This Wretched Heart

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Up Into The Sky

‘And when we kiss I want to kiss you out of the ceiling, up into the sky, into your soul’

Your Morning Dream by Wallis Bird

Peter

She had been distant he realized but this wasn’t new. Over the course of their time together she had retreated frequently and now (thankfully) more sporadically to an unfamiliar, bleaker place. Before she had been on the medication he had come to recognize the signs in advance. The slow cessation of conversation, the encroaching piles of dirty clothes and dishes, the lack of any desire to go out and mingle with their dwindling friends. He had stopped thinking that it had something to do with him as she had told him over and over that these were dark days she had lived with since she was a child. It wasn’t his fault she reassured him and by taking it all on board, he was just making her feel worse.

He couldn’t help it though, the nagging guilt of being the inadequate observer, sitting on the side-lines. He did his best to cheer her quietly towards the light but he was beginning to realize that only voices she heard at those times were her own demons. It was difficult to attach such magnitude to an event so long ago and one which he hadn’t witnesses.Anything he might say at these times could cause her to either burst out in a mad rage or worse, withdraw even further into the dark recesses of the cocoon she had created. He hated being in a room with her when she was like this. Solitude was better than sitting right beside someone you loved whose eyes were glazed over and who barely reacted to anything at all. He knew he overcompensated during these times, laughed extra hard at the jokes on TV or tried to be super-duper cheerful, hoping it was contagious. She tried too and faint smiles would be cast his way but these were all in the mouth.

‘You can’t talk me out of it.’ She would reason with him later.

‘Remember, remember what brought us together.’ This had become his mantra during their tumbleweed of an existence between the good times. He would recall the soft caresses of her hands, the gentle butterfly kisses she bestowed on the nape of his neck, while he pretended to sleep, wallowing greedily in her touch and attention. These were the moments he had to look forward to and they were definitely worth it. Then there was her scent, an intoxicating mixture of spice and a warm almost earthy smell that he would recognize anywhere. When she laughed it gurgled from her belly and rose up into the sky like a colorful bird. It was a sea breeze, sweet and cleansing on his system. She was his one and only.

They had both been virgins when they met, but that had been fleeting. Sex with Lara had been the most natural thing in the world, none of that awful drama you saw on TV, no blood or crying or humming and hawing. It had been simple then, they were like Hansel and Gretel holding hands and exploring the house made of sweets. The witch had not yet come home.As he had watched her earlier he realized that although she seemed lost it was not to the shadows, but to the comforting film of a daydream. He knew this, because her eyes although closed, had twinkled at him earlier that day when he had stroked her hair as she sat at his feet reading him one of her childlike attempts at poetry. She was contemplating something. The tiny hairs on her arms fluttered like corn in the gentle breeze that blew the gauzy window curtain inwards and he could see her veins under her nearly translucent skin meandering gently downward to her slender fingers the steady throb of her heart giving them ebb and flow. She glowed as the red tones in her hair, more copper in the light, fanned out over her shoulders like one of those pashminas she had taken to wearing. She reminded him of some mystical creature perhaps a fairy, one of those pondering stone nymphs you saw at graveyards. Or were they meant to be angels? He was never sure. Lara was no angel she was more of a pixie with her heart shaped face, snub nose and her sparkling mischievous green eyes. As he watched her caught in thought, she seemed almost wicked. He had seen this look, years before, when she had led him up to her bedroom while her father cooked dinner in the kitchen below. It was hard to say no to her as she made him feel that whatever she was going to suggest was the most obvious thing to do. Sometimes he felt like she could hypnotize him. Whatever she asked of him, he would try to fulfill. He felt like a foolish knight sometimes grovelling at the mighty queen’s knee. He knew her every quirk and the glitches in her personality which meant he would see the mood she was heading towards by merely by glancing at her face. Her body was his world and he knew every valley and blue river.

He had been terrified when she stopped taking the medication that they would go back to those black days. Although he knew that she was the sufferer – he too had felt those dark moods to his core. They had eaten away at his soul. Her constant suspicions and outbursts had made him question his own behavior and led him to not even know what his true personality was anymore. Between trying to avoid her jealousy and the situations that could lead to this – he had become a shell of his former self. A shell treading on shells. The medication had gradually brought her back and he could joke and make comments again without sending their world into chaos. If it hadn’t been for those wonderful returns to the light he would have left her a long time ago. He nearly had after all.

The episode had been particularly long and drawn on out. He was in cookery school and she was in college. The pressures of moving away from home had taken their toll on both their psyches but Lara seemed unable to cope at all. He had watched her retreat day by day as she stopped going to lectures and avoided outings of any kind. She put on weight from lack of exercise and this drove her insecurities through the roof. She would scream at him if he got a text from a girl in college and he would have to face the embarrassment the next day of not having been allowed to reply. He became an expert at covering up. ‘I had no credit’ worked wonders for a poor student or ′ I can’t go out tonight I’m broke’ was another that he belted out over and over again. Nothing seemed to bring her back though and just as he thought he was behaving in a way which would keep her calm and happy, she would lose it over something else. Eventually the crying and screaming became so familiar that he was immune to it and it dawned on him sitting home alone one evening as Lara lay in bed that they couldn’t continue in this way.

‘I can’t so this anymore Lara, I can’t live like this. I feel…. I feel old’ she had stared up at him fear mixed with anger flickering across her face.

‘I love you so so much but you have to see that this isn’t right, that we’re both not happy’

She had started to rant at him ’I didn’t realize I was making you so unhappy, I mean Jesus you knew I was like this from the start.′ She started to sob the frustration and fear of losing him racking her body in grief as she lay in the bed she hadn’t left in days.

‘You weren’t as bad as this’

‘Oh bad is it? Fuck you Peter you know why I’m like this’ and then she wailed and wailed and he couldn’t bring himself to say any more.

They had slept back to back that night and when he had awoken the next day she had gone. Panicked, he imagined the worst. Flooded with regret that he might have sent her over the edge and down the same road as her mother. He had tried calling her several times but her phone had run out. He was in the middle of dialing Jane (one of her few friends) when she walked in the door.Running towards her to both give her a shake and hug, he noticed that her face seemed lighter than before and that her stance was different. She ran over and hugged him and told him that it was all going to get better and that she promised she would change.

He didn’t know what had changed for her but it was as if, from that moment on, the cartoon black cloud that followed them around had been blown away. She had started trying to be more sociable and had forced herself to go out with Jane occasionally. Although she still was prone to grey everything had felt different. He hadn’t looked back not until she had told him that she was coming off her meds.

‘I’m more stable now, I want to know that I can cope without them.’ She had stared intently at him over the dinner table, trying to gauge his blank face.Swallowing hard on the piece of meat he was eating, he tried to make the next thing he said sound normal and logical and not the shrill ‘what the fuck?’ That was spinning around his mouth.

‘Wow, mmm well geez I don’t really know what to say to that’ This was true ′ what does your counselor think?′

‘It’s really up to me Peter and to be honest I don’t think a counselor that I meet once every two weeks can dictate everything I do.’

Eventually she convinced him that if she found herself going back to being unbearable that she would immediately go back on the medication. What she didn’t seem to understand was that there was a very long route to ‘unbearable’ and that Peter was afraid that they wouldn’t make it this time?

‘You know my libido should go up.’

Sold.

Not only did her libido go up but she seemed to have a renewed sense of energy that he remembered from their earlier days together. She was more willing to go out to gigs and for dinner and it was like the less dazed Lara of before was making a return.He had to tell her all the time to stop apologizing when she snapped at him over something trivial.

‘It’s normal to row , that wasn’t why you had to go on meds in the first place’ he would feel like a monster as she apologised to him for getting annoyed over something that warranted it. It was the jealousy that he had feared returning beyond anything else. Over the years she had become less and less obsessive and possessive and he had finally been able to return to some sense of normal interaction with the opposite sex, although years of lack of practice meant that he was very shy about talking to women and still terrified that Lara might misconstrue his intentions. He had felt nothing but relief when she had started going for jogs with Sam. At last she was comfortable enough in their relationship to allow herself to speak to another man. It didn’t mean he was going to run off with another woman after all. He would never cheat on Lara he knew that. Of course temptation was all around. Girls running around with pointless clothes that did nothing but highlight their nakedness, he wasn’t immune to looking. But he had never felt the need to ever go there. He saw how fleeting one night of satisfaction was and also how daunting. Joe his business partner although boastful of his many conquests would also be real enough to admit that often drunken shag left him with nothing more than a hangover.He knew that Lara would never cheat on him either. He wasn’t being conceited but she seemed to be genuinely immune to any male attention. Sometimes he wondered whether it was just that she never let herself go there for a second, not even in her mind. She never hung out with any man in work. She didn’t have any brothers and somehow he had been the lucky guy to catch her attention. Literally.

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