I am writing I think primarily for myself, a last attempt to put everything in order and to tell honestly the story of Julia Booten. I feel the need to put everything down as clearly as I can, without any of the manipulation of the facts that others have used over the years in order to satisfy their intended audiences. I still have some time before my retirement, and access to both the Broadmoor and Mountain View case files will fill in some of the gaps in my memory. That matter of simple convenience and the need to work while my mind is still relatively capable makes this the right time to begin.
But her presence is always with me, and so perhaps this endeavor is for us both. Even as I begin with these first paragraphs I look up and see her sitting terrified on the side of her bed, her bare feet tracing circles on the floor, exactly as I first met her when I was a young and enthusiastic occupational therapist at Mountain View. I catch myself dreaming of her with increasing frequency, or it may be that my ageing mind is playing tricks with me.
How to organise this account then? It would seem appropriate to be professional and logical, to present the facts as I know them in sequence and in a detached and considered manner. But ultimately I am for the first time being honest about our emotional involvement, and such things are not well described in a clinical fashion, they only make sense when seen in the context of the chaotic backdrop against which they took place.
Julia herself was clearly a very troubled woman, even towards the end when we seemed to be making such outstanding progress. Much of what she told me was either exaggerated or clearly unbelievable – her preoccupation with the Angels, her unshakeable belief that they existed and her long periods of silence during which she had minimal awareness of what was happening around her all make her a difficult subject for detached analysis. And as I have said I wish to face the raw realities of our emotional involvement.
I will begin with our first meeting soon after she was admitted as a new patient at Mountain View, a meeting that was to change my life profoundly. From there I intend to complete her story in the manner that it was revealed to me, sharing our journey as it took place, although to make this account coherent I will summarize and perhaps interpret for her where I feel this is helpful.
I have taken the liberty of changing some names of staff here at the centre and other people who are mentioned in the narrative – they bear no responsibility at all for the events that consumed us, but for decency I feel that masking their identity is an appropriate step. At those moments in our story where I now feel responsible for so much I will be absolutely honest and look only for the readers consideration of my professional situation before they come to judge me.
The decisions I made in the grip of untamed passions will stay with me forever. My plea is ultimately one of guilty, but perhaps with mitigating circumstances.
My new creative writing course at the Evolution centre in Brighton, with Gary Mepsted, lasts 10 weeks and the main task is to create a 5.000 word short story in the first person, on the theme of unrequited love.
This is the first 500 words : which was the task for week one.