Surviving

Tonight, I will lie on my floor, curled up in fetal position and crying. There will be music playing so that my neighbours do not hear the loud sobbing. I will, for a few moments, feel ready to die. The welling up of all those unnamed feelings and unuttered words which I have been storing up all this time will gush forth forceful and unrelenting. I will wish, in the deepest darkness of this episode, that I could undo the past year of my life. I will rewind and write over the tapes of all the good things you did and said with bad intentions. I will walk through all the memories awash with alarm bells which I attempted to ignore at first, and then address as if I were dealing with a rational human being. Then I will finish with the absolute worst day climaxing at exactly 25 days ago, but I will not allow my mind to dwell on the details. I will say your name and my lips will be numb to the taste of its utterance. I will blame you for everything that went wrong that night, because I have analyzed every bit of what happened and realize that I was powerless to stop you from hurting me. I will cry tonight like I haven’t cried in a while. There will be no knocks on the door asking whether I am home and if dinner is ready. Mother is away. There will be no urgent meetings to rush to tomorrow with puffy eyes and lame excuses. No 6 a.m. alarm will remind me that I have an office to report to in the morning. Employment, as you had once pointed out, would not work out too well for me in the end. I will recall with a lot more detachment than I possessed before, that you had made many statements rife with meaning. This too will cause me to break down. I will cry and cry until the knot in my belly comes undone. I will cry so I can decide whether or not I will keep fighting to be rid of my anguish. Then I will pause for a moment and sit on the toilet. If I grow hungry, I will make popcorn, eat them with my tears and then watch something interesting on YouTube. Sometimes, I will search for phrases like “why did I not scream?” and “explaining fight flight freeze response” on Google. Some part of me will find consolation in the science behind the numerous articles I will find, save, and read online. Another part of me will die because it still does not undo what has been done. Then I will fold a towel over my pillow and cry until I fall asleep.

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Beneath the Stillness

 

It’s always something with you, isn’t it?

I’m either not ready or I’m too eager to possibly know what I’m doing.

I’m too young,

You’re too old,

We’re no good at this,

The friendship matters more.
You want me to remain objective,

To see clearly,

To use my head to think.

Yet I cannot get past the calls that come from you daily. Or the random text messages about nothing in particular. I know you have not promised me anything, but you have asked about my dark secrets and deep fears. I barely know you myself, but I am known by you so well you can tell when I am holding something back.
I’m supposed to be myself here. You say you like that.

So you let me rant and rave,

While you listen,

And collect pieces of myself,

And store them in a box,

To pull out at your own time;

To remind me that you still recall what I said about this or that.

To show me just how good a friend you are.
This is a safe space, you say. There is no judgement here. Whatever happens, we will always remain friends. Yes, even if we cross that line, you say. I don’t want to believe you, so I stop listening and start to remind myself how often this was said or insinuated before it turned out to be untrue. Because I do not know how to give myself where love has not first made a home.
My intuition tells me that something isn’t sitting right. There stands this great imbalance between the two fields we exist in.

On the one hand, I am all too trusting with my truths, all too willing to admit them when given the chance.

I forget too easily that my vulnerability isn’t worth every curious ear, including yours.

On the other hand, you are too guarded with your truths. There is always a next time to discuss them.

It is always time for bed or the next duty when we begin to scratch at their surfaces.
What howling ghosts lie beneath your calmness?

What tales refuse to be released between your tightened lips?

How am I to know you if you will not be known?

 

February 4th, 2018, 2220 hours

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Untitled XI

I had a dream about you today. It was a long and winding stairwell of memories still stuck on my mind. Instead of waking up in a panic, I lay still and let the images float to the fore, holding on to the threads of what I could recall so I could make you stay a little longer. I walked into the shower and played back the image of you lying next to me, bleeding, dying. It’s the same dream, only less terrifying now. It no longer scares me to think of you, to picture you, this way. I let the hot water wash over my back as I rested my head against the wall and closed my eyes so I would see the new image I have made up of you. I do not picture your face, but I feel you more closely. I want to count this as progress, to mark it on my calendar, and call up my old counselor to tell her that I am finally cured. Yet I know how grief works a little to well to celebrate too quickly. Because in six months or a year or a decade, I could wake up sweating and screaming and recounting what really happened to you the one time I could not be there to protect you. Then, in that moment of terror, I will think nothing of how things turned out today.

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Distant Memories

I don’t drink it anymore, but I still like the smell of coffee. Aromatic. I cannot describe it more precisely with any other words because ‘earthy’ makes me picture mud or dirt and ‘woody’ is more like the smell of a man’s cologne. Also, the smell of coffee relaxes me. I needed to be relaxed for this meeting. It was not the first of its kind, but there are things that one never really gets used to. Like tests and break-ups.

“How is work?”

“Still slow. But it’s not terrible. How are things on your end?”

“We’re busy. The cases have been piling from February and…”

So this started before I came into the picture. I start to smell his cologne. It can definitely be described as having a woody smell. Wood and citrus. He stops talking.

“You seem preoccupied.”

“I am. It’s raining?”

I panic the way a woman does when it starts to rain and she only has a light sweater on and her umbrella is by the door back home.

“I’ll drop you off.”

“We can split a cab.”

It rained the first night we met. He complained about his woolen suit getting ruined. He’d had court earlier in the day. One month later, he sent a text and we had dinner at his house. I had leftover fried fish, mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli and cauliflower for lunch at the office the following day. I consider asking him to ignore everything I said about his emotional unavailability. All I want right now is to go back to the way things were before I noticed that something felt wrong.

“What’s wrong?”

“We’re broken.”

He sighs, leans in. Deeply and dramatically. He thinks I’m over-reacting, being overly dramatic, over-thinking this. I’m surprised when he doesn’t reach for my hand. It feels like something he would do to put a woman at ease.

“We’re fine. You’re upset. And that’s okay.”

The first night we spent watching reruns of Monk in his living room, I told him that I was cold and he brought me a winter jacket and zipped me up. I still remember wishing that he had kissed. The following morning, after I had slept fitfully, I was glad that nothing had happened. I realized how much I liked him when he fell asleep next to me on my bed. We lay on the pink duvet cover I dislike and his head grew heavier against my own as I drew circles around his Adam’s apple. I became of his fingers running across the small of my back and stopping at my waist. I smiled at the thought that he had done this before, with someone else, and realized that I wished he did not like his work so much.

“I’m not fine. I don’t think you like me that way and it’s difficult for me to accept.”

“Who says I don’t like you that way.”

“You just did.”

“I didn’t.”

“Please stop. We’re not in court.”

The words come out as a small whisper. I have yelled at him about this before, both on phone and in person. My best friend would joke and claim that our sexual tension was palpable. I would remind her that if that was indeed the case, we would have had sex the few times we spent the night together. He fights fair and that’s all there is to it. I like that. He won’t go easy on me because we’re friends or because I have feelings for him. And he will always gloat about an argument he wins. Tonight, he’s more careful, tiptoeing around my wounded pride. He doesn’t know what to do with a breaking heart. He also doesn’t know how to lie about what he does not feel.

“We should probably leave now.”

There is no warmth to the words. All I hear is resignation.

“Good idea.”

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Eulogy

One day, while you stood picking kale at the grocery section of Nakumatt Supermarket, you sang along to an old blue grass hit. I watched you and wished that I’d listened to more old classics in my younger days; just so we could sing along to this particular song together. You did this silly dance in public whenever I started singing something, which would always make me stop singing so I could beg you to stop embarrassing yourself. You would say, “But I’m not embarrassed” so I would move away and act like we weren’t together.
You used to say random stuff like “The mind is a whiteboard, wipe it clean” when I couldn’t sleep. Or “Your head is a tea cup, if it’s empty or it’s turned upside down it cannot receive new knowledge”. My favourite was your response to the news of my admission to a campus overseas. I had put it off for so long, I was sure I could not get in at my age. Even though I would not be going because I could not afford it at the time, you said, “You got in. That’s what counts.”

I’m seated by my desk in my small studio apartment wondering what I should say about you tomorrow. I’m struggling to strike a balance between an upbeat toast to someone I cared for dearly without letting anyone in on our secret lives. You alleged that nobody likely knew you as well as I did, but that was probably someone else talking. You were less candid about things when the lights came off and we were seated on the floor with our legs crossed and the shadows from the single candle were dancing about on the walls and ceiling. You were more open, but by far less willing to upset the perfect aura of quiet satisfaction. We were such a wonderful cliche. Keeping things platonic, steering clear of each others’ office hours, meeting once or twice a week just to eat and talk and free ourselves and be ourselves. It’s the only reason why I didn’t stay the night after that first time; I was too comfortable around you already.

I will have to settle for a mediocre speech. Surely you can understand that there would be too many questions. Already, your sister clings to me as if I have the answers to the questions she is too afraid to pose. Because I too can see that she is wondering why you got to leave and, even though I was sick too, I got to stay.

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Let Me Kiss You

I want to kiss you
Not simply for kissing’s sake
I want to kiss you –
Just to make you feel
As if you couldn’t be without me
Without the taste of me
Too long
I want to kiss you
So you will miss me
To feed you a little taste
Of the frenzy that is lust
Not so much as to set fire
To your loins
But just enough
Just enough to make you
Miss me dearly
I want to kiss you
So you will
Unlike the one before you
Stay here with me
And leave only so long
As to miss the press
Of our lips together
And return to remember
So you see
I really really do
Want to kiss you

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the Choice, the Wait

“Am I allowed to ask?”

“How long it has been? Yes. sure.”

“How long has it been?”

“Fifteen months.”

“Do you remember the last time?”

“Easier than I remember the first.”

“How so?”

“It started off with me feeling so full of something special that I was floating, everything blurring into each other with no boundaries and no specifics. Except the memories, of course. Those are always vivid. And the mind edits infinitely, so depending on the experience this is either a great blessing or a great curse. It ended with me feeling stupid and hollow and sunken. That doesn’t leave you either.”

“How long did it take you to get out of that dark place?”

“I haven’t. I’m not there yet.”

“Oh.”

“Celibacy doesn’t take away the insecurities or the emptiness. It doesn’t always bring you closure. But it stops you from experiencing the first blow over and over again, because you usually will. You will usually go to that dark place over and over again when you become intimate with someone, old or new.”

“Why are you celibate?”

“Because I have forgotten how to like myself without having someone like me like that. So I want to learn how to like myself as I am – without a label or status or an improvement of my outward appearance.”

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