I was not prepared. ‘God, I am so sorry!’ he wrote, helvetica letters etched across the screen of my phone. Shit. Why did I message him again?
She looked at me with that painfully annoying look like she was preparing to analyse a puzzling thought. Shadows from the tree outside danced over her face, the morning light brightening the white walls and reflected off the plastic plant that glistened near the window of her Scandinavian office. Psychological healing by design.
“Maybe write a letter and burn it as a symbol that you are prepared to move on?” All I could think of was her quizzical face. I disassociated.
“Move on from what?” I said while in a daydream trying to reach back to consciousness. It’s funny how you can still hear and think and speak outside of time and space.
“You never really had the chance to say what you wanted. You need to say it.”
What is the point of that? He would simply dismiss it. His ego, his defence mechanisms, it will provoke him to retaliate, to make decisions that are dangerous, a threat to me. He will dismiss me, call me crazy, tell me I have the problem. It is better to say nothing at all. If I scream as loudly as I can while standing right in front of him, he still won’t see me.
“I don’t think that would work,” I muttered and looked away, cautious that I might implode if I see her facial reaction again. The creases over the top of her lips seem to be hot branded into the deepest and most anxious part of my brain, her nose flaring while peering up to the ceiling with eyes painted in cheap mascara. It is best that I don’t look at her, look at my stockings and peel the lint off from it. Strategy.
“Try writing a letter and see how you feel. It is a symbolic gesture and there are powers in symbols.”
Ok, sure, I get that. Symbols are almost like a kind of language, really. We feel horrible when we see the swastika because of what it symbolises. I get it, write a letter and maybe try to attach words to explain our emotions, make sense of all the confusion.
What would I say, anyway? I mean, we’re talking symbols, right? Isn’t he the symbol? A symbol of what a man should never be? It lingered with me for all these years not because of what he did, but what he symbolised.
I believed in man. I believed that kindness was real, that love was innate and that surely some part of him could feel. The false appearances, the sense of entitlement, the privilege as though he were allowed to be cruel. I get that he treated me like dirt and when I was at my most vulnerable, lied to me, played games with my mind, denied that he played games before pretending that he was some hero out there to help rescue me just to undermine me even more. And then disappeared on me.
The mental shit he put me through was nothing short of evil.
There I once was, curled into fetal position, my bony knees pressed up against my torso, head bowed deep into my chest as though my chin were pushing my swollen heart back down. I could barely breathe, my nails scratching the parquetry floors as I slowly lose consciousness. Another one. Another man telling me that I am worthless and every inch of my body trying to fight it, try to fight the desire for death.
I sit now in her office, the sound of distant cars gushing down the highway as I ask a counsellor to help me figure out an obvious situation. ‘Shut-up,’ I could hear him say, dismissing me as he often did. The bad memories oscillate, appear and disappear leaving a bitter aftertaste, quick memories like thorns in my mind that return unexpectedly to haunt me. To remind me to fear.
You can’t fight a symbol with a symbol, it is like the blind leading the blind. The letter didn’t work. I need reality. I need to let him know directly. I need to tell him how I feel.
“You really hurt me.” I nearly died, actually.
“God, I am so sorry! I want to be friends.”
I hold the phone down and look out the train window, old suburbs swiping past me, the colours of brown bricks and green trees merge into diagonal lines. The blur of the speed from the train almost makes it seem unreal, a painting, and for just a brief moment everything stops. The lady sitting across from me glaring into her phone, the young boys standing near the carriage door eating hot chips for breakfast and emanating a terrible smell. It dawned on me, suddenly, a brief moment and it was just me, in reality, no longer caught in that mind of mine, those imaginary, theoretical thoughts about good and evil, right and wrong, reality suddenly awakened to the present moment and he was no longer a symbol, a memory, some unreal archetype.
He was just a young man who once failed and is now trying.
Maybe it was me? Maybe that was my mistake? It has been years. I was too critical that I took away his simple humanity. I looked down at my phone and kept on reading his responses and seeing something far more innocent than I expected. He was just a child.
Memory. A thorn. I suddenly revert back to the past. Shut-up, he said most cruelly in front of everyone. I was talking about being a vegetarian. The bitterness of experience reminds me to be cautious. Was his apology real? Or is he just manipulating me, his way of burying the guilt and quickly. I don’t know who he is anymore, all I know is what I experienced long ago.
It must be another one of his games, a power struggle to manipulate and worm his way toward controlling the situation. I am the danger, the danger to his reputation. He needs to protect that, to convince his audience that he is the good guy. I am a threat to his image.
“Sorry, but friendship holds an important place for me and I don’t give it out to anyone.”
I respond, sometime later. I want to be friends. I need time. It is all too much, too sudden. I wish he never said anything, wait a day or two, give me some space to breath. I should of waited longer to respond myself. Time to think. I need to be cautious with what I say, he will get aggravated, start to say cruel things and I am too fragile right now. Walk around eggshells. Remember the purpose. You just wanted to make a statement, let him know how you feel and move on. Let it all go, that was the reason, right? I need this gone, this burden, this feeling of sorrow, I want it gone. I want to start fresh, to start thinking ahead, forward thinking and not caught up in the past. He will never change. Who cares if he never changes! He is not your problem. A thousand thoughts.
One thought, now. Stop. Take a deep breath. Give him a chance, a chance to earn your trust, a chance to prove himself that he really understands friendship, that he really cared. Why did he say that he wanted to be friends? Friends care about how the other is feeling. They make an effort. They forgive, everything that I was trying to do.
“You sound like you are jealous.”
It was inevitable. It is not his words that hurt, but the intention behind them. Did he really believe in his own importance, that the life he created for himself was somehow superior to mine?
I saw them laughing. ‘God is a dog?’ wrote one post. Giggles. 15 until they are 50. What am I dealing with, here? There was no point in all of this. I collapsed into the chair holding my phone, my hand shaking. Not sure if it is from sadness, from fear, from anger. I tried to make sense of what he meant by that, tried to rationalise, found myself walking around eggshells again, afraid I will enrage him even further. Cautious. It must be resentment.
“I never did what you think I did.”
There it is. Denial. The inability to face up to faults, the inability to care about how that would make me feel. I am the one that is crazy. Why did he say he wanted to be friends when he never meant it? A friend would never do that.
It is hopeless. I can stand in front of him screaming and he still won’t see me. I was overwhelmed. I don’t cope well when people mistreat me. I need to shut off. Close the door. Hide under the blanket until the monsters go away. I need him to go away, now. I need to convince him to leave. The rain, the dark shadows of the grey clouds that hovered over the house as it did in my heart, the cold weather kept me at home for days as I wept in bed. Shut everything off. Close everything down. Hide.
A month passed. I was different. I could not let him think that he won. There is still resentment, let me pretend that I am happy. Was it a power struggle for him? He blocked me. So be it. It was what I wanted, no? Let him think it is my fault as long as he is gone. Continue with life. Open up. Start again.
Two months passed. I feel lighter. The weight is gone. Something in my heart lifted. A burden is now gone, the pressure that stayed with me for years. I confronted him. All that mischief is now reality, it is something I can see and feel. I see my future, my plans. I am forward thinking.
Three months passed. There is a deep sense of compassion. It was just time, time was what I needed. I was an asshole. I wanted to hurt him, to make him go away, that I was not prepared for forgiveness. I provoked him just to prove to myself that I was right about him. Maybe he was responding not out of retaliation or revenge, neither because he was cruel or because he was a monster, but because I was hurting him. I knew that and enjoyed it. It felt good hurting the person who hurt me.
I needed time, time to acknowledge that he is still so young. The decisions he makes in life all reflect that. I am a woman, not a girl, that I see what is most vulnerable in him now and that I truly forgive him. He only seeks from others because he doubts himself so much. There is no past for me any longer.
I am sorry. I hope with the greatest compassion that he and all he cares for are happy forever, no matter how different they all are to me. I want that with all my heart.