Serendipity

Was I born a masochist or did society make me this way? I demand unconditional love and complete freedom. That is why I am terrible.

186

It’s funny how quickly things can change. Your favourite cafe has caved to the new competition that opened next door, and I am too afraid of your shadow to visit mine. I still drink coffee but I never add sugar anymore; some days I taste more bitter than black espresso.

It was the way you chose to remember me. We sat in mutual regret, two stupid kids who fell in love with so much enthusiasm we didn’t know how to fall out without falling to pieces. I fidgeted with my sleeves, waiting for you to speak, to make an effort, to put some substance into the words you kept repeating. I still loved you enough to believe you could change, even when you couldn’t look at me. Maybe because you knew you couldn’t fix your mistakes, and you saw our meeting for what it was: an empty gesture; salt on my wounds. I will pretend you felt shame.

It was the way you sighed, it caught me off guard. Years of regret frozen in the solemn air, lingering,  the world was locked in slow motion, and I couldn’t cry anymore, my tears had hardened. There was pain in your eyes too, and I was responsible, I made sure we’d suffer together. I would trade our most colourful memories for one last miserable fight with you, to disagree violently and unapologetically, to scream and shout and show no mercy, to remember you in more than just faded mistakes.

I waited for you to fall asleep while I rested my shoulders on your chest and counted your heartbeat. I heard you mumble an awkward apology and realised I would never learn to forgive you. Maybe because if I don’t hate you I might have to actually feel something and that could kill me. Maybe because I would trade all our memories together just to remember what it feels like to be whole again. Maybe because I am in love with this pain, this exquisite pain of being incomplete, the intoxicating allure of feeling broken.

 

185

The morning after, I woke up, kissed him on the lips, got dressed, and cooked him breakfast. Fried bacon, poached eggs, sausages, and toast. He ate in the living room and I watched him through last night’s smudged eyeliner and an even murkier memory, I settled for confusion. I didn’t want to know. I did not need things to be clear. I kissed him again at the door on his way out.

Four months later a friend offered me an escape to another city, and as we huddled in his driveway to share our last cigarette, I asked him “Is it rape if I said no?” He stared at me with a look of horrified comprehension and I realised what I’d done. I wasn’t his manic pixie dream girl, I was just a whole new level of ‘fucked up‘.

I don’t know how far back we would have to trace my mistakes to find out when it all went wrong. Maybe it was the first time a boyfriend insisted even though I wasn’t in the mood. Maybe it was the second time, when he mistook struggle for desire. Maybe I stopped caring after that, and accepted the sickening feeling in my stomach every time he touched me, like I’d swallowed something rotten.

Maybe it was the boy who thought a movie isn’t complete without a quickie and the obligatory request for my phone number, even though we both know he’ll never call. Maybe it was the boy who was kind enough to explain that he was attracted to me, but in a purely physical way. I was expected to take that as a compliment, so I did.

Some point along the line, I made a point to stop caring, I told myself the past didn’t matter. If I cook him breakfast, then it was just a regular date. If I don’t cry about it, then I’m not a victim. If I don’t have nightmares, then it never happened. If I never see him again, then I will learn to forget his name.

Four years later in a hotel room halfway across the world, I locked myself in the bathroom because I finally remembered and I forgot how to breathe. I felt his hands wrapped around my throat, I had rationalised to myself over the years that maybe he couldn’t hear me. Maybe if I had yelled instead of whispered, I wouldn’t feel guilty about delegating blame. I have studied the scar on my leg often and rationalised to myself that I was never innocent, but maybe I could still heal one day. Maybe it was just a bad dream and I will wake up soon.

But four years have passed and I have not been able to sleep without his shadow in my bed, and the scar refuses to fade. I am still waiting to be left alone.

184

You’re trying to convince me that life has changed, sufficient time has passed, we have moved on. You’re back at your folks’ place in the cramped trailer in the yard that shakes when the rain is heavy. It’s filled with your little sister’s old toys and you’re watching her grow out of her childhood. You pray that no one will take her innocence away; you know someone will.

You meet a pretty girl with brown locks and long dark lashes, your least favourite thing about her is that she drinks the same coffee as me. Her lips always curl into a smile when you kiss her, and you see in her a better lover, a gentler love. But when she falls asleep your mind always drifts to memories of me, and your thoughts are never kind. A part of you dreams of hurting me. You know you’ll never deserve her; you don’t tell her this.

Your mother asked about me once and the look on your face was enough to answer all her questions. Your family remembers me as the sweet girl who loved you. They never saw my anger, they never knew your pain. They didn’t witness your crimes, and I never let you share the blame. I stood by your side and watched you charm your life away, the golden boy with the perfect smile, and I couldn’t bear to shatter your pride, so I shattered mine. You let go of my hand when I was grasping for straws; you laughed when I was swallowed by the sea.

Your sister is in love with the boy next door and you are afraid he will hurt her the same way you hurt me. Karma did not disappoint. You caught her in the bathroom lending substance to her heartache and when you watched him slice her heart right open, you caught your own reflection. When she dug her nails into your hand and mumbled apologies you learn how little the word “sorry” is really worth. You remember your own apologies; you feel guilt for the first time.

I’m chain smoking on a hotel balcony in the heart of New York city, with a stranger’s arms wrapped around my shoulders. He smells just like you. I close my eyes, inhale the cancerous fumes and pretend he looks like you too. I learn to settle for amateur imitations. He likes to joke that I’m broken just the right amount to make me a wild child, and toxic just enough to be addictive. I don’t tell him I am poison; I try to forget you’re my antidote.

183

This is how the story goes.

We have dinner and drinks at the same restaurant you take all the girls, but I pretend to feel special, I know how to follow the rules of your game. You compliment my dress and I laugh at all your jokes to make the date proceed smoothly. You ask about my childhood and I tell you it was uneventful, it was fine. I don’t tell you my parents were never home and I still struggle to make dinner conversation because I never had the practice. By the time dessert arrives, we’ve slowly gotten to know each other, but not accurately. You kept your dirty little secrets to yourself and I did my best to hide my crazy. We both spend the night pretending to be normal, and I smile when you kiss me good night. I think I might like you. This is the beginning of the honeymoon phase.

In the next three months I become the centre of your world. We watch all the movies we saved up when we lacked the right company, and annoy all our friends with excessive PDA. We go for walks on the beach, we watch the sunset together, I get used to holding your hand. A few months later we give in to our cravings for intimacy and I get used to falling asleep with your arm around my waist, I learn what it is like to feel safe. We incorporate our mutual quirks into a flawless morning routine and you start to drink coffee even though you prefer tea.  This is how I fall in love with you.

Sooner rather than later you start to learn things about me that you don’t like. You think you might be bored with me but you’re not entirely sure, so you don’t say anything. I start to get tired of your childish antics when I discover that charisma alone isn’t enough to sustain a healthy relationship, but I don’t say anything either. We’re not quitters. We tolerate each other, we fight over menial things and sometimes we don’t even know what we’re yelling about but damn we get good at making each other angry. This is when I learn to resent you.

We continue to celebrate the same anniversaries but without the same enthusiasm. We kiss out of habit not affection. We fuck, but you think about other people. I don’t think at all. My depression creeps back and I become even more distant, not that it really matters, because these days you don’t want to talk to me anyway. Kitchen knives disappear and you find them in the bathroom drawer but you don’t want to know. We’re both exhausted. You argue with me about the validity of depression as a mental illness, I double the dosage of my pills. You loathe weakness, you start to hate me for being miserable. You start to hate yourself for not knowing how to make me happy. This is when we know it’s over.

We try to sit down like mature, rational adults and have the awkward conversation. We should have said things like “it’s not you, it’s me”, or “I love you, I’m just not in love with you” etc. We could have lied and said “let’s stay friends” even though we both know we were never really friends. But we didn’t fall out of love at the same time, and so there was bloodshed. We leave out the important lies that would have sounded better, and scream the truth at each other till we run out. Just to be safe, we yell some terrible things we don’t really mean and never take them back. We think about each other in the years to come and wonder ‘how the fuck did I let that happen’. This is the closest you’ll get to an apology.

182

I am hungry for someone.

Not for the left over lust from too many shots of tequila at the end of a lonely night, when you throw your arms around the best looking stranger left in the bar and pretend to be satisfied, but every kiss turns to humiliation when morning comes calling. I am waiting impatiently for the person who is supposed to transform my life. I am starving.

Far too young to be having a midlife crisis, too old to be drifting so aimlessly.  I keep thinking maybe life will begin to make sense if I hit that next milestone, but it never does. I remember her scent, it clung to him like toxin, and I bit down on his promises till I drew blood.  Old mistakes still haunt me, old friends have become perfect strangers. We don’t say hello anymore, I miss that. I feel empty.

A man who used to love me with every fibre of his being, whose heart used to swing sideways at the sound of my name, has decided it is easier for us to never speak. I am inclined to agree that his decision is sensible, mature, reasonable, yet a part of me wonders if one day we’ll look back and wish we had put down our pride and remembered what was important. I refuse to admit I am no longer important to him. I still crave for validation.

Can you be broken yet unbent? Can you be strong even as you are falling to pieces? This is how I feel. Like a tree with all her branches hacked off, but still standing tall, my roots dug deep beneath the surface, safely breathing. I recall one grey Sunday, when I was feeling shattered. You found me lying on the floor, pills scattered near blood stains, memories you can never dig out of your mind. That is how I chose to stay, an ugly imitation of love, a gross obsession. I am insatiable.

I have forgotten what intimacy feels like. It is too easy to wrap your arms around a warm body, it is too hard to understand why you want to. It is too easy to trace the secret scars visible only in the dim lights of your bedroom, it is too hard to ask why I have them. It is too easy to fall in love with the spark in my eyes, it is too hard to stay when the light goes out. I feel temporary. I am famished.

181

If you don’t break my heart, I’m going to break yours. My mother never taught me how to love without leaving scars, and I’ve spent years gifting bruises to undeserving hearts. It won’t be your fault, but I probably won’t admit it’s mine either. The worst parts of you will fall in love with my cruelty.

You will call me at 2 AM asking me to come home and the blaring club music will drown out your desperation. When I come stumbling in at 4 AM with smeared lipstick that tastes like someone else’s skin you’ll wish you never met me. I’ll blame the alcohol and you’ll pretend to forgive, even though we both know better.

I’ll pretend to like black coffee at first to impress you. Three months later you’ll catch me adding milk and sugar and you don’t really notice. I’ll make your mornings better, but you won’t notice this either. When I leave, no one will make you coffee quite how you like it. It never tastes quite the same, and you always notice.

You’ll say I love you first and I’ll kiss you hard so I don’t have to lie out loud. You will interpret this the way you want to and when the time is right I will use it to make you hurt. It is easier to build mistakes on broken promises. It is hard to remember we made each other happy once.

The novelty of being with someone independent will wear off sooner than you think, and you’ll miss the feeling of being missed. You’ll wake up hungover on Sunday mornings and think about the girl with wide eyes who would lie in bed and text you at 5 in the morning, begging you to come home. You’ll miss her.

On our anniversary dinner I’ll catch you staring at the waitress the same way you used to look at me, and when this doesn’t bother me I’ll realise we both moved on but forgot to tell each other. She writes her number on the receipt like a giant cliche and you call her because so are you.

When I find her scarf misplaced victoriously in our apartment, you finally admit we misplaced our lives too. Four summers later the tan line around my finger fades enough for me to forget her name. Four summers ago you whispered her name instead of mine. I almost didn’t love you, you know. If only.

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August 12, 2014

180

I feel disconnected, like a wire was cut without my permission and now I’m drifting into unknown territory.

It was a dream and nightmare all at once, the city danced and we swayed to the beat, but the stifling heat of this concrete jungle made it impossible for us to breathe.

I lit another cigarette on your balcony, my arms around your neck, watching the smoke trail up and the curls settle onto your washed up shirt. You kissed my neck and I whispered another lie because I didn’t want to spoil the moment. It just sounded better.

I watched strangers shuffle along the dirty streets lined with too much history they didn’t care for, their heads head high but defeat in their eyes because there’s no love in this city and it’s driving them crazy.

You lit another cigarette and by this time we were not simply strangers, but lovers by default. We were in the right place at the right time, just lonely enough, and wiling to lose ourselves in the friction. Hollow passion can taste so sweet, if only because they remind you of empty promises.

I saw myself reflected in windows full of ugly neon signs and I had painted myself neat. Dark chocolate eyes and black lipstick; I left bruises on your cheek. I told you not to get too close. I warned you not to love me.

I followed your darkness and played with your monsters, when I left I took them with me and you were too blind to notice. The rain fell soft and warm but it couldn’t wash away my sins, and the novelty of pretending to be lovers wore off by the time the neighbors turned off their lights.

Our hearts were miles apart and broken in different ways, but it felt good to feel skin on skin, to be chemicals reacting.

June 29, 2014

179

Freedom is exhilarating, but not everyone is built for it. We’re all monsters, underneath our fragile skin and brittle bones, we hide our lies with pretty words and a well timed nod of approval. We don’t have the strength to let go when a good thing is over, so we grip tighter, tease the strain and hope for a miracle. We know miracles don’t exist, but we hope for one anyway. This hope is what kills us inside, slowly, then all at once.

Freedom comes at a price, but most of us fall into our comfort zones and forget how to leave. We get so used to holding the same hand after a while we’re not quite sure if we love that person or the familiarity of them. When we settle down we settle into someone else’s skin and it makes us weak; no person was designed to bear the pain of two living souls.

Freedom is being in control of losing control. There was always the part of me that craved danger because the feeling of losing control is so intoxicating. Life and I have a long standing suicide pact and sometimes I wish someone else would pull the trigger. But there are mornings when I wake up feeling like a new beginning, feeling like less, like I am losing myself yet I am becoming so much more in the process. The beauty and the addiction lies in the transformation, in your flesh, in your eyes, in places no one can see or touch or even imagine.

I have been alone for too long, settling into my own skin, realising all my flaws and wondering how anyone will ever love me, wondering if I will ever love anyone the way I love freedom. I’m stubborn, I drift, I indulge my own bad habits and I bore too easily. Love never felt like coming home, love never made me feel safe. Love was heartache, love was living from a suitcase, love was running, love was careless, and love never came back for me.

 

June 23, 2014

178

Somewhere in between growing up and growing old, my life became a constant struggle between who I am and who I used to be. A part of me wants to be at peace and proud of myself for making it this far because lord knows this journey hasn’t been easy, then there’s this other part that knows I could be a better person but I no longer want to be.

The crazy part of me that he wanted to tame, the wildness that never went away, that part of me wants to disappear after graduation and go on a big adventure. But the sensible, logical coward in me would stay for the financial security and stability and I am watching myself become boring, so boring. I watched the child in me plant these seeds and waited patiently all these years for the flowers to grow but now that they’re blooming, I’m the one pulling them out.

I don’t fantasize about killing myself anymore but the petty part of me is still fuming and resentful for everything that’s happened, and sometimes when the rage slips out I am shocked I could ever contain this madness in the first place. I’ve grown to love my scars and be comfortable in my own skin, and I know that being alone isn’t the same as being lonely but god I miss touching you, I miss being touched.

I don’t know who finally killed the part of me that knew how to dream, but somewhere in between growing bitter and growing cold, the magic disappeared and I’m sick of waking up to nightmares. It’s as if my mind has been ripped apart and put back together so many times, you told me what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger but you forgot to mention being stronger is not the same as being whole. I will never be whole again.

June 17, 2014

177

This is how you kill someone: You don’t talk to them, you pretend they don’t exist. This is how you killed me.

10 months later and I’m still erasing your existence, throwing away things that you’ve touched, letters that I wrote for you, presents you gifted to me back when I was still your treasure and life was not so unforgiving. I thought I left you behind in that one bedroom apartment and all the memories would be kept there, but two summer flings couldn’t shake the chills you left inside this battered heart, they couldn’t steady my heartbeat.

Spring cleaning always ends with me deleting more photos, and keeping the ones I might want to look at one more time some day, just in case. The more buttons I click the more I realise that somewhere deep down I never stopped caring about you, but I no longer recognise the happy strangers in our photos. I don’t know what I’d give up to see you again and hear you say my name, tell me I’ve been dreaming, tell me I’m worth saving. Eight months ago you saw me at the back of the bar drinking myself into the corner and you said I was a fallen angel and you were too corrupt to be my home.

Five months from now I’ll probably be too busy missing you to notice the sweet boy who served his soul to me on a silver platter, and when I forget to catch him, our mistakes will finally have new collateral damage. 10 months later and I still hate hearing your name, the wounds you left never healed completely and your words still sting. I am struggling to find untouched skin that hasn’t been marked as your territory, and I’m too busy keeping the blemishes you left to let anyone else kiss me.

Ten years ago the decisions I had to make didn’t all feel like fatal mistakes, and not every step was seeped in your poison. Two months ago I thought I saw you in the streets, it was only a shadow, yet enough to make me weep. 12 months ago you began to fall out of love with me, I saw the signs before you even knew, it wasn’t the first time I’d seen love dying. 10 months later and I am your paper ghost, scratching down our hopeless stories so that some day you may grieve for who I was, who we could have been.

This is how you kill someone: You love them,  then you leave them. This is how I’ll kill you.

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