I raced to the door, not having heard the quiet tapping. My headphones dangled from my desk and I was crushed beneath guilt as I helped her inside, the heavy items in her hands causing her, seemingly, great distress. I didn’t know. I rarely knew.
Why did she never tell me she needed help?
Why did she choose to put herself through misery?
I dropped a heavy twenty-four pack of soda on the floor and turned to her. “Sit down and rest. You should have told me you were on your way. I said I would help you carry all of this.” She dropped onto the sofa, short of breath, and all I could think about was her poor health. Had she eaten yet? She had a horrible habit of putting off food to do things. “Did you eat today?”
She sighed with a forlorn look. “I didn’t have a chance.”
“You can eat before you come over. You don’t have to rush over here.” I rustled through my cupboards as she shrugged and I handed her a few cookies until I figured out something more fulfilling. I pointed to the box dinner she’d brought. “Want some of that? I can make it for you.”
She nodded without making eye contact, and I knew then what to expect for the weekend. It was in her body language and the way she shifted her eyes. Her curvy form slumped over as if she were utterly exhausted, her mood clear in her posture. Her histrionic tendencies were surfacing and it brought forth the anxiety I often felt when we made plans. Which version of her would it be that weekend?
I took the meal she brought with her to prepare on the stove. I had so little, myself, in my small apartment that told of my equally small wallet, and there were just as many cobwebs in my home as in my checking account. I was down to pasta and peanut butter and bread, and embarrassment washed over me.
“Do you want to work on our book tonight?” She sounded better.
My anxiety doubled and clenched in my chest. “Sure, I can do my best.” Her silence caused me to glance over, and she’d pulled out her large phone to scroll through Facebook. I sighed as my nerves finally calmed to be replaced with depression. It was that version of her this time.
I sat in my office chair as she ate and watched on with YouTube playing in the background. She didn’t look at me or speak, and I glanced at the awful device beside her that often stole her away from me. The Thing that was more important than anyone and anything.
The beautiful poetry coming from the TV captivated me. A rush of passionate inspiration caused me to smile, and I turned to look for her reaction as I played the spoken-word piece for her. Of everyone I knew, she would get it. We could have such wonderful discussions about art and writing and–
Sudden laughter and a loud comedy show made me jump as she stared at the Thing. A powerful sadness gave my happiness whiplash that sent it plummeting to the pit of my stomach. Sickness. Embarrassment. My breath caught as my heart leaped across the room.
Pain. The sound of laughter through a small speaker was deafening as it drowned out the passionate inspiration still spinning beautiful words behind me. The beautiful art I’d asked to share with her. The Thing had robbed that moment, but I was beginning to realize that it wasn’t the Thing that was the problem.
‘Just because I let someone in, doesn’t mean I actually need them,’ she’d said. ‘I’m done with mentally ill people. I don’t want that around my kids, but I’ll keep the crazy I got,’ she’d pointed to me. ‘We write better sex than we have.’ ‘Just because you fuck ‘em doesn’t mean you have to keep ‘em.’ ‘You’re just pushing everything aside you don’t feel is important to focus on your own work.’
Her words from over the years became a skipping record and a weight fell over me — crushing me. Why did I love her so much? My heart wanted her, and I’d thought hers wanted me. I now see that the only person in her heart was herself.
The histrionic behavior. The eye rolls. The cold shoulders. The cruel words. Yet I felt the pull toward her stronger than ever. I cared too much and worried too much, and I wished she’d stay gone or stop talking to me entirely. It was easier that way. It was always easier that way.
After all, as I’d failed to learn over and over again, a narcissist was nothing more than a trap — a glimpse of a dream that shifted into a nightmare if you dared to trust the moment of peace.
©2020 Shane Blackheart