Gloomy Sundays

by Ka Bradley

November 29th

Pulse: frenetic
Hair: resolutely static

Unclear how body is capable of sustaining both states. Suspect insidious damage. Nevertheless, symptoms frustratingly slight and socially invisible.

A has a story that she tells about heartbreak.

It’s not a story, actually. It’s just a piece of information that she’s relayed to me.

The piece of information is that a friend of hers once went out with ‘the girls’. Her boyfriend had dumped her. Or else the boy she was sleeping with had started sleeping with someone else. Or perhaps hadn’t even started sleeping with someone else, had just stopped sleeping with her, with a finality as painful as a slap in the face.

A says that her friend was in a nightclub with ‘the girls’ and she sent this boy a text. The boy did not reply to the text. Afraid of being seen checking her phone on the dancefloor, or even by the bar, the girl took her phone into a toilet cubicle. Like an alcoholic with a snifter of vodka, she was too ashamed to be seen indulging in public. Self-destructive vices are such mood killers. It’s one thing to take ya girl out for a night on the tiles to distract her from the cheatin’ rat who’s left her, but quite another to have to hold a shaking addict back as she snarls for a fix she can’t get.

She sat on the toilet and pulled out the phone. He hadn’t replied. He would never reply. She must have known this was the case before she even sent the text.

She leaned her head against the side of the cubicle, and felt a pain in her chest. Real, visceral, physical pain, like a bijou cardiac arrest.

That’s the fact that A wanted me to have. That a broken heart isn’t a piece of metaphorical language.

I have the shakes and the constrictions and the sweats, and the closest thing I have to medicine is hearing these stories. I can’t get enough of other people’s heartbreak. I’m magnetically attracted to their misery. I feel part of a sisterhood of sickness.

I thought casual sex would help, but actually, it’s a bit like treating a broken arm with cough syrup. W is nice but I don’t like how he fucks. B is not nice and I’m indifferent to how he fucks. N is indifferent to me and we’ve been fucking for too long for it to be distracting. I desperately, desperately want to fall head over heels for someone else soon. Even if it’s unrequited, at least it would be a distraction.


Adjustment to this entry, written from morning after. Feel a bit of a turd for writing this about N and W. (Do not regret writing the way I have about B.) Very glad for the support, emotional and sexual, that they offer. Also, N came over with apple pie, which made me feel appealingly pathetic. Held my chin and stared into my eyes throughout most of the sex, which was arousing. I think. He was wearing an expression that suggested it ought to be.


Just got an email. N has set me up with a (female) friend of his. Regret ever making the observation that my friendships with women have been much more fulfilling than those with men I’ve slept with. May have compared my friendship with M to that of Lancelot and Arthur; rather ominous that I couldn’t find a female equivalent.

Or perhaps it was the drunken declaration that women are so much more ‘beautiful’ than men (in retrospect, do not fully understand what this value judgement means). Either way, presume he wants a threesome.

Nothing from S.

December 3rd

Pulse: appears to have moved
Breath: short, accompanied by tightness in chest, except when it is deathly slow

Concerned by fickleness of symptoms.

Tried writing in the spare room, produced three hundred words in two hours. My fingers were too frozen to type. I was shaking. Since I heard the news, I’ve felt a greyish cold misting my bones. All I have to do is remember who I am and what has happened and I can feel it unfold. It makes sleeping hard, and waking isn’t much better. Besides that, the house budget doesn’t stretch to having the heating on during the day. C lets me use her room to write, because mine is too small for a desk, but hers is so large the radiator has almost no effect.

Listened to a playlist C has made on Deezer. C is currently listening to a lot of Billie Holiday. I play ‘Gloomy Sunday’ so often that just the opening bars can trigger a remisting.


An hour wasted. Sun gone already. Blackest night at half past five. Looked up the origins of the song ‘Gloomy Sunday’. Originally by a Hungarian called Rezső Seress. They called it the ‘Hungarian Suicide Song’, because of what it drove people to do. Certainly, the original has such a filmic quality that I can see the appeal; would make quite a noir final tableau. (Ideation; remisting.)

Damia, the French chanteuse, covered the song in 1936 – ‘Sombre Dimanche’. Am currently listening. (Ideation; remisting.) Lyrics seem to be different from the Billie Holiday version, but I can’t find a translation online and my French is too shaky to do it properly. As far as I can tell, though, it’s sung to a cruel lover and not a dead one. Interesting.


Sent an email asking S about the French lyrics.


Sent that email at half nine-ish; it’s now 1.30am. No response from S. He checks his emails regularly enough for this to be suspicious. So, I know where he is.


Sent second email, this one mostly composed of rhetorical questions. I try not to refer to her by name, so some of these questions are roundabout. Shook frantically throughout composition but corrected all typos, as they made me look insane.

December 4th

Breath: bad
Joints: aching; especial tenderness at inner elbows and backs of knees
Eyesight: strained

Unclear if these symptoms are causing or are caused by insomnia. As insomnia is maladie du jour, frustratingly limited in my studies on heartbreak.

No response to either email. He is ignoring me.

Seeing the little green circle next to his name makes me suck in the air through my teeth. Seeing his name is worse, though. I’d never noticed how distinctive it is, owing to the doubling of the letters in his surname and the tripping rhythm the consonants produce. Feel as if I’ve touched on the fixations that drive numerologists and rune makers to holy fervour.

Googled his name just to see what would turn up and found an ancient Instagram abandoned by a friend of his. There are pictures of him from when he was living in Italy, and looked so young, and had such long curly hair. Sent them to C, who wrote back, “CURLS!” I hadn’t pointed this out. He is just so uniquely his own version of attractive, that he is a perfect wealth of signifiers. I am just of a type. She is an improved version of me. Bigger boobs. Better haircut.

I can’t imagine them together. I also can’t imagine them as separate people. I can only picture them as other people telling me what they’ve seen. How they hold hands. Their reports are papering over all my memories of him.

Am no longer capable of listening to ‘Cold Cold Ground’ by Tom Waits or half of the Fire Walk With Me soundtrack. The former came up on shuffle while I was cooking dinner for M, who was keeping me and my gloom company. I burned the broccoli. I hadn’t realised it was possible to burn broccoli.

December 7th

Eyesight: blurry
Hearing: blurry
Tastebuds: blurry

I watch YouTube videos for hours at a time. It’s the most concentration I can manage. Taste of copper at back of throat when I remember that he is not, most certainly not, wasting hours on the internet.

I’ve found an extremely goth modern cover of ‘Sombre Dimanche’, by Claire Diterzi. Played it to C, who was enraptured and also translated for me. C is often good with emotional agony.

I realise I could have asked C, who is French, to translate the song in the first place, but I think I was trying to give S the gift of the thing I’d found – the song and how closely it spoke to me.

“It spoke to you, but in another language?” C asked. Often, but not always, good with emotional agony.

W due to come over and, presumably, have sex with me in a friendly fashion. He announced a couple of days ago that he’d be leaving for America in a few weeks, to ‘go travelling’, as if the state of restless, uncertain movement was something to be proud of, rather than avoid. Forgot to record this.


7am entry! Haven’t seen 7am in a while. W left early. Seems to be able to dispense with sleep on these sleepovers. We were up late playing one another music on Spotify. He played me Martha Wainwright and during ‘Factory’, I could see there were lyrics in there that, for whatever reason, have the same effect on him as the ones in Joanna Newsom’s ‘Only Skin’ have on me.

Think I have not mentioned. W’s other lover. She lives in the same house as her. (Her.) Sometimes W and S bump into each other late at night, on their way to the bathroom. I hate to imagine this and I imagine it compulsively.

We put on Bon Iver, which seemed like neutral territory, and spooned in an automatic fashion. He ran his hand up and down the deep dip of my waist, a curve exaggerated when I lie on my side. He stroked it like he was trying to close a parenthesis.

“Do you think,” I asked him softly, “that this is what they’re doing right now?”

“Oh,” he said, and nothing else. I looked at the diagonal slash of light cutting into the covers, thrown out by the streetlamp outside, and wished I was sleeping alone.


Sometimes I feel that I never knew, until now, what all of the songs were about. Would gladly trade this knowledge for endless, endless numbness.

December 11th

Nausea: constant
Pulse: apparently constant, as I am still alive, but feels as if it is skipping

I can’t bear to eat but think about ‘feeding’ all of the time. Metaphorical language? Vampirism = desire? Don’t know.

Recent Google searches:

why doesn’t he want me

he left me

he left me for someone else

how to tell if there is someone else

how to tell if he is thinking about you


horoscopes libra

day by day horoscope libra

has libra moved on

I have a dinner date with the girl N set me up with. Might be fun.


Date was awful. Not even worth the razors I used to shave my legs.


Had a shower and time to reflect. It was as disappointing for her as it was for me, I suppose. I drank a bit too much – as I seem to, these days – and explained a bit too much – ibid – and watched her expression freeze, over her pasta.

“My favourite type of girl,” she said, “is the kind who is getting in touch with her lesbian side after a break-up with a man. I bet you’ve set your Tinder profile to ‘show me men and women’, too.”

That’s a bit unfair, I advanced cautiously.

“Oh, don’t worry,” she continued, in an overloud monotone. “You wouldn’t be the first girl who wanted to try the gay experience on with me. You lot always go for the hautes femmes. Usually for a maximum of two dates.”

I don’t know what that means, I said.

“I bet you don’t,” she said. “I bet you don’t.”

She took out her purse then; said she’d pay for dinner. I tried to object but not very hard, as I was pissy and felt like the least I could get out of being treated so rudely was a free meal. Mind you, I hadn’t even finished my main. Had to have an awkward unspeaking interlude while we tried to catch the server’s eye, her purse ostentatiously open beside her plate.

As we were saying goodbye, she said coldly, “It’s a little boring to forever be the queer footnote, you know? It’s a little fucking dull to be someone’s ‘experience’.”

I know, I wanted to say to her. I know. I know how that feels.


Listened to the Claire Diterzi ‘Sombre Dimanche’ again. It’s saccharine. Don’t like it anymore. Feeling like a shitty ally, also.

December 15th

Skin: prickling
Skin, after bath: still prickling

I don’t know why, but every time I masturbate, I visualise nailing S’s hand to the wall. Through the back of the hand, his palm flat against the wall.

It’s not arousing. Actually, the opposite. I just do. (Remisting; ideation.)


What is he doing, and why isn’t it thinking about me? Why am I the one stuck with the burden of remembering both of us? I’m like a tape recorder left running in an empty room. There’s nothing of substance for me to capture and yet I still record. Record, record, record, record, record.


I want to write pornography and I want to put my eyes out.

December 16th

Chest: feels congested, but no sign of phlegm
Heart: squeezing

What if I am having a very, very slow heart attack?

Something happened today.

Afterwards, M looked at me and said, “God, you’ve gone pale.”

And although I was in more pain than I had ever been (or it felt, in the moment, that the pain was worse than anything I’d ever experienced, the all-consuming shrilling of it, beyond the nuances of comparison, beyond quantifiable, fully occupying every fibre in my nervous system, my lymph nodes, my cortex, pulling dark, hessian depressions over my thoughts like a shroud), I did feel quite pleased about that.

“I’ve actually gone pale?” I asked, interested.

M scrutinised me. We had stopped for this impromptu examination in the middle of the street, but no one paid us much attention. No one except M could see any physical evidence of how much unbearable pain I was in.

“Your colour is coming back now,” she conceded.

“But you could see it?” I persisted.

Yes, M said, she could see it.

We walked a little further in silence. Neither of us wanted to comment on what had just happened, which was that S had just walked right past us, bundled up against the cold in an appealingly large beanie hat and holding a coffee. He didn’t even glance round.


M has suggested, not for the first time, that I try therapy. Specifically recommended CBT.


Dear fucking Lord, when was the last time I asked M how she was?

December 27th

Pulse: present
Teeth: in dreams, forever falling bloody out of my mouth

Can no longer differentiate between symptoms and metaphors.

I’ve gone back through this journal, hoping to see signs of progress. Instead, all I see is repetition. If anyone had told me heartbreak was so boring, I would have joined a nunnery and stayed horny for God till death.

In November, I described myself as being part of a ‘sisterhood’, but I realise, with some pain, how grotesquely false this is. No one bonds over unrequited desire. All they do is feed their own frenzy of despair.

Who am I writing this for? It’s not helped me. I’m bored of myself, and because I come to write in a state of such excruciating unhappiness, I now have a Pavlovian response to the sight of its cover. Do I hope that one day, S will change his mind and that one day later still, we’ll be in such a state of domesticated calm that I’ll pass this to him the way I’d pass a particularly nice chocolate from a selection box? Here, this is for you. A little piquant flavouring before we have some common-law sex.

Listening to Billie Holiday singing ‘Gloomy Sunday’ and also listened to her singing ‘Billie’s Blues’. Sent S the version of the Blues that is live from the Metropolitan Opera House. (Temporary pit of despair: will I ever go to New York, and will it have to be without S? Still can’t quite believe that all major future experiences will be sans S.) Doubt he’ll reply, but I hope he’ll listen to it. Billie Holiday is something else. She makes misery seem artistically worthwhile.

I feel like I’m casting bait into a rock quarry. There’s nothing to catch, but the action is so familiar, that I keep on.

I don’t even think about S anymore, or at least, not as S. I try to miss him, but what I miss is a future that will never happen. I miss what I was hoping we could become. How can I miss someone who doesn’t exist?

I acknowledge this, but I doubt I’m going to learn from it. Love is a hard, hard habit. Love is the place you keep returning to because you’ve never considered that there might be somewhere else to go. Love is the everywhere that takes away your somewhere else by giving you a single, violent horizon. Love is, love is, love is.


Photograph by Piranha, 2016

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