I was emotionally obese, binging on junk feelings: Climbing Trees Backwards

August 04, 2014 by in Blog

I was emotionally obese, binging on junk feelings, colluding false kind words: how otherwise could I live? How could I face myself each day? Or face colleagues if they knew the poisonous secrets swilling around my mind? Did I want to experience the emotional agonies and sordid care patterns of looking after the dying again? A beautiful and many talented woman reduced to falling down stairs because she no longer had the strength to support herself. Weight loss, continuous night sweats, the dawning realisations of closure. Etched deep into the lines of her face was understanding death was a single stop away: no remission, no transfers, no more opportunities. No return ticket. Nights holding her, listening to the sound of her tears, silent words conveying mortality: this, I suspected would be my fate. Wiping up incontinences as they happened. No good timing there, no bad time, never any time: never any warning. Trips she’d enjoyed withered. We became a home unit, walled, behind thin brittle glass, and window boxes of always in bloom geraniums, protecting from intrusions. Post dried up, phone calls diminished, her love of cooking ended, she survived on snacking, strong coffee and spirits, more so as her life visible ebbed. I’d bottled out of emotions, I’d capped the human side of what it is to be male, consequently my soul had shrivelled.
I sat phone to my ear, looking at the Miro and Braque prints opposite the pin board where I attached notices and things to do. Mundane imprecations to tidy and organise my chaos, provide a focus so I could believe I had control of something. I heard the front door bang shut: someone had left, who? The day’s light was fading, the sun spreading huge red rays into my room, though there was little warmth. The pan in which water was boiling began to bounce, sing and rock: take notice of me! I heard birds screeching and cawing skywards. Doctor chiropractor’s flashing sign had come on as night stole day. The Asian business man next door started his car, pulling from the concreted over garden into the road, to join the stream of jams heading north on the motorway. I could even listen, if I concentrated, to its dull drone.
“Hello”, Martha’s voice responded.
“Hi there”, I replied, not sure where to take the conversation now she’d spoken. Had I a plan, given myself time to take this where I wanted to? Did I know? I’d day dreamed, sitting in the chair, my mind bereft of ideas.
“What do you want Robert? Why have you phoned me? Where are you? Are you at home?” she asked crisply.
“Yeah”, I replied, “sitting doing nothing, trying to think about my life, without much clarity”, I continued, laughing hurtfully to myself, bitterly ironic, realising I had little to say.
“Robert.”
“Yes.”
“Where are you?”
“Sitting on a chair in my luxury flat, overlooking an enormous suburban lake, sails ‘abillowing, flickering navigation lights and the red remains of a dying sun.”
“Robert, don’t fool with me, don’t evade, don’t lie. Listen to your own voice: where is it? Not inside of you, not from any depth I can hear. You’re avoiding me again, aren’t you? Why phone me? Why pretend, why waste my time, and your own? Speak what you feel, ignore your defences, talk like you did in Paris. Create the intimacy we once shared. Look, we’ve been out together, shared time as friends, not just as professional and patient. So assert, tell me what you want, feel and need. Don’t be a coward all your life”.
“Martha”, I began to answer, “you’ve always intimidated me. I’ve never found it easy in your company to frame my thoughts to reveal what I am. I’ve always been that way, you of all people know that”.
“Robert”, I heard her respond through the phone pressed to my ear, my body tipping the chair on two rear legs so my shoulder touched the wall. “I do know that, so please open to me, don’t play games of hide and more hide. I won’t seek you if you don’t reveal yourself. My life’s too short, as is yours. Robert you’re a grown man, mature, you have another twenty years, or you may not, don’t fuck me about. Don’t screw your chances with me or with anybody else. What do I have to say to make you see sense?”
“Do you want me to tell the truth Martha?”
“Yes I do, I want nothing else. I can’t wait another twenty years Robert. You decide what to do with our chance meeting. You can forget we met, walk off into the sunset, or work on what we have, take the chances that implies. I know you have ambitions, fantasies about me, don’t you? Reveal them Robert. Reveal, or go away.”
I’m on the spot, searching frantically for an excuse, a path to escape down; but I can’t. Since we’d last talked I’d done nothing but compose words, phrases and sentences in my mind, now I’ve my chance: could I? “Martha,” I said hesitatingly, moving forward onto the chair’s four legs, switching on the tiny lamp by the phone table, “can we ever tell the truth about ourselves to our lovers and partners? If we did do you think loving relationships would end in acrimonious hatreds and abusive insults? Barbaric razor words, layer upon layer, ice cold, tangled with articulation, semantically interwoven, lacerating flesh, running with blood, bleeding years of unspoken angers, volcanic frustrations”. I paused, waiting a response. I heard her breathing, my nostrils filling with the perfume I imagined she was wearing.
“The very truths as lovers, as a lover myself, we’ve hidden to maintain peace. We vaunt publicly with friends, family, everyone, how wonderful is the relationship we share. We share presents, write notes, give cards emblazoned with words and verse of undying love and foreverness. We boast how honesty, how trustworthy, how dependent we are on the other person’s love and affection. A wondrous individual with a name, our soul mate, sacred. We’re listened to, this is it; life’s destiny finally revealed”.
“Robert, is that what you’re doing now?”
“No, I’m telling you how I see love, how I’ve witnessed its pain. Please, listen”.
“I am Robert, do you want to continue?”
“Yes”, I replied, “Something happens, doesn’t it Martha? Something so miniscule in this amphitheatre of human emotions. Love, dare I say, comes crashing down as nothing more than a mighty pillar of sentimental mush. Nothing remains but verbiage, anger, hatred”. I paused, silence holding me. Martha said nothing. I heard her breathing and I guess she mine. I went on. “Then the cold analysis of dissection. Every last bit of the love, no matter how long it’s existed, no matter the experiences, the traumas, lived through, is dead. Doesn’t count a jot, nor a full stop in a dear John letter, torn apart, flung into trash cans, into gutters. Hell, Martha, I must turn off the gas, the pan’s starting to boil over! OK, Martha, caught in the nick of time”.
“That’s OK Robert. Tell me more.”
“Bitterness killing years of affection, and shared struggles. And all those years the lovers have been honest, and open? Pah, tell me about it. Martha, do you think if they’d true love, friendship, whatever, affection, call it what you want, it would end this way? A foetus unceremoniously aborted, articulate with a memory. Rome wasn’t built in a day but barbarian instincts destroy love in a torrent of unthinking, ugly words. Accusations, hidden intimacies revealed, screeched out, a squalid exorcism devoid of holy unction”.
“Robert?”
“Yes” I replied cautiously, wondering what happens next. Have I said too much, revealed a cynicism she’ll reject, destroying my chances? Does she think my comments relate to her? Will these conversations, our few meetings, end acrimoniously? Thoughts festering for the rest of my days as frustration brought on by my own fears slowly kills me.
“Robert, what did you get in Paris from those who sympathetically listened to you? Questioned and probed till you broke, cried, pitifully sobbing. I saw it all. I watched you emerging from your repressed chrysalis, a corrupted womb. In London wanting me when your life spiralled, phoning me at home, breaking into my peace. There must be something in your consciousness giving you insight. What drives you? Have you thought what you want from life? What will you think and feel on your death bed? How will your daughter remember you, what will she tell your grandchildren? If god existed what would you say to her? Robert answer me one question”.
“Yes Martha, I will if I can”.
“What do you want from me and how will you tell me?”
“Martha, you were walking towards me before our session in Highgate, a sunny day, I was feeling optimistic. In the therapy room I said I wanted to pick you up like a piece of cut out cardboard, put you under my arms and take you home. You remember, don’t you?”
“Yes, I do. But I’m not one dimensional, nor am I made from cardboard. No one’s ever picked up and taken me so passively anywhere. Nor will you”.

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