The Riddle of Emotions

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A woman finds out where she focuses her emotions

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The Riddle of Emotions

After the abortion Zane and I continued to see each other for a little bit but after a while it just kind of fizzled out. I wasn't sad about it, we hadn't been dating or exclusive. We'd only been sleeping together for about three months. He’d been sleeping with other people and I would've been as well if I hadn't been working so much at the time- I hadn't had much of a social life beyond my close friends and it was convenient to be sleeping with Zane because I liked him enough and it was good sex.

The abortion itself was sad but it taught me some things and it wasn't the type of traumatic that left me thinking of it every day. As a teenager, knowing the type of future I wanted, I had kind of expected that one day I would fall pregnant and not want a child and I had mentally travelled down all the possible pathways that led from that change. An abortion was not pleasant but it was something that worked for me in my life with its current aspects.

While it was sad it was also over and I was grateful for my life and my privileges.

Zane and I lived in the same part of the city, so we actually constantly bumped into each other. Today was one such day. He had been dating a girl named Rosie- a girl who I had actually gone to high school with though she was a year above- for about a month now and we chatted about how they were.

'what're you up to tonight though Keira?'

'ah just a friends party, but it's pretty small, pretty chill'

'you should swing by Rosie’s gig tonight, its at the salty, it'd be cool to actually hang out with you. I don't think we've done that in a while'

And he was right- we hadn't. Though had we ever? We had met on a dating app and immediately had sex. We hadn't been friends before. But I conceded and told him I’d swing by if I didn't get too drunk at the party.

In the last four months life had been constantly moving. The abortion had happened and then a month afterward I booked a three week solo trip to Japan which I’d only gotten back from a week ago. Japan was beautiful and tranquil and bustling and alive in all senses of the word, archaic and modern and perfect. I definitely came back home a new woman, with gratefulness for all aspects of my life. It left me with a new mind-frame and I felt utterly refreshed. So while at the party that night I decided I would go to the gig, maybe Zane was meant to become a friend, we had just started with an unusual beginning.


Rosie closed her eyes as she played bass, the emotion swaying out of her through her sleepy movements on the strings and I floated along to the song, that nice tipsy high stage glowing in my limbs. I felt a touch on my shoulder and I opened my eyes to see Zane. He smiled.

'How was the party?'

'It was alright, everyone was pretty tired from work though, and I didn't work today so,' I shrugged, 'hence the appearance of me.'

'I am glad you came, I've been wanting to ask how you are,’ he enunciated the words softly.

'I'm great.’

'Like really ask,’ here he put his palm to my shoulder and lowered his head toward mine to make purposeful eye contact.

'Oh. Oh yeah Zane, I mean it wasn't a good situation. But I've moved on. I feel strong in my choices. We did the right thing. Thank you so much for asking.’

His lips tightened in a closed-mouth smile and he nodded slowly but didn't say anything.

'Really thank you.' I clasped his hand.

Zane sighed and squeezed my hand back. 'You're welcome Keira.’

He dropped my hand and then shuffled through the tightly packed crowd and the glow in my body grew and I shimmied along to the song that was now playing. Happy and fizzy the song was. A bright summer morning. When the song finished I made my slow way over to the bar.

After I had ordered and turned to make my way back through the crowd I saw Sammy.

Sammy and I had been in the same broader friendship group since high school. Always friends of friends or friends of boyfriends or girlfriends and over the years when neither of us had been dating we'd slept together a few times.

But I hadn't seen him in months, heard he'd been away in Nepal volunteering, and I felt hundreds of miniature bubbles of excitement in my chest upon seeing him.

He grinned when he saw me and grabbed me in a hug. Encapsulated by his warm body I sighed and looked up at him through crinkled smiley eyes.

'Hello!' I chirped and he laughed. 'Tell me about Nepal.’

He let go of me and grabbed my hand, and pulled me through the crowd to the beer garden where we sat under a tree filled with twinkle lights.. I don't think we had ever actually spoken to each other in the time that we'd known each other, which wasn't strange, there was plenty of people I knew on a casual friendship basis. But my god! There was so much to say to each other right now. I was rueful because Sammy and I had so much in common and we could've discovered it before now.

So when last drinks were called and Sammy inevitably asked where I was headed after this and whether I wanted to head back to his place I was almost embarrassingly excited. I felt a connection to this man that I hadn't before, and a connection meant good sex, deeper sex.

We went back to his share house and had loud messy sex and I looked into his dark eyes as I came and he threaded his fingers into my hair and kissed me hard on my neck. When we had finished and Sammy was sitting up in bed his curls thrown to one side of his head, rolling a joint and I was kneeling on the floor holding his favourite book and chattering about how I loved the authors tone, it occurred to me that I had suddenly fallen in love with this man. I was inebriated, it's true, but I felt so warm and open when I looked at him. Messy and lanky with beautiful dark hair and a deep laugh that reached his eyes every time he issued it. In love. It had happened quickly yes, but emotions and states of mind do behave like this, I told myself drunkenly. I’m an idiot.


Three days went by and I was still thinking of Sammy and the night we shared so I texted him, asking if he wanted to grab coffee sometime. Something a bit more date-y than grabbing a drink but definitely nothing like dinner or a movie. I texted him around midday but he didn't reply that afternoon. He didn't reply the next day either. I went to work and got lunch with friends over the next few days and on Friday afternoon Sammy replied and asked if I was going out tonight. I hadn't planned it, feeling some time alone in my bath would do me good, but I liked him far too much to be wasting any time about seeing him. So I said yes and called Pearl, she was always up for a last minute night out, and we had a fun time getting ready.

Sammy wasn't there when we got there but I didn't stress, and we boogied a bit and bought drinks. On my way to the toilet solo I saw Zane and he came over to me and gave me an uneven hug. Drunk, he slurred into my ear.

'We need to get coffee sometime this week.' He was grasping at my shoulders and fiddling with the ends of my hair, looking at me more openly than he had in a while.

'Sure, I'm free on Tuesday if you are?' I honestly hoped he would drunkenly forget about this encounter because I didn't have any interest in rekindling anything with him especially with Sammy now a prospect. I was good with being his friend, seeing him in social situations and talking but if he was drunk and treating me like this something else was on his mind. I glanced around for Rosie and couldn't see her, which solidified the rekindling fears.

'Where's your girlfriend tonight?'

'Studying,' he said 'But we should talk about us, our plans.'

So with a heavy feeling in my stomach I reassured him that I was free on Tuesday and made my way into the bathroom. Heading out of the toilets, shaking my wet hands, I saw Sammy and went up to him. he greeted me with an arm around the waist and a kiss on the neck. He kept talking with his friends but I hung around, laughing when he did at jokes, hoping that he would squeeze me or glance at me and share some companionship with me in some way. But he didn’t, and I continued to stand at his side. A silly lovesick girl, I knew it but I couldn't tear myself away.

A firm hand on my shoulder. Pearl. I met hers eyes and hers were fire.

'Where have you been? I've been standing by myself for twenty minutes now.'

I couldn't respond verbally. My thoughts were shame. I looked at her and looked at Sammy and shrugged lightly and hoped she knew that I knew I was being a dick but I couldn't control it. In that moment Sammy gave me the conspirator nuzzle I’d been hoping for.

'I stole her away for a sec,' he said. Winked at Pearl, turned and scoffed with a look to me.

Pearl raised her eyebrows slowly. I could read her mind. It simply said 'He is fuckwit and I know you know it'

'I'm heading home,' she said and walked off before I could even bring myself to consider prying myself from Sammy's side.

I wallowed in my own foolishness the night ticking by, and Sammy noticed but said nothing. I knew I was standing next to a boy that didn't care about me and that didn't make me feel independent or strong but I couldn’t let go of the desperate feeling of validation I needed from him. I wrapped me to him like a rope.

The bar was closing and they were turning the lights on. and Sammy finally turned to me. He sighed and touched my cheek. 'Keira you're clearly upset.'

'a little bit'

'I think it would be good for you to go back to your own place tonight'

Struck, I knew he was using this as an excuse to end things with me, things that weren't even happening


‘I’ll see you around hey.’ Maybe we’ll fuck in the future

I watched him head to the door and couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t surprised.


Zane has texted me the next day reaffirming the coffee plans, and because I was feeling unwanted, unattractive and because I had messaged Pearl to apologise and she hadn’t replied I agreed to meet him. We went to a place that we used to go to sometimes in chilly autumn afternoons after we had had sex to get toasted sandwiches and then go on our separate ways. When I got there, he was already there and quite honestly he looked bad. Red eyes and pretty pale. He had two empty coffee mugs in front of him, the dark dried droplets on the inside of the ceramic showing they'd been long blacks.

He stood up as I walked in, jostling the table and causing the teaspoons on the saucers to tinkle.

I hesitated a step before him.

'what's wrong?'

'Keira it’s bad that it takes me to look like this for you to ask.’

I felt the blood slip out of my cheeks at this. Sitting down, I tried to formulate a response.

'Zane we aren't close.’

'We never have been, but that doesn't mean we haven't shared a journey'

'What’re you talking about? are you- do you have feelings for me or something?'

'God Keira I can't believe you. I pity the poor people who are actually in your life.’

I skidded my chair back, harsh against the floorboards.

'The abortion.'

'I told you I was fine.'

'But you never asked if I was.'

The last several encounters with zane linked together in my mind like a child’s simple puzzle. I hadn't put it together. Zane was hurting about the abortion, about the baby that would've been his. I reached my hand across the table to grasp his, but he snatched it back and covered his eyes.

'The baby- our baby, was due two days ago, and you know I've been really struggling. I wanted to speak to you about it. it's something we went through together for fucks sake. I was nervous about reaching out, I wanted you to care, not just to listen.'

He looked up here, uncovering his tear heavy eyes.

'But it's clear you don't care.'

I couldn't even deny it. I sat there, trembling, aghast.

'People’s emotions go beyond those of being in love or being indifferent. I thought you knew that, being someone who feels that, but you're pretty fucking self centred. You never even asked me if I was okay with the abortion.'

At this I could speak, ‘ultimately it’s my body.’

‘I never would have denied that! I never would’ve forced you to keep it!,’ he clenched his teeth, breathing so jaggedly I was afraid he’d scream. ‘You just didn’t ask me anything.’

He stood up and so did I, reaching out a hand again but he looked at it and grimaced, like I was something repulsive. He turned away and walked out the door. And I stayed, feeling a victim, but knowing that I had made victim of him.


The altercation, or I don't know, the revelation that Zane brought forth upon me wiped all thoughts of Sammy from my mind. It seemed trivial, to be pining over a boy I know didn't like me as much as I liked him when someone in my life was deeply disturbed. I knew that now no matter what I did I wouldn't redeem myself in Zane's eyes. That was something I had to make peace with.

While I did think that ultimately it was my decision to terminate the pregnancy because that's something I alone would have to endure I agreed that I should've been more supportive of Zane, I had decided his future in one aspect, which was my right to do so, but I should've checked up.

Life is this thing like the water, like the ocean. When you're in it you focus on yourself, the calm ripples against your hot skin, the rough waves hitting sandy at the back of your throat. You're allowed to focus on yourself, you must focus on yourself because no one else will ever, in the same way as you yourself can. But if you can it doesn't hurt to look through the sea, look through those warbled goggles of life and check how everyone else is coping.

"Rough waters are not as far away as we'd hope"

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