Serendipity

Was I born a masochist or did society make me this way?

Tag: fiction

296

We’re living through strange times. The bell curve of human intelligence or lack thereof has never stretched so far apart. It’s difficult if not outright impossible to discern the truth from the barrage of information we’re constantly bombarded with on every screen we glance past.

As a child, I had always assumed being an adult meant something. As if age magically bestowed you wisdom, or at least common sense. But it isn’t so. People do not miraculously become clever or more sensible after consuming nonsense for most of their lives.

I have always avoided reality TV like the plague, and on the rare occasions when I watched them, I felt bewildered by their popularity. The cheap theatrics filled me with an irrational passionate hatred. It felt like a betrayal, that in this short time we have on the planet, this limited journey, we were being studied religiously, then targeted with the most likely trash to elicit a click, an endless scroll. We were being robbed on a daily basis, of seconds, minutes, precious hours wasted by clever algorithms, designed to keep us complacent, bored yet satiated, just tired enough to never strive for more. Let the homeless carry iPhones. They will own nothing and be happy about it.

Isn’t it strange, that we’ve never had more and felt worse about it? For all that the younger generations complain of wealth inequality, unaffordable housing, and the con that is higher education; we have never had so much material comfort, access to information, opportunities to be more than the circumstances we’re born into.

But we squander it every fucking day. I watch my youth slip away as I inflict irreparable damage to my spine because I’ve not yet aged enough to regret my poor posture. We share the same cliche quotes with pastel backgrounds and pretend it’s as good as therapy. We experiment with different pills till we find the right one that numbs our pain with the least repercussions. We nip our problems at the bud so we never have to examine the roots too closely.

We’re the first generation in a long time that’s had it worse than our parents, and we’re angry but not quite sure at who. At our parents for doing their best? At ourselves for believing lies about dreams being achievable? At the teachers tasked with pretending we weren’t mediocre? Who needs a mid life crisis when you can experience anxiety on a daily basis? It’s not a drug addiction if a pharmacist labels the bottle.

What if their best was not even remotely close to good enough? Can you ever really break the cycle? Home used to be a place I would hide. A roof over my head, enough distance between me and her temper. Never quite enough distance.

I was never given permission to make a home my own, and even now, sitting in the house I own, it feels lacking. I never quite know how to answer when the designer asks what I want, because for so long “wanting” was a crime. The audacity of a child to want more, when the parents had so little. A crime beyond repent.

There was a time when my mother was so miserable that the very act of expressing happiness in her vicinity was a recipe for disaster. I find myself experiencing the same irrational rage at mild inconveniences and it feels like a cruel cosmic joke, to become what you loathe the most. The irony that I’m now the favourite child. The successful yet obviously not successful enough lawyer she can humble brag to her friends, whilst making quips about how she never had high expectations of me.

All that I am was despite her good intentions. Yet she wears my achievements like glorious validation.

294

It dawns on me that you would no longer be the boy whom I remember. In the end I’m mourning a soul who no longer exists, perhaps never existed at all. There are days that I forget your name, the sound of your voice. I no longer remember the way you kissed, I suppose it was tender. I don’t remember the way that you smell, but I remember I liked it. I don’t remember the way you fucked, but we left marks to celebrate.

All I really remember is the pain. A pain all consuming that it blurred my sense of reality, a pain so deep that death appeared less frightening. All logic dictated that my heart was still a functional organ, diligently beating, cycling blood through my body. You shouldn’t be able to feel a heart, yet I felt it. A searing, red hot sting, I felt it tear into pieces with every word, crushed by the weight of your apologies.

Sometimes I miss the pain, not in a masochistic way, although perhaps a little. But truthfully I miss the way you broke my heart so completely. One must love completely in order to be broken. But we grow and we learn and we never open up quite so sincerely again. We put up walls or at least some respectable fences. We leave one foot out the door, for safety.

I don’t miss being young but I miss the innocence of our youth. I miss saying I love you without caveats. The days of saying words like forever and meaning it, the way only foolish children could do. The days of never worrying about the future, as it was simply too far out of reach. When the greatest crime was the assault of a stranger’s perfume lingering on your shirt, not a lipstick stain.

I suppose, in a way, you still complete me. I may have been a different person had you not kissed me. Would I have been happier? My heart lighter? My soul unobstructed by the weight of your transgressions? Who would you be? Who would you have broken instead of me? Would she have recovered more elegantly?

Would she still wear her heart on her sleeve?

293

I still underestimate how much people mean to me, even after all this time. You’d think I’d be prepared by now, I should know how to cut my losses, stop hurting myself over people who never think of me at all. Wouldn’t that be the saddest thing, if you never thought about me at all.

Maybe that’s why I pretend we meant more to each other than we really did. It’s been four years since we spoke. Long enough for memory to become unreliable, and I was never a reliable witness. Maybe that’s why I pretend you never loved her. It’s easier to tell others you’re in a loveless marriage than to believe you might be happy in a life without me. The truth is, I know better than anyone that a man as calculating as you would never fail a question as big as marriage. You were always far too clever to sign yourself up to a life of defeat.

Or perhaps the truth is far more wretched. That you carefully considered the possibility of me, the wasted potential of me. You wrote a pro and con list, you reviewed my deficiencies and concluded that I was a disaster waiting to happen. You’d rather be bored than to suffer at my unpredictable hands. I never learned how to put you at ease. I excited you, I terrified you, but I was still only a stranger in your bed, never noticing you could only fall asleep alone.

Now you kiss her good night before retreating to separate rooms. You say “good morning darling” with the same ease as I pour my first coffee. You both promised the counsellor you’d remember to say “I love you” with more empathy, whatever the hell that means. You close your eyes and still you think of me. Your gin soaked breath tracing the curvature of my spine, your hands gliding along my shoulders, your lips on my skin, remembering every groove, every imperfection. Every scar, every near miss. The smell of my hair, the taste of my lips, the bitterness of unspoken goodbyes. Still you miss the shadow of me, yet you never grieve.

272

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.

 

267

A part of me wanted to gamble. I considered betting on myself, on whatever love or fragmented remains of it were left for me. Plenty of marriages survived on nostalgia and fear of being lonely, perhaps I could join their ranks.

Part of me imagined ripping her to shreds. It took whatever strength I had left to not humiliate myself further by contacting her. I fancied a confrontation, dreamed of it, practised all the witty insults I could throw at her that might cause even a semblance of the pain and anguish she had carelessly drowned me in. But none of it really mattered, when even the mere suggestion of it sent him rushing to her side, jumping to her defence.

There was nothing to save, we had truly run out of love for one another. Or rather, he had run out of love for me, and it was as if he’d pulled a plug out of the drain and I was quickly losing the rest. It hurt less than I expected, which hurt more in a way. I always believed if you could stop loving someone then you never really loved them at all. But ten years is a long time to be fooled by infatuation. If I’m being honest, only 4 of them were any good. We soldiered on when the warmth melted away. We did the mature, responsible thing, and “worked on our marriage”. Ironically the happiest times when we both felt most content was when he loved another woman. He had to betray me to be good to me, now ain’t that sweet.

tbc..

 

255

It’s 1am and I can’t sleep. Who do I blame for that?

I feel insatiable, a bottomless pit. He gives me affection but it’s not enough. I became accustomed to the way you loved me. All smiles and sweetness, the gentle calm that would wash over me with your embrace. Sometimes I feel alone even as he holds me. Who do I blame for that?

I feel myself growing older but none the wiser, only more mediocre. Who do I blame for that?

As the days pass by and the unlikely possibility for some miracle of achievement continues to diminish, my feeble attempts to carve dreams into reality only seem to highlight how impossible they are.

I fantasise about something drastic, but a part of me rightfully carries a very grim concern that a true tragedy may not make me, it might simply break me. I have been broken before. I no longer blame him for that.

I miss him at times. Maybe it’s easier now that I know it can never be. I can forgive him for not living up to expectations that are no longer expected. We really loved each other for what it was worth. I know that still. I don’t know how to love like that again. Who do I blame for that?

You can say I love you and not mean it. I could hear it in your voice before you did. I miss falling asleep in your arms. In the mornings we were always so far apart. I was always scrambling back for cover, for warmth, for last minute affection.

Is this as good as it gets? It is enough? Should I learn to be happy? The answer to “are you happy” for me has always been “I should be”.

There is simply too much suffering happening at any given moment to even begin to comprehend, let alone be indulging in my own minor inconveniences.

But it hurts to not know what you want. As Wallace so aptly put it, “the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing”.

I watch others walk through life with such purpose and stride while I continue to fade into darkness.

244

I have an overwhelming urge to unplug from this world. Delete everything, disappear for a bit and go on an adventure. Or disappear for a long time and stop caring whether anyone remembers me. It kills me that there is a type of freedom I could never taste.

I want to kiss you again. For my own selfish reasons. I want to know if it would still feel good, or will it be muddied by guilt and invite more regret. ‘No one will love you as much as I did’ can also mean ‘no one will hurt you as much as I did’. A narcissist won’t be able to tell the difference.

‘I don’t love you’ can be the best lie you ever tell yourself. The last time she kisses you is a kind of death practice, you will grow to appreciate her absence, solitude brings new perspective after all. Or you kill her for leaving and tell yourself that’s what makes it true. Love is worth protecting. You’ve always been a fighter.

‘I still love you’ is a lie we say because it sounds better. ‘I never loved you at all’ is what we say when it hurts the most. It’s almost always too late for an apology. By the time you need to apologise it’s already too late. These scars will never fade.

You never really lose control though, do you? You’ve always been the master of the room, playing the pieces like puppets, singing your song and watching them dance to your tune. You looked me in the eyes as you twisted the knife, you intended it to hurt. You meant every word. Winning is still everything to you. It kills me that she can’t see it. I refuse to play by your rules.

I break everything I touch. I see the monsters more clearly, I’ve met your kind before. The casual charm, the nonchalance, the steady denial, the cleverly embellished narrative, the lack of remorse, the reluctance to change, the arrogance, the pride. I want to break you in half. I want to throw the first punch. I want to taste your blood.

240

I get lost inside people. I spend so much time trying to understand them, I forget who I am in the process. I’d do anything to get inside your head, to be someone else for a moment, to imagine how you’re feeling, if only because the narcissist in me wants to know how I make you feel. I want to know if being with me can change you, as being with you has changed me.

I need something more than time or effort or feeling. I need chemistry that can’t be manufactured by words or actions. Some inexplicable connection, something intangible that grabs you by the throat and makes your heart pound against your chest so fast that you forget how to breathe. The first kiss feels like a punch. I leave marks on his chest so his other lovers would know that I was here.

His palm strikes my cheek and I’m awake for the first time in weeks. I feel the weight of his body closing in on me, and I kiss him like I was afraid to say “I missed you.” I wear my bruises with twisted pride and he admires his handiwork with childlike glee. We are bad for each other, we know how to bring out the worst in each other. I can see cruelty in his eyes, no hint of remorse. I adore the cold, calculated sadist. I crave the satisfaction of making him lose control. I smile innocently at his rage, I become his worst addiction.

I understand obsession, I have a perverted desire for the absurd. He’ll never love me the way that I need to be loved, so I’ll never grow tired of chasing his approval. I’d rather be heartbroken than submit to a mediocre love affair. I’d rather be hurt than feel nothing at all. I kiss him like he’s my favourite mistake.

233

I’ve been selecting the archive button on every device that shows his name. It’s always hard to say goodbye to an old friend. You worry that no one will ever understand you as well as he did, and you would be right, no one will. It was a rare combination of wanting to know you because he found you intoxicating, and a natural intimacy that drew you close in the first place.

It was the right amount of incompatible for what it eventually became, a unique bond that always hinted at a little more, we were always a little too flirtatious for our own good. He would pretend not to notice as I partied away my sanity and would use euphemisms like “you’re too exciting for me” rather than confront my self destructive behaviour. He always knew when to bow out gracefully from a losing fight.

I pretended to be bored by everything he represented and I never let him know I think I could never deserve someone as good as he was. I watch him struggle to keep his distance as if something about me could be contagious. He was so risk averse that even witnessing it made him feel uneasy. I was too young to admit I was wrong, how could I ever be wrong. I was so sure I knew how to love, I was so sure I was making myself happy. It didn’t matter if the happiness was only ever temporary, if I could collect enough blocks of temporary happiness then I could pretend I was right all along. Every mistake, every heartbreak could be erased if I could just kiss the right lips, taste the right people, forget about yesterday and live for tomorrow.

She thinks I loved him once, albeit was a long time ago. More importantly, she thinks he loved me once, and that in itself was an unforgivable betrayal. Monogamy does not believe in grey areas. We both know enough to understand that what feels good is not enough of a foundation to build a life on, and we are both too terrified of the naked truth to be with someone who sees so clearly. You need the person who sees only enough to love you, not the one who sees all and loves you despite. That sort of love burns out the moment your faults begin to outweigh your redeeming qualities and they will resent you for becoming yourself.

I know I loved him once, for a few hours when we laid in bed together and he wrapped his arms around me like I had always belonged there, and he kissed me the way I always wanted to be kissed, and he showed me what peace should look like. I knew I could hurt him then, with my carelessness, my manic episodes, my unwillingness to conform. My utter devotion coupled with my inability to be faithful would confuse and terrorize him. However passionate we could be would only be matched by the excruciating pain when he comes to realise that some fires cannot be contained, some people cannot be tamed.

 

230

I’d hate for you to think I’m still writing about you. I’d hate for you to know I’m still thinking about you. I don’t know whether to call it weakness or insanity, to miss someone who has been gone for longer than they were ever around, to wish for a life that would have invited more pain and heartache than I could even imagine. The grass is always greener.

I looked you up again just to read your writings. Something I never bothered doing before because I thought your essays were boring. Now it’s the only connection I have left, your boring way with words. It was always a pleasure talking to you, and I miss that. I’m sorry I forgot that we all have our moments of weakness, I’m sorry I refused to let you have yours. In that moment you lost me. In my moment I lost you. We were never meant to be found.

I’m sorry I invited myself into your life so bizarrely and refused to leave without leaving destruction behind. I wanted to paint the walls bloody so they’d think twice before following. It was a warning to you to not cut so deep. I’m sorry it took so long for me to pick myself up. I could do it again now with all the grace you’d wished for, but it’s never easy to tear apart something you built with love. I’m still learning how to live in the relics.

I think part of me suspects that it will never again be the same. I will never again leave my heart wide open, I will never again kiss without doubt, I will never again love the way I loved you, so devastatingly certain, so sure of a happy ending. Something so intricate was broken inside the day you said goodbye, something delicate and irreparable. Now I see only farewells, be it from betrayal, time, or death, it all ends the same. But I have never been good at letting go. I am still hoping to say hello.

229

I fell in love with you in the dark. Eyes shut, heart wide open, full of hope and a gentle sadness. I knew new beginnings meant leaving something behind, but I carried my baggage to your doorstep, half expecting you to shut the gate. You greeted me all smiles and shyness, with no judgement and only kindness.

I fell in love the moment I stopped being shy around you. I thought that signaled the end, as it always has in the past. But then came the moments I still felt shy around you, then came all the ways you made me feel new. There was something about the way you lived that made the mundane aspects of an ordinary life no longer banal and depressing. It’s in the way you touch, the way you kiss, the way you loved.

It’s the moments when we’re lying in bed together and my arms are wrapped around you way too tight. It’s the moments when you think I’m sleeping and you sneak a kiss only to be embarrassed when you catch me smiling. It’s the time you played me a song that sounded like love, and that was the moment I knew there may be others like you, but I would never meet another like you.

It happened so suddenly, one day my life consisted only of you. Sometimes I think I must have loved you before, maybe a few lifetimes ago, because I don’t know how else to explain the familiarity. You were always there, always on my mind. It was a love I could assemble, a love that was easy to reciprocate, a feeling of being so understood that words were unnecessary. A freedom to be myself, that I had never considered possible. Everything else became background noise, all I wanted to hear was your voice. Everyone else could be forgotten, all I could see was you. Everything that came before was mere infatuation, I have never felt love like this before.

226

I have never been very good at saying no to myself. I’ve always lacked discipline, whether it was piano lessons or that last piece of cake, I always chose the easier option. I would conveniently ‘forget’ to practice, I would eat the last piece of cake and tell myself it was better than having an eating disorder. I pretended my lack of control was something endearing, something that made me easy to be around, easily humored, easy to please.

I’ve never been good at facing reality, of accepting it at face value. Denial comes much more naturally than accepting that I could live a life dull and null of purpose, accepting that I could be just as ordinary as the people I deem to be forgettable. But no matter how much I may crave to be heard, I am just as boring as the people whose names I can’t remember, just as cruel as the people I consider despicable, and just as foolish as the people I have scorned in the past. I have been the narrator and I have been the protagonist. But that wasn’t enough, the attention seeker in me wants to play every part. I want to be the victim, the villain, the heartbroken, the heart-breaker. I want to live every life that is possible, I want to explore every avenue. I want to break all of the rules.

There is a part of me willing trade an ordinary life for an extraordinary love, a will that you cannot reciprocate. There was a time when I kissed you and felt an eternity had passed, as if I had been with you since the beginning of time and will be with you until the end. There was a time when I looked into your eyes and saw galaxies and all the forces of the universe could not tear us apart. There will come a day when I draw my last breath and your heart skips a beat when mine stops beating, and you’ll know to find me again, in the next life, or whatever comes after.

 

222

I remember when he never loved me. This was before we had met. He was just another nameless boy who existed at the same time as I did, but our lives never collided. He kissed many girls but he never loved them back. They all loved him. He thought he loved one, or at least he really really wanted to. He wanted to so much that he had her name imprinted onto his ankle, in case he forgot to love her. He never forgot, because he never loved her.

I remember when he always loved me. This was the first time I sneaked into his bed and told him I couldn’t sleep. I could sleep, everyone sleeps eventually. But he knew what I really meant. He put his arm around me and that was the beginning of every bad decision we ever made together. Every secret smile, every sordid kiss, every sinful night that ended with messy sheets and knotted hair, I remember. He remembers too. He hadn’t planned on loving me, but he started waking up in the mornings with a smile on his face. He started saying ‘good morning’ like he meant it. He started to prefer coffee the way I made it. He always loved me and he didn’t know how to stop. Love can be dangerous, he knew this. I never knew this then. Now I always know.

I remember later, when he never loved me. This was when my head had gone bad again and I could no longer see the sun. I started to draw red lines all over my body and I was never pretty, I was always sad. He started kissing other girls again and it was easy because he never loved me. He felt trapped but too trapped to tell anyone or do anything to free himself. I learned it is possible to be tangled together with a person yet still feel lonely. We kissed each other less but when we did, we left bruises. When he finally found the courage to be worse at lying, I slit his throat and buried him under the sea. It was easy, because he never loved me.

213

‘Do you not like me sober’?

She wanted to ask but the words were glued to the back of her throat and she couldn’t cough it out. So she lit another cigarette instead and watched the smoke swirl around them, filling the air with toxic fumes.

It takes precision to kill yourself slowly. It takes discipline to commit to socially acceptable suicide. It’s like a traditional sort of depression, the mild kind that people can ignore without feeling guilty. Common and predictable, easily manipulated with medication, and doesn’t end with a noose or a gun shot. No one will ever discover her corpse and say it was a tragedy. They will have seen it coming. They will say she deserved it.

When her body is laid out in the coffin and her legs don’t quite fill it out, they will say that it’s a shame she didn’t try harder to stick around. When the scars on her skin become conspicuous under the fluorescent light they will mutter that she was weak, that she succumbed to the worst type of regression. Self harm is selfish. Self mutilation, a childish renegade form of indulgence. Her inability to cope with reality, her distorted view of the world, her disillusion, her mistakes, her failure to be.

No one will discuss the drunk boy that raped her when she was 19 and too scared to say no. No one will mention the boy who told her he loved her only to cheat with her best friend. No one will understand why it was easier to hurt herself than to hurt them back. No one will question the absence of her family, their anger, their disappointment in her unnecessary existence. Their bitterness will be justified. No one will make excuses for her.

But her smile. They will remember her smile. The way her eyes would light up, the faint lines around her mouth, her charming grin, her girlish giggle. They will remember the way she could brighten the room with her laughter, the sound of pure joy. It’s hard to imagine how someone clearly filled with such happiness could possibly contain such grief. Maybe that was the problem. Every experience was so exaggerated, every emotion so raw, so incompatible. The pain had nowhere to go, so it consumed her.

He will remember the way she used to look at him, like he was her whole world, and he was. She didn’t know how to love only a little. All the ways she understood him that no one else ever could, all the words they never said, but felt. It was true, he didn’t like her sober. He loved.

212

I heal faster but I feel less, I’ve learned how to steady my heartbeat. I don’t love as hard and my kisses don’t draw blood anymore. I know how to hurt people now, so I stay away. I know how to make them pay, so I don’t. My lips are kissed by fire but all you taste is the cold.

It’s not relapse and it’s not recovery. It’s nothing so simple but it’s not terribly complicated either. I just don’t recognise myself anymore, nor do I remember who I used to be. No one ever warned me when life alters you forever you don’t receive a memo, you never realise how important those moments are until they’re long gone. I see a stranger in the mirror.

I’m afraid I will never love anyone as much as I loved you, and the injustice of it hurts almost as much as your honesty. But we are not star struck lovers, we are not promises made under starry hot summer nights, we are not warm whispers in the dark and sweet memories. We are bruised egos and crooked hearts, we were stubborn even as we fell apart.

But you, my darling, you think this pain is unique. You think no one else has ever felt like this, felt so deeply, but we all did. You think no one has ever loved as hard as you, but we all did. You think no one could hurt this much and survive, but we all did. You think you’re alone in this world, but we’re all with you. You think this pain will haunt you forever, and you’ll never be able to erase his mistakes. But one day you’ll wake up, it might be three days from now, it might be three months, or three years. One day you’ll wake up, and he will have lost the power to wound.