The next part of the story involves the part where I started making very bad decisions, one after the other, or an avalanche of bad decisions, if you will. Following my schizophrenic episode (I don’t know how comfortable I am with that description, but that’s what the doc called it, so I’m just using it as a default), I kind of detached from things in a way. It was like suddenly all things were possible, and any possibility that was enticing enough was to be indulged in. So many things could factor into this new navigation of my life: I had been kept very sheltered up until I moved out of my parents’ house, before moving out I had shouldered the weight of a religion and it’s surrounding culture that I found suffocating and claustrophobic, I was still confused about where I fit in the straight/gay continuum, I was completely without any real direction for myself, I was not psychologically healthy and had ceased any and all treatment in favour of LSD and massive amounts of coffee, and on it could probably go.
It was my first foray into the world outside the confines of the close-knit religious community I had been raised in, and I wasn’t doing so shit hot. I had managed to find a really great guy in Richard and whole group of interesting, talented, and welcoming people, so I was doing alright in some respects, but after my illness, I seemed to lose a bit of my grip on what I felt I knew and wanted. Suddenly, with the flushing of those pills down the toilet, everything was up in the air. I didn’t believe anything anymore. For instance, I knew that I loved Richard, but it wasn’t real. When I was with him, I knew the verity of our relationship, but when I was away from him, it didn’t much concern me. My family existed when they wrote or called (we lived in the same city and my mother had resorted to writing me letters), but they disappeared from my mind otherwise. It was as though everything became situational. I began to allow myself to fall head first into situations without factoring other aspects of my life or the possible consequences, and it proved disastrous for me emotionally.
And that’s how I came to find myself in bed with Katya. She was the one I had moved in with to be near Richard. She was one of the worst roommates I ever had, but she was also one of my best friends. We had since moved out and into different apartments but had remained very close.
I remember that afternoon so clearly. We were at a street fair and it was a bright, warm day. We had been walking around holding hands, which was a familiar thing for us to do. It connoted nothing about our relationship. We were simply close and comfortable friends. There was a stall that was filled with handmade cloth dolls. They all wore rich velvet dresses and were meant to remind us of our female power. We rolled our eyes about the personal power bit, but Katya was enchanted by each doll’s character. She chose one for herself, and while the woman running the stall fished for change in a pouch she wore, Katya started drawing slow circles on the inside of my palm. When I pulled away out of surprise, she leaned in and whispered “shhh, it’s a secret. No one has to know”. Her finger drew secrets on my palm for three blocks.
I had not even realized that she was leading me to my apartment until we rounded the corner to my street. It was hot, she said. We could take a nap, she said. I was shy and giggling, and she had the patience of a practiced tutor. I fell into it and forgot all the hang-ups that I had been indoctrinated with during my first twenty years. I fell in love with the notion that there were worlds I had yet to discover, that the world was not the small and enclosed system in which being good was the ultimate achievement. I remember thinking that I could love who I wanted to, that I was more free than I had been led to believe, that I could do things I hadn’t thought of.
When we sat up, while I was pulling on my shirt, I suddenly remembered Richard, and Katya knew the worry on around my eyes. I didn’t know what to do in the face of what I had done. I went over and over in my mind how we had arrived at my apartment and made love in the afternoon without my having given any thought to Richard. I wanted and then I acted on that want and all without any sense of consequence. How does one not think about something like that? How had I arrived at that moment, sitting on the edge of that bed? I felt as though I had woken up out of a liquid dream. Katya stroked my back and assured me that it was.
I don’t recall how long I sat on what I’d done before telling Richard. It could have been three days, a week, two weeks. I contemplated avoiding the situation by not telling him at all, but I didn’t want to have to carry the knowledge of my betrayal around for the rest of our lives together. I asked Richard to go for a late evening walk with me one night, but he could tell something was up and refused to go any further than his front steps. He didn’t want to have to wait for an axe to fall and demanded that I get my bad news over with as soon as possible. After much stuttering and a failed attempt at avoiding the whole matter, I told him what had happened.
He was angry, but he didn’t yell or lash out at me nearly like I thought he would. He said that more than anything else he was disgusted with my choice of individual to cheat on him with. The fact that it was another woman didn’t bother him nearly as much as whom she was. A lot of people had the misconception that Katya slept with anyone and everyone, which was untrue. He ranted about how she was like a baby doll, that everyone played with her, that he never would have thought I would stoop so low. When he was done, I asked him if he would ever be able to forgive me, and he said that he didn’t know if he could but that he would try, and then he gathered me in his arms and confessed that he could not stop loving me.
Until that moment, I had always thought of myself as the sort of person who would never do such a thing as cheat on someone she loved, but I had, and I couldn’t make that fit into my vision of myself. I wasn’t her. I couldn’t be her. And that is how I began locking my actions from this period of my life away, separating them from before and after. I simply would not accept that I had done what I had done. These things had to be the result of my circumstances and nothing more. I certainly, at that time, was not willing to shoulder the responsibility for my own actions. I comforted myself with the fact that with all the confusion I was experiencing, these were surely just nasty side effects and not things that I could be held wholly accountable for.
Now, I find that perspective embarrassing. It seems childish. It was childish, and it has only served to compartmentalize and decontextualize my history and the Self that I have come to know through what I have been willing to see.
If you can't believe how boring I've gotten recently, you just wait. It gets better. There is a fourth part I must torture you with before I am done expurgating the sins of my twentieth year...
Songs of a Quiet Woman
-- Alison Croggon
lurching delicately as a snow queen down this street of greys
unfocused exactly enough to miss the businessmen
goggling at my stock deciding
(as I twitch primly into the tram seat my handbag
nestled on my lap like a puppy) deciding
this will be a day of minor survivals
etching a bloody mouth in flourescent mirrors
or idly lacquering a hand of claws:
small weapons for a small war
there is one streetlight which always
blinks off whenever I walk near it
coming home late and secretarial
to the hint of cats and cooking—
silently inside me something flexes
men of course lately they are kind of me
although an acid starting in my sweat
erodes me like an argument:
snatched by hesitation in a shop
eloquent and secret with the smell of him
I feel sureness swelling like a bruise
forcing blood into lips breathless and reverent
this pearl in the corruption of my belief
(yes please no trouble thankyou mother
it's been a pleasure because I do not know
how to be angry or ugly mother—
granny addled with sherry under bombs
in Wincester never raised her voice
or said a word back to your father
no matter what woman or what insults:
her eight year old skin is white and powdered
and now she pisses in the basin mother
and I know the proper way to lay tables
to other things I turn the eye of god.
the tv's gorgon eye has glazed me over
and nothing touches me at all:
not faminine fear fear or revolution.
only a shellshocked child in Beirut
firmly stroked to stillness by a nun.
he stared at her with eyes as black as hunger
I wept then for the simple magic of hands
the routine of coffee the complicity
of cigarettes and gossip
this gentle leaning over narrow tables
into the sly glass of recognition:
I know I am dishonest in my dress
(she says to me) I know I am dishonest
but all I ever knew was how to lie
Can you get out of the blue room? (I seriously couldn’t get out. It drove me nuts).