Heartbreak, The First.
He's trapped in a huge block of ice. A lot of his tentacles are snapped. His eyes look frozen in fear.
This is a story about heartbreak. Well, not specifically heartbreak itself, but that sinking feeling when you look across the room, and you realize, in that split second, that he's not looking at you, he's not smiling at you, hell, you're not even in the picture. You're not going home with him tonight. You're just some woman, with a huge crush, who he's sort-of known for two years, and suddenly you're feeling very small, and very much like you would like to jump up, tear out of said room, and run down the street screaming and sobbing at the top of your lungs.
But you don't. You sit there, your life spiraling out of control, staring at the ice in some vodka drink you only ordered to look cool, and trying to work out how you're going to make it home without falling to pieces and crying in front of everyone. Because then he'll know. He'll know that I'm in love with him, and there's not a damn thing I can do about it. He'll also know, that I'm a coward.
A coward who is disgusted at herself for playing this, the role of the quiet woman. So quiet, in fact, that nobody even notices she's leaving. If I cry now, it'll all come out. Everything. And I don't want sympathy. I want contentment.
Somehow, I got home. I sat on the computer for six-and-a-quarter hours, rambling aimlessly to myself in TextEdit; a monologue that would never see anyone else's eyes but mine. It helped my sort out my head. Helped me rationalize that what I was feeling was important, that somehow it mattered to somebody, anybody besides me. At some point, I dragged myself away from the computer and slept until 2-something in the afternoon.
I woke up and couldn't get my eyes open at first. Oh fuck. No, no, not now. Am I dying? Please don't my last visions be of me getting my heart broken and --- oh. It's mascara. Sleep and mascara, fused together by a night filled with tears and vodka. I wash it away in the bathroom. Part of me doesn't want to look at myself. Okay, I lie. Most of me doesn't want to look at myself. But I do anyway. And I am a mess. A red, sobby mess, with a bulbous nose like a Christmas reindeer. I start crying again. My nightshirt quickly becomes my handkerchief.
I don't want to go to work. I don't want to go to stupid work, and wear their stupid tie-waist tops, and stupid culottes, smiling through my stupid goddamned teeth, and do everyone else's stupid crap that they don't want to stupid do. I'm done. So here is what I do. I get dressed. Black jeans, chucks, pale green t-shirt that I always wear to bed. Instead of brushing my short, bob-cut hair, I mess it up even more. I make a tiny screaming noise. It feels good. On my knees, I slump on the ground, and stare into the mirror. I DON'T want to go to work. No. I don't. No. I also don't know what to do. So back to the mirror. "I don't know what to do!" I cry, even though I know it's just a reflection. Suddenly I go into a sort of 'autopilot'. I just kinda 'switch off'. I take out my mobile. I turn it off. I go into the kitchen, and take the landline phone off the hook. I put on my headphones, plug them into my iPod, and leave the house with only my phone, money, keys, and music. It's all in my pockets, just like a guy. It's the first time since I was ten, that I haven't carried a handbag out the door with me. I feel free.
I also feel extremely sad.
I ride the tram sitting backwards, staring at what I'm leaving behind to the tune of Ben Folds Five's "Evaporated." I wanna cry, but not in front of everyone. I do anyway. I feel something poking at my hair, and turn around slightly to see. It's a little kid. I get the feeling he doesn't really understand that trying to pull my hair, might hurt me, but I'm pretty depressed, so I don't mind. I try hard to smile at him. He giggles at me and I make a face. The kid's face lights up and then they get off the tram. I realize that I'm trying to lift my mood. I also feel awful about crying in front of a little kid. I resolve to do something different today. I head to the city. I never go to the city. Because that's where I work. And all that going there does, is remind me that I'm all alone.
Today I want to be alone.
When I arrive, it's humid. Humid, and it looks like it's gonna rain, but it just won't. It's a 20-minute tram ride to the city from Brunswick, and the sky looks as ominous as I feel inside. I want it to rain. If it rains, then I can maybe cry a bit too and no-one will notice that it's not water on my face.
It doesn't rain. I walk. It's the top end of Collins Street. I get to the Rialto sign. The last time I went to the Rialto was when I was 16. A school trip known as 'Dusk 'til Dawn', where we toured the city at night instead of the daytime. The Rialto was one of our first stops. One of our last stops, was back at the school in Bendigo, 2 hours away. We got back far earlier than expected, at 4:30am. Mobiles weren't popular yet. I called my family repeatedly, until I ran out of coins. Come and pick me up. Please. I hid in a shrub for 3 hours until they arrived. The school was next to the Bendigo Prison. Two days later, I got my first mobile phone. At this point, I realize that I have been standing in the street, staring at the Rialto sign for about five minutes. I shake my head. I figure "Fuck. Why the hell not?" One ticket and a lift that screams through 80-something floors, and I'm looking out over the city. I go out onto the deck. It's all fenced in nowadays. Damn. I need this. The wind in my hair calms me down and dries my tears. For now.
I walk around the deck, looking out of the eyeglass things. And from somewhere, there is this thought: "What do they do, the people that live their lives in a straight line?". Why can't I do that? No, I have to be unpredictable. Constantly moving, constantly quitting, constantly starting again. A reinvention of the reinvention of myself. I look into windows and try to imagine conversations that I'll never hear, scenarios that I'll never be a part of. And I don't care. I have a strong urge to take off. Of the edge. I consider it for about five minutes, trying to work out how that might turn out for me, before I run to the lift and go back down to street level.
I walk again. This time it's a long walk. A walk that takes me down streets and side alleys, playlists, albums, songs, repeated songs, and songs I never want to hear again. And somehow, I wind up at the Aquarium.
I'd heard the stories and didn't want to become the next victim of their 'air-vent brand' of meningicoccal. I swore I'd never go in there. But I looked in and saw people everywhere. Feeling another wave of sadness and uselessness, I decided that I honestly didn't care anymore. If I got sick, I got sick. One, please.
Oh My God. A Shark. Just. Swam. Over My Head. And I just forgot why I was sad for a moment. iPod off. Fuck. This is the most awesome place I have ever seen. I walk into a glass wall and just stare out into the gigantic aquarium. For a second, I want to become a marine biologist. Then I realize that I don't know what marine biologists actually do, that I am a dreamer, and that as my math skills are poor-to-non-existent, I would probably fail the biology component on a grandiose scale, with a score so low, it would in turn bring down the grade point average for the entire class. I settle for being a musician. Hell, I can sing to the fishes. "HMMM..." I make a humming sound as I trace a line on the glass. I start to follow a gigantic stingray around the room as it flies over my head. Inches of thick perspex glass shield me from certain death.
After many hours of wandering about the aquarium, I find the giant squid. The one that is on all the posters and the building advertisements. "Come See The Giant Squid!" "Everyone! Behold Its Awesomeness!" And so on. But when I get there, I suddenly feel very, very sad. He's trapped in a huge block of ice. A lot of his tentacles are snapped. His eyes look frozen in fear. I stare at him for a long while. A part of my brain starts to wonder how I might go about rescuing him and putting him back in the sea, but I rationalize that I am just too small. I leave the aquarium, feeling so sad for the poor squid. Mr. Squid and I have something in common. We are both stuck, and we are both way out of our depth.
Walking back down through Southbank, through the underpass, and up over into Elizabeth Street, I realize I am not crying anymore. I go into a supermarket and buy myself some crackers and a bottle of apple and guava juice. I leave the store, swinging my food and drink around in a plastic bag. I board the tram and get home. I'm hesitant to turn on my phone, so I don't know how long I've been on my out. The sky still looks the same, and it's still light. But a breeze signifies that it will cool down soon. I figure it's late afternoon. So caught up in my angst, it is then that I realize that I haven't eaten all day.
I open the door to find my parents sitting on my couch. How did they get here? My parents live three hours away, didn't tell me they were coming down, and now I walk in and they're sitting on my couch and drinking my tea. "OH GOD! Thank...oh shit...oh thank goodness! Where have you--," Mum is quickly interrupted by Dad. "Gawd, if you knew the people that have been running around after you today, heheh." [yes, he really did chuckle! My 'disappearing act' happened not long after twin girls in a neighboring suburb had been raped and murdered in their own home. a lone cop shot the killer on a stretch of highway in the outback, but everyone was extremely worried that there could be a copycat going around. Ergo, I go 'missing', everyone goes frantic. I think my Dad's chuckle was more relief than humor.]
Mum gets up suddenly from the couch. Do I want a cup of tea? A biscuit? Some chocolate? No, not really. I'm okay, -- oh, actually, I might just have a little bit of the biscuit, that looks...nice. No, really, I just wanted some time to myself. That's all. No, nothing happened. I went out, I looked at stuff. They don't know about the guy. I don't discuss my relationships, or lack thereof, with either of them. And now is not going to be the time. That time comes two years later. Why did I turn my phone off? Because I didn't want to be bothered. Why didn't I call work? Because I hate work. "What?". My parents are sitting both on the couch again. I am sitting on the floor, cross-legged, balancing a cup of tea and a saucer on my knee and sucking the chocolate out of a biscuit. They are waiting for me to say something. I don't want to talk. My plan to come back home and cry myself to sleep on the couch, thwarted. "What is it? ". My parents search my eyes for some sort of answer. Again, they look concerned. The stench of discomfort hangs in the air, and makes my heart feel so heavy, that I wonder if it will break from its veins and drop into my stomach. "I'm sorry I went AWOL". We stare at other, silently. Tears start welling in my eyes. But I hold them back. My parents recount detail.
Okay, so here's what happened. I turned off all the phones in my house. I left without calling work to say I wouldn't be coming in today. Work called and called. Then they called my parents. "No, we haven't heard from her, why? WHAT?!?" My parents call me. No answer. They call all my phones. Repeatedly. No answer. So they worry. They call the police. The police come around to my house and knock on all the windows and doors. Not a sound, not a peep, not a single footstep on the carpet. It as at this point, that everyone simultaneously decides that Something Must Have Happened To Me. My parents fly down from the country and roost on my couch, waiting. Work calls my parents intermittently throughout the day. Any updates? No. The police tell my parents to wait 48 hours. Everyone I know begins to freak out. I walk in, "Hey, wow, hey, how'd you get here?, what's going on?". Everyone is called. False alarm. I sit on the carpet. Then I fall apart in front of my parents and tell them I just can't take it anymore. I'm 25. I'm a nobody. My job is crap, and I hate it, and I want to quit. Through a face full of snot and tears, I tell them that I think I might have depression.
They tell me, they can see I am extremely unhappy, but they don't think I have depression. Really they don't. They also tell me that there is a term for this, this running away from everyone and spacing out. It's called 'having a mental health day'. It is completely normal. I feel somewhat better, despite that fact that at this point, my face is red from crying, my nose is completely clogged with snot, and my head feels stuffy and a bit sore. They help me pack. I am going home for a few days to rest.
In time, I got over the guy. And met another guy...