03.02.2014 - The Noose*
Rain is falling out the window. I am the empty space between the drops.
3 months pregnant. My belly already shows an awkward little bump. I didn’t gain any weight, though. Not yet.
I’m at the doctor’s. Or am I at home? Looks a bit like home. Yes, I’m standing in the hallway at home. Near the cupboard where we keep the scale. I’m wearing nothing but a bra. Did I undress for a medical exam? All I know is I just weighed myself. The doctor must have asked me to. I can hear an alarm ringing somewhere in the distance.
None of that matters. All that matters is I didn’t gain weight. I even lost a few pounds. That’s expected to happen, with the growing fetus draining all of my energy. I’m proud of myself anyway. For not getting fat. I’m off to a good start.
I’m in the bathroom now, facing the mirror. The alarm is still ringing. It’s getting kind of annoying. I look at the reflection of the bump on my naked belly. The skin around it is a yellowish shade of green, as if it’s bruised. Did someone hit me? I put my hand on it. Something’s off. The shape isn’t what it should be, neither is the feel. It’s very hard beneath my touch, too hard, and it is right under my skin, like a cyst would be. It doesn’t look good. If only that alarm would stop ringing, maybe I’d be able to think straight. Is something wrong with the baby? Do I need surgery? Is my body going to stay that way? Will I have to give up wearing bikinis forever? And what the hell is that alarm about?!
Oh, right. Work. Gotta wake up and go to work. That’s what the alarm means.
My phone was on the floor near the bed. I reached out, grabbed it and turned off the ringtone. The cold air bit on my naked arm and made me cringe. As usual, Hime rushed onto my chest before I could sit and settled there in a tight furry ball. She was all warm and soft and purring, and all I wanted to do was keep her there forever. Let myself sink back into sleep. Back into oblivion, oh-so-sweet oblivion.
It’s easy, girl. Stop fighting it. Just let your eyelids close. Listen to the purring and let your eyelids close. Why would you even want to get up anyway? Nothing to look forward to today. Just more of the same mindless act. One hour and a half in the train. Seven hours and forty minutes of being undermined and underpaid. One hour and a half in the train again. And then three hours of drowning your brain into entertainment to keep the ‘what’s the point’ question away. And really, honey, what’s the point?
I wanted to black out. Badly. Even if it meant going back into that fucked-up dream. But I couldn’t. I had to go to work.
Migraine took over my head as soon as I stood up. Apart from that headache, everything felt quiet inside of me. Peaceful, even. Peaceful… What the hell is wrong with me?
Then it was the usual morning rut. Perfectly timed. Like a machine. Splashing some cold winter water onto my puffy face. Getting dressed. Brushing my teeth. Coloring-up my dead face with make-up, casting fake life onto my bloodless skin. If people see you as alive, it’s easier to pretend like you are. If you’re lucky, you might even end up believing it yourself for a moment.
It’s worse than emptiness. It’s void. Emptiness you can fill. Void is hungry. Void is brutal. Swallows it all. Leaves naught behind.
I was still at the make-up stage of my daily masquerade when the bathroom door opened. He had gotten up. He isn’t always up by the time I leave. It’s better when he’s not. Our bathroom is too small for two people to comfortably evolve inside of it at the same time. He got in anyway.
Please don’t talk to me. Please don’t talk to me. Please don’t…
“Hello honey, slept well?” he asked.
Shit. Don’t wanna speak, don’t wanna speak, don’t wanna speak.
“Yeah, fine,” I managed to reply after a few seconds. “You?”
Why did I ask?
Pang in the gut. Like an electric shock. Anger fast as thunder spreading through open veins. That’s what I used to feel whenever someone dared addressing me before my first morning coffee. Seven years ago, before I turned into a walking corpse. This morning, though, I got nothing more than a shiver of annoyance. I hated that he was trying to make me talk, I really did. But I hated it from afar. Like it wasn’t exactly me, in this gloomy bathroom, having to form those hollow words.
“Not really,” he answered. “I had a nightmare. I’d tell you, but you’re going to laugh at me.”
“Why? What was it about?” I asked reluctantly.
He headed to the toilet, pulled up the seat and started peeing.
“Emily was hitting on me,” he recounted. “I kept pushing her away, but she wouldn’t give up. It was awful”.
A forced laugh burst out of my lips. Too loud. Too high. Mechanical.
Why do I keep giving people what they expect of me?
I threw him a sideways glance through the mirror. Did he notice the awkwardness? He was zipping his pants, still talking. Doesn’t seem like he did.
He then turned around and came to stand right behind me. It was my cue to move out of the way so that he could wash his hands. He didn’t have to ask me to, I just knew. That’s how it always was. It vaguely pissed me off that he had to interrupt my morning ritual like that every time instead of just using the kitchen sink. But I moved away anyway, stepped out of the room.
The hallway was even colder than the bathroom. I sprayed perfume on myself, Paco Rabanne’s Ultraviolet, then went back into the bathroom, only to find he had started to do his hair. This made the annoyance a little bit stronger.
“Maybe you could do your hair later,” I suggested.
“Yes, I could, but why would I?”
“Because I still need to use the mirror.”
“And I need to do my hair.”
“I understand that, but maybe you could go eat your breakfast now and come do your hair later when I’m gone, because I have to leave earlier than you do and I am starting to run late.”
My tone had risen a little in the end. Not much, really, compared to how crazy I can get in such situations. Boring, useless exchanges tend to get to my nerves. He gave up and got out of the room. As soon as he shut the door, my tepid impatience completely disappeared. Inner peace was back. What have I become?
Seven-years-ago-me would have been nothing short of a raging harpy at that point. Being forced into a conversation, having her tight morning schedule disrupted… Things would have gotten ugly. Seven-years-ago-me wouldn’t have just raised her tone a notch, she would have lashed out, murder in her voice, poison on her tongue, all systems red. And she wouldn’t have just gotten quiet immediately afterwards, oh no, she would have kept a thick black ball of rage right under her sternum, a diseased, living thing, like a festering wound, like a thin curled-up snake, its fangs into her heart, its venom in her blood. She would have kept it there like a hidden treasure and nursed it all day long.
And, how do I miss her, Seven-years-ago-me! How alive was I then! Of course, I was tortured, shredded, and torn apart. Of course I was selfish, dark, childish, dangerous. But, God was I alive! Fiercely, utterly, beautifully alive!
See this white wall? Throw your fist into it! Yes, into it. Make it a hole of pain. Don’t think, hit. Straight on. And hit again, and again, and again. Till the plaster turns red. Not pink, red. Red, red, red! There’s never enough red in this grayish ghost of a world.
Ten minutes after that silly little fight, I was ready to go. One last look into the mirror. The wonders you can do with make-up… I looked like a Russian doll, my cheeks soft and perky from all the blush I had painted them with.
My cheeks… That’s where the itch has been lately. I’ve had flashes. Sick, twisted fantasies about running the tip of a blade there. Nothing fancy, just a little scratch. I wouldn’t even need to actually open a wound. Just dig lightly into the skin. So I can feel the bite. But I won’t do it. Of course I won’t do it. Once you’ve chiseled the scratch, it’s hard to just stop there. You’ve opened the door to your will just enough for something else to take over your brain. Something reckless and bloodthirsty. So no, I won’t cross that threshold. I’d feel better for ten minutes; I’d have a scar across my face for the next ten years. Not worth it.
I entered the living room. He was having breakfast. My coat was on, I was adjusting my gloves. Before leaving, I gathered all my strength to try and make my voice cheerful. I mastered a quite warm: “Have a good day, sweetie!” No answer came. I gave it ten seconds, just in case he was swallowing whatever he had in his mouth. Still nothing. A slight irritation rose within me, and fell down straight away. I turned my back and left.
Seven-years-ago-me would have left home angry and hurt. Just going through her day would have been a torture.
This-morning-me? She didn’t give a shit.
*The Noose, A Perfect Circle, Thirteenth Step.