“See you later sick note!” The last part tickles my achilles heel – I am insecure about my health, with reason. I retaliate in the only way I know how – with humour. I try to divert the subject away from me, particularly from my health. A brief period of ‘banter’ follows. He’s 34 and just finishing his degree, but there are no jobs in the music industry. I jokingly say at least there will be a job waiting for me at the end of my degree. That’s as close as I’m ever going to get to fighting talk.
“Yeah right, if you even live that long.” This last part also finds my achilles heel, but does not tickle it. It slashes it, severs it, mutilates the most vulnerable part of me. Not a funny joke. Scarily relevant, not that he knows. He has no idea that I’ve been in hospital multiple times since it was last mentioned on social media (and even then, I only posted that I was happy to see my dog again, or maybe the ridiculous amount of pizza I ordered while in the CCU). He has no idea that he hit upon a genuine concern. Words that were meant to be feathers turn to knives. He laughs and leaves with his girlfriend. I am told off for being a little hurt, because
“If he sees that it gets to you he will only do it more.”
But it was a low blow. He knows health isn’t something I have a lot of. He knows the grim reaper and I are old friends by this stage – he even visited me in hospital when I was a teenager and we sat on a bench and ate fish and chips with IVs tied to me. (When he found out I was being bullied, he taught me to punch. He used to take me to walk my dog with him, but today when he showed up to do specifically this, he went with his girlfriend because I’m too useless to be able to walk that far, and I got all worried that my dog would love them more than me because I’m all insecure and I don’t know what to do without him by my side at the minute… The dog, not the 34 year old, to clarify). But people slip up with their words. They don’t realise that it isn’t always the health problem that is the hardest thing to deal with, but the reactions of others to the fact that you are malfunctioning. They do not realise that they can kill or multiply your insecurity simply with the choice of their words. And so, more often than not, they multiply it by a power larger than anything you imagined.
I was thankfully still too numb to feel anything. My mum was different with me today, something momentous seems to have happened and it feels a little like how things used to be, back before my health entirely ruined her life and made her so frustrated at me. My bedroom in this house has been un-inhabitable since I got here. There has been no floor space for a while, even the bed was buried under stuff. Today all of stuff was finally packed into boxes, and so finally I can move in there, and can actually get into the bed rather than having to curl up on top of my pillow and hope nothing falls off while I sleep. The stuff is being moved out of the room so there is an extra guest room, and the knowledge of this has been making me feel crappy – officially pushed out of my space in this family. But today, there may also have been a breakthrough there. I’m allowed to keep some of my stuff in there. I can choose how it is decorated (the colour of the walls, as long as my mother approves… So not really a choice, but an olive branch nonetheless), but not the furniture.
Then we sat down later in the evening and did a puzzle, or at least started it. This was weird. Really weird. We did something together and I nearly cried to have that connection back. We sorted the puzzle pieces in sort of silence, and then we started making this 1,000 piece puzzle of the London Underground (made me miss home a lot, because London will always feel like home now). As we put those puzzle pieces together and sorted them and tried to force bits that didn’t belong, we did the same with our relationship. Piece by piece something recognisable began to appear between us, and not just the tube map that has ingrained itself on my brain.
We came together as we drifted apart – slowly, piece by piece. Baby steps I know, no big deal to anyone else, but we are finally moving together instead of apart. I didn’t feel like she hated me. She wasn’t furious at me because of her frustration about my health. She didn’t shout or make me hate myself. We didn’t say anything really. We occasionally asked each other for a station or “a piece with some red and some grey on it that crosses this funny one here” (my mother doesn’t know tube lines at all, it is very amusing). But we didn’t need to say anything more. The silence was golden. I kept just watching her sorting puzzle pieces and I didn’t want to make a big deal, I didn’t want to make her feel bad or anything, and so instead of completely losing my mind out of happiness, I just said,
“This is nice, I like this.”
“Just… Us. I like being together, it’s nice.” And the silence settled back around us as we sorted away, slowly and silently patching the holes in our almost non-existent and stretched beyond breaking point relationship. I was uneasy, tense, on edge, waiting for the sting in the tail (because life has taught me that there is ALWAYS a sting in the tail)… But eventually I relaxed a little. She was chilled out. She seemed to finally find her daughter sat in front of her, and not a monster that was tearing her heart apart through no fault of its own.
After dinner, sixth form friend picked me up and we drove all the way to the airport with the guy I at one point had a crush on (hadn’t seen him for over a year, didn’t feel like that at all). We picked up sixth form friend’s girlfriend at the airport (she’d just returned from Sweden), and the guy I used to have a crush on and myself were glad of each other’s company, because two third wheels make a car, so it was all good. There is some sort of terror at speeding along the motorway while your friend who is driving hangs one arm out of the window. There is also some sort of terror in watching him swig beer as he drives because “it’s just one beer.” or watching him lane drift while he glances at his phone. But I was doing a normal 20 year old thing, and since I’ve been in hospital this time I am more mobile than I’ve been for a while and I wanted to take advantage of my ability to walk a short way… Also the adrenaline was a welcome relief from my emotional numbness. The guy I used to have a crush on (really need to think of a different name for him) and I had a lot to talk about (and not just because he’s hoping to go to uni to study Biomed. this September, although I did tell him how awesome it is) so we didn’t find it too awkward being with the two love birds (which is good, because the four of us are going to Norfolk in a week’s time). On the way home, sixth form friend played Bastille pretty loudly – my love for that band’s music is well known.