I originally wrote this as a guest post for Love Letters & Suicide Notes. Please head over there and read the original and the comments. While you’re there, make sure to read the rest of Jason’s blog, and if you can, pick up a copy of his e-book, Reminiscence.
I decided to replicate the post here on MABrotherton.Com because it is one of my favorite bits of writing and it has been a few years. I don’t think Jason will mind.
“Socially awkward,” is the best phrase ever used to describe me. I’m bad at people. I don’t think, speak, or act like everyone else. I’m afraid of everyone else. I can always sense the quiet, silent judgment that follows me everywhere I go. The stares, the sneers, the open pity, all of the expressions people wear when they don’t know how to react to someone. I’ve never been one of the group. I’ve never been comfortable in my own skin. I’ve got problems that just seem to flow out of my pores and hang about me like a cloud, pushing everyone to keep away from me. It makes me a target. It makes the world know that I’m wounded and waiting for the predators to come and pick me off to strengthen the herd. It keeps me isolated and alone.
I used to use that word as a refuge. Solitude was my armor and my salvation. It was an icy cliff face below a stone wall covered in pitch spilling monsters. It was a fortress to protect me from the world’s criticisms. It was a prison to keep me from finding out how horrible things really were out there.
I did my time in complete isolation. I cut myself off from everyone that was not absolutely necessary for me to live. I didn’t talk to anyone at work. I didn’t visit friends or have friends visit me. I worked. I slept. I ate. I ignored the rest of the world. I was alone and that meant I was safe. I didn’t have to worry about the judgment of others. I didn’t see their hatred and pity.
But, I could still see my own.
My own self-hatred and self-pity was reflected in all the faces I couldn’t see. My mind told me they were out there, watching and waiting. I was being hunted, and nothing would ever keep me safe. I had convinced myself that all of these things were coming to me from outside my own mind.
I never wanted to believe that the way I saw the universe was one sided.
Everything I felt was imaginary.
All that time, spent hiding from a reality that was of my own creation. All I did was feed into it every dark fantasy and darker fear my mind could construct. I watched the world, and in my head, it was watching me back, plotting against me.
In my mind, I connected with the people around me. I reached out to them and had something special. A hidden bond that no one else could ever truly understand. I created these connections and coveted them, as fake as they were. I pretended that I knew you, that you knew me, that there was some real bond between us.
Maybe there could have been, if I had been more brave.
Maybe those few times my mind let me see genuine kindness for what it could be were moments that I should have put myself on the line for. You smiled at me with warmth, and I listened as you told me things about your boyfriends and lovers. I was there for you, and in my head that meant something. We had a bond. I listened to you, and you were actually affectionate towards me.
Maybe if I had been bold, and told you what those times meant to me, you’d have told me the same thing. Maybe that simple kindness and basic affection could have blossomed into something beautiful and miraculous. It could have really been what I longed for it to be in the deepest recesses of my mind. I wouldn’t have to be alone.
But I didn’t say what I felt. I didn’t take hold the moment with courage. I hid from the one fear that I couldn’t even allow myself to know that I had. The fear that if I told you how I felt, then the small kindness, the affection that you showed me, would vanish and be replaced by the pity and disgust that I wore as such a heavy perfume. I stayed quiet so that fear could grow and gnaw at me even more. In time, I was so consumed by it that I let you go, and you drifted away, and on with your own life.
I still wish I could change that fate.
I thought of you, as I drifted through life, alone and hidden. I let myself float along, and when someone, anyone, reached for me, I grasped on with all my might, trying to climb from the riptide of loneliness. I clung to whatever shelter I could find in that storm because I was so desperately longing to not be alone anymore.
From one stone in the river to another, I held on for dear life until the rapids pulled me away.
By the time I’d found myself ashore miles downstream, I was battered, broken, and barely alive. I had clung to the idea of love, tried to embrace it as a salvation the same way I had embraced isolation. It had torn me apart, time and time again. So I abandoned it to return to something comfortable and safe.
I went back to being alone.
I’ve been alone for a long time now. Isolated. Quiet. Afraid.
The tension in the world around me is building more and more each day, and I don’t know if I’m going to be able to weather this storm. I’m not sure I have it left in me to ride it out.
I’ve taken too many beatings.
I’ve lost too much faith.
I still remember those times. I remember you. I remember you being vulnerable and hurt, and I remember thinking that I would do anything to keep you safe, to make you happy.
Back then I let go of that dream. I let go of you.
While I was falling through the rapids, becoming scarred, hardened, and ugly, you were growing. You became beautiful, confident, and amazing.
Now, I look at the blackened edges of my soul, and I think, I did the right thing by never telling you. I freed you from the burden that is my heart. I cut chains before they could be formed.
You are safe.
You are happy.
I did what I longed to do, and now, I don’t have to worry anymore.