my own soul, his shone brightly too. And together, we seemed to place our hands against the dirt so many were afraid to approach, and begin to wipe it away.

Our love was a paradise, partly because it was so illicit, but together we found poetry, art, spiritual enlightenment - and it wasn't long before I had to write our story. I was 18 when I began to write her. The story began with a memory and ended in tragedy, but it seemed all my stories had to if they were ever to end. And she too, was born out of the love of another. 

She was a combination of what we had become through one another. She was introverted and thoughtful, a sinner in remission with a buzzing philosophical mind shrouded in layers of wisdom. A mind like a snowglobe, except the flecks which swirled and danced were blossom, not snow. And in the center she sat, down by the river, painting with watercolours. 

The last night we ever shared at his apartment, we sat on the floor and watched Pan's Labyrinth. For him, then, I was the film's firey young protagonist, but the flaw which grew ever more apparent was I was also his dying Shakespearean girl among the flowers. And that's how she came to be named Ophelia.

The two characters were so starkly different, but their stories so eerily similar, and only after the pain and sorrow of losing them both, being reduced down to the very basic contents of my soul, did I begin to realise what I'd done. I'd made horcruxes. There I was, on paper, the two halves of my soul, character, and personality, displayed right before my very eyes in ink.

They'd been created through others, but they'd swallowed me whole, and with my hand over my mouth I began to realise every thought in my brain, every mood I could be in, every outfit I wore, every song, film or book that I liked, every single thing about me even as menial as the tone of my tweets, could easily be split into two categories, and attributed to each character.  

I hadn't started to become the characters I wrote, it was something far more sinister. I'd excavated my soul onto paper and unearthed two very contradictory people among the dirt. 


I've done a lot of research and I'm pretty sure I do not have schizophrenia or split personality disorder, partly because (as is my greatest comfort in life) I surely can't be that crazy if I'm aware how crazy I am, but also, because over time, these personalities have become a reassurance, not a concern. Although they don't often get on and constantly battle for dominance, when times get tough, they can collaborate beautifully to dig out the best parts of me. 

If I react cynically or bitterly to something, the Ophelia part of me places a delicate hand on my arm and says 'there's no need to be so cruel, Scarlet' and I soften, or conversely, when I'm wallowing in dramatic self-pity, getting a little too lost in the romanticism of being an artist, Scarlet, roars up on her Harley, flicks a match against the asphalt to light a cigarette and scoffs 'Get the fuck over yourself, Ophelia.' and I snap out of it. 

What can I say, my girls got my back.

So I guess moving forward, my endless quest is to find if it's possible for there to be a balance between them, an equilibrium of stability which will stop the 'volatility' which has plagued me since 17 and continues to do so. And the balance of that, is where Scarphelia comes in. 

Scarphelia is that state of being me. Half way between Scarlet and Ophelia. My blog began as an exploration of my curious psyche and I suppose continues to be that, but overall I think this place is just a digital elaboration of the thoughts and wonders inside my head. 

Most people think the name is Greek or just a random word I've made up, and sometimes I just agree, because it's a hell of a lot easier than trying to explain this, that's for damn sure.