“Can I stay?” she asked him in a quiet, sleepy voice.
And with that simple word, he crushed her already suffering spirit. It took only a hair-trigger force to open that locked and secret place inside her mind where pain and agony were her constant companions. His standoffishness wounded her and for several moments she did not, could not, move from the bed, feeling stuck there by the wave of despair that had been swelling inside her since the moment she opened her eyes that morning. Eventually, she sat upright, clutching her shower towel tightly against her chest. She remained there, unblinkingly, as she contemplated the simple act of getting dressed. Getting dressed seems like a monumental task when you’ve got a fucking freight train ripping through your soul at neck snapping speed.
She waited, waited until he left the room, before releasing the towel and reaching forward to retrieve a pile of neatly folded clothes, hers, from the bookshelf beside the bed. She placed the pile beside her and stared at it, hoping in some small way this would suffice, that through this simple act she could just will her way to getting dressed. She felt herself tremble from the inside out. So much so that she had difficulty coordinating her fingers well enough to fasten the buttons of her blouse as quickly as she would have liked. Once dressed, she juddered her way through the contacts list on her phone so she could call her mental health worker. And once she heard that familiar voice, the voice that signaled a possible rescue from the monstrosity of her mind, her own voice began to break the way it did whenever she tried to speak while crying.
“Hi, it’s Roxanne,” she whimpered, as she tried not to whimper.
“Hi Roxanne. What’s up?”
“Do you have some time?”
“Yeah, I do.”
“I need to see you. I’m having a bad day.” Tears spilled from her eyes as she said these words.
“Sure, Okay. Come and see me.”
“I’m not at home. It’ll take me a while to get there.”
“Okay. That’s okay. I’ve got nothing scheduled. I’m just doing back up work.”
“Okay. See you soon then. Thanks.”
Not wanting him to witness her raw pain, she sobbed silently into a towel in the bathroom after she brushed her teeth. She felt like that fucking freight train would never end, it plunged through her endlessly and with such force, tearing away everything in its path. Including her sanity. Keep it together, Roxanne, a cold, rational voice inside her head told her. And she thought, in reply, Oh, why? Why must I? Why must I keep it together? I’m so tired of it, of that desperate, frenzied, trembling feeling of having to fight to keep my head above water. I don’t want to do that anymore. I only want to let go. I only want to cry, sob, wail. And never stop. And so she thought about that bag of broken glass sitting in her flat by the door. And the knife, a perfect size for carving a wrist. And she wondered just how viscous and crimson her blood really was. And just how it would feel to watch it blossom out of her very own wrist. And that scared her just a wee bit. Or did it? Maybe it only made her feel weak.
She often felt stupid, like a fraud, those times when she saw her mental health worker on a crisis basis. Instantly, the façade would turn itself on. And she’d smile the smile that acted like a sort of hermetic seal, locking away those most vulnerable parts of her mind, heart and soul from all external entities. That cold rational voice inside her mind scolded her for faking it, crocodile tears, her dad used to call them when she’d cry as a little girl. And so, she half believed she had no right to be there, in that office, with these mental health professionals. Surely there were people with a greater need than hers?
And what if this was all part of some grand master plan of hers to manipulate all those around her, you know, garner sympathy and attention? The jury remained out on this one. Would they ever stop deliberating? She doubted it very much. And so much of the time she walked around, feeling very unqualified to live her life, or even feel her pain, bearing silent witness to the great wars taking place inside her mind.
The inside wars and all their warriors muddied the waters for her. She could not discern the origins of her emotions. This concerned her. More than that, it felt like a massive mindfuck. How much came from brain chemistry, you know, from neurotransmitters? How much came from loving someone like she did and the uncertainty that accompanied it? There always remained a residual amount of fear, you know, insecurity. What if? What if? How could she feel certain? Just the thought of having to trust him scared the shit out of her. When would she know? Would she ever really know? Did she over think things, perhaps sending herself into emotional tailspins?
She thought back to their first date – her first in so many years. She’d stayed in her marriage shell for so long, more than a decade, that emerging from it and into the dating world felt like landing on a strange, alien world. She felt unqualified to work the dating scene. (Did anyone ever really feel qualified for this?) And, at 44 years of age, she really did not want to feel qualified. She met him through an online dating site. They messaged once, exchanged phone numbers and that was that. They agreed on his place; he would cook a curry since they both liked it. He met her on the sidewalk just in front of his building. It was the first time she heard his gentle voice; he’d called her name.
She remembered turning on her heel to see him standing there, wearing one of those Tilley hats and sporting a rucksack. He wore a nondescript tee-shirt and a pair of khaki green cargo-pant type shorts. She wondered how he knew it was her. Months later he would tell her he could see an uncertainty pierce right through her, and that was how he knew.
And so he cooked. Then they dined. And then they overdosed on Netflix while slurping on bits of Swiss chocolate. She hadn’t a clue how that first meeting would go. Would he kiss her? Would she kiss back? Would there be any chemistry between them? Would they even touch at all? She hadn’t planned to stay the night. She didn’t do that on a first date. (Just what did she do on a first date? She couldn’t remember.) She just wasn’t that kind of girl. Her husband had described her as frigid, a cock tease, and cuddly as a jellyfish; he’d also said it’s not exactly easy to get into your pants.
Yet everything that happened on that first date turned these believed-to-be truths on their heads, split them wide open and ate them for breakfast. It turned out that she liked being touched, craved it in fact, though quite selectively. And so, on that first night, she discovered things about herself that amazed her. For instance, it turned out that she liked kissing. Not those tiny, passionless pecks, but rather, those deep, passion filled ones, the ones in which lovers’ souls fly from their lips. When he pressed his lips against hers, she shuddered, could not believe a man’s lips could feel as soft as a rose petal, but still convey such intoxicating passion. And at the end of the night, she willingly let him lead her into his bed, where he whispered quietly into the darkness, “what would you like me to do?” No man had ever asked her that question before, and so she had no answer. After some thought though, she breathed, “come inside me.”
She felt like a dropped thread, she felt like she’d fallen from the tapestry of vitality. Invisible, she felt invisible to him. As she turned to face him, there on the sidewalk under a sagging sky the colour of faded gun-metal gray, she wondered if he could see her. Because he seemed so eager to leave her standing there, a prisoner of her own insanity. In those moments, there, on that sidewalk, he became the universe. She felt small, so small and exposed. She sobbed into his shoulder, feeling like a broken levee. So many things felt broken, no, smashed, inside of her.
“You’ve got to pull yourself together,” he whispered.
“I can’t. I’m so tired of it all,” she sobbed.
And so he held her. And she breathed her way out of uncontrollable sobs. Compose yourself, that cold rational voice inside her head insisted. And so she did.
“Are you seeing someone today?”
Did she detect a hint of concern in his voice? Perhaps. Or, perhaps only wishful thinking made her believe that.
“Yes. I’m seeing my mental health worker. And I’m going to give her my sharps … today’s Monday … if I could just make it through today … “ and her voice trailed off.
“You’ve got to, you’ve got to make it, so you can see me on Sunday.”
“Ok,” she whispered, as she lifted her head from his shoulder to look into his eyes.
“I’ve got to go,” he said quietly, kissing her on the forehead.
And so she squeezed him tightly, then said, “Ok. Away you go.”
And they parted, each taking an opposing direction. She looked back, the way she always did. He did not; he never did. She had to run for the bus, and once on the bus composed herself, then sent him a text message.
I was so, so angry with you last night and
this morning. And I’m sorry. I suppose I
felt like the mind goblins are right when
they say I can’t trust you. And having to beg
you was shades of the dangerous angel,
something/someone I’m trying so hard to get
past. Anyway, ILY. Perhaps too much.
Is that even possible?
After pressing the send button she had another thought, and so sent him another text message.
One more thing about you and I. I try not
to ask you for much. But I do need you and
for that I won’t apologize. Oh, how vulnerable
After an infinitely long minute, he replied.
Can you love me too much? I think so.
She stared at these words, not certain what to make of them, or how to feel about them. What does it mean to love someone too much? Does it mean more than? More than … this thought pierced through her like a hot knife. She put her phone to sleep as she tried to strike that thought from her mind. The mind goblins began shrieking MORE THAN … MORE THAN. Her eyes stung. She swallowed hard. And then decided to drown out the raging mind goblins with ear buds and loud music.
She heard the sound of a strange and frightening man smashing through the door to her flat. He jimmied the lock and then kicked at the door to break open the chain. A sickening feeling crawled up from her stomach to claw at her throat and rose to coat her tongue with a bitter taste. Her throat stung and her mouth felt dry and her limbs, like heavy blocks of wood. Her heart hammered through her chest wall. She could not move. And even if she could, where would she go? She opened her mouth and a scream flew out. She found herself stuck in that scream. And then? And then she awoke, frozen with terror, in that hidden world that exists between asleep and awake. And still screaming. She reached out for him, hoping that he would rouse her and wrap his arm around her. But the space beside her felt empty. And then she remembered: he wasn’t there. He wasn’t there. He wasn’t there. Why did it feel like she spent more time away from him than with him?
She rose from the bed and looked at the clock. Thirteen minutes after three. She walked to the window. Streetlights had cast their ghastly orange hue against the backdrop of an inky black, and moonless sky. She pressed her face against the glass, wishing that the night would somehow absorb her. She watched a lone, young girl on the street corner down below. And she wondered what kind of existence this girl had as she saw her get into the passenger’s side of a black sedan. She placed her hands on the window, on either side of her face as she thought, how strange it seemed, to see people one moment, and then never again. Just a face in the crowd. That’s all we ever are. How lonely that made her feel. Lonely and disconnected. And disjointed, from herself. She stood there for a long time, frozen inside her mind, teetering on the fringes of her nightmare. Everything felt quite unreal.
She sat at the table for the longest time, pen in hand, blank note card opened and in front of her. And then the words came to her, she could feel them moving through her fingertips. And she began to write.
In the still of the night, while you sleep, I watch you intently, wanting to take you apart to see how you’re made. When our passions collide it sends me to beyond the edge, to where rapture meets torment. When I peer intently into your eyes I can feel your thoughts on my skin. They feel light as the seed cases from dandelions, and moist as only a tongue could feel.
She wrote L rather than love, believing it would seem less threatening there on the page. Less threatening to whom, exactly? To her? To him? To him, she decided. She closed the card, carefully slipped it into its envelope, which she then sealed. Feeling betrayed by the intensity of her feelings for him, she could not bear to watch him read her words. And so, she casually placed it front of him, before scurrying off to the bath. She had a sudden and fleeting urge to erase all the words she’d written in that note card. But the feelings, she felt they would burst out of her at any moment, and so she simply had to tell him.
“Thank you,” he said, with a smile on his face, when she emerged from her steamy cocoon. “You said you like to take me apart while I sleep. Well, as long as you’re not a serial killer, or something like that,” he joked.
She said nothing, sensing that he’d injected humour into what would have otherwise been an intimate moment in order to hide his very British discomfort with feelings. The term emotionally constipated came to mind, but then, it didn’t seem fair to label him as such. Or did it? His love for her shone in everything he did for and with her. Still. She sometimes wished to hear those three tiny words. Maybe they might make a difference, somehow, give her a sense of security. He’d told her on more than one occasion that her insecurities and neuroses were her problems, not his. She felt slighted when he said that. He did not embrace hyperbole or dramatics. Not the way her dangerous angel had done. She thought of that dangerous creature, with all his empty I love you’s. Empty, because in end, he could not hide his true self from her: a narcissistic sociopath ~ incapable of love, empathy or regret.
The times between when she saw him felt like very long, cold nights, a world without music, a world where black noise filled all the in between spaces. And so she resorted to doing things that sped up her perception of the passage of time. She banished thoughts of him from her head; they would only make her miss him more. In her past life, she’d spent so much time thinking about her dangerous angel, having imagined dialogues with him in her mind while apart from him, and it only deepened her sense of loss, created an almost unbearable hunger for him, like that of a labouring mother for the birth of her baby. She would not make that mistake again. She would not allow her emotions to completely overrun her. She would not become her emotions. She had to carve out a life for herself, even and especially on those long, dark and cold nights of separateness. A life that involved more than just waiting. She could not allow all the waiting to consume her, as it had done in her dark past.
August 24th, 2013
The smell of sunshine fills the corridors of my mind. My soul has become a wash of light. Love has split me wide open and crawled inside, smashing the darkness into dust. Still, all certainty melts into itself and doubt slithers through my thoughts. Time means nothing, he tells me. Oh, to live outside time, I think, wistfully. Time grows languid in the throes of passion, doesn’t it? It skulks along, silently, like some kind of spectre. When he presses his lips into mine, I can feel pieces of my soul fly out of my mouth. This frightens me. And thrills me. All at once. And I can feel it, the light, cutting a path through the fabric of my being.
“Don’t get emotionally messed up over me,” he said matter-of-factly.
And she reflexively thought, fuck you, you asshole, you emotionally constipated git, that’s one of the undesirable side effects of love. But it doesn’t mean we stop loving. And she wondered what the fuck he was talking about. And she wondered if he even knew. Because, if he had no idea, than how was she supposed to? Cowardice, he harboured such cowardice when it came to emotions. Later when she asked him what he meant by don’t get emotionally messed up over me, he replied that he didn’t really know. She could clearly see that he had unresolved feelings. Why else would he refer to his ex-wife has his wife? “That’s telling,” she’d told him. Of course, he denied it. Deny. Deny. Deny. That’s what emotionally constipated gits did ~ they denied their emotions. And, fuck, it frustrated her, the way he transformed his denial into some superiority complex.
When something he did or said upset her, he’d say stupid things to her like, it’s just a feeling … it’s all about the way you see me. Just a feeling? What the fuck? As though the fault lay with her, and her perception of things. Really? Really? Fuck that shit. Why did the fault always fall on her shoulders? Is there a man alive that could take responsibility for his emotional imbecility and its effect on the woman who loves him? Feelings don’t matter, apparently. Why’s that, she wondered? Because he couldn’t deal? Yeah, that must be it. He simply could not deal. She’d begun to lose faith. And it left her feeling a wee bit sad. She almost wanted to cry. Almost. And so, she clenched her teeth so hard she thought they’d shatter while the whole world poured down around her. All the while, she savoured the taste of him seeping into her lungs.
October 29th, 2013
There’s a spot on his chest, just beneath his throat that makes me want to devour him. And then there’s that way he shifts his head to one side while we make love, and focuses his gaze on me, as if to glimpse directly into my soul. Eternity fills those tiny moments. And he becomes a lens thru which I look upon the universe. And he becomes the universe.
He took the coward’s way out by sending her this text message, and just when she’d begun to think she could trust him, trust that he was a man of his word, trust that she could believe in him.
Am going to take a break this weekend.
Will see you either next wednesday or next friday.
No explanation. No trace of feelings. No acknowledgement of feelings. Just stone cold words. And huge assholery. And so, she thought, Fuck! Just, fuck! She simply could not strike the word asshole from her mind.
October 30th, 2013
Rejected. Rejected. Rejected. It’s selfish and stupid of me, but I feel somewhat rejected. And oh, I don’t deal well with rejection. Or mindfucking, for that matter. I’ve had the most difficult trusting you. And your latest text just proves to me that I should be wary of trusting you. Or so it seems. I got home some time ago. And I’m sitting here, writing this, still wearing my jacket and shoes. Because, well, because I don’t want to be home. I don’t want to be anywhere, for that matter. Because, if I’m nowhere then maybe I can’t feel. And if I’m nowhere I can avoid the hollowness of existence.
November 1st, 2013
I miss the sound of his voice and the taste of his lips against mine. I miss that certain scent, his, and I miss pressing my ear against his chest and hearing his heartbeat. I miss tracing the contours of his fingers, calluses and all. I miss his very English wit and the way he likes to tease. I miss his gentle passion. And listening to him breathe in the still of the night. I miss the way I feel when I’m in his arms. I miss the way I feel when he’s inside me. And most of all, I miss the way I feel when he explodes inside me.
November 11th, 2013
So today I had one of the worst days on record. I thought of dying ~ like what a relief it would be because, as far as I know, the dead don’t feel. But my life is valuable to those who love me, like my Mum, And then I thought of cutting. Where can I get one of those razor blades we see on TV or in the movies, you know, the kind coke fiends use to divide their powder into lines? Oh, just writing about cocaine triggers me. Like, for a split second I wanted to be there, at that table or in that washroom stall, with the rolled up $5 bill stuck in my nasal cavity. Sick? Twisted? Perhaps. Sometimes I don’t get myself, don’t really know who I am. Like now. The mind goblins have gotten too loud for my mind, and they rule, as though pursuing total mental domination. I think I am my own worst enemy. The mind goblins make it so. They tell me things that I know when I’m with you aren’t true. They tell me you don’t love me, that you don’t care. And they tell me I’m unworthy, not good enough. For you, for anyone. And you know what? I’m inclined to believe them. I had such a strong urge to cut. But I’d already left my flat and couldn’t find the suitable tool at Shopper’s Drug Mart for the money I had on me ~ $5. So, wow. I should feel frightened. But I don’t, not really. Where does all this ambivalence come from?
I DO NOT KNOW.