98. Thousand Yard Stare

“The way we act like strangers
After all that we had
We act like we had never met”

‘Sunset’ by The XX

sparker

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

I was hoping that you wouldn’t realise I’d gone, and that you would forget you ever knew me. People lose touch all of the time when they move house, change jobs, have a baby, get a new partner or phone, make the big announcement that they’re going travelling or coming off social media or simply just drop off the radar. This was none of the above. There was no drama, no shouting, no words to regret. But this situation was far from ok. I couldn’t take any more. Your contempt was exhausting. I was frustrated by being punished for something I didn’t do, for being adored, rejected or avoided on a whim, according to your moods.

After all the effort of hoping, looking for signs, wishing, trying, mourning for a future life lost, I realised it was pointless. You were never going to love or even comfort me again, so I gave in. You didn’t want me. I know that now.

I felt nothing. There was a hollow, new emptiness. It was as if all the hunger suddenly disappeared. My shoulders dropped. I slept again and had energy to think about other things. I was distraction-free, calm, serene.

I had quietly closed the door, locked it and walked away. I genuinely no longer cared about you or your life. Even knowing that I’d never look you in the eyes ever again, didn’t give me that twinge in my belly. You didn’t exist.

After a couple of months of absolute zero contact or any recognition from me, you began to make an effort to connect. If this is what the PUA’s are teaching, then they are way off, believe me. The one who is least invested holds the power.  Except that this is my life, not a game. I’m grateful to have got through this, and relieved to have dodged a bullet back there. I like who I am now, but unfortunately, so do you.

I’ve kept the good memories of how we were, in a little box, neatly on the shelf, because I might want to have a look in it from time to time, but not yet.

gift

 

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91. Stand Down, Soldier

She’s still sat in the same position as she was when I let myself in three hours ago, but at least she’s drunk her tea. I know she only tried to eat that sandwich so she could take her tablet. Gently moving the ornaments closer together, I make room on the mantelpiece for the cards that arrived today. She’s been stroking his sweater all day, trying to remember when she knew the people whose thoughts she’s in. I put the picture of him in uniform holding his son, onto the coffee table.

“Joan?” I pause, whilst the word registers. She slowly turns her head to look up at me, and smiles weakly with recognition. Reaching for my hand, her grip is feeble and grateful. Tomorrow, she won’t let me go.

“I wrote down everything I did whilst I was here. I’ll come back tomorrow at 8 o’clock to dry your hair and make you some breakfast. Ring me if you want me and I’ll come straight round. I’ve got a key.”

I kiss the top of her head and manage to hold in the tears until I’m out of earshot half way down the street.

Buried deep within the walls, air in the pipes make them shudder, and they give out a desperate, low shriek, as I hold my fingers under the slowly warming water. I inhale through a hot wrung-out flannel pressed over my nose and mouth, count in for four and silently scream out for seven. I wonder if he still cries in the shower.

This mirror has seen so much.

Too busy living his own life to visit, never travelling the thousands of miles to say goodbye to his own father. She’s lived off scarce letters for years. He smiles in photographs with people we don’t know, on beaches we will never see. It’s unjust and I’m not ashamed to feel bitter that he is the one who will get the sympathy tomorrow, but this isn’t my battle to fight. I have to disengage. Become detached. No-one dare say it, but we all know why he’s come back. She won’t be living round here much longer.

I just hope time has rubbed his raw edges smooth.