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.
We’re sitting there after dinner and he puts his arm around me as we talk. “Dinner was absolutely great.” He leans in closer to kiss me.
I feel the familiar wet, warmth of lips touching mine and I block out my surroundings. His hands slowly move lower as they inspect me. They stop on my hips – left hand pinches my hip fat. With a discovery made, both hands crawl and pinch and work towards my stomach where I feel another pinch.
Through our kiss I feel his mouth open and hear a little laugh, “You’re actually a bit on the chubby side – I didn’t expect that.” He says.
There’s that sick feeling again. The twang in my heart.
My eyes are open and fixed on something in the distance that I can’t make out. I softly push the guy away and try to not let my emotions betray me, “Well if you don’t like it then you can go find someone else.”
He looks guilty and perhaps realises what he’s just said, “Oh no, that’s not what I meant, you’re really sexy but it’s just cute that you have fat. I don’t mind, it’s totally fine.”
I don’t know how to respond.
He’s trying to hug me again and apologise but it feels worse. Now it’s pity. Anything beyond this point is just pity for the guy who wasn’t as perfect and someone imagined him to be.
My chest is tight and my eyes have glazed over.
I find myself on the No.59 tram heading home alone, looking at my fading reflect in the glass being swallowed by night.
At home and I’m in front of my mirror in my underwear looking at my deformed body. Nipples too big, hips too much fat, bulge not big enough, not enough definition in my chest which accentuates my nipples.
In the bathroom in front of another mirror and I’m still the same crying into my toothbrush because now everything is all starting to make sense.
In bed, floating in the darkness waiting to disappear. There’s a flash to my left as my phone lights up and my eyes focus in to see there is a message from the guy and the first line looks like an apology of sorts.
I stare at those words until the light disappears and I’m back to floating towards the abyss once more.
My body shudders with the sound of the passing train.
I wake up with a start and I know it’s way before my alarm. In fact, I have a hunch I already know what the time is.
Rolling to my left side slowly, I reach over to the bedside table and my finger taps the screen of my phone. The phone is awakened by my touch bringing a ghostly illumination to the room.
I knew it.
Something to do with my lungs – grieving and sadness.
What am I grieving and what can’t I let go of?
The phone screen shuts off and I’m plunged into darkness again.
A quiet weekend in our own little world,
an alternate reality glimpsed.
Morning breath and furtive glances,
Comfortable silence and our own plans.
Truths spoken and secrets shared,
with my palms outward and my heart open.
The wind changes direction, I blink and it’s over.
We’re huddled around a pole in the train during the morning rush,
whispering and laughing in a language you don’t understand.
It’s my stop, I turn back and wave casually as I hop off to change lines.
The doors clothes and off he goes.
I remember when we had nothing but each other and we could laugh about anything while lying down together on our single bed.