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.

Category: Mine

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This feels cruel to say. Sometimes I wonder if my mental health would be improved if I were an orphan. Unlikely in a place like China where I was born, but perhaps I would have stood a chance if I wound up here somehow, or if my father had a chance to discover himself without the constant belittling.

The strange thing about growing up with abuse is the inability to recognise it. When it’s the only norm, only truth that you know, how are you to expect anything different? Why would you think it should be any other way?

It wasn’t until late into adulthood, when becoming a parent seemed less of a distant future and more of an inevitable development, that I started to skim through all the “helpful” guides being shared by every new parent around me. Every article about harmful parenting styles read like a full transcript of my childhood.

I am afraid to share good news. It becomes either something she could take credit for, or something not worthy of being celebrated. I could never share the bad news. It becomes something that I must have caused, or deserve, something that could have been avoided if I could just be less lazy and more obedient. My fault, my fault. All the wrongs are mine. I must be grateful for every bit of good in my life. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for their sacrifices. Oh don’t I know it.

I don’t want anyone to misunderstand. My mother is kind, generous, good hearted, caring. But somehow, through some misguided attempt to be a “successful” parent, she couldn’t offer me the same kindness she provided to strangers. Perhaps because on some level she believes I ruined her life. I remember her telling me so. “My life would be so much easier if you and your brother were never born.” I took gratuitous pleasure imagining the satisfaction of fulfilling that wish. I considered the possibility of finally having the last word. I’m still uncertain if it was weakness or strength that led me to stay.

Why do you let her hurt you?

You’re too old to be seeking unattainable approval.

What do you want from her?

I want freedom from her spell.

I want to be loved unconditionally.

I want you to make me believe it.

But not all wounds heal, darling. You don’t know how much I’ve bled.

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It was freedom.

The thrill of free fall, a few blissful moments when all is quiet.

No choices, no reminiscing, no time to be haunted by regrets.

I let myself be pulled to the present.

There is only this moment.

Indulge me, make me ache.

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I think I was always destined to find my way into kink, it just took a lot longer than I would have liked, for various reasons. I remember being 16, exploring sexuality for the first time, losing my virginity to a boy I thought I loved, and wanting so much more than just the traditional vanilla lifestyle he seemed content to thrive in. I wasn’t even sure what I did want, only that it was far from whatever he could offer. What he considered passionate lovemaking bored me to tears. I wanted to be broken, he thought that meant I was.

I understood that monogamy was the norm, yet the idea of only being able to share intimate experiences with one fellow human was far from romantic, it depressed me to the core. I knew I didn’t want to marry him, have boring sex in missionary position twice a week, and live happily ever after in a house in the suburbs, surrounded by a white picket fence.

I didn’t know quite how to explain this in a way that didn’t hurt his feelings. I suggested that he try seeing other people, expand his experiences (secretly hoping that maybe if he fucked enough people he could get better at it), but he wanted only me. It made me wonder if I was selfish, or cruel, or simply incapable of love, at least the sort that everyone else seemingly wanted. 

When I eventually grew tired of pretending, and broke his heart unceremoniously, it felt like I had set myself free. I rushed to seek out new experiences with others, and in my eagerness to do so, inadvertently broke his heart a second time. I wish I could have known better. Years later when a boy finally shattered me, a part of me believed it was redemption. Ah, so this is what it felt like. I’m sorry, please forgive me, I’m sorry. 

It’s hard to explain why I’m utterly enamoured by someone who loves to mark my body with bruises. It was different this time, he wasn’t a boy cautiously testing the waters, weary of hurting me. He wanted to hurt me, and he knew how to do it confidently. I don’t like to submit easily, which makes the power exchange all the more thrilling for the both of us. I was no longer shamed for my deviance, he cherished and actively encouraged my perversions. When I expressed my desire to be tied, he had no qualms with me exploring the wonderful world of shibari with others.

This is what I had always known that I wanted, all along. A trust and connection so deep that didn’t feel threatened by other meaningful experiences. Someone who understood me and my desire to grow beyond the boundaries of our own intimacy. It takes time and faith to build the sort of trust that allows for such a bond, and I’m still always torn between wanting to share this aspect of my life and feeling like I should hide it from the world, as if it could be used against me in some way. But I like the life I’ve built, the friends I’ve kept, and the past no longer haunts me.

I am bound to him, yet I am free.

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What was it like to be seventeen? The smallest inconveniences appeared to be insurmountable difficulties. Every emotion you’re feeling for the very first time, magnified until they seemed all encompassing, all consuming. That was the state of my affairs, the day you first smiled at me.

You seemed almost angelic. Not that I’d ever believed in the hippie trippy trash about auras, but some strange energy drew me towards you. It soon became clear that we enjoyed each other’s company, and you were unsure if that was suitable. You had appearances to keep. I had too much baggage, too much gossip that would follow.

I shouldn’t need you to see it in order to be happy with this life that I’ve built. But some stupid childish part of me wishes you would glance back, just for a second, nod your approval, the way you used to wink at me across the room, our little secret. I promise not to tell. She never has to know.

I don’t know what I’m hoping to prove. I never said I loved you. We never dared to dream of it. Maybe it hurts because you refused to give me a chance to be a better person. You simply decided that I wasn’t. That was the end of my chapter in your story. It kills me that this is how it ends. She looked beautiful in that dress. You looked handsome as always in that perfectly tailored suit. How dare you look so happy. The nerve of you, to make me feel happy for you.

Now I know my few remaining friends have given up hope on trying to save me. I know I’ll come up with a perfect plot to piss off the dumb few that forgave me. I’ll burn every bridge before I make it to the exit, I’ll follow you to the edge of the sea. I’ll mark your name in red before I leave, you’ll never get another chance to deceive me.

I hope you lie when you tell people she’s a good wife, there’s no cure for our kind of lonely and she makes you cry. I hope I die young and you finally learn to miss me. It’ll be too late. I burned the olive tree down.

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I’ve never truly felt like I belonged. People had friends, they had groups, they had their chosen families. I never felt close to my own family and I didn’t know how to be close to others in that way. I was too awkward, too riddled with anxiety. I worried about saying the wrong thing. I worried about the sound of my voice. A mistaken tone. Accidentally offending someone. It would be easier if I never had to talk. Why was it no longer appropriate to remain silent. Why are we obligated to fill in the blanks, always.

I was so tired of the asinine small talk. The needless banter with strangers we wouldn’t spend a moment with if there wasn’t some sort of banal transaction binding us together. The annoying wastes of space you had to speak to on the phone, making your job more difficult by merely breathing. If murder had no legal consequences, more of us would grab a bone-saw. We have violence in our blood, some lose the battle to contain it. Who are we to judge, really? What about the darkest most depraved thoughts you’ve ever had. You’re no better. You could be worse.

I miss you. Losing you makes me wonder if I lost something within myself. The part of me that was worth loving, because you loved me once. You made me believe there were people out there who could see the truth behind the whispers. Now you whisper about me too. I become an anecdote. The wild girl who offered unlimited stories. Who put her life on display for your amusement. She would have died for you. You’d let her.

I hate you. For giving me hope before you snatched it. The illusion of salvation, my bitter dissolution. Watching me shatter for your bragging rights. But you were a victim of your own imagination. You saw something in me that never existed. You tell her I was a mistake and she believes you. I never needed any convincing.

 

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For the longest time I thought I was like my father. I’d inherited his temperament, his easy attitude towards life. At some point I had to learn how to be cruel, how to be mean, how to put on armour. I’d like to think maybe she forced that with good intentions, maybe she believed I’d have a greater chance at surviving if she hurt me first. What is dead my never die, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, that kind of bullshit.

Did your mother ever tell you that you were worthless? That she regretted having you and you had ruined her life. Maybe plenty of mothers feel that way. Maybe most of them don’t say it. It took me a long time to stop ruining her life. It took me even longer to unlearn everything she had taught me.

I know that statistically speaking every relationship except your current one is technically a failed relationship. But some of mine failed so spectacularly that I’m still waiting for you to wake up one day and feel the same. He woke up one day and decided he wasn’t happy. That I wasn’t the one. That I never was.

I should have understood that it was nobody’s fault but I couldn’t fathom the truth. I’d done it before. I had broken a heart before it happened to me and I thought nothing could feel worse than the guilt, but then it did. I felt every bone in my body ache and I wanted to rip my heart out so it would stop beating for him.

I’ll never learn how to just be fucking happy, you all made sure of that, didn’t you.

 

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On the evening celebrating my 27th birthday, just as my friends arrived, I received a call from my father that I needed to fly home immediately. My grandmother had a fall and was in the hospital. There was nothing the doctors could do for her, she was unconscious and probably not going to wake up, but I should see her one last time before the inevitable.

I’m not sure if we ever get better equipped at dealing with death. Does it become easier as more and more of our loved ones leave us? Is “easier” the right word when we’re simply numb to the pain?

I’ve always been slow to process my emotions. Compartmentalising always came so naturally to me. I found myself dissecting the situation like an unfeeling robot, and drew the unpleasant conclusion that death may in fact be a relief for her, and the rest of us.

She was 93 and had been suffering from dementia for the past few years, her condition worsening as time went on. More recently she would call me by my cousin’s name when I came to visit. With the exception of my mother who undoubtedly loved her the most, her four living sons have spent the past decade pawning off the responsibility of taking care of her, passing her around each family in rotation so they could split the burden as much as possible, in a manner deemed tolerable to their wives.

Maybe death is harder for our atheistic generation, when we all “know” that nothing happens after. Although the older I get the harder it is to be dismissive of religion entirely. I simply know of too many individuals far more intelligent than I will ever be who have found ways to maintain faith despite evidence to the contrary, that I can’t help wonder, and however reluctantly, begrudgingly, submit to such possibilities, because to claim otherwise would be unbearably arrogant.

In the final days we took turns holding her hand, my mother calling for her with a desperation that weighed heavily on us all. We did our best to remind her she was loved, and would be dearly missed. It’s strange how death can bring people together, how goodness can sometimes be found in the middle of hell.

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I miss you and I hate you for that.

A part of me always knew there was no happy ending in store for us, but I imagined that I would find contentment along the way, and for a while I pretended that would be enough.

When you said you loved me, I could tell you meant it in the way others pretended to mean it. I sometimes wonder how I ever found the strength to leave you, when so much of me wanted to stay. I refuse to acknowledge that I ripped myself open for you. But it was the last time I ever let anybody in.

There was an easy charm about you that you pretended to work hard for. Maybe you even convinced yourself that it was hard, just so you could take the credit. You viewed the world through a different lens and you were convinced your version was superior. I would never have been enough and you knew it. We would have ruined each other in exquisite ways. You would have enjoyed every minute of it.

She bores you, you’d never admit it, but you know it. You’re sick of the way she looks at you. Whatever part of your ego that she once satisfied with her presence now finds her mediocre and taxing. You could have done better, you’d never say it, but you know it. With every kiss you feel your affections fade, until you barely remember why you chose to stay. You made the choice, long ago, that you would always stay.

It could have all been different, we might have never crossed paths and you might be happier for it. I brought you so much pain and so little joy to compensate. I don’t know how to truly convey my sincerity in a way that might move you. I thought I left you for new beginnings, but perhaps they are only new mistakes. New people to disappoint, more hearts to break.

 

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Some people were not meant to be kept. They feel trapped, claustrophobic. Erotic asphyxiation, minus the erotica. You make them hollow when you try to make them stay. They thrive on the new, the shallow, the promised missed phone calls, the lack of commitment, the paper thin walls of hipster hotel rooms and the false pretence of romance emanating from scented candles that don’t belong to you. He doesn’t want to belong to anyone but himself.

Some people don’t know how to be alone. They choke on anxiety at the idea of a poor conversation, they want so hard to be interesting, but having never overcome the fear of attempting to be anything other than ordinary, they will continue fading into the walls, deeper into obscurity. You never notice them. They’re just strangers walking past, they leave no trace.

Some people want to be remembered. For the good, the bad, and the ugly. Maybe the ugly are always more memorable. Remember the name, remember my name. I was capable of great horrors. There is glory in being a monster. Fear me, fear me, he cries. Then I will no longer be afraid of anything.

 

 

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Exordium

Despite our bitter dissolution, I can’t deny that he once saved me from myself, and I will always remain grateful for that brief respite of unexpected kindness.

We met under peculiar circumstances. I was lost, certain only of the fact that I must be damaged goods, and desperately searching for anything to prove otherwise. He saw me drowning and reached out a hand, for no other reason than he had been walking by. He had kindness in him once, on that day, and the days that followed, perhaps I simply used it all up.

It was only intended to be temporary, and neither of us knew what to do when we grew accustomed to waking up together in the mornings. I suppose he bit off more than he could chew, and I was still greedily clinging to him for breath. He was always a realist. I should have known then that he would cut me loose if it meant saving himself.

Falling

It was both gradual and all at once. One day we woke up and smiled at each other and that was the beginning of the end.

We were smitten, obnoxiously attached like codependent Siamese twins. It was overbearing and mildly irritating even to friends, but we were too enamoured to care. I believed him when he said “I love you”, despite all evidence to the contrary. I had been so deprived of affection that those words were enough at the time. I let my imagination fill in the gaps. I was too infatuated to see past his carefully calculated responses. He did the bare minimum to maintain us and I was all too eager to pick up the slack. 

Melancholia

My depression wasn’t the only battle, but it was enough to cripple our already fragile foundations. He convinced me to stop taking the pills and felt his own acute despair when his presence proved to not be enough.

It was the lack of purpose, the grind and pressures of university, the constant procrastination and guilt, my repugnant inability to change. There was so little hope,  and he remained the only constant. That must have been unbearable, but he never complained.

The more I believed love could save me, the more he wanted to run. He would never have admitted to it. He never wanted to be unkind.

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I can understand it now, in hindsight, how appealing she must have been. All gentle smiles and grace, an undisturbed childhood and a mother who could compliment without degradation.

I was barely enlightened enough to be in denial, only irredeemably naive.

The more I craved for him to choose me, the more repulsive my desperation appeared. It’s bitingly sardonic that the only thing that might have saved us would have been walking away, but I wasn’t strong enough then.

It wasn’t a lesson I ever wanted to learn. If you’re lucky, a blessed childhood can heal all life’s trauma. If you’re unfortunate, you’ll spend your life chasing the ghosts of your past.

 

 

 

 

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There’s no organic way for relationships to repair themselves. It’s nothing like a bruise or a cut, when your body can simply clot the wound and rebuild under layers of scar tissue. We live in a world so offensively connected, it takes deliberation to lose touch with someone. Everything you never said can become personal, we take it all so personally.

I imagine you’re the same as always, picture perfect barbie doll-esque. Your lipstick colour hasn’t changed but your lips have become more refined at lying. Silver tongues can be contagious. Clever men can be dangerous, sometimes deadly. You mistake his duplicitous nature for strength. Your mother taught you better than this, so you speak to her less.

I’ve worked so hard to forget you, you’d be sufficiently flattered if you knew. I hate myself for my inability to let go of the past, to let regrets simply be. They fill me up, they’ll break me, I know. I never stopped being fragile, I only got better at pretending. I can’t think of you without my insides aching. You stole the last part of something pure, my misled belief in some goodness in this wretched world. I believed in you, in us, in friendships that could not be broken, in promises that would be kept. Where were you when I needed you the most? I never thought I’d have to survive you.

He builds you up until you no longer recognise yourself. He wasn’t a good partner when she needed him the most. He wasn’t a good son until it was too late. He wasn’t a good man for the most part of living. But he’s good to you. He’s good enough, you keep saying. Does it matter if he has a good heart? I suppose it depends how deep you’re willing to dig. My my, what a pretty grave.

 

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The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.

I am done bending over backwards trying to forgive you for a mistake you won’t admit to.

I won’t waste more time trying to love the empty space you’ve left behind.

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Look, it wasn’t really fair but no one ever said it would be, did they? No one promised you that this life was going to be made up of dreams come true and memories worthy of romantic comedies, the kind that was cheesy but he would reluctantly sit through and secretly enjoy but never admit to.

No one ever said you deserved to be happy. Happiness was a luxury not a right, something to yearn for but never to keep. Something to hold onto but still be cursed to witness it slip away. A chance to climb only to fall further than you ever did, each time testing the strength of your ability to keep your heart beating. She stopped calling. Some people never want to be mended. Some get tired of being saved.

Sometimes the deepest wounds don’t bleed at all. No one notices when you’re vulnerable to the sharpness of air. How I can miss it. The sharp edges, the reminders to stay unkind. You and your smug perfect smile. Your carefully curated messy hair. The ability to leave me behind. The cleverness to forget my name. I was never so much the one that got away as the one that forced you to change your number. I called once so I could hear your voice again. It wasn’t what I remembered.

I had a childish naivety that was incompatible with reality. I urged you to reconsider, even though I really did know better.

What was the purpose of staying lonely? What does it mean if they prefer solitude over your company? How extravagant must your failures be to have provoked such opinions?

Why are you still here? He might actually miss you if you had the decency to die young like you promised.

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Watch me destroy my own happiness. I can tear down the foundations on a rainy day and leave you out to dry. Wipe her lipstick stain off your cheek, kiss the crimson away till my lips are bloody. You and your pride, both of us struggling for air as our egos compete to drown the other. My stubbornness, my inability to let anything go, did you really find that endearing once upon a time?

How could you ever have loved me? Flaws and warts and all. Every imperfection is sharpened like razor but we both got so good at pretending. I could almost have believed you were the one. You could almost have been my salvation. We might have been able to save each other if you meant all the lies you were saying. I would have given everything for them to be true.

I told you all I had was a bunch of sad stories, and I had learned to hide the bitterness with a sickly sweet smile that reached my eyes. He taught me how to smile with my heart broken wide open. You never cared enough to notice the cracks. My darling, sticks and stones may break my bones, but love will never hurt me.

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Then there was you. Always standing tall and seeming so sure of yourself, or at least good enough at pretending that no one noticed otherwise. If they did, your friends were not so cruel as to point it out. You always did make the effort to surround yourself with kind people. I might have been the one exception. Maybe you were having a bad day, a weak moment and I slipped through, all smiles and innocence.

I was never blunt by intention, there was a deceptive lightness in me but you were never fooled like the others. You alone saw the sharp edges that no amount of sun tan lotion and summer dresses could blur. You tried to kiss them away once and I left blood on your tongue, stains on your collar. You knew better after. You knew when to cut your losses.

I miss you the way I miss any old friend. It doesn’t hurt more or less because we had other choices. I can no longer say for certain whether you were right or wrong, only that anger is no substitute nor does it stave away the pain. I hate her for stealing you, but wish her well for loving you more than I ever did.

I loved you like you were temporary, the way some people loved their pets in a calculated manner because they were afraid to outlive them. I was waiting for you to leave since the day you met me. I was content to be your stepping stone, a phase to get out of your system, and then you did.

I hope she keeps your demons at bay and you find goodness wherever you go. I hope you sleep through the nights and she still makes you smile in the mornings. I hope you’ve mastered the art of being alone but you never have to be lonely. I’m sure your children will inherit your good looks and her fair temperament. And when you find yourself reflected in their eyes, you’ll feel a sense of such completeness, you won’t miss me at all.