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By: Bernadette Vincent Posted: September-23-2011 in
Bernadette Vincent

She is having a rum and raisin ice cream, one of her favorite. She lost 2 kilos in the past two days so she deserves it. Does she? Does she deserve anything? Yes, her soul mate would say. Well he is her soul mate but she is not his, but that’s ok. She is used to this one-way relationship. Anyway, back to the ice cream. It was ok, not as good as the one she makes though. Her room is called sweetheart. That’s nice. Not many people call her that. She doesn’t really know why she is in a room called sweetheart all by herself.

There was an electricity cut, the room was hot, the swimming pool inviting. She spent an hour just hanging from the side, looking at the tiles, counting them, caressing them, falling almost asleep, and thinking that maybe she should write a story. She likes stories, she could spend her life in a cinema, laughing, crying, flying, fighting, being a heroine or a damsel in despair, being wise and kind, or mean and ugly, just being, someone, anyone. She is trying to remember what happened a couple of days ago.

She was doing fine, considering. Even got into painting. A black poppy on a red sky. Black, white and red, death, innocence and blood. She was pretty pleased with it although it wasn’t finished. She thought she had to celebrate. She had waited for that moment for so long, she thought she would finally know what freedom meant, her fears would melt away, she would smile and laugh at the evil spirit flying away… she would tell, she could tell, no one left to dare deny it. She never knew the fight wouldn’t be over so easily. She opened a bottle of Asti, ever so sweet, that wasn’t a good start, that wasn’t supposed to taste like that.

She watched a DVD, her mind trying to stay in the story but for once it kept on going on a journey of its own. She wasn’t really hungry but had bought a can of foie gras. She rarely eats that but wanted something special, something almost forbidden. She took the can opener hoping that for once it would actually work, but it didn’t. She struggled with it, as always, knowing that where there is a will, there is a way. And if it didn’t work she could ask…no one, no one was there. She threw the towel on the floor, not the can, not the can opener, far too reasonable for that. But the anger was there, she wanted to throw everything through the window but couldn’t. Something was taking her breath away, something was clenching her stomach with such force that she felt on her knees. She couldn’t even open a can on her own how could she possibly fight him.

The electricity is not back, but the kids are jumping into the swimming pool, and splashing water everywhere, the computer battery is flat, time to go. She came here to see the sea and there she goes. The wind is strong, the sea actually has waves, the rain is falling on the islands, all dark blue-grey, beautiful. She wanted to see far, further than now, further than tomorrow. She sat on a wall, looking ahead. What did she loose that she hadn’t already lost, what broke that wasn’t already in a million pieces?

She panicked, not understanding what was happening. He was there trying to pull her down, to pull her into his grave, she grabbed her phone, her lifeline, and gathered all her presence to text her soul mate, an ultimate cry for help. She wasn’t expecting an answer straight away but she was expecting something, holding her breath, preparing for the next assault, hoping that the phone would beep before. But the beep didn’t come. She checked her computer and her friend was just writing to her, something to hold on to, something real, not this slippery unreality, not this open ground where she was about to fall into. It helped; someone was responding, someone was asking and answering questions. It calmed her down. She was so exhausted; she just wanted to lie down, hoping that her eyes would shut down taking her consciousness away for a long while. She checked, one more time, and there it was, her heart was beating fast and then stopped.

There is nothing worse than disappointed hope. In her twisted, broken mind, every word meant something else. Faith? He had faith in her, knowing that she would be ok. It was like saying, we’ll cut your leg off, sorry we don’t have any more anesthetics but we have faith in you, you’ll survive! It was like hearing the break of a bone, she flooded completely feeling totally lost and abandoned.
It was dark out here, being resolutely careful, but also scared of the dark, outside and inside; she secured transport from the beach to a restaurant and back to the hotel. The electricity was back. The computer had recharged. A table of young people just outside her doors were enjoying themselves, good for them. Where was she, oh yes the story.

She shut down her computer, promising herself she wasn’t to open it again. But the next morning she did, hoping for a simple How are you? Hope you’re ok. Thinking of you but so busy. But nothing, she booked a room and a taxi for the next day, on an impulse. She couldn’t stand the idea of going round and round like a wolf in a cage. She wanted to see the sea, to see far, further then tomorrow.

The taxi was driving fast, beeping constantly and swerving to avoid pots, motorbikes, cars. She was looking through the side window, watching the paddy fields, so fluorescent green, thinking that if the car left the road and ended up on the roof, she would probably drown in 30 cm of water. That would be really stupid, but realized she didn’t really care. So many people on the beach, eating, swimming, drinking, having family fun, all in the name of the dead. Why couldn’t she do the same, dance on the tomb of her past? She arrived and checked her mails. A simple, very professional line. He was hoping that two days away would solve everything and put her mind to rest.
Tuna sandwich, raw onions, mayonnaise and warm red wine, why on earth did she choose that? It makes her feel sick and although she tried to spew it out, pushing her finger as far down as possible, she couldn’t, she could never do that, even when completely drunk, she’ll never be anorexic.

Kids crying, people talking, knifes against plates, Sunday morning, people are leaving and having breakfast right outside her door far too early for her. She finally gets up, takes a shower and gathers all her courage to make an appearance. All the tables are taken, she doesn’t know what to do with herself. A couple of women invite her at their table, but she must have given them such a terrified look while refusing politely, that they don’t insist. She wants to run away because she can feel the tears coming, but she finally decides to sit on a sun bed. Why is she so uncomfortable among her species?

She eats quickly and decides to leave for the beach. The sky is cloudy, not too hot yet. The crab market is full of people, the water is high, the waves are crashing. Anonymous crowd and yet so familiar. She watches for a while, takes pictures. Then is tempted by a « pizzeria » she noticed last night among the seafood shacks. They have just open and they do have ice coffee with sweet milk. She sits on the terrace above the water, perfect place to see the boats arriving, the women selling their crabs. She takes more photos, then after a lot of hesitation, she gets her sketchbook out. She draws, and time just flies. She is trying to catch life on paper, and it seems easier that to catch life for real. She is tired now. She wants to check the time and realized she left her phone in her sweetheart room.

She wants to walk along the seawall. It has been invaded by families eating on floor mats, she has to walk on the road. Everybody is smiling, she hasn’t met one single foreigner so far. The light is beautiful, the sky is dark, the water turquoise. She made the right choice coming here, it soothes her soul for a while. The beach if full of kids and adults being kids, jumping in the waves. The water is disgusting and the sand leaves black marks and the little ones legs, but who cares, maybe they only do that once a year, the ancestors must be laughing, wanting to join in.

She thought the old man was her enemy. She was wrong. The enemy is within, she is her worst enemy. She sits among the families trying to catch the best photo in front of the giant white siren without being splashed in the process. She feels so sad all of a sudden, she‘s watching other people’s life, she’s watching herself, she is always watching. She always imagines things and is always disappointed, by life, by herself, by others, life is not predictable; it is not a story that she can write. Now that they are gone, she feels even less purpose to her life.
She catches a tuk tuk and arrives back at the hotel just in time before the rain. She looks at the photos, there is something wrong with all of them, she just realized that the settings were wrong all along. It doesn’t really matter, her heart wasn’t really in it today.

There are 20 missed calls on her phone, yes, her husband was worried. She reassures him, nothing to worry about. She’s safe, she eats, she’s not drunk, she’s ok. Her son too keeps sending her little notes, Hope you’re ok Mum. It is sweet and yet she cannot find much solace in that. She wishes she could tell her friend to stop beating around the bush and talk to her, really talk, as a friend, be angry, if he wants too, tell her that he’s hurt if he is, tell her that he needs her if he does or that her timing couldn’t be worse. Just real talk. She doesn’t quite know what she is to him exactly anymore and that confuses her. But she is afraid to tell him that.

As always, once she had clicked send she got scared. She has so little faith in herself that she finds it difficult to have faith in anybody else.
The rain has stopped so she went down to the pizzeria, and while waiting for her caipirhina, she sent him a text message, to reassure herself that everything was ok, not expecting any response, and of course to make amend, every time she speaks the truth, she is afraid, to be wrong, to say something that might hurt. She has very little clue about relationships. And even less about this one.

The pizza was the best one in Cambodia so far. The boss is French, they opened a week ago. He offers her an after drink, which she accepts, and moves to the bar. B51, Baileys, Kalula, and Cointreau on top, flambé, then you drink it with a straw, as a shot while it is still burning...strange but really nice. So she sat on the bar and started talking...she never thought she could do that.

Its 4.40 and she is wide-awake. That’s the only thing she likes about being alone at night, is that when she cannot sleep she can put the light on and do whatever she wants, instead of lying in the dark afraid to wake him up. She keeps thinking it’s over. But what is over exactly? There is no release, no closure, no sadness, no happiness, no sense of satisfaction, of justice done. Just something missing but that she doesn’t miss. At least now she will be able to say, they are dead, and people will say, sorry and move to something else, no more avoiding the question. But maybe that’s what she is missing, no more sad story to be held or to be told. No more blame, no more shame. What then? Just her, facing her own self, looking in the mirror, looking at traces of the past and trying to look past that. Turning her head and keep walking. She is counting her blessings. She never does that. She is a lucky girl, it is a happy ending story. Isn’t it?

She checked her mail, sometimes he works all night. She wasn’t really expecting anything, that’s always what she tells herself, so she won’t be disappointed but always happily surprised, but it doesn’t always work. She keeps thinking that whatever the relationship, it is the best one she has ever had, unique and a blessing. It might not be what she would like it to be, but that’s what makes it unique, and she will have to learn to accept that. She has been so used to not expect or want things especially good things and just take whatever came her way for so long. Now that she’s learning, she wants everything, all, in an instant and her way, as if she was racing to make up for lost time. She has to be patient and trust her instinct. Trust herself.
She’ll never get use to it, the rain makes her sad and lethargic, especially when it falls slowly without stopping and the light is low. So unlike Cambodia. And the seaside with grey skies, so depressing. Some people like walking in the rain and the wind, feeling the elements on their skin, in their hair. It scares her.

When she wakes up in the middle of the night, she usually feels down and sees everything through her dreamy eyes and her dreams are not happy, nor sad, just disturbing most of the time. But last night was ok, she felt hopeful. This morning is different, maybe it’s the rain.

The hotel is almost empty, the swimming pool is empty and the plastic covers have been displayed, they know it is going to last. There is nowhere to sit outside the sweetheart room, no common area away from the rain. So she is in bed, just a bedside light on, the others are neon color and she hates that. Only TV5, her computer, her book, her thoughts, is it enough to fill a day... most people would say more than enough, others would brave the rain, she doesn’t really know what to do, as always.
It has been raining since morning, clouds are low. It’s lunchtime, she squeezes on the tiny terrace and order some fried noodles and a glass of red wine. The noodles are piping hot and the wine cool, perfect. It’s good to be outside. She looks out to the swimming pool, the garden, the hills, a tiny spot on the world map. She has her favorite magazine, travelling, dreaming of other places, other things to see, to do, escaping, always. Herself, she is always running away from herself. But something has changed, she is ok here, God knows why, considering it has been the most complicated, challenging, unsettling, scaring time of her life since childhood, maybe she finally wants to stop running.

She is the only customer left. Two people are looking just after her. She said to the cook how good the food was, and it was. She feels the need to tell her that, everyone needs to feel useful and appreciated sometimes. Oh no, here it comes, she hates that feeling. When she gets out of life and watch herself say things, do things, like she was a stranger. It always scares her, her heart is beating too fast. Let’s have another glass of wine; let’s go back to reading about dream places. Or maybe not, let’s write about it, what is so frightening sometimes that she does that, dissociate. It’s her, she fears herself, how can that be? She doesn’t understand.

The internet has been off for a long time and it pisses her off, she hates not being connected, she’s holding her tears, they wouldn’t understand. She doesn’t know what to do. Wine is no good to her lately, messing her mind up. Walk in the rain, have a nap, keep on writing, on digging further and deeper. She hates making decisions.
She finally decided to borrow an umbrella from reception and go to the shore. She misses the sea so much, like she needs to see far away to go out of her mind. She is not feeling well, her chest feels tight but walking helps. She stops at the sailing club. She loves that place, so beautiful and peaceful. She has an ice cream and an ice coffee. She takes a few photos then starts drawing and disappears for a while. She has stopped but her mind is not back, she almost jumps when the waiter comes to take her glass away. She was lost at sea, she can’t even remember what she was thinking about. But she feels calmer. The rain has stopped and she is off again. She stops at the seafront and sits on a wall. She puts her earphones on.

“I am what I am”, she looks away and listens to the song over and over and finally finds the right words to say goodbye. The weather is actually perfect for the circumstances. She cries, in a gentle way. A dog has decided to sit with her. A young woman in her red pajamas with teddy bears sits a couple of meters away. She looks very sad, her long hair hanging down, she is mumbling away. She can see her lips moving and the young woman can probably see hers doing the same thing. She wants to sit next to her and gently hold her hand but she is not brave enough. After a while she decides to move on, she looks at the pajamas woman and they smile at each other. She walks away but feels the urge to turn around, the young woman has moved and is sitting exactly where she was sitting 30 seconds ago, it makes her smile.

She goes back to the pizzeria, she is ok, moved and sad. She wants to share her feelings with her two men. Her husband responds telling her how beautiful what she wrote was and that he loves her and it makes her smile. Her soul mate doesn’t respond and her heart cringes. She tells herself, that he is busy, he hasn’t look at his phone, he has a life, he’s angry, he’s with his Mum, or maybe something happen to him, that always gives her goose bumps, whatever the reason, she keeps telling herself it’s ok, but of course it’s not. She has to learn not to feel that way, she really has to.
Tomorrow she will go back home, but she will still be on her own. She feels easier but also fearful. Is that the way it is going to be, one day she’ll be fine and the next she will not. She tries so hard to understand, to evaluate, to change her perspective on life. He was asked that question, and his response was clear cut, organized, but she hasn’t got his drive, his determination, his conviction, and in a way that’s ok. She likes her vulnerability and indecisions, that is what’s makes her who she is. And that’s all right.


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