Posted on Saturday, June 13, 2009
The first thing my eyes saw this morning was the clouds. They were hanging lower than usual- a weightless testimony to the many shades of grey. My blinds swayed back and forth with the wind and the morning light stung my sleep deprived eyes. Another early start to what was no doubt going to be a long day. I sacrificed breakfast and a shower for fifteen minutes more sleep. I set my alarm and pulled the covers over my head. My mind drifted away on each one of those fifteen glorious minutes. It took me to the top of a steep hill where I admired a view I have never seen before. It took me underwater where I swam mindlessly through the greenest seaweed. It took me back home where I could feel the sand beneath my bare feet. Those fifteen bittersweet minutes took me out of my bed and into a sphere where seconds and minutes no longer adhered.
The second wake up is always the worst. You are left with no more options except for the brutality of removing yourself from your eight hour coma and beginning your day.
Clothes, teeth, bag and keys.
The front door slams behind me and the noisy clutter of the outside world infiltrates my senses. An orchestra of mechanical sounds plays out into the crisp morning air. I can still taste berries on my tongue from the night before. A palette numbed by the fruity fermentation of grapes and grain. This liquid sedative disconnects my brain and allows me sit still in the present.
The tram is full with early morning commuters, faces blank with the acceptance of the mundane. Tired eyes and moping faces. Slumped shoulders clutching briefcases. The 8 am tram is the bleakest of places. It is the busiest place and the most desolate place. Human beings attempting to run a rat race. I make a silent pact with myself to never become monotone. A peak hour reminder that there is hot blood running thick through my veins.
I walk up the steps and into the building where I work. I devote thirty eight hours of my week inside these walls. I make my way to my desk as Nick Cave pours his brooding lullabies into my speaker clad ears. His voice, like oysters, is an instant aphrodisiac. How one man manages to convey the entire catalogue of human emotion in just one melody baffles me. If his voice was a liquid, it would be the most burgundy of wines. A sound that stains your ears with such beautiful agony it leaves a mark long after the words have been sung.
I have three new emails. Two new facebook messages are automatically relegated to the trash bin. The last email remains opened at the top of the list. I stare at the name for longer than I intended. I tick the little white box next to the name and a black tick appears. I drag the mouse over to the delete icon but I can’t bring myself to remove it, not yet anyway. Indecision wraps its heavy arms around my neck. I feel flushed and agitated. I feel curious. I decide to open it. Heat rises up into my cheeks as I anxiously wait for the screen to load. It has been over a year now and yet it feels like another giant moment of truth. One step forward and three leaps back.
My eyes skim the page and take in the enormous amount of text. I scroll down and see the words that seem to go on forever. I take a deep breath and force myself to begin at the beginning.
I know I probably shouldn’t be writing you this email. How are you anyway? It’s been ages since we’ve spoken and I find myself thinking about you a lot. How’s Melbourne treating you? Heard it’s been savagely cold down there, I bet you’re missing the warmth?
His words unravel me all over again. I can’t help but to cast my mind back. I remember the night he took me up to the lighthouse. I remember how cold it was up there. I never think to take a jumper with me. It was freezing, but I couldn’t have felt more comfortable. We sat on the railing that overlooked the sea. Beneath us, trees knotted together until their roots gripped the sandy shore. Every few seconds the beam from the lighthouse cut a golden line across the crisp night sky. There we sat, fingers entwined, losing all track of time.
Everything has been really good up here. I’ve been really busy with work and a few little side projects. Did I tell you about my next project? I think I already have, but it’s taking all of my time right now, even on weekends. I haven’t been out much though. Just finding it all a little hollow and pointless right now. I’m sure I’ll come back around, but for now, I prefer to lay low. Been thinking heaps about everything. I can’t believe we haven’t spoken for this long.
All this time apart and yet we still manage to weave parallel lives.
It’s like he never left.
I imagine what he would have looked like when he typed this email. I imagine him sitting in his chair at work, tapping nervously on his keyboard. I imagine his straightened back as his sits upright in his seat. I imagine his perfectly even collarbones and the delicacy of his fingertips. I imagine what his face would look like as he cradled thoughts of me inside his head.
I know there were times when I seemed unreachable. I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t let myself go back there because it was so raw and you just have this way of bringing it all to the surface with just one sentence. I didn’t want to hear your voice. I am so sorry for how it all played out. You know I didn’t mean for it to unfold the way it did, especially to you. Anyone but you.
The night he came over plays out in my memory like a silent film. He was on time for once. I heard the knock at my door from my bedroom upstairs. I was sick from it. I knew something wasn’t right but he kept me guessing right to the very end. About an hour before he was due to come over, I took a swim in the ocean. I prayed to whoever was listening to grant me only one thing…clarity. As I got changed that afternoon, I recall choosing clothes that I don’t really wear that often, as my foresight told me that I would no doubt associate those threads with this fractured moment in time. I opted for an old pair of pajamas. They were comfortably unfamiliar and entirely disposable. I made my way downstairs and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I remember thinking that whatever will be will be, just be honest and leave nothing undone.
I can’t believe it’s been over a year. There’s been so much change in between then and now. I feel like I have culled so many unnecessary distractions in my life. I have made a point of it. I hit a wall a few months ago and decided to strip it all down and start again. It’s been pretty tough. Feel like I’ve lost a lot of people in my life. It’s like I had these people I knew who I would associate with, but only under particular circumstances. I guess I’m just coming to terms with what is real and what is fake.
The first night he ever stayed over, we lay centimeters away from each other, talking until one of us finally gave in to sleep. We never touched that night. And yet I have never felt closer to another person. When the morning came, I felt a kiss placed upon my cheek. As I heard the front door close, I rolled over and took in the scent of his hair on my pillow and drifted back into the deepest of sleeps.
I heard that you came up here recently. News like that doesn’t take long to spread through a town like this. When I heard you were coming, I kind of freaked out a bit. I wasn’t ready to see you yet. I’d seen pictures of you, I saw how happy you looked, how content you looked, how good you looked…I couldn’t do it to myself. You always hold up a strong front in testing situations, and I just knew I couldn’t get behind that kind of armour. That entire weekend I made sure I stayed in. I could feel you were back. The town felt different. It felt like home again.
I am suddenly acutely aware of all the sounds around me. I can hear the photocopier behind me spitting out pieces of paper. I can hear three different types of phones ringing. I can hear people typing all around me and I wonder if anyone else has noticed how cold it is in here today. And despite all of this, I wonder why my palms are sweating and why it feels as if I have been teleported back twelve months in time. I don’t recall stepping into a time machine at any stage this morning. And yet here I am, emotionally regressing back to that space again.
Are you happy down there?
This question stops me in my tracks. Happiness for me right now is anything outside what I felt back then. If happiness is the polar opposite of being miserable, than yes, I am happy. But this newly gauged happiness is half the shade of what was felt back then.
How can just one person make you so euphorically happy?
It is the greatest confliction when your heart still chooses to love the one that couldn’t love you back.
I feel a slow sinking feeling in my arms and legs. I am going under again whether I like it or not. All I ask for is clarity.
You know I can’t lie to you, so I won’t even try. I need to tell you some things that you’re probably not wanting to hear. I have to let you know what’s been wading around in my mind lately.
I love you still.
The beat inside me quickens. I can hear the drumming inside my ears. A beat that I can no longer control seizes my body and throws me into an entirely external rhythm.
I still love you.
Something melts inside my chest. A reservoir of pains unwept.
I am still in love with you.
My eyes retrace those last few words. Vulnerability silhouettes each one of his words. A strange contradiction presents itself- one of adamancy and vulnerability. Nestled in the afterthought is conviction.
But to a lover scorned, these are merely words.
I watch the ink set into the paper as the last page of his email is printed out. I hit delete. I fold up his words into my pocket and for the rest of the day I pretend that nothing out of the ordinary has happened. I retreat into autopilot mode so I don’t implode. I go through the motions of my day like a cardboard cut out of myself. Beneath the mechanical two dimensions I am churning.
The threads keeping me together throughout the day begin to unravel the minute my feet hit my bedroom floor. The only thing that will deliver any comfort right now will be a scolding hot shower and the longest of sleeps. Steam fills the bathroom and I can no longer see my own reflection. I am looking at something that I can not see, but I know for certain that it is there. The beat rises up again. It drums inside my ears and threatens to escape out through my chest.
I turn off all the lights and curl up underneath my blankets. The only thing welcome right now is sleep. I wait for it to come and get me, to take me away from this day. Each time I start to drift away, I see those typed words as a plain as day. I am still in love with you. I blink down hard so they will disintegrate back into the ether where they came from.
Sleep eventually silences my mind. For hours I lay still in an unflinching trance. I look down onto my defeated body. There on top of my chest sits a dormant volcano, ashen at the edges and the centre as black as coal. It crumbles at the lip with each breath. Ash floats weightlessly through the air, getting caught up in my messy hair. I wonder how I can still breathe under all that weight. I wonder if I will ever wake up.
In the dead of night I have a dream. I am lying on my back on a boardwalk, looking up at the night sky. I can feel the weathered strips of wood along my spine and my fingertips trace its natural grain. Starlight illuminates the canopy of the midnight sky. Waves break over the pylons beneath where I lay and I can taste salt in the air. Beside me is where he lays. His hand is entwined with mine and he is telling me a story from his childhood. I feel as if I could lay there listening to him forever. He leans over and whispers something in my ear.
Each whispered word gets pinned to my heart.
In a semi-subconscious state, I once again hover above my body. As I examine my sleeping face I notice something stirring in the volcanic ruins of my chest. It starts out small, but then it grows out of the darkness and into the light. The most perfect red roses bloom right in front of my eyes. Crimson petals litter the devastation that was once my burnt out chest.
I am now indifferent to the wreckage this perfection grew out of.
The morning light begins to break out of the night sky. I can feel myself stirring. I roll onto my back and rub my heavy eyes. I can still hear waves breaking in my thoughts. I sit up and kick off my tangled sheets. And there at my tired feet, are crimson petals that smell like the sea.
Piece by piece, we rebuild the bridges that have been burnt.