Friday, 28 August 2015

What’s Love Got to Do with It?

I stared at my empty cup of coffee. I could feel the eyes of the people who surrounded me on my back and my sharp ears could catch the words they were whispering. The tears were starting to well up in my lifeless eyes and I was too drained to even care. I was done. I was done with the people who thought they knew my lifestyle, the people who thought they knew what I was going through and the people who were too quick to judge. But most of all, I was done with him. In my nights he was a monster and in my days he was the same. There were times where I could not distinguish the fiction from the reality of my nightmares.

I would wake up every day hoping and praying that the familiar dreams would fade away along with my sadness, pain and tears. However, that flame of hope that I was relying on inside of me slowly flickered away until there was none left and there was nobody but me to blame for that. I smiled to myself pathetically. All the times he said he would change and I believed him. I believed everything- the insincere apologies, the false promises, and the fake tears. I guess I had experienced first-hand the meaning of the expression ‘blinded by love’. In that moment I felt weaker than I could have ever imagined someone could feel, and that makes a big statement considering the depth of one’s imagination. I felt stupid. How was I so oblivious? I shook my head. No, this was not my fault. It was not my fault that he didn’t choose to indulge himself and cherish the relationship. No. Power and malice were the drugs of his choice and looking back now I should have been able to notice the way they lit up inside of him with a sickly glow that shone in those languid eyes.

With nonchalant ease he crushed every ounce of self-worth I managed to gather. The abusive words that came out of his mouth cut like a knife but seeing how mentally distraught I was didn’t satisfy him enough. No, he felt the need to prove his authority by destroying me even further. He never succeeded to disguise the delight he felt after dealing one of his favourite blows. My lips quivered at the reminder. You may ask me ‘Why were you with such a guy? Why was it so hard to walk away?’ And I myself do not have a distinct answer to those questions but what I will say is that it is a lot easier for a person looking into a situation to have clear, strong thoughts about what they would do if they were put into that scenario but being actually involved in it entails a whole different perspective. When every decision you make could impact your life dramatically or even end your life, you start to rethink everything you ever set your mind to doing no matter how stubborn you used to be. When you’re foolishly in love, the rare moments of affection he shows for you makes your mind dismiss the bad things automatically. You crave for that feeling again. Therefore, no matter the judgement from outsiders, it is highly unlikely that your sanity will still be intact whilst going through such an experience that I did.

There were many days and many nights that my scarred body prevented me from ever forgetting those instances of abuse. I tugged at the collar of my jumper looking down at the freshest bruise. The lining of my neck had now been stained with a purple hue. I stroked it gently, wincing at the pain and the flashbacks it brought me. You want to know the story of this one? I’ll share it with you. It was the night of his twenty first birthday and I had arranged a surprise house party to celebrate the occasion. However, he had different ideologies on how a 21st birthday should be remembered. And obviously that entailed hitting the clubs and returning home at 3am completely drunk. That was something I never wanted to experience again after last year. Letting him get drunk until the early hours would be like wishing the hospital life upon myself and I could not let myself go through the same violent night again. So how did I get this bruise, even after being so on guard? Well, this is the story…

I awoke that morning to soft sheets, and the morning light trickled in through the gaps in the curtains. I shed myself of the remaining glimpses of that dream and let myself soak in the warmth of the duvet before opening my eyes to face the day. I tilted my head to see him buried under the sheets in a deep slumber. At least one of us can sleep that well, I thought to myself. I gently got out of bed making sure I didn’t wake him up and then did the usual morning routines. After, I carefully wrapped the new shoes I had bought for him until it looked perfect. I could not afford to mess this day up. I cautiously cooked the eggs and bacon until its scent wafted all around the house. And to cut a long story short, I served him breakfast in bed, gave him his present and then allowed him to go out with his friends whilst I prepared the house for the evening.

Soon, more and more guests started to arrive until the whole house was practically filled with people. I dreaded the thought of all the mess I would have to clear up. I looked at my watch. It was time his friends had him home. I heard the slam of car doors and a key slowly turned the lock to open the front door. “SURPRISE!” we all shouted in sync. I could register the shock in his face before he could hide it. The expression then turned into a smirk as the turnout boosted his self-confidence due to his popularity.
 That was when the party began. Well, for everyone else. I was on duty to make sure nothing in the house was touched. Nothing could end up being broken otherwise that would just give him an excuse to get angry.  More and more people started to leave as the night progressed into the early hours of the next morning. Finally, there was nobody else left but the two of us.

I went towards him, about to embrace him in a hug which would hopefully take away my exhaustion.  Today was a success. Suddenly, he grabbed my wrist with a grip which was extremely firm as though he wanted to cut off my blood circulation. My knees were now weak and I could have collapsed just out of fear in that moment. His other hand snatched at my collar and pushed me until my back was against the wall. His breathing turned from quiet to regular to a panting gasp as though he had been bottling up anger that could last a lifetime. He sucked at the air like it had suddenly become thick and was now almost too difficult to draw in. He became deaf to the soothing words that I uttered in attempt to get him to calm down. My heart was beating faster and faster and I could feel the rush of blood zoom through my body. Do I fight back or would that make things worse? Would I be able to escape or would I face a punishment even worse than the initial? I knew that the next stage of his tantrum would be to smash whatever he could lay his hands on and I only had seconds to react. What had I done? He pressed his body onto mine and whispered in my ear with a voice that was unrecognisable- as though he had been possessed. “You didn’t even celebrate my birthday. What were you doing? Babysitting the people? This was my big night and you didn’t even care. Well, I’ll make you regret that. I’ll make you regret that…”

In my head I was screaming, crying for help. I was begging that the next door neighbours would hear and protect me. But in reality, my body stood paralysed. My mouth wouldn’t move. I no longer had control. Before I knew it his fist was attacking my body and I was not able to defend myself. The pain it brought to me was indescribable. The agony I felt was flowing out of every pore and a cry so raw escaped from my mouth. It was as if every sound I made was set to the frequency that could shatter a heart to pieces. But not his. He ignored my cries of pain, he ignored the blood, he ignored my vulnerability yet he focused on the power of his punches. At this point, I had given up. The punches now felt like a normal occurrence to me and I was ready to give everything up. From the corner of my half closed eyes, I saw an arm swinging towards my neck and I felt my legs weaken and my mind go blank as the punch connected.

My eyes felt heavy as they flickered open. The first image I saw was the wooden floor. What had happened to me? Suddenly, my eyes widened and became alert as the memories poured through my head. I could see through the window that his car was gone and that meant it was time to escape. I tried to move to get up but my body was aching and stopped me from doing further damage. Moving without pain was just one thing I used to take for granted. Today, my muscles feel as though they have been replaced by aging rubber bands- thick and twisted. Slowly, I got up with the image of me getting away from this place as my focal point…

And that’s how I ended up here- at this coffee area just outside the courtroom. I sit here eyeing my backpack filled with the tiny amount of belongings I have, waiting for the closure that will allow me to go somewhere far away from this place, something that would allow me to start afresh. I was not going to allow myself to be defeated by what I thought was a shred of sympathy within me. I would not allow myself to go back to what was wrong, what destroyed me. I would not allow myself ever to go back to what I thought was love, what I had thought was normal as I knew no different. However, in some ways, I have to thank you. Because now I’m better, now I know what I deserve, now I know what to expect in such a big world. And most of all because now I know my heart is made of armour.  I saw the door open and our eyes connected. I looked away and let him walk straight pass me as he was being escorted to prison. 5 years is a long time. And in prison, it’s more than enough time to change a person’s morals completely… 

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Eyes Wide Shut- The Final Challenge

I teleported back to my room. The cold that seemed mild at first, now numbed my face and extremities. Any residual heat I had absorbed in the moment was now gone and with each breath came small puffs of white vapour which slowly dissipated into the surroundings. I climbed into my bed, wrapping myself with a blanket and praying that this would keep me safe. Safe from what, you ask? From the night. And everything that comes with it. Many people can’t wait until they are tucked into their blankets with closed eyes, waiting to be surrounded in a world of dreams. It’s supposedly the only time where you are able to relax in a complex life. I know that sleep is unavoidable, as is the coming of the night. I know it must come but right now I fight it with everything I have. Those defenceless hours when your curious mind decides to explore the ideas of natural disasters or the ‘what if’ situations are enough to replace the blood running through my veins with the flow of extreme anxiety. In this case my worries of what could have happened with Zac ran in my head over and over again. I was extremely worked up thinking over it until I could not fight it anymore and the sleep took over even as it was unwelcome…

My eyelids batter open after what felt like an eternity. I swipe up to see my hologram, 6:12 am. I saw the Sun start to rise from my windows. The morning was just as unstoppable as the night. I needed a few more hours of blackness to prepare myself for the challenge that inevitably awaited me. However, I could already distinguish the items in my bare room from the faint rays and I knew that the colour in this virtual city would soon be restored and I was not ready. It’s funny, isn’t it? The way I get so quickly attached to the absence of light after dreading the moments when I’m immersed in the dark. I swipe up the hologram. After the last challenge I knew I had to do my research. I search frantically for the ‘Chrome’ app yet I can’t find it. Everything I had learnt during my time at school on finding information was utterly  redundant and with no wifi or internet, I couldn’t just google the answers.

I sighed. How did Zac manage to find out all that information on the previous challenge? It should’ve been me to be captured by the beasts. It should’ve been me in his place. Small droplets brimmed at the edge of my eyes until it eventually evolved into a waterfall of negative emotions. My eyes started to swell and turn red and the world around me became a blur of colour. I’ve seen the movies and the shows. The actors never truly cried. Never like me. All the feelings of isolation, regret, sorrow, pain and misery poured from my internal environment to my external one. I had lost Lily, Zac and soon I would probably lose my state of mind too. What sort of a game was this? I recall James telling me it was aimed to “purify my mental state”. I scoffed in a mixture of sarcasm and sadness. I get attached to things and people way too easily and I missed home way too much.

Out of nowhere, I decided I really did not care anymore. My thoughts, feelings and attitudes were easily swayed and I realised that I really could not be in a worse state than I was right now. Without any second thoughts I hit the ‘Mountain Trek Challenge’ on my hologram and was instantly teleported. I could feel the layers of clothes that were simultaneously put on me. The view in front of me was absolutely stunning. The mountains were pristine and white. They soared up like they wished to challenge the sky itself, dominating the horizon in every which way I looked except behind. I wish that the path behind me allowed me to retreat, to run far away and eventually make it back to Earth but I knew that was impossible. The challenge looked so physically daunting that at the time I even preferred the little comfort I had in my isolated room back in the virtual town. I wish I had thought things through more carefully. After all, this was the final challenge. 

Displaying himalayas.jpgThe dark green of pines were coated in crystalline snow and the silence hung so thickly in the frigid air. It was almost soothing- the absence of noise. Each step I took created a soft crunch due to the snow and it interrupted the silence and sounded better than music to my ears. I looked across the mountain I seemed to be designated to and saw a path. I stood paralysed in fear even though I knew I needed to keep moving in order to stay warm. My mind started to explode with thoughts as I saw some snow crumble off the mountain. What if I fell? Would I die? This is a game though, you can’t die in a game. Right?

I shoved the thoughts away to the back of my mind. You’ll never know if you don’t try I guess. I walked slowly towards the start of the path. It was basically a very dangerous, extreme version of rock climbing except you were climbing up snow and ice. In other words, you would probably die if you attempted this in the real world. I started moving up, my legs shaking in fear. The land at my feet was becoming even rockier with every step. The incline was getting more burdensome ever so slowly. I decided to rest for a while in order to gain my energy back. I looked up, down, behind and beside. Each view had one thing in common; you could not see any land. The only thing that kept me motivated was the fact that if I completed this, I could return to Earth and restore Lily’s health. The only thing that did give me a bit of trouble was the fact that I just had to trust James’ word that Zac would be alright and trust was something which was very hard for me to do. After all, to trust someone means to recognise the fact that they will always have good intentions when it concerns you which most of the time has led to disappointment from my point of view.

At that present time, the only thing I should really be focused on trusting was myself. I could get to the top and I would get to the top, no matter how many tries it took- preferably only the first one though. When I realised I was giving myself my own pep-talk I knew it was time for me to go back to Earth. However, as soon as my attitude towards this whole experience had completely changed, an incident which I had not expected occurred. I looked up to see a pile of snow crumbling down at high speed. In another moment, the weight of the snow was on my back and I could no longer control the direction I was headed towards. I tumbled over and over, crushed from all sides. Time travelled in slow motion yet also in a flash. Finally, I was still. The snow could be any colour and I wouldn’t know the difference. I’m cold, colder than I’ve ever been. I lay still, stiller than I’ve ever experienced. I closed my eyes, my mind blank. All of my worries were erased from my memory and all I thought about was making the pain stop. I felt a hand on my shoulder but I was too drained to open my eyes. I just hoped they were there to help me through. Before I knew it, I had drifted into a daze in which I had no conscious thought.

My heavy eyelids lifted open and I was first aware of the coolness of the air and its fresh fragrance. The ground was lumpy as if I was sleeping on a bed of rocks and I looked around only to realise I actually was. My clothes felt as damp as a flower in the dew of the dawn. There were no paths around me and no sign of another person. Suddenly, all the memories start flooding back into my head and I feel my body, anticipating wounds and cuts. However, I felt nothing; no pain, no cuts, no wounds. I was awake, perhaps more fully awake than I had ever been. My heart was beating as fast as it possibly could. How could I have been perfectly fine when I had suffered all of that? Why was I not hurt? Who was the last person who came to my rescue, did he or she help me in some way? So many questions were bombarding my mind and I didn’t have the slightest idea on how to answer them.

I looked around to see if I could just continue climbing the mountain and return home, leaving my worries behind, yet I could not find any path. I had no idea where I was. I got up and saw a small sign which I had missed before when scanning the area. I walked towards fearing what it might say. Maybe it would tell me there was no way down or up and I was stranded with no way of ever experiencing another person’s company. I really didn’t know what it would say and I was panicking. “Congratulations!” That’s what it read. I touched the edge of the sign, flicking off the snow that had settled on it. Before I was able to express my confusion as to why this sign was congratulating me, a loud bang shattered the lingering silence in the air. Confetti filled the area and a voice boomed from an unknown speaker. “Annabelle Smith. You are officially the 49th person to complete this challenge. We hope you have had a great time experiencing this game and you are now able to return to Earth. We shall restore Lily’s health and may all of your worries and burdens be left behind before you return home.” I did not know what was going on. My head was spinning. I could not possibly have completed the challenge- I was passed out most of the time. Who was it that helped me get to the top? Would I ever know? Without any warning, my body disappeared into crystals and my identity was wiped away from the virtual world.

My eyes jerked open. I felt the familiar soft cotton sheets underneath me. I was home. And no matter what had happened that allowed me to return, I was not complaining.