Tannic

Dear Dazai,

Still sore and sorry, so I’m sending another story your way.

The tea is cold by the time she comes to it. It’s sweeter without the heat to agitate the tannins in it and she’s upset by the lack of bitterness. She deserves bitterness tonight. She swallows. Grimacing as the now too sweet tea slides down her throat. It doesn’t matter that it’s cold. It matters that it’s sweet.

Lou is at her feet, mewling. She thinks that she’s probably hungry. She’s got a vague recollection of feeding her but whether that was two hours or twelve hours ago she doesn’t know. Cup of tea in hand, she leans down to scratch her behind the ear, a request for patience. The world is a bit hazy and she needs a moment before anyone can be fed.

It melts away as she stands up and she reaches out to the cool bench top to steady herself. She’s probably hungry too. She can’t remember the last time she ate. The pain in her stomach too unbearable to consider eating anything. Her toilet has seen the remnants of the little she had to expunge from it, but the necessity of doing anything to ease the pain.

It was worse today. Worse than it’s been for a while.

This feeling.

She forgot how much her chest could hurt, how her breathing would shorten each time, the panic overtaking her. She tries to remember that it isn’t something more serious. That she isn’t having a heart attack, an asthma attack or the worst period cramps of her life. It’s simply her brain misfiring, telling her body that this is what it should be doing.

There’s no good reason for it.

Maybe that’s why it’s so bad.

She’s created a reality where this is how her brain reacts, or is it the other way around? Her memory is hazy and a time before this seems almost mythical. Lost to the mists of her existence before it became so unreliable.

Before she became unreliable.

Before she started to lie to everyone around her. Before there was a need to. Before there was this expectation on her, was there such a time? Was there a time before there was an expectation? Has it now simply been a burden for too long that it’s broken the little resilience she has left?

Once upon a time there was moment where she believed the expectations. She rose to meet them and was proud of it. She glowed with the spotlight on her, relishing in the admiration cast upon her. The glow has long since dimmed.

Lou mewls again.

She reaches to sachet of food. Her purpose in this moment is to provide for the other vulnerable life that shares her space. It gives her a reason to get out of bed on the days when it’s all too much and she feels as though she could sleep for a week.

Sleep brings her no relief. It replays all the anxieties that she’s forgotten about during the day across her subconscious as she dreams. Queen Mab has been nothing more than an adversary since she was a child.

The phone rings.

She considers not answering.

It rings again.

Sighing, she reaches over to pick it up.

‘Hi Mum,’ she answers.

‘Hi Doll, how’s the work?’

She looks over at the untouched pile of work for that day. The one she couldn’t face because it was too intimidating today, the one she’s spent panicking over, knowing the expectation behind it.

‘Good, thanks,’ smile on her face.

The rest of the conversation passes in this manner. The work is always the first thing that’s asked about. The main concern. The thing that everyone waits to hear about because it seems that a person is most valuable when they are able to independent of everyone else. A degree removed adds value, adds mystique and she knows that she’s none of those things.

She’s a millstone, watching as the world flows around her, constantly moving as she gets washed away. Worn down to a raw surface where everything feels both too real and unreal at the same time. Occasionally she picks at her skin, if only to remind herself that she can still bleed. A small gesture to prove her existence to herself.

Still she doesn’t tell them that. They’re proud of her. They’re waiting for her to do all the great things they think she’s capable of. The things she was always going to do, from the moment she was a precocious five year old that was going to run away to Paris.

They know there’s fear there, that there’s panic and anxiety, but they believe she can overcome it. That the misfiring in her brain can be conquered by sheer will because she’s that person. She can overcome it all. In their eyes, as they grow more impatient, they know that this is what she was destined for.

So she lets them believe. Let’s them think that it isn’t as bad as it is. Isn’t as traumatic or harsh or physically exhausting. That each day isn’t a struggle to be that person. That picture that they’ve painted of her.

But she does it. She does it because they support and love her.

So she does this.

For the love of them.

xx

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