She told you to be honest and to speak your mind. You knew that was bound to end in tears, but you did it anyway, because you trust her, you believe her. If she suggested it then she could handle the truth. So you opened up and told her what you wanted, what you were willing to give, and by implication, what you were going to take. Her sanity, her peace, to start with. Your words tumbled out at first, repetitive, like part of a song on a scratchy CD stuck in a loop, then they walked smoothly out of your mouth after the first few minutes. You gained momentum, silently urged on by her raptness, the slow blinking of her eyes, nod of her head slightly forward and its tilt to the left that you have come to associate with intense focus. You wanted to have fun and to “explore yourself”, to focus on your career and to build a social life, to save up and to go sky-diving one near December. And to get tattoos. She does not like tattoos, but she said you could get them if you wanted. Whatever floats your boat. You looked into her eyes and what you thought you saw was understanding. It was befuddlement. Why, after all this time, are you saying these things? You thought her nodding was acceptance. It was, of a sort, but not the kind you were looking for. You could not stop. Once you get going, you get going. You felt the lead on your back grow wings, your lungs decompressed, your head felt airy. Your heart beat fast, not out of fear, but out of excitement, out of the lightness of release. Her prodding, her shameless use of guilt, sorrow and endearing curiosity, opened the valves of your catharsis.
You saw her sigh deeply, and close in on herself, but by then it was too late. She was gone. You were grasping on to sand, in your arrogance, forgetting that you could not have it your way the whole time. Still, you refused to believe that her heart had stopped beating for you. You reached out to touch her and she recoiled. Your soft hands had turned to talons, scaled and coarse, like your own heart. You went closer, she went further. You saw it, then you did not see it: the light that always seemed to play in her eyes. What was that cliche? You cannot have your cake and eat it? It came to mind then, and you could only think of the gluten-free banana bread in the fridge, and how you were looking forward to having a slice of it with your night cup of coffee. You smiled at this, and she saw mockery. A diamond formed at the corner of her right eye. You had never seen this before, how deep her agony over you went, the intense sadness she told you she was prone to, the dark clouds that constantly hung over her head. She was ugly when she cried. You had not anticipated just how unsightly she could get. And because you are scared of feelings, of facing the monsters that live within you and within other people, you backed away, even physically, rushing off to someplace, leaving her with hastily thrown explanations of how you will be back and we will pick it up in the evening, sawa?
Then you walked away, hugging her awkwardly, and she did not hug you back. Even before turning the slippery corner into your office, where you always did a dramatic slide, you knew you were what you always feared you were. And you slid, as the thoughts hammered what was left of your conscience. No amount of justification could blunt the bearing down of this realization on you. You were an alcoholic, and emotions were your tipple. Turmoil kept you awake and alive and things had become domestic. You had to shake it up, otherwise you would have… Done the same thing you did: look for excitements and distractions in other quarters. You knew nothing would have changed. You knew it the moment she said she wants to be with only you, when she asked you whether you want to “try this” with her. Then, you had smiled and said “Yes, I think I am ready.” But, you were not. You never have been. You do not want to be ready. Not like that. Not ever. The hop-skip-hop of never tying yourself to any one person, or any one thing was too magnetic. You never do commit, except to yourself and your wants and your desires, do you?
You were reminded of this, and it filled up the empty spaces where your soul used to be. Better that malevolent pride than nothing, sio? You told yourself you would get back to her, and make her yours again, but you knew you would not. Running was always easier for you than facing your demons. You had an invite to go out to Reggae Night. You sent her a message to say that you were needed at a work gig, to mingle and respond to queries. In a bar. On a Friday. At Reggae Night. She said “Ok”. You believed her. You did not believe yourself. The Other was going to be there. Excitement. Distraction. Tomorrow was for these thoughts. You had been moving around with the weight of your varied betrayals, tortured by what at that faraway time seemed like harmless slights, the lies that were not supposed to go that far, this truth that has been revealed too late. You bore it all stoically, yet also wished to put it down for good. Sisyphus. You were the bad one and it gnawed at you. Over time, and not as long as you had imagined, the feeling became dulled, a distant memory that touched you somewhere deep. It was exciting, the dangerous game of juggling hearts and minds.
You wanted something, but only on your own terms, to have your cake and eat it. So, you deceived and went quiet and made noise, as suited you. You ran and you hid, all to keep from making a solid decision. You were always scared of being exposed as a fraud, of being stripped and having the world see your nakedness. But, you also wanted to get caught, and in the exposure, be released from your conscience that was held together by gossamer. You needed to get lucky every time. She only needed to get lucky once. And she did, then you denied her the privilege of being the smarter one, of showing that she is the smarter one. You could have stopped. But, you got too used to it, you grew to love wearing the beautiful mask, sheathed in sinless skin, smiling and dancing, your fangs unseen. This is who you are, in all your selfish, disgusting glory, bent, manipulative and unremorseful. Hello, you.