Faye lay in bed. She wept. She had been weeping for days. Her therapist had said, more than once, that perhaps she was experiencing a phase of grief. Mourning. But for what, for whom? Faye couldn't figure it out. So she lay and she thought, and that was part of the problem. She simply couldn't stop thinking and she was driving herself mad. Absolutely fucking mad. There was a man involved, of course. A man she could not, would not, forget. Her thoughts about him were joyless. Erratic. Full of accusations. And the sadness, it overwhelmed her. She was drowning in it. Salty water, everywhere.
The man. It had been months since she last saw him. Literally months. Seasons had changed. People had voted. She had had her period more times than she cared to remember. And still, her mind refused to accept the passing of time. A typical case of cerebral irrationality. Entirely uncalled for. Emotionally lacerating. It could get so bad that sometimes, when Faye was alone in the city, she felt like a fugitive. On the run for so-and-so's. Afraid to be stopped and talked to. Ready to abscond at the drop of a hat. So, unless there was a substantial amount of alcohol involved, Faye preferred to avoid the city.
She had tried talking to herself. "Listen," she'd say, with conviction, "You are a fraud, you know that? You are a failure at life. Look at you, you pathetic human being. Function, for fuck's sake. Is it really that hard? Look, everyone else is doing it, so what's your problem? Idiotic girl". Not surprisingly, this hadn't helped very much. At other times, she envisioned the Amazing Married Life of the man; him and his wife debating the future of renewable resources, or planning the gender neutral birth of their first child, or repeating their vows to one another whilst seated on a riverside bench in the moonlight. She wondered about her. His wife. Was she stunning, with strawberry blond hair and long, toned arms? Gifted in some supernatural way? Was she frightening? Did she shop at Aldi?
Faye knew she was in well over her head. Something had to happen. Something huge which would throw her life off course completely. She needed a radical change. Like casual sex with an investment banker, or plastic surgery, or a severe but low-impact accident, or a tattoo, on her face! Anything but this. Anything. She didn't want another tissue. She didn't want more sadness. She wanted her life back.
She would never see the man again, she understood that and to be frank, she didn't want to. The whole thing had demoralized her. Faye was, in her own opinion, a modern gal. A millennial. She'd always pitied women who suffered over men. She thought them naive, indulgent even. Out of touch with reality. It was very hard to accept that she had it in her too.
The other day, on her way back from work, she saw someone in the underground who vaguely resembled the man. She could only see part of his face, but that was enough - she pieced together the rest in her mind. He had the same high forehead - or receding hairline, however you'd like to see it - hair greying at the sides, arched eyebrows. It was the face of an asshole, she couldn't put it any other way. She had thought him an asshole from the first moment she saw him, and she thought him an asshole now. And she could not forget. He was the most infuriating SOB asshole she had ever met. And she could not let go.
She looked at the stranger's forehead for as long as possible (he couldn't see her, which was good, because she could never stop herself from looking and men, well, they tended to get the wrong idea). She looked until she got really scared. This was normal, the man had scared the shit out of her. She didn't know why. She kept looking and let her fear unfold and settle. Hold it, she said to herself, hold the memory. Is this what you want? Really?
Yes. It was what she wanted.
There had been other men since the man. None of them had come close emotionally but some had physically. Her waist had been held, her skin had been touched, her body had been desired. She had enjoyed it, even though she knew they had just been pawns. She had simply closed her eyes and allowed them to wrap themselves around her like plasters. New layers of paint. But it hadn't worked. Not yet. She had talked about it with some friends. Never the whole story, just bits and pieces - she felt too much of an open wound, too laughable, to reveal all. Even her therapist, especially her therapist, didn't know the whole truth. Faye's deepest needs, her most revealing thoughts, they were classified. Private. They always had been. She was incapable of admitting them, even to herself.
Sure, she realized it wasn't just about the man. There was a lot of weight pressing on her soul. A lot of things which sounded flat when spoken out loud. Meaningless trivialities. Completely irrelevant in the face of global warming and hungry children and human destitution and victims of torture and FGM. Really, how dare she? And yet, they haunted her. They had attached themselves to her like quick, slithering shadows. They were always there. The man had just pointed them out, without even realizing it. And now, they kicked her in the stomach on a daily basis. They drifted through her psyche and darkened her heart. They mangled her. They cheered each other on. And she took it. She could handle it. No problem.
That was why the man wouldn't leave her mind, because he was to blame. He had brought out dark things without faces that stood around her bed and wouldn't talk. They undressed her and they observed her. They judged her, silently. Maliciously. Faye couldn't tell what their intentions were, or what they were going to do next. All this darkness, her mind said, how much longer will you carry it?
The man. The man, the man, the man, the man. Perhaps, the man himself meant nothing. Absolutely nothing. Perhaps fear or sadness meant nothing. Perhaps the only thing that meant anything, right now, was her. She was alive. And she wanted to live until she was very, very old. Until her body was crooked and bent and she had ears the size of sailing boats. She would tell children stories about strange dark things that would vanish if you put your fingers into the corners of your mouth and showed them your teeth. Then, she would growl and the children would breathe in sharply and one of them would cry. And then they would want to hear the story again. And again. And again.
Faye imagined herself as an old, growling lady and she laughed. She stretched and yawned. The walls of her room had started to turn orange with the light of a receding sun. She got up and sauntered over to the window. Hello there, crazy world, she whispered, and as the sun disappeared behind the horizon, she felt herself becoming warm inside. I am alive, she thought, and she put her fingers into the corners of her mouth, showed her teeth and growled.
© Elzemieke De Tiège, all rights reserved. Please do not alter, crop or copy. Thank you ♥
Please note that this is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
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