I’m just tired; I’ve got some work to do; I’m fine; I don’t know what you’re talking about.
He went with, “I’m just a little tired,” because it was the most convenient half-truth to tell at the time. It felt like he could do nothing right that day. And he knew – he had been told, really – that it was all just an overreaction to a single negative situation, and his programed response to it was to catastrophize. Nevertheless, he didn’t care to fight back tonight. He joked about physical exams earlier, realizing too late that she was anxious from her latest checkup. The doctors were taking an uncommonly long time to return the results to her; in fact, self-diagnosing led her down a dark corridor with the walls closing in on all sides, stopping with just enough room for her to tuck her knees into her chin and hope beyond grace that it was all just catastrophizing. He hadn’t meant to lead her by the hand back to the corridor.
How selfish he was, letting his regret show on his face, putting her in a place of regretting her openness about her very real issue while fighting to steady the darkness from encroaching upon the rest of her night. And the way he left, making a big show of just how much he regretted making the joke, all the while leaving her ashamed and thinking – wrongly – that maybe she was being a burden on other people. Maybe he was putting prison bars where freedom walked, giving in to the whispers of doubt about just how good of a friend he actually was, and none of this was happening at all. He wanted to feel guilty about what had happened – he deserved to bear the responsibility for his mistake because he was supposed to be a good friend. It was the most convenient half-truth to accept at that time.
The retreat inwards began, but he didn’t notice. He just needed to get through to the end, and he would be home free – free from ruining anymore of his relationships, free to be silent, free to not live underneath the expectations that others had come to own. He would just run from it all because after all, he was just a coward who couldn’t face his reflection when it surrounded him. All he did was lie, sell himself as better than he really was, believe in his own lies, and continue manufacturing selves. Positivity was his most polished mask, and his heart had accumulated enough of his half-truths to believe it owned a single, reliable shard of honesty. At the end of the day, he was weak. He wanted to be strong; he wanted to be reliable; he wanted to be honest; he wanted to be kind; he wanted to be free to know who he was and where he stood without the ground collapsing at the slightest nervous shift in weight from right to left, plunging him into the frigid and lonesome below. He was catastrophizing.
Another mistimed joke, and he found himself lost. Why was he? Had he not realized that he could have tried not belittling people around him for once, just so that his own crudeness could find a measure of stability? Was it impossible for him to understand that who he was just didn’t fit who he thought he was? He was pitiful. He’d go home and paint something – painting would do the trick, what with the silence and the focus on making something really intricate so that he would just forget seeing his own face stapled onto his friend’s disappointment. He knew that it had been a rough week for him, but he let his own charm poison the vial even more. What a wreck. He really didn’t know who he was at all. All this time, he had the ridiculous idea that he had been doing him a favor when he himself was the burden. Is it only now occurring? He probably thought he was an idiot for even trying to show him in the most explicit way that he wasn’t the friend he thought he was, and here he was, thinking that he was saving him from the shadows. There wasn’t a thing right about him.
He dove into the dark of the ocean, colliding with the side of the boat on the way down. Abrasions didn’t matter anymore at this point; he wasn’t even sure he felt the slick, dull, trauma anymore. I can’t do anything right. I’ve heard that one already. Why are you wasting your time? Be honest about your mistakes. You’re the reason we’re here. Are you still here? Haven’t you grown up yet? Jeez. Get a grip. Move on. Stop worrying so much. Time will tell. Why didn’t you say anything? You disappoint me. Where is the surface? Don’t be a baby. Where are you going? You don’t understand. Why am I here? You’ll be fine. I can’t feel anything anymore. Who’s fault is that? You made this mess, you fix it.
His heart pounded and every beat felt heavier and heavier and slower and slower he felt it in his head and in his eyes until he was realizing that he was trying to breathe in deeply he was trying to breathe in but his lungs weren’t enough for him and he saw that it was dark except for a single moon far away though far from him and who he was and where he needed to be so he breathed less hoping to reflect on things more and realize that it was just catastrophizing it was just in his head it wasn’t going to be that bad it couldn’t be that bad what was going on he hadn’t felt this way in a long time but he couldn’t find his way out except to talk to no one about it because that’s who understood him best.
I can’t breathe. Just let me wake up.