Creature Of Habit
Until seven years ago, the mirror was your best friend.
Whether it was through a shop window or a tabletop reflection, you only ever met in secret. You spent so much time trying to make yourself look “decent,” as your overly observant parents had always stated. Damn, that was so long ago; you only just now remember that they said things like that.
Now, you stare through the mirror as if it were your biggest critic. Well, better to look through it than to look directly at its contents, though it’s not like you’re afraid or anything, right? You tell yourself this as you adjust the winter coat that makes you look ten pounds heavier and the heavy bangs that the hairdresser said would make you look ten times more alluring.
The last time you had bangs, you were a toddler.
As a child, you would constantly dream about how you wanted to be as a grown-up. Because, God bless your innocent self, it was always so much easier being a grown-up as a child than it was as an actual adult.
You planned out, with eerie precision, your perfect job and your perfect house and your perfect husband and your perfect wedding and your perfect children. Because that was the way the world worked and why would it be any different for you?
So, naturally, it only followed that the term “first impressions” became associated as something very important in your little mind. Of course! How could they not mean everything? You figured that the initial look someone granted you would forever determine the way that they’d view you. Best to put your finest face forward so that everyone would always like you, always find you attractive, always see you as the girl that everyone wanted to be or know.
You heard girls whisper about how you were “eccentric.” Boys would avoid you because of your obsessive nature. But it really didn’t matter.
Not until college.
You derived such pleasure from perfecting yourself and noticing others’ natural perfections. But he would never believe you when you told him that you were first drawn to his tousled oak-coloured hair, his penetrating hazel eyes, his tanned skin. And you slowly realized over time that you didn’t accept that story yourself.
You were never able to really fool him, were you? Perhaps that’s why you were both drawn to and repelled by his whole self, that demeanour which screamed in silence APPROACH WITH CAUTION. You’d met rude, attractive assholes before. You’d met pretentious, egotistical buzz-kills before. You’d met sad stories with human appendages before. But you’d never met all three in one body before. Not until that morning when you decided to try eating breakfast like normal people. Though, to be fair, you’ve never considered yourself “normal people.”
Thus, the age-old ritual began.
And one day, after exactly seven months since the first meeting, you approached him saying how you felt, and you thought you were going mad when he said he felt the same way long before you did. And you both kissed for the first time on a freezing February night and realized that this is what “right” must feel like. And by the third week both of you had said, on separate occasions under bated breath, those three painfully beautiful words reserved for sentimental purposes. And then there was the so-called honeymoon period where everything was spontaneous and fresh. And soon you created a little world with just the two of you, not even noticing when everyone else dropped from your fields of vision. And a year passed, and it was beautiful. And another half a year passed and it was pleasant. And soon you realized there was nothing left to talk about. And when two years of this association drew near you both decided to call it quits, it had been a good run, why, yes, of course we can stay friends, et cetera, et cetera.
Except you always knew staying “friends” was never an option between the two of you.
What did you start drinking? It’s silly to ask when, because you know better than anyone else when it all began: that drizzling night towards the middle of April. You had nothing better to do than to invite yourself over to his dorm room. You knew he always kept alcohol there.
But, no, we’re getting off track. It’s much more interesting to talk about what the drink in question was. It was whiskey, wasn’t it? Odd choice, considering you’d never tasted a drop of liquor before. But it’s only to try, you’d convinced yourself, just to see what all the fuss is about.
You didn’t take a sip for the first hour and a half, concerned by how you would react and if you’d like the flavour and whether you’d feel the effects so soon and—there, one big gulp and it was done. See, that wasn’t so hard, you vaguely remember him saying.
And for the next hour and a half you fell into a dream and wondered where this wonderful, strange taste had been your whole life and were amused by how upside-down your world seemed because of the fuzzy sensation in your head. You’ll get used to it, you heard him say as he pulled you down on the bed and you pushed your body up against his warmth.
So you decided to conduct another experiment that night.
It’s important for your sanity that you clarify that you were the one who initiated the fucking. Because that’s all it was, really. Maybe before, when you two had been together, it would have had a different term. After all, you both had always wanted to do it, even planning out what would be good positions and where would be fun spots aside from the bed.
Problems arose that meant that there was never a chance to go through with all the arrangements. No condoms. No birth control. No car to use to get emergency pills. But you were prepared now. Don’t let anyone say that you hadn’t planned the act out that night to the smallest detail, from having protection for him to checking that you were on schedule.
You concede that it may have all been a bit too methodical, even for you. But who was complaining? He certainly didn’t. You never would. After all, you somehow knew in the darkest part of yourself that this would probably be the only person who would ever want to see you this way: losing control and loving every second.
And you lost it nightly for more than a year before the settled dust revealed everything.
You shiver now remembering how hard it was to tell him, and how impossible it was to tell your parents. You waited until it started becoming unavoidable, when you stopped eating and somehow still gained weight and your constant drinking started becoming a cause for concern.
If only you hadn’t told them, hadn’t told anyone. Maybe that would have been better? Just dealt with it by yourself. It was your issue, after all, and no one else’s. You could have found some way to provide, some way to start your perfect life, albeit not in the way you had originally planned. This didn’t have to be the end.
But everyone else had to make it their concern. So, the appointment was made and you followed orders because no one would ever accept your alternative.
And the only thing you could think about, as they made you go to sleep and they forced you open with the invasive forceps and literally tore at and crushed the life inside you until it broke into an even number of pieces, was how careful you thought you’d been the whole time.
When you came to less than an hour later, you thought you’d woken up from a dream. And, when you realized what you’d just allowed to happen to your body and your future, in a way you had woken up from a dream. Now all you saw was a sinister nightmare.
The clouds foretell a storm as you walk in the brick building where you lay out your pain.
It’s good to see you’ve been busy this whole time. The minimum wage retail job during the weekdays and the AA meetings in the evenings and the stint in the mental hospital for five months and the therapy sessions every other week and the moving across the country to escape from everyone six years ago and the visits to the various doctors and the occasional walk around the block to see if someone, anyone, will notice your past troubles and take pity.
Today, it’s the meeting with the psychiatrist. No, those pills he prescribed last month haven’t been working as well as they should. Well, let’s try the next medicine, he suggests. You nod in passive agreement as he hands you the prescription and tells you to place it immediately.
You question whether it’s worth even going to the pharmacy. Nothing has helped you yet. When it comes down to it, you don’t really want anything to help you. You probably think you deserve every unpleasant thing that’s happened to you since you killed your dream.
But, it’s important to know that I almost forgive you.
What sort of life would you have given such a weak, fragile being had you brought me into your world? There was nothing for you to offer, and there was nothing I could provide, nothing I could fix. This should all be clear to you by now.
It’s been seven years since you saw your perfectly planned life end, the life you’d looked forward to since you were able to think and reason. It’s been seven years of what ifs and whose faults and remember whens. It’s been seven years of crying and hurting yourself and driving everyone away and settling for less than and giving up. It’s been seven years of you, who used to revel in whatever mysteries the future had in store, now dreading every successive minute. It’s been seven years of you not being able to face your own reflection because you loathe how you see yourself. It’s been seven years of the same thing over and over and over again.
Who knows how long it’s been for me.
But watching you brood day after day has become tiresome. I do so wish you’d move on.