It used to not be as simple as words on paper.
The direct connection to the emotional fluidity cast forth onto the sheet was a perpetual cycle of free-flowing creativity and intimacy. A complex portrait was drawn from nothing except the rust covered reflections of hopelessly lingering faith. These were words shamelessly crafted out of the necessity to experience an out of book experience for myself, crafting perhaps an alternate ending, or even better…an alternate beginning. Time, and time again I tried tirelessly to shake the foundation upon which my feet stood so firmly grounded, only to be grimly reminded of the cruel reality that awaited me.
The phase seemed to complete itself on its own. As if fatalistically bound to occur by the idiotic self-serving ritual I had created for my social substitutions, I found myself within aimless wanderings in public places. These havens of white noise, shrouded me from the isolation that I needed and loathed. Within the confines of public exile, I perhaps created the image I wanted to see, and impulsively reacted based upon a situation I didn’t quite know existed. Regardless of my prior intentions, disregard for social boundaries and an even finer lack of common sense granted me an afternoon of what one would call a “stalker’s fantasy”. Meters behind my prey I strode calmly, watching her clearly dismayed figure glide daintily forward with no clear route. Wherever her final destination may be, she was in no apparent hurry to arrive at it. After a circle around the park’s walking trail, I began to grow impatient with her blatantly inattentive nature, and began to increase my walking pace. As heat rushed to my face, it became painfully evident that lines in my social code of conduct were about to be severely crossed.
However many words I intended to slyly utter to her as I caught up were stricken by sudden reason, as my only coherent inquiry came in the form of “You okay”? Met with solemn expression, I was forced to endure what seemed like minutes of uncomfortable, embarrassingly piercing silence. Of what could only be understood by two complete strangers however, came a relaxed response of seemingly sincere exasperation. “I come out here to get away from this asshole, so sorry if I’m not in the best of moods when asked if there is something wrong with me”, she stated while keeping her steady walking speed. As I began to regain my composure, I settled into a question that would clarify her relationship status with the allegedly intolerable individual. “Apologies, I don’t mean to pry. If I may ask, what did they do”?
She instantly stopped, a look of shy reluctance upon her face as she began to scan her surroundings. It was the gaze of someone who is deliberately attempting to not be seen or heard by anyone else, and she took one last precautionary view of the trail behind her before answering me.
“If I’m around him for too long, he starts to get angry at me and will sometimes take out frustration on me. I come out here to give him time to cool down, and things usually work out all right. I’m just…not sure why I chose to do it; to come back I mean. It was hard, and I’m starting to regret it”, she said before breathing a sigh of relief. This was undoubtedly information that she had been suppressing from public ears for a long time, and for her to reveal this ugly reminder of her living conditions can’t have been easy. Understanding now what she was attempting to convey to me, I responded with a perhaps provocative question regarding her partner.
“If it doesn’t make you happy, what makes you stick around to endure more punishment”?
The brief pause that followed informed me quickly that this wasn’t something that she hasn’t considered in the past. Her obvious trepidation in revealing her possibly irrational choices caused her to bring a defensive tone to her retort.
“It’s not as if I haven’t tried, okay? This past year has been really difficult for me, and I needed the place to stay. The last time I saw him, he was still hanging out with this guy that I didn’t like, who liked to hit his girlfriend. He assured me that no matter how angry he got, he would never treat me that bad. I believed him, and I didn’t think of it too much after that. So, at first it was minor. He’d have me go over to his mom’s house and do chores, and he would always seem like he appreciated it. That turned on me pretty quick though, since I had a job at the time and if I didn’t get out of work right on time, he would get mad and start yelling at me when I got over to her house, telling me that if I didn’t want to help out I could just fucking say so, I didn’t have to lie to him or his mother. Ever since then, he has been obsessed with me doing things for his family, and it just feels like I’m more of a slave to them, than a future family member. You know what I mean”?
I did recognize this situation. A little too much, in fact. There are few things that are quite as irritating as realizing you’re stuck in a deteriorating partnership with someone. I could empathize with her, having been in an incredibly similar situation less than a year beforehand. It was almost the equivalent of a parasitic relationship that the host slowly decays from due to a lack of attention, a disregard for their actual value, or even the absence of gratitude for their services and toiling. As we sat down on a bench a few steps down the road, she sank her head into palms. There she confided in me the knowledge of a cornered animal, the brooding perils of a social martyr.
“If I decided to leave him, I wouldn’t know where to go. None of my family is from here, and I don’t think I could afford to go back. Besides, he might get better. I’ve tolerated it for this long, there’s no reason I can’t work on him. He just needs to change his ways, and I’m sure things will begin to look up for us. I don’t know how much longer I can go on living like this. It’s just, a matter of time before I snap on all of them. You don’t know the half of the fucked up things happening with his dysfunctional family, and him for that matter. Honestly, if you had to deal with these kinds of people, how would you fix them? Or, if you couldn’t do it; when would you choose to get out”?
As I rose from the bench, I caught her face flushed and staring gloomily up at me. As I returned to the trail, I began to walk back towards my car. I stopped mid-step, turned back towards the strange female; her form in the dusk light slouched over in attentive silence. As I caught the chestnut glow from her eyes gazing towards me, I grinned and replied:
“I wouldn’t, and if at all possible…yesterday“.
As I made the slow tour back to my car, I glanced over at the parking lot’s opposite end. There, stepping up into the cab of a blue pickup truck was the girl, a look of satisfied catharsis pasted across her face. It was evident that she had at least taken heed of my words, if not come up with her own well-formed escape strategy for the immediate future. Climbing into the driver seat of my own vehicle, I paused momentarily to reflect on my past that so closely mirrored the girl’s current nightmare. It was one that I never wanted to return to. The constant, daily grind of trying to avoid any and all commitments by purposefully making myself unavailable were my only solace. The unending nervous demeanor I embodied while attempting to keep in good standing with my potential in-laws was a burden that was too heavy to bear. This brings me to my final point:
I don’t care about the quantity of gifts that you will leave. Promises will remain empty, as they always were. I don’t accept apologies, as they’ve gotten me only back into the bondage I wanted to escape so dearly. The last time I titled a work this, it was a poem for you. Welcome to the tragedy you’ve made from it. I know you’re listening.