There’s more and it gets worse but I’m done talking.
Exhausted, I can barely recall which parts of my life I’ve recounted and which parts have only been relived in my head. Kristine zooms into view from the end of a long telescope.
Sympathetic tears leak down shocked-to-whiteness cheeks. She got most of it then.
“I think I’ve had a bad trip.”
Embarrassment sizzles on my hot face.
“What you’ve been through is terrible.”
Her lazy choice of words is offset by the power of her empathy.
“Shanna and I had it easy compared to you. Country people help each other; we all pulled together. I can’t understand people like Hadley who want to take and hurt and destroy.”
She reaches out to squeezes my hand reassuringly. Sexual desire overrides my appreciating for compassionate touch. I pull away knowing my urge is one sided.
I slump back into the couches comforting embrace instead and stare at the ceiling. My shoulders are tight and sore from the hunched posture I’d adopted to spill my guts.
I drift away to dreamland.
Waking alone on the lounge is a normal occurrence, though the blanket tucked around me is a new feature. Hunger goads me to stand. Kitchen cupboards provide tins of stew and the bread maker sitting on the cupboard sparks a craving for a crusty sourdough loaf. Despite having the equipment and the ingredients, laziness prevents its use. This too is normal. The drugs I substitute for the half made breakfast punch my morning’s intentions in the face...
...I’m brought fully into the real by Kristine striding towards me from her room. It’s still a novelty to have company, and I fear I’ve roused her by turning on the stereo to dismiss a pressing silence. Beneath the thumping beat she is complaining urgently about something. Burning? Her voice is like the buzz of a low flying insect and I am without the faculties to assist her query.
She shakes her head at my lack of response and trots fast to the kitchen. I follow in slow motion and watch her rushing about to put out a flaming dish towel. She should be careful or those curtains will go up next.
The scale of the mess I’ve caused earns me ‘the look’ again. She probably perfected it on her last boyfriend. Poor bugger.
I don’t care. I’m flying on Ritalin Air which is not a particularly coherent airline. She leaves the kitchen in a huff to turn the stereo off.
The stew I’d put on and then forgotten is a thick black cake that is welded to the bottom of pan. I throw it into the overflowing sink and start breakfast preparations again. Dredging up my manners I invite Kristine to join me and we eat together like civilised people except for the part where I inhale my food like a thousand horsepower vacuum cleaner.
A Duramorph puts the skids on my Ritalin high. I float calmly through the afternoon, bumping into furniture and lazing about in a world of pink softness.
Kristine insists on spoiling these moments.
“You OK, Sam?”
“Yeah, man. I’m higher than Everest.”
“That’s not what I mean.
“No? Speaketh of what thou meaneth then.”
“The strain of mental stress can...”
“Should the unqualified be judging the brainbox of others? If you must know, on a scale of one to ten, I’m about a five in mental acuity.”
There’s safety in mediocrity.
“I’m worried about you.”
I sigh. My trip is being ruined by her obvious concern.
“Worried about what? We’ve got exactly the same problems. The world ended for both of us. Thanks for helping me talk about it but that’s as far as I wanna go with it. I feel much better. Purged of blame and freed from guilt.”
“You can joke, but you aren’t alright. You’re in a hopeless place, Sam. Let me help. Life isn’t...”
The blah, blah, blah of her words wash over me. Fuck, I hate platitudes. If she mentions Jesus...
Unfortunately her intervention has reached a vulnerable nerve. I can brace myself for violence and pain for all these years only to be undone by sensitivity and love. I sense the swiftly beating wings of a breakdown coming to claim me. An explosion of anguish wells in a constricted throat. I choke the lump down whole which hurts bad.
Muscles in my jaw clench and work. My chest aches with high pressure. I attempt to hide the agony with casual, tough sarcasm.
“Don't pity me, lady. There’s nothing fixable about a write-off.”
I raise my Donald Duck Pez dispenser, (reloaded with Duramorph), and click another pill down my throat. Kristine’s earnest face falls but she fixes her open gaze on me, full of concern and sympathy. It is an icepick to my dead black heart which takes the assault with commendable resilience.
My steadfast resistance closes Kristine down like a sun-lit flower sensing night’s fall. Beaten, she leaves the room. I hurriedly reinforce the emotional doors she’s bent. When she returns, her own red eyes and pained heart is disguised less successfully.
I pretend not to notice.