I don’t know. Maybe I don’t ever get anywhere with this kind of thing because I don’t want to be fixed.
I want to understand myself better. I want to know myself better.
But I don’t know that I want to change. It scares me to think I should. Like what if there’s no part of me that’s real? And it pisses me off to think that I should have to change. That I have to fix myself to make everyone else’s lives easier.
I was upset by the whole thing and I didn’t get the support I expected from the people who’d become my life.
David told me that this was something for me to work on. That it was an opportunity. That maybe I needed to meditate on the reasons that this had been brought into my life and let them go. An affirmation of SelfWork’s value to my life that I could live without fear. That I needed to be grateful for that. That I had to keep working on myself because this was a reminder of what could happen to me if I didn’t have SelfWork to guide me and help me deal with my immense quantities of bullshit.
And all of a sudden it just seemed like so much crap.
I didn’t bring Dan’s death into my life. Smithy didn’t get some inner calling to phone up his ex.
Sometimes shit just happens, you know? And it’s fucked.
I didn’t need to work on it. I didn’t want to work on it. I didn’t want to process it so that I didn’t have to think about it anymore.
I just wanted to be fucking sad for a while. And I knew I was sad. But I felt disconnected from it somehow. Just like I’d been taught’ I could observe my sadness and not act on it or be overcome by it. But it was supposed to be a choice, wasn’t it? So why couldn’t I seem to express that sadness even when I wanted to? I’d let go of my sadness too many times. I’d forgotten how to hold it.
When I joined SelfWork I’d thought and been told that I only had a few issues and they were solvable and then I’d be helping other people and I could give back and I felt like I found a reason and a purpose.
And somehow years later I had so much baggage and so many issues that I’d have to keep working on them forever. And if I left I’d just be confirming that I had issues abandoning people, and running away when things got hard.
But… if I was always going to be dealing with those issues for the rest of my life. If I was never going to really solve them. What’s the point? I might as well just give in.
I don’t know, I don’t think it’s one specific thing? I’ll get frustrated over one thing and it spills out over everything else. And obviously it couldn’t possibly be about that one thing that set me off.
It can’t just be because the lights are flickering and I can’t take it anymore. It can’t just be because I can feel my clothes touching me and I wish they weren’t. It can’t just be because a gig I went to was much more crowded than I thought it would be.
But I can never tell what it is deep down, you know? I’ve talked about it so many times. Done so many therapies. Did I tell you about that time I joined a self-help group?
I don’t know what makes me angry.
That’s my secret, Cap. I’m always angry.
Sometimes things only seem significant in hindsight.
The time Dan had punched a wall next to my head.
The time Dan had broken my bow.
The way Dan was always sort of… mean to her. The way she always sort of laughed when he insulted her, like she was just used to it.
The way he got pissed if he thought anyone was being condescending. The way she acted like she was ditzy and silly even though she’d been to Harvard.
The time she’d shown up at my house with a bruise on her cheek. The way she fell into my arms and burst into tears.
She told me she’d slipped in the shower, and I’d just believed her.
And now I wonder.
I leave suddenly. But I let people know. I say goodbye.
I wonder just how terrified a person has to be to quietly pack up their belongings, pay up the rent until the end of the month, delete their online presence entirely and leave without a trace. Without warning.
You don’t do that out of spite. You don’t do that to be cruel. The only reason you do that is because you’re desperate and afraid.
You only leave like that if you think your life depends on it.
And I can’t help but think, that if she hadn’t left… It might have been her funeral.
And I can’t help but think, if part of the reason she’d never contacted me again is because she’d assumed I’d take his side. Like everyone else seemed to. I was friends with him first. I was friends with her because of him.
And I don’t have any way of letting her know that I’m on her side 100%. I’m team Bethany, not team Dan.
I mean… apart from anything else… he’s fucking dead. It’s not like he’d know.
She made a choice, and I think it was a good one. I think it saved her life.
But I still hope she comes back. I hope she comes back into my life somehow. At some point. I’d like that.
If she ever does that it will be because the danger has passed (like… passed) and she’s safe.
I don’t think she was wrong to leave. She was right to leave.
And also I’d really like it if she came back.
I don’t think you’d suggest that if you’d met my brother. If anyone in my family is autistic it is him. He’s basically a stereotype.
He just couldn’t really connect to other people. He couldn’t make friends. He didn’t have friends. He could never work out people’s intentions or whether they were lying. He just believed people no matter what they said. People took advantage of him because of that.
He bored people by talking about the same things over and over again. Not being interested in what other people were interested in.
He didn’t always understand his feelings or what other people were feeling or why people felt the way they felt or acted the way they acted.
And he couldn’t deal with things not going the way he wanted. Or the way he thought they should. He couldn’t cope with normal things. The things that kind of suck but that other people cope with.
It’s not like I think I don’t have problems. I do. I have a lot of problems.
But I don’t have the same kinds of problems.
I flew back to Sydney and I stayed there. Nobody from Sydney was in SelfWork anymore. David called me twice and I didn’t answer. Owen didn’t call at all.
I didn’t attend Dan’s funeral. But I did cry.
I wrote a song for the first time in a year. I cut my hair and dyed it blue. I looked in the mirror and I don’t know if the person I saw looked like me.
But they did look familiar.
Craig and Sarah invited me to their wedding. I didn’t go, but I did send a gift of a hideously ugly vase I’d found in an op-shop. It was only later that I worried she’d be insulted by it.
I dream of her. Bethany.
In my dream I run into her in the street. Or she sends me an email out of the blue. Or someone tells me someone sent a message to say she’s okay.
And I hug her like I wish I’d hugged her the last time I saw her.
“I keep dreaming of this,” I tell her, “I’m so glad it’s really happened.”
And then I wake up.
And I re-read her last email. A single line “this made me think of you!” and a link to a blog post about Agatha Christie.
I guess I’ve mentioned him a few times. I don’t know why.
It’s not like he’s a part of my life. Not anymore.
Are there any more tissues? I’ve used the last one.
I’m a failure. I’m not who I wanted to be.
At least. That’s what I say. That’s what people say, isn’t it? When they’ve done nothing and been nothing and gained nothing over such a long period of time? I say it and I laugh and people laugh and I feel connected, for a moment, over all of my deficiencies. Because at some level everyone I’ve met feels like a failure. I think a lot of people feel like they’ve failed to live up to their potential no matter how successful they are.
So I fake a sort of humourous defeatism. Like I had all of these dreams I’d failed to live up to. I present as disillusioned and cynical. I don’t feel as unstable as I pretend to be. I’m not more confident or competent or functional than I seem. Probably even less so. It’s one of those things you say, not because it’s particularly true, but because at least you know how other people will react.
Secretly I don’t feel like a failure at all. I pretend I had ambitions that I failed at or never followed because that’s what people are supposed to do. A lot of people fail at things they wanted. That’s okay. That’s acceptable. That’s normal.
But really I don’t know that I’ve had any real ambitions to fail at. I never wanted to be anything. And I have no idea who I am. I’m not falling to pieces the way I pretend. I don’t know that I have enough pieces.
A lot of things happened after that. But if I talked about them it might seem like they were important. They didn’t feel important even when they happened. It was just stuff. Things happened. Time passed. And none of it seemed significant at the time.
I spent longer mourning Bethany’s friendship than I did appreciating it.
I hope she’s out there somewhere. I hope she’s safe. I hope she’s happy. She made a choice and I think it was a good one. I always feel like I have to escape from the choices I’ve made. Like I can unmake them if I’m far enough away.
It doesn’t matter how far I run. I’m still there. And I want to start over. But I can’t. I’m already a blank slate. There’s nothing to wipe off.
And I wonder
what would happen
if I just stopped
I want to leave it all but I’m always right here with me.
But if I’m here then I guess there’s a me after all. Even if I don’t quite know who she is.
Am I depressed? Am I anxious? Do I hate myself? Or is that just another level of performance?
I spent such a long time running away. From my past. From my future. From… myself. Whatever that is. But it’s been a long time now. I left when I was eighteen and now I’m thirty. I think all of the problems I have left are probably just… mine.
I’m not undoing what I did. I’m not retreating or regretting. I’m not going back on what I thought or what I said or what I did. Because there isn’t any going back. I’m not sure if I’m the same person I was then as I am now. I’m not sure enough of myself to tell what has or hasn’t changed. But I’m older. So there’s that.
I’m not going back. I can’t go back. That’s not even a thing you can do.
I can’t go backward. But I can go forward while facing the other way.
Cello Parker will return in Cupboard Ghost.
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