Lopsided

We are in one of those public halls sitting on uncomfortable foldable chairs in a circle. Gloria next to me has just finished talking about her experience and I feel the anticipation of the facilitator introducing me to the group. In fact, I nearly jump the gun and a sound only audible to me comes up my throat, bounces around my mouth but doesn’t go any further than that.
Phew! That was close, I nearly let that one out. I smile to myself as I focus on the floorboards at my feet. Light beach in colourt, they would have been polished once but the money probably ran out.

“Tim, would you like to share your experience with us today?” The facilitator says as he looks towards me. The eyes of the rest of the group follow his gaze.
I’m feeling jumpy and excited. I was expecting this moment but I didn’t expect it now. Well…I did but I guess not like this.
I smile “Oh yes please.”
The group waits and looks on in silence. I like to leave a bit of a pause before I start because it calms me. I open my mouth and my story starts coming up my throat, through my mouth and out into the room.

So, I was at work, a typical Tuesday. You know, Monday has passed but you still have so much to do and the weekend still seems like an impossibility.
I’m sitting at my desk staring at the screen, it was about 10:15, no – actually it was 10:17, I remember because I looked at my phone and I saw a notification that made me head off to the toilet to open it in privacy. You know, one of those messaged. I used to get a lot of those.
I looked at the number seven and thought damn, that’s a bad luck number in some countries. It means death; kind of like our unlucky 13.
I got up, locked my screen and walked out of the office area and into the side hallway.
The disabled toilet was occupied so I just went to the regular toilet, entered one of the free cubilces and checked the message. The photo wasn’t even’t that bad, I could have looked at it at my desk but in hindsight I’m actually glad I didn’t because then I wouldn’t have realised that it was happening.
I left the cubicle and went into the next room to wash my hands. From there I looked up to check my hair. Hair was fine, so I started checking the rest of my face.
That’s when I first noticed it. Right then.
At first I thought maybe the mirror was warped – my face looked distorted. I got closer and looked at my features; one of my eyebrows had moved up close to my hairline and my right nostril was drooping.
No.
No.
No.
I moved to the next mirror, same thing – I recoiled and felt panicky.
Was it happening to me? It couldn’t be. I was sure I hadn’t come into physical contact with anyone who it happened to. But then, that’s what we thought at the time – we know now that it’s not spread like that.
I remember touching my face and feeling what I had seen in the mirror. As I felt my face, even more of it had moved and by that point I was too scared to look.

I knew I had to leave, but I didn’t know where I would go, if I went back into the office they would know. If I went onto the street I would surely be collected.
To be honest, I must have been so shocked I didn’t notice Russell walk out from the toilets. He must have seen me and alerted my team.
I was getting messages on my phone but I couldn’t respond to any of them.
The dinner that evening was no longer a possibility. In fact my life as I knew it was about to become an impossibility.
Then came the knock.
Knock.
Knock.
Knock.
“Tim, are you in there?” The voice belonged to Darren who was my senior.
“Yeah…” I remember responding.
No one knocks to enter the toilets. He knew.
“Everything okay in there?” He sounded worried. He knew.
“Oh…umm…yeah, I’ll be out in a sec.” I said as I looked back at the mirror. It was getting worse.
“Mate…I think you should stay in there. Russell saw you. Just stay there, we’re going to get you some help.”
That was it. I knew I was going to be collected.
“Oh…okay…” was all I could get out.
I couldn’t believe it. What would they all be saying? I bet everyone was talking about me now from the safety of their desks. 
That’s when I snapped.
You know something? I was always to nice to everyone. I put up with other people’s shit. I always followed the rules. Now that I had it, they were going to take me away. None of it mattered. 
They smiled at me everyday and had empty conversations with me but as soon as this started happening to me, they couldn’t wait to have me collected. Everything was a goddman joke. 

From there it got a little fuzzy but all I know is that disobeyed what Darren said and I ran right out of there. I made sure I touched him on the way out, and Russell too.
I don’t know how far I got but I eventually got collected.
How long was I locked up? Beats me! It could have been weeks, months or even years.

The collective spotlight of the groups gaze is still on me. A few others nod with their distorted features. Some eyes blink out of synch and saliva drips out of gaping mouths. “And thats when I became lopsided.” I finish off and wait for the applause as my eyes track down again to the shabby floor boards. They still don’t shine.

Twilight

She asked me which point I felt like I was at in my life. I sat there for a moment and thought about everything. I was only going to get as much out of these sessions depending on how honest I was with myself.

I opened my mouth and started speaking,

I’m stuck between two places. On the one hand I acknowledge that I’m fortunate and incredibly lucky to be where I am right now. I’m both comforted and pacified by my current place in life.

So, while there is something stirring within me telling me that I’m destined for so much more, the comforts I have and my own insecurities keep me right where I am.

She’s nodding as she types something on her laptop. Rapid tapping is all there is to bridge the silence.

I continue,

Let’s put it this way, I feel like I’ve taken an afternoon nap, it’s been an amazing nap but I’m starting to wake up. In my state of twilight a part of me wants to go back to sleep because sleep seems ideal. Truth be told I have no recollection of how sleep actually feels but I tell myself that feel good because I instantly seek to return to that state as begin to wake up from it.

But then, there is another part of me, it’s this voice telling me to wake up because if I continue to sleep then what happens later on when I eventually do wake up. Sleeping way beyond what I should have.

This is the tension I feel now, the decision to be made.

Do I go back to sleep or do I wake up?

A brief pause, then the sound of typing. She looks directly at me now and opens her mouth to speak.

Me/You

I don’t think I wanna do that.
Just be more open.

What the fuck are you doing?
You know you like it, you’re a slut.

I don’t like it when you spit on me.
Come on, it’s hot.

Please don’t hit me like that again
Don’t be so boring.

It really hurts.
Just a little longer baby, it feels so good. Please.

Please, I’m tired.
Don’t worry, you don’t need to do anything.

I’m not feeling it.
Fucking hell, what did you think we were gonna do? 

Don’t leave any marks.
Why? You don’t want your other guys to know?

I’m exhausted.
Arch your back. DOWN!

Did you take it off?
Come on baby, it feels so much better. Don’t you want my load?

No one’s really interested in me apart from a hook up.
You seem like the type who would cheat though.

Can we please use a condom?
What, you’re not clean? I am.

I couldn’t fucking breathe!
Sorry baby, I’m really sorry.

Yeah, I’m fine don’t worry about it.
Oh, you didn’t cum? I guess I can finish you off if you want.

 

Wall

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.

7:13 am

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.

Coward

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.