Fall Four, Stand Fivebykatgirl_23©
[This is something I've been adding to over the years, but I think I'm more than ready to let go now :) Those of you who've read my other stories may recognise the original version of a scene I later elaborated upon, Katgirl xx]
THE OLDER MAN
I'm learning to be a grown-up. It's harder than I thought and yet the easiest thing in the world essentially, as no one has much choice in the matter. I am in a room decorated sometime during the seventies it seems, all browns and oranges. Patterned wallpaper and swirled carpets, but old, stained and filled with newspapers and magazines and pieces of debris on each surface. I'm drunk. Again. But I'm only sixteen and this is what being a teenager is supposed to mean. There have been other nights like this, oh so many of them lately. Bright nights at bars and clubs I'm not old enough to be in, full of jokes I don't understand and laughter I join in with. It's the first time I've been flirted with and I like it. I feel wanted.
"I love you," says Tim.
I stand there feeling stupid and empty of anything worth saying. I stare at him instead, embedding him in my brain and making a choice: yes or no, something for the sake of it or a long wait for something worth having. My eyes show me the hair I made him cut and the shirt I made him wear, but they can't hide what he really is. Twenty-one, but far too old for his age and, I confess, someone I could never be proud to be with. I admit to myself my own vanity, make my excuses and walk back in to the well-lit pub, leaving him outside in the darkening summer night.
And yet here I am in his house, with two inebriated friends, his older, larger, but similar brother and a pile of alcopops laid out in a line ready for consummation. We talk quietly in the hallway about any last chance of an 'us'.
I can't stand up; the room is swaying in time with my waves of nausea. Nausea from the drink, from his hopes, from what I've done to myself. Later I go upstairs to find him chained to his mother's bed straddled by my best friend, Jeni. I'm disgusted, but laugh and return to the brown velour sofa on which I was attempting to sleep. I feel violated and vulnerable in the nightshirt I borrowed from her that barely covers my thighs. Everyone's asleep now. I check my mobile phone for signs of salvation and find it in the form of a hundred missed calls and messages from my mother wanting to know why I'm not at home in my own bed. I feel like shit: hung over, tired. Guilty.
I pull on my crumpled trousers and shirt as quietly as I can. Both are synthetic and the material sounds like someone screwing up a letter they didn't want to read. I zip up my knee-high boots and walk unsteadily to the bathroom to wash my face. Instead of the cleansing I seek I find remains of someone else's vomit encrusted in the toilet bowl.
A desperate urge to get out, out of this house, out of this pattern, strikes me with the force of a baseball bat to the chest. I suppress my desire to scream and calmly remove my bag from the living room, quietly open the door and walk home in the summer dawn sunshine feeling like dirt in the purity of the light, while my boots rub holes in my heels.
One week Tim stops by my workplace with a bunch of pretty yellow flowers for me. I wonder why he chose yellow. It's such a young, unromantic colour; perhaps he feels that they're safe. He tries to talk, but the conversation's stinted and awkward and I feel very aware that I don't want Greg, who is talking to a customer behind me, to see me as taken. I'm embarrassed by Tim's affection for me. I put the flowers in a makeshift jam jar vase in the back room of the shop and the next time Tim walks by I'll hide behind the counter until Greg tells me it's safe to come out.
THE BEST FRIEND
I'm watching my neighbours as they sit together in the garden. They're a proper family. They even have a golden retriever and it's playing with a red ball. The mother is handing out sandwiches and glasses of lemonade. They're like something from a book set in the fifties. The younger of the two sisters is curled up on her father's lap, even though she's just a year younger than me at fifteen, and doesn't quite fit. The older one throws the ball for the dog without creasing her pretty floral dress.
I lean back into my pillows, studying my ripped jeans and black shirt. I feel so ugly next to their lightness. "God I wish my life were like that," I say, meeting Jon's eye shyly.
"No you don't," he answers, his brown eyes smiling at my frown. "You'd get bored." He's right. I think of my broken family and know that even in all the shit, we're honest. Even if my mother hates me, at least I know, I think to myself wryly.
Somehow he sees me. He always does, even when I can't see through myself. It's been like this since the first day we met, aged thirteen, and everyone's still waiting for us to get married eight years on. There's a comfortable magic with Jon and I. We spent our teenage years watching sci-fi marathons stretched upon his bed and earned ourselves the nicknames of Joey and Dawson. His girlfriends always hate me and my boyfriends are threatened by him. They can't understand that our connection is different, deeper and non-sexual in its intent. We've only tried a double date once and it was a disaster of bruised egos and catty comments that still makes us laugh.
Sitting on the rickety stool in the unlit kitchen, I play with my pigtails and wipe the tears unceremoniously across my cheek with the back of my hand.
"Kate," says Jon gently. "You're worth so much more than he ever saw and you don't want the life he offered." "I know," I answer quietly, trying not to let on that I'm crying. "I want someone exciting, someone who'd just drop everything and go on an adventure with me, not him with his work and money and boredom. But, why didn't he want me?"
I give in to the tears in that moment and Jon patiently waits and puts his own broken heart on hold for me.
A strange twist of fate has us both left alone in the same week by people we pretended to believe would never leave. I talk him out of walking the road of cocaine and meaningless sex. He's better than being swallowed by that life. He tries to make me believe I am not worthless to those who supposedly love me. We finish each other's sentences of hurt and hopes and I realise even through my pain how perfectly we fit together.
He was in love with me once, when we were about fifteen I think. That energy never really dies, especially when born in the heady summers of your mid-teens. Two years after all the heartbreak we meet for dinner, having found ourselves back home in the same week for once.
We get a table for two in the corner and the restaurant owner, who knows Jon, treats us, in true Italian style, like the best couple he's ever met. We're used to this mistake by now and just play along, testimony to our comfort in each other's company.
Several glasses of wine and full stomachs later, we talk about the good old days of crazy parties and parental supervision, then the more recent days of losing our loves and finding ourselves. Our hands are too close on the table, our eye contact lingering a second too long, our hug goodbye one movement from a kiss. Sometimes I have trouble remembering that that is a barrier we have never crossed.
THE FIRST FALL...
I can't believe I'm having to write to you when you're just a phone call away. And I'm allowed to phone you now aren't I? Only you were never good with phones and you haven't really improved. Communication seems to be the problem here.
This isn't how I wanted this to be. I wanted to be your release. I wanted to teach you the lessons I've learnt so that you never have to be hurt like this. And I wanted to heal your wounds and watch you heal mine with your magic.
I wonder if I am capable of feeling happiness anymore. I think I've forgotten how to laugh long and unashamedly. You don't crack me up like you used to. At least not in the good way. I think I'm cracking now and I don't know why and I don't have an escape. I wanted you to fix me. I still do, but now I've lost faith in your powers.
How can you live up to the pedestal I put you on? It's unfair. Your trying your hardest and I'm trying to mould you into what you're not. I always do that. My imagination's a hard thing to beat. You never really had a chance to be all that I believed you were.
I feel forgotten. How do you see me? Is it as beautiful as I want you to? Sometimes you don't look as beautiful as I remember you being and it pains me to think that the same thought may have passed through your head.
How selfish is that? How awful is it that I worry whether you're socially acceptable or whether my friends don't think your good enough? I judge people on their other halves and I have to stop myself judging me on mine.
Mum was right, you are too good for me. Clearly I don't appreciate you at all. I knew a girl who knew a boy whose face was ripped and it never altered her love for him. If that were you would I be brave enough to stand up and call you mine? I hope so, because if not I really am as horrible as Mum always says.
I wish you were confident so I could always depend on you to know how to behave and what to do. I don't like seeing you weak. I think of all the times since this began when I've felt so small, because I didn't know how or why or what. I can't handle imperfection and the more I see of you the more I forget the perfection and dwell on the flaws. It's not what I want, but I can't put it away.
When I'm with you this goes away, I just think too much I think. But you're giving me too much time to think by being absent so much. You work too hard. And I'm the one who compromises so we can be together. You offer, but in making it a question you take away the choice as soon as you give it, because it would be selfish of me to ask you to miss what's important to you. I just do it, and lie so you won't know because you'd be upset with me if you did.
We need more time. Then we can be at ease with each other. And we need to start being honest and stop being embarrassed by the silliest of things. We're neither of us used to this. Wish I were. I wish there were some way I could learn and then come back to you and be all confident and happy. I so wanted you to see me that way, not small and scared and fragile.
I thought that once you were mine you'd stop unknowingly causing me pain. I was wrong. This feels worse than it used to. Why are you trying to keep me away? Yes, I have felt it. What are you so scared of? Only I think I know and I'm wondering if I'll be able to handle it either or if I'll be too shallow to forgive your imperfections.
I hate you for this. Only I don't really hate you, because I don't think I'm capable of those sorts of depths of feeling any more. Which is why right now I can't seem to love you as much as I want to. Can we start over again so I can build new images of you not tainted by this despair?
I feel like I'm not important to you, but I think that actually you're too important to me. I've forgotten how my life feels without you and I don't know how I'd ever fill the hole you'd leave. But sometimes I imagine what it would be like to tell you I'm through and I can't bear the idea of hurting you like that. So that's what it all comes down to-I love you, and its me that I hate for not being able to love you more.
...INTO THE BIG LOVE
And how do you talk to people of a love like this? So big you lose yourself entirely and have to rebuild from nothing when it all goes away. Can you ever laugh and smile and say it was just a phase? Talk normally in company; enquire innocently of their well being as though you didn't wish they were dying inside without you. Crushes and infatuations pass with nothing more than the briefest remembrance of embarrassment, but real love leaves its mark. A hole in the heart, a dirty streak across your soul.
And it never goes away. Not when you've moved town, travelled the world, sought redemption in another's bed. It's still all there, all part of who you were and who you are now. No matter how much you'll wish to be as white as pure light, dirt sticks.
It's funny how you know sometimes that everything isn't okay, even when there's no evidence to back you up; the emotional version of the hairs standing up on the back of your neck. We sat by the pool. It was late Summer, turning to Autumn, but I was not cold in my light jumper. He sat behind me, legs either side of me, as I watched the sunset over the trees. I leaned back into him and a tear trickled down my cheek. I tried to brush it away without him noticing, but he saw and pushed himself around to sit in front of me. He wiped the tear away and the one that followed.
"Hey, what is it? What's wrong?" he asked gently. "Nothing," I answered. He looked at me unconvinced. "I don't know," I said a little more truthfully. "It's so beautiful. I love you. And none of it will last forever. I love you so much it hurts sometimes." "I know. Me too, but I'm not going anywhere." "Really?" "Yes. Really," he replied, kissing me softly and weaving his hands through my hair. The last of the light left the sky. He stood up, held out his hand and pulled me up and walked towards the house. "Come on," he said, turning and taking my hand. "I'll make you some hot chocolate to cheer you up." He smiled at me then and it hurt all over again.
I watch him quietly from the corner of the room. I don't know if he knows I'm awake, but I'll do nothing to draw his attention to it. I like to see him when he's unguarded. He moves through the tai chi forms, hands and feet and arms and body perfectly in synch. Whenever I'll see anyone else practising these movements the ghost of his soul will be right beside them, showing me everything it could have been.
I love this grace in him. Kissed by God. And it shows in all of him; how he won't kill spiders without wishing them a happy incarnation, reads books no one else understands, is broken by the words of a song. I wonder if I listened only ever to his soul and never to the words he said. Too much beauty and a sadness under his skin, an anger that will be this boy's end.
A year later and everything's shattered like glass in the dirt while I keep on not listening. I lie on the bed in his stuffy room feeling oddly sad. I've been tired the whole weekend and I'm lolling around in my nightdress again. I bought it especially for him. It's cream with polka dotted lace and cross back straps. I love it; love how it drapes itself over me and how it's just about see-through.
So I'm enjoying rolling around in the four-poster bed like a film star, but I think its irritating Greg. He seems to have presumed I would be providing more entertainment for him. He's staring out the window, at the beautiful garden, and I watch him in his jeans and jumper watching the birds outside. He steps back, turns towards me and smiles lazily. I push myself up on my elbows and smile back as he saunters over.
He pushes my slip up round my waist, slides his hands under the waist of my knickers and pulls them off. I'm lying on my back, horizontally across the bed, with my legs bent, and he kneels on the floor in front of me and kisses all the way down, while he's stroking my stomach with one hand and my clitoris with the other. It turns me on that he's still fully clothed. I know he's worried about doing this right and it feels strange at first, but I'll find myself craving it over and over. What will linger in my senses for longest is the absolute softness of his hair brushing against my thigh and how I love to open my hand and run it through my fingers like silk.
I fall asleep and when I wake it's dark in the room and Greg's sprawled out beside me. I feel guilty for sleeping all afternoon, so I decide to return the favour of affection. Softly I roll back over and trail kisses down his chest, stomach and the line of hair I find so sexy. I keep butterfly kissing till I'm where his skin is so sensitive he wakes and I see a smile spread over his sleepiness. I like making him hot. I'm so in love I love how he tastes and I like hearing his breathing quicken, like feeling I unbalance him. He's quiet when he comes, I'm not, I'm noisy, 'cause I'm always louder than him and it turns him on.
Now I've finished he looks fragile and shaky, so I kiss his neck and stroke his hair. We lie on our sides and he wraps his arms around me tightly, nuzzling into my hair and kissing my shoulder. I cover his hand with mine and interlace my fingers with his. I kiss his hand, "I love you", I whisper in to the darkness and he must already be asleep because he does not reply.
Up first, I'm trying not to make too much noise in the shower, but as I exit I see he's sitting reading in the armchair. "Thought you'd be in the garden practising your tai chi?" I murmur, kissing him good morning. "Don't have time for that stuff anymore," he says, walking into the bathroom and shutting the door.
"I love you, Kate, but I'm not in love with you anymore. I've been trying to tell you for weeks now, but I didn't want to hurt you." "I don't understand," I say. Tears are streaming down my face and desperation edges into my voice, "Are you saying that you never want to kiss me again? Or hold my hand? Wake up with me? Ever again? Are you?" "Don't say that. Of course I still care about you, but you deserve better." He turned to look at me then and wipes my cheeks with his hand. "Look, I'll drive you home. There's nothing else I can say. I'm sorry."
This can't be happening. Isn't happening, isn't happening, isn't happening, isn't happening...
There's a weight in my chest that grew overnight. Breathe and get out of bed. Breathe again and walk to the bathroom. Don't look at yourself in the mirror. Why did you look? Puffy eyes and hurt in my pupils. Brush your teeth. Turn on the shower. Get in. Cry. Get out. Dry. Dress in jeans and the biggest jumper/bandage you can find. Clutch the camera film in your hand and leave the house. Tiny, shaky steps to the developing shop. Hurts to breathe. Hurts to move. Hurts that the sun is shining. Don't meet anyone's eye. Queue. See someone you knew. Your old history teacher. Attempt to make normal conversation. It's too hard and he moves away. Pay. Sit next door, not drinking your coffee, for an hour. Collect photos. Every picture of you and Him is overexposed. All others are fine. Cry. Shuffle home. Stare at the television. Chew food. Swallow. Throw up. Go to bed. Sleep. Dream of him. Wake. Begin again.
Every day continues like the one before. Different meaningless tasks; same methodical progress. There is a vacuum between me and the rest of the world where time slows down and sound is blurred.
I search for answers everywhere. How could he not love me? How can you love someone one day and not the next? My tarot cards hold no answers. It's all too cryptic. People call and tell me I'll be okay, but I don't want to be okay. I want it to go back to how it was before. I can't breathe. There's a knife through my heart and I can't believe everyone cannot see it, this physical manifestation of emotional pain. There's nothing but blackened blood in my heart chakra. I hold my stomach to keep my insides from falling out.
I write letters, endless letters, of how sorry I am, of how I'll do anything, anything to have him love me again, to put it right. They're full of quotes, of examples, evidence that this is possible. Why won't he believe me? I pull down all the pictures on my wall. I put all my idealistic quotes in a scrapbook and send him the ones that made me think of him. I read the books he lent me, searching for the key to his soul. I dye my curtains and the colour of my room is changed from peaceful blues to romantic (angry) reds. I want to erase him from here. I cleanse the space and burn my incense. I can still smell him on my pillow.