Do I cut you out of my life? That would be the logical thing to do. Or do I let you stay within it, spreading your poison and your so-called ‘innocuous’ wrong doings round the fragile walls that I have managed to build around myself over the past years? Plank by plank, beam by beam I have constructed a rickety yet somewhat effective barrier around me, and always I am adding to the foundations, to the overall structure. It is not there to keep people out, necessarily, but to keep myself shielded from harm. It is my own space, where I let very few people venture, yet it seems like every time I do, they vandalise the walls, leave their mark in a negative way, and I am left, alone, again, with the repairs and mess to deal with.
Twenty five years I’ve been working on it, and the project of getting my protective space secure and the way I want it doesn’t get easier as the days go on. Self-loathing thoughts infiltrate the walls through cracks in the woodwork; shadows of traumas past lurk in the corners, and the box in which I buried the worst of the lot, the nightmares that plagued my day to day life rests in the attic, not seen, but a known presence. A dark burden that refuses to be forgotten, it weighs down the floor of the ceiling, threatening to fall through at any moment. In the night, when I am alone and vulnerable, the memories float in with the wind, even when I’ve tried to lock and secure the windows and doors. Like nasty childish whispers in the playground they drift through the air, penetrating the room with their foul smells and ill feelings; slowly wrapping me in a cocoon that is not there to protect, but to destroy.
It takes so much time, so much effort, to put these walls together, it’s no easy feat – yet it only takes one act, one thoughtless movement for the entire thing to come crumbling down, and with it, me. Lying in the middle of the wreckage, reaching out a hand for someone, anyone to help pull me out of the rubble and debris. I feel like I’m struggling in a pile of scree; of negative thoughts and emotions that buries me beneath them, suffocating and choking. I’m kicking and pulling at objects around me as hard as I can to get out, yet the harder I move my limbs the more I seem to be sucked into the unknown beneath me.
It’s worse when it happens slowly – if you sit in a hot bath with the temperature slowly rising you won’t realise you’re being boiled alive until it’s too late. Like a guest I have regularly at my house, you make yourself at home, comfortable and not shy. Bit by bit, without me realising because I’m caught up in our laughter, conversations and happiness, the venom that we call our friendship has seeped into the fabric of my furniture, the corners of the rooms. It is in the very air that I breathe, not only widening its reach in the environment surrounding me, but within the nooks and crannies of my lungs, my veins, my heart; the very things that give me life. Like a virus you drain the life from me, taking a little part of me with you every time we see each other. It’s toxic. Deadly.
But cutting you from my life entirely would cause so much unnecessary discomfort. We have friends in common, two lives that intertwine and overlap – the amount of people who would eventually get involved is too much, and it is exhausting even thinking about it.
So I guess the only way to continue is to bear it. Smile, and act like nothing is wrong. After all, I’ve been practising this act and perfecting it since my school days. It’s easy to fake happiness. A mask of grins and laughter and some good acting is all that is required to get away with it. Like a patient who has come to terms with an illness that won’t stop ravaging their body, I must also accept my fate and realise I need to make the most of the situation. The aftermath of the alternative is too complicated, too messy. I don’t wish to put others in a difficult position. But I do not trust you. Like a disgraced house guest, I’m wary of letting you back in.