Serendipity

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

Tag: personal

288

In the end all that matters is that you chose me once. That you smiled at me across the room and invited me into your life when you were still a recluse. That we enjoyed every moment in each other’s company and you kissed me like a lover who felt like a friend.

That you saw my pain and believed it because you felt it too. We didn’t wallow together but I felt understood.

In the end what matters is this: kindness and faith. Waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel and seeing it shine brighter than you ever imagined possible. That gnawing sense of regret in the pit of my stomach because you’re not here to see it, I so wished you were here to say you’re proud of me.

In the end it doesn’t matter that you chose her.

287

In a lot of ways the past few years have felt like a blur. A mostly happy blur, or at least limited to a level of sadness that I could handle without falling apart. I don’t know whether to attribute that to age or wisdom, or perhaps an uninvited combination of both.

It might be a testament to my own narcissism that I seemed more distraught over losing my university boyfriends than I was about losing my grandmother, or hearing about the death of our family dog. It felt like a different sort of sadness, a dull ache, not a shattering. Or perhaps the defining difference was that I had the chance to say goodbye this time, with a full heart.

I was too young to be concerned about her mutterings when she lived at home with us, but thinking back, it pains me to remember how deeply unhappy she was. She would constantly tell me how she wished she was dead, and was annoyed with her body for not obeying. Even being surrounded by her children and grandchildren couldn’t ground her enough to make up for the loss of her husband. She was from a different era, and the idea of seeking new happiness never even crossed her mind. As far as she was concerned, her life was over when he so selfishly passed away so soon, and she was merely waiting to follow.

As the dementia set in, we became a blur too. But there were a few moments of clarity towards the end, or maybe just my wishful thinking convincing myself that she was happy to see me.

I remember feeling an uncharitable degree of anger towards members of my extended family for being true to themselves. Aunts who refused to let her live with her sons despite it being custom. People who balked at the idea of spending money on someone with one foot in the grave, now trying to alleviate that guilt by contributing to an expensive coffin. Their giant crocodile tears and banshee screeches at the funeral almost making me laugh out loud. Her favourite son who decided he didn’t need to be there in her final moments, but rather stayed in China to guarantee his inheritance and avoid inviting squabbles. A cousin who cited young children being difficult to travel with, and a demanding work schedule as reasons for his absence. I’ll concede that funerals don’t have quite the same appeal as an island getaway.

I know that I am being unfair, yet felt that anger magnify whilst scrolling past cleverly worded social media tributes to a woman who could barely turn on the television without assistance and had never owned a mobile phone. It filled my mouth with a bitter taste I was unaccustomed to. I was never close to them but had always felt a fitting level of camaraderie, which vanished as quickly as their feigned trauma. I grew up being told that family was more important than anything, and blood was thicker than water. It took years to unlearn those little white lies, and let go of the associated disappointments.

I might not ever become one of those people who wake up in the mornings feeling a sense of purpose, but I no longer wake up with dread. It’s taken years to drag myself away from depressive and suicidal thoughts but they no longer take up the majority of my day. Most days they’re not even an afterthought. I still feel anxious and I worry too much despite knowing better, but I’m comfortably optimistic about the future. I want to build a family, the one I’d always wanted, filled with joy and laughter, and bursting with love. For the first time ever, that doesn’t seem impossible.

284

After all this time, you were the one who taught me what love ought to look like.

I’d never taken the time to observe the wonders of nature, the beauty of a well kept garden. It had seemed frivolous, wasteful, time that could be spent more constructively. I was taught as a child to remove myself from unnecessary distractions. I didn’t forget how to have fun. I never learned how to.

Love came in many forms and disguises, but yours was the sweetest. You whispered empty promises until I believed them, and I am still falling for your bad intentions.

There was a small part of me, naive and blindly optimistic, that was sure I could mean something to you even after I was gone. That you might think of me as the girl who loved you unconditionally, until she had to leave to recover all that she had lost in loving you.

I never wanted your gratitude, or gentle thoughts, or even nostalgia. But if I held on tight to my memories of you whilst you let go, how much of it remains real? Was it only ever lust imitating passion? Perhaps I’d unwittingly fantasised my own importance, my recollections of how fiercely we fought for our temporary infatuations being a mere extension of my narcissism.

There was a time when you meant the world to me, but I was only ever a small star in your galaxy. She will make you forget my name. She will make sure of it.

I will whisper my silent goodbyes. I will love you to my grave.

282

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.

280

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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.

279

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.

278

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.

 

276

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.

275

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.

 

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.

 

268

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.

263

There are very few opportunities in life (and in death) for you to sincerely be there for someone. We don’t like to often admit that we need other people, but sometimes we accede to our vulnerabilities. I am stubborn and immature and perhaps unreasonably angry with you for not being there, for once again, as you are so accustomed to, letting me down.

I was foolish to think your fondness for me still extended to romance, that you would in fact, drop everything, that I was worthy for you to make an exception for. I’m not sure why I believed this possible, when I had never been a priority in the past, yet there I was, still offering you unwanted chances to prove me wrong. I still dreamt of such sweet mistakes. I still wanted to believe your lies because they sounded better. I wanted to prove you loved me for once, or know that you didn’t.

But then I wake to the loneliness, to the bitter broken promises and empty regrets. You stole my heart and my time, left me with only evidence of our failures, my misplaced confidence caught on tape. Now you whisper the same sweet nothings to her, you hold her in your arms and say she’s the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen. She falls asleep by your side feeling happier than she has in months and believes every word. Nine months in and she’ll discover to her despair that you don’t even love her enough to leave the house.

Or maybe I was the curse. I was never enough for you. You were never enough for me. We are both thieves and we thrive in the chaos of unintended consequences. You never meant to fall in love with me. I never meant to take you seriously. Now I lie here missing you, wondering what might have been. If I had chosen you, maybe you would have chosen me.

262

I have always thrived on chaos. I find conflict enchanting, and occasionally I would manufacture unnecessary drama for my own amusement, simply to avoid the routine. I read too many love stories while I was young and impressionable, and despite all that has happened, I remain hopelessly optimistic, unreasonably sentimental. I am too often torn between wanting to be remembered and wanting to disappear entirely. I miss the people I desperately want to forget. I think about him more than I should. I have difficulty distinguishing the difference between sensible and boring. Yet it sometimes feels I’ve managed to capture the banal despite lacking sensibility.

I am all I could ever have hoped to be and I am nothing all at once. Every day is a blessing, and every day feels like a curse, a pitiful dance. We are just children playing God, pretending not to watch the clock, pretending not to count. How many days before we turn to dust, before brittle bones can no longer hold us steady and our own bodies turn against us, until at best we surrender in comfort, surrounded by sorrow. A life well lived ends in tragedy despite, you leave behind hurt regardless of your good intentions.

I love you in ways I don’t understand. I could die for you and leave you in the same breath, if you would permit me. Too often I find myself dreaming of a different story, one where we met when I was still young and naive, foolish enough to wear my heart on my sleeve. I’d let you rip it apart if you wanted. I suspect even the destruction would taste sweet. But we are not young lovers anymore, we are older, wiser, jaded, we’ve suffered through suspect and deceit. We recognise lies and we respond accordingly, sometimes it comes so naturally we don’t even notice it. This little game, your pretty lies, your clever, thoughtful, perfectly manufactured answers, so eloquently pronounced that I can only smile and nod my approval. Darling, I love you to the moon and back, but you are not my sun.

260

Sometimes I feel that you don’t love me the way I love you, or that you don’t love me as much as I love you. I know how childish that sounds, how irrational and immature it is in nature, and that it is untrue. On most days I know it is untrue. There are other days when I think maybe it is true but that it doesn’t matter. Some days I know that you can never love me more than you do now, and nothing I do could ever change that in any meaningful way.

I am bound to you the way a moth flocks to a flame, dancing and darting under the light, in flight and in joy. Your presence bears a sense of comfort and happiness I had not known before, and so with it the crippling fear, a carefully contained anxiety built from the inescapable knowledge of what I know to be true: one day you will leave me; one day I will leave you.

259

What is broken may never mend the way we want it to. I loved you and you loved the way I loved you. You watched the life drain out of me and began searching for the nearest exit. You wore my scars like trophies, deep down you wanted to be remembered.

I wish I could love him with the same fearlessness, the same carelessness, the willingness to be hurt. Do you know what it’s like to miss who you could have been? I find myself reverting to old unhealthy habits. I feel myself giving in to darker cravings.

Anything worth having can be lost. Now I have something to lose. Now I can be frightened, all the time, always preparing for the worst. I spent a lifetime around people like you who took pleasure in making me feel small. It’s hard to believe sometimes that he could see differently. He convinces me over and over again and yet I always forget, I keep begging for reminders, all the while convinced that one day he’ll be tired of lying to me. One day he won’t bother.

I was reckless until I met him, as it had never mattered to me before. In a way you can always sense the difference between someone simply passing by and someone who intends to stay. We know before they ever touch us who will be gentle and who will leave a mark. Some lovers leave bitter tastes in our mouth and others we wish for happier endings though we no longer play a part.

You had turned me to a beggar once. I was naive enough to think you loved me and foolish enough to try and make you stay. I kiss his lips and taste your betrayal. You left me with a crooked heart. Oh darling take me back to the start.