No matter how good you think you are, you will always be the villain in someone else’s story.
I live in a beautiful city.
Some even say it’s one of the most beautiful in the world but I think that depends on who is looking and where they are looking from.
There was a time when I would fly, wide-eyed around my city filled with buildings both old and new, streets lined with plane trees and cute little laneways, each turn filled with me wonder and excitement.
But recently something has changed. When I walk the streets, I’m alone and I can’t help but notice them.
They are scattered amongst the new people that pass me by.
The ghosts stare at me with their hollow eyes and shapeless mouths.
I try my best to ignore them but there seem to be more and more.
I enter an arcade that I would spend countless afternoons in all those years ago. One of the cafes in the arcade has this upstairs area where I would sit by the arched window watching the crowds filter trickle through for whole afternoons.
It was a sacred place.
But now, as part of the trickling crowd I look up to the arched window and see a ghost sitting at my table, mouth gaping open and staring at me.
I decide to walk another way.
Food tastes bland and powdery, the buildings look weathered. The world around me is becoming a tired amusement park, the rides haven’t changed and things are starting to break down.
I’m not making new memories like I used to.
No – surely not.
I look through my phone to convince myself otherwise but most of my photos are of food, buildings or myself. The smiles that occupy my older photos before this all started are filled with warmth and feeling. Something has changed, I have changed.
What have I done?
Where did I go wrong?
Whatever I did, wherever I went wrong, there are only ghosts following me around and standing in my way.
This is no longer the city I grew up in, the city that shaped me into who I am.
And when I look under the thin veil it is very much apparent that at some point I stopped living.
How long have I just barely been existing?
We’d just had sex, relishing in the warmth of post orgasm cuddle play when he looked me in the eyes, “You know I really like you.”
My chest swelled with euphoria and fear and I smiled, “Me too!” But just as my reply reached his ears the sparkle disappeared from his eyes, his lips curled down ever so subtly – the post coitus warmth had dried up and my bed felt like winter.
“It’s okay, I know you don’t.” He said, the eye contact was broken now.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
He was looking out the window, his thoughts were now as far as the mountain ranges in the distance. He started speaking, “You don’t want a relationship. You don’t want a boyfriend. You’re so lonely but you only want guys that are temporary but then when they are willing to stay in your life you back away because you’re so scared of getting close to someone.”
All I could do was nod. I didn’t know what to say but I couldn’t disagree.
He continued, “I feel sorry for you, I don’t know what happened to you but I’m really sorry that it happened. In all the time I’ve spent with you, I still have no idea who you are.”
Just like that it was gone, my jig was up. An act even I wasn’t actively conscious of up until that point.
Again, I just nodded and looked down at the messy linen sheets, really deep into the thread work and imperfections – speckles here and there, lumps and bumps.
Slowly I took my gaze up to my reflection in the mirror where I only saw myself. He was all but gone.
Rather than looking at my reflection, I was looking through myself in the reflection. My eyes glazed as I floated out from my body to imagine me viewing myself alone in the room watching myself look through my own reflection.
I felt so empty.
I made this wall to keep the harm out, it has served me well but there is something else. After years behind the wall, I’m getting this growing sense that I am somehow missing out.
I see you and you see me but as we go to touch, something stops us.
The wall keeps you out too.
Now I sit here in my space where I used to feel so safe. But now, it’s not just that I’m missing out but something else – I feel something sinister here with me, invisible to my eyes as I look around.
It’s just me, there is nothing in here, what could it be?
That’s when I catch a glimpse in the reflection of the glass.
It is in me, it has been growing in me and changing me.
I realise now is the time to let down the walls. I’m not ready but I don’t think I will ever be.
All I know if I don’t I will cease to be me.
I get to the platform with 2-3 minutes spare and take my usual place between the right side of the ticket barrier and the toilet block.
The mother who wears adidas originals as her comfy commuting shoes is standing and chatting with her three daughters who are already exceeding her in height.
They laugh and always seem to look my way as I take my place.
The two guys a little closer to the ticket barrier stand right near the edge of platform and seem to be talking business as usual. The look like they really know what they’re talking about and will likely tell you that you’ve got it wrong.
The train pulls up and today it’s one of the old Comeng trains that might be retrofitted.
I hop on and everyone is there doing their usual thing.
The two guys have gotten onto the carriage next to me but the mother and girls get on my carriage and stand slightly over from the door which is going to be opening every stop until North Melbourne.
The young, shorter guy who always wears shorts and no socks with his shoes but a down jacket is on his phone, probably looking through Facebook leaning against the door on the side of the train where the doors won’t open.
I pull out my kindle and start reading my book and usually I’m on the side of the train where the doors don’t open, preferably against a wall but that’s prime real estate which is usually all but gone by the time the train pulls in to Moonee Ponds.
At Ascot Vale about three friends of the school girls get on and they all greet the mother who slowly steps back as the circle opens, the new arrivals join and she takes a step back. The mother is now going to spend the rest of the time I’m on the train looking in as an outsider while her daughters start talking about a world far from her own. Every now and then the mother will try to make eye contact with someone in the circle before pulling her phone out to play candy crush or some Harry Potter mobile game.
One day, one day.
At Newmarket the girl with olive skin gets and assumes her usual power stance in the middle of the carriage. This girl gets on the same connecting train with me at North Melbourne. She generally doesn’t take her backpack off even when the train is crowded and for that I’m kind of not a fan.
At Kensington the young boy gets on with either his mother or father. They both carry his bag for him while he looks out the window of the train door and rattles out observations about the pattern of train departures from North Melbourne. The school bag his parents carry is nearly as big as him.
At North Melbourne a bunch of us get off and proceed up the stairs. It’s always the guy with the shorts, no socks with shoes and the olive skin girl who end up on the same platform with me, the others continue on the loop.
Just as I get to the top of the escalators, like clock work the young guy with some kind of physical disability is making his way along the rail of the concourse before heading down.
There’s never enough room on the middle escalators so you can’t really stand to the left or people get annoyed as they rush for their trains bound for Southern Cross or Flinders.
The Metro lady is standing with her microphone pleading with people not to congregate around the base of the escalators and move down the platform.
My side of the platform is quiet and I wait for the 7:28 train because I usually just miss the 7:22 train unless it’s one or two minutes late.
I’m a coward because anytime anyone has ever called either of you out has been willed out of existence with your over inflated sense of moral and intellectual superiority.
I’m a coward because I can’t count how many times you looked the other way as you walked past my room when I was crying and felt so alone in the world.
I’m a coward because when I gave you a present you never acknowledged it and left me to find it amongst rubbish in the garage.
I’m a coward because your circumstances are so unique they prevent anyone from questioning your behaviour.
I’m a coward because neither of you apply the same harsh rules to yourselves as you do to others.
I’m a coward because you turn on the charm offensive as soon as you sniff out the faintest hint of generosity like hungry ghouls only to disappear once what you came for is well and truly consumed.
I’m a coward because I would be threatened when I was at my most vulnerable if I ever spoke up.
I’m a coward because whenever anything went wrong you left me to fix it and never offered a helping hand unless it affected you directly.
I’m a coward because you’re both so damn deluded that you have no idea nearly everyone around you is thinking what I’m saying.
No, none of this is on you at all because I’m a coward.
It’s that point you reach in a game where you’re about half way and stuck.
You’re going around in circles and no matter what you can’t seem to find the key to get through the door which is going to unlock the rest of the game for you.
Maybe it’s that key I discarded earlier in the game?
Or it could be right in front of me but I’m just not seeing it?
At any rate I’m stuck and I know it.
I keep walking around and sometimes, for the briefest moment I find something that seems like the answer, riding on the feeling of accomplishment it gives me before coming to the realisation that it wasn’t that at all.
Other times all I find are enemies that I have to fend off.
I’ve been stuck on this level for a while and part of me is wondering if I will ever find the key.
Have I missed my chance?
Is it now somewhere beyond my reach?