I am scared.
Bloody terrified, to tell you the truth, but I don’t get to be scared. Not really. I have to wear the right mask, because if I show that something is affecting me, the world might fall apart around me and I’ll have to stand in the rubble and admit that because I admitted weakness…well…for want of a horseshoe nail and all that. I know I’m not the only one who’s terrified and who won’t admit it. But it’s got to the point now where I don’t even admit it to myself. Maybe I never did. When was the last time I did? I suppose a little bit, when I found out about the illness, but that’s to be *expected*, right? You have to show …well…something, or else you’re a mutant.
So I’m scared, and people in fear do strange and awful things, not just to others, but to themselves. I guess it makes sense, though. I know I’ve been hurt, and hurt worst of all by those I loved the most. I’ve been hurt over and over by the ones I love, and, like some kind of fucking junkie, I walk back for more. I keep taking it. Because in the end, isn’t that what it’s all about? Just a big, fucking gamble. I never was much of a “bettin’ man”. Probably because every time I play the odds, every time I roll those dice across the table, I see a pair of glowing red eyes on the other side, and even though I know it’s just a figment of my imagination, my knees get a little weak.
So sure, I can shell out all the love you want. I thought for a while that there’d be an end to this…some kind of a bottom, some kind of a *container*…that at some point, I’d be spent, that I wouldn’t have any more to give. But you know what? That’s bullshit. I got it in spades, baby. But it’s like digging your way through a box of sawblades to find the diamond ring that fell in there, isn’t it? You get all cut up and torn to shit, but there’s this little lump of something bright and pure and good in the centre of it all, so you keep digging.
That’s another thing, too. The hope. The damned hope. I *know* it’s all going to go to shit, but the reason I know that is because it always does. I keep thinking, ‘you know, somehow, someday, my number’s going to come up, and I’m going to have a house full of all these people I love, and it’s going to be perfect, and nobody’s going to see the puke stain on the carpet because it won’t be there, and when everyone’s gone after a big, delicious meal, I can just ride off into the sunset and know that I had it. I *had* it.’
I talk to a Man Who Isn’t There. I talk to him all the time. He never answers; that’s how I know he isn’t there. But yet, and this is crazy, I know it. He *is* there. He’s always *been* there, and I have to believe that, because if I don’t, then what the hell is it for? I’m a kid about it though, always saying, you know, if you do this for me, then….but I’ve got it all backwards, of course. Because that’s not how it works.
It’s like the whole love thing. You don’t *mean* to love someone. It just happens. You just look down one day and realise that you’re so wrapped up in these people, in everything about them, that you can’t extricate yourself without a diesel-powered chainsaw with a 6-foot blade that needs two burly lumberjacks to operate. So one day you just realise that there’s a reason for all of this, and you know you’ll never know what that reason is, but damn it, you have to keep asking, because that’s how you’re built, you know? Not even a simple man is content to never question ‘why’.
So I take my lumps and I stuff all that shit down until I can’t take it anymore and then all this vitriol pukes out of my mouth and half the time I don’t even realise I’m saying it. I don’t even realise what I’m saying. It doesn’t matter, because I have to get it out because if I don’t get it out it’s going to sit in there and rot away my guts and I’ll end up with an ulcer so big it eats its way through my stomach and through my liver and some day I’ll be walking down the street and my arsehole will just drop right out of my body and skitter away, because it doesn’t want to be next. So I know I hurt people. I know words hurt people. I know they hurt the people who care about me the most.
Especially the innocents.
Man, one wrong word and they just go to pieces. How can they not know I love them? But I see them; they eye me out of the corners of their vision, I see their little minds working, and they’re asking: “is today one of those days I have to stay out of the way?” They’re asking, “are you proud of me?” They’re answering themselves too. They’re saying, “I’ll never be good enough. I’m sorry.” And the heartbreak, the breaking goddamned spirits, that I can see too, and I still don’t know how to stop myself.
I know this though – I’ll never walk into that trap again. Not completely. I got burned real good once. Well, it happened over a long period of time, really, but in the end, I couldn’t face the pain anymore. I couldn’t take one more slice of molecule-thin glass being slid under my eyelids. So I shut it down. Didn’t know you could shut love down, but you can.
Well, not completely. Because of the damned hope. I still think, “what if?” What if it had gone differently? What if I’d said this, or what if that happened instead? And then it hits me right in the solar plexus, and I have to leave the room, sometimes coughing like I’ll never breathe again, because that love’s wrenching itself around my lungs and squeezing…squeezing. That’s what the innocents become when you break their spirits; their souls become serpents writhing around your lungs and your heart and they squeeze and squeeze and squeeze until you can’t breathe and you’re sitting at your dining room table, panting over a cup of coffee and wondering when the last time was that you were able to cry without feeling like someone was going to call you a ‘fucking princess’ and tell you to pull yourself together because you’re the only one keeping this ship together.
But it isn’t together, is it? It’s not even really a ship. It’s a series of islands; and archipelago of emptiness; each of us perches on top of a boulder at the end of a peninsula and can just reach out our fingertips to each other, but we won’t take that leap to cross the churling water beneath us. The innocents do, when they can still fly, but after their spirits are crushed, they form up their own archipelagos and soon enough, they stop reaching with their fingertips and just send their souls a-crushing.
I want to scream, I want to kick, I want to set it all on fire. But I can never turn my back on it because it’s what I want. How sick is that? I WANT this. But not like this, I never wanted it like this. I wanted…
Hell, I don’t even know what I wanted.
I remember looking up at him, and he was so big, so strong…so *forever*. My heart filled my throat and I saw him looking down at me and I smiled. I would have done anything for him. Had he ever asked, I would have done anything for him. But he never asked. He told. He told, and he disapproved. There was never anything I could do that was good enough. He broke my spirit too, though I would say now, after all these years, that it was really me who broke my own spirit when I wouldn’t listen to his wisdom. But ultimately, that’s all I wanted – his approval.
I wanted him to look me in the eye and say, “I’m proud of you”.
Sure, he showed me all the time that he loved me. In the ways that he could. But I wanted *more*. I could never be good enough, I could never do it *quite* well enough, and by the time I’d learned how to, he was gone, and my chance was missed. On the other hand, I look around, and I see that he was right. I’m *not* good enough. But neither is anyone else. He couldn’t love us like we needed him to because we weren’t perfect. You can’t love a teacup with a chip in it; it’ll just always pull at the soft skin of your lips until they bleed. So he couldn’t love me, and they think I can’t love them.
But I do, and that’s the really screwy thing.
So who is this guy? It’s not God. I know you’re thinking it’s God, but it’s not God. That’s another thing entirely. A better question is: who am I?