In Three Hoops
By Aine Dodman
Trying to move him is difficult.
I move for him when I can, swiping the ignore button on phone calls and smiling at the cleaner when she comes in to empty the bins. He worries about what she thinks of him, what with the pizza boxes that constantly seem to take up space somewhere in the room and the twelve bottles of white wine on the wall, lined up neatly on the top shelf, reveal. I don’t want to write about this. I don’t want him to think it’s hurting me or anything like that, he’s already dealing with so much, and – I know how I can be. Our minds are troubled these days; untroubling people helps me a little. There’s so much worth untroubling about him.
Abby is a relatively good judge of character. She told me from the beginning that he was a good person and I believe her. She says the same about me because that’s what I need her to think. She has so much to deal with that it would be too much to put more on her mind. What I have that’s Bad I can keep to myself, just about. When it comes out I can see it building up on their Bad. That’s not acceptable, not for me. I’m talking about myself again, sorry, it’s not what you want to hear.
He doesn’t deserve this terror. None of them do, no matter how quiet they are about it they just don’t. Immobility isn’t a state of mind, it’s a symptom, but it feels like so much more. There’s just too much to feel to be able to move, too deep, too chasmic and heavy. Pressure comes from it, you can feel your brain, like it’s trying to burst through your forehead and you want it to, you want it to just end, it’s hopeless and continuous –
No. No, I won’t allow it. Not for him and not for Abby and not for Nick. They deserve to get through it. I don’t care about what happens to me in the process, if I can pull them back up onto the ledge I’d be happy to let my fingers drop. It might hurt them, though. I’m overestimating myself, what I’m worth to them. Once they’re through it, they’ll be better off without me. I’ll stop being useful.
Push them back up. I can still move.
He told me about the nightmares and the dreams the meds make him have, what they feel like. Sleep is meant to be the time when your mind rests but they won’t let him.
Dreams have always felt outside of me, but for him, they’re like a second life. I woke him up one day when I needed to leave for class and he jumped. I woke him whilst he was driving and it made him lose control. That’s what his dreams do. They fill in the gaps of the things he should be doing, and he can feel it. He dreams in actions, not visions. One night he woke up because he was flicking his fingers against my arm. In his dream, he was flicking his lighter. I didn’t feel it.
I message him whilst I’m in class to ask how his morning was, if he managed to get to his 9am on time, knowing that he’d left in time but still. First lesson of treating a patient is to keep them talking. He’s not my patient, that’s a stupid thing to say, but I have to keep him talking. It’s an implicit clause in our deal. If I keep him talking to me about what’s going on with him, I’ll talk to him about what’s going on with me. A fairly standard part of a relationship, you might think, and it is. Except if we didn’t, one of us would probably be dead. Imploded.
The first time I had to talk about something that was bugging me I cried for about half an hour before I could say a thing, and I had to fight the urge to sprint out of the room and run the mile and half home. I didn’t, maybe because I was naked or because I knew it was important to him.
Work stresses us both out but at least my hours are fixed, and they won’t stop me from not getting home before midnight when I have a 9am the next day. He has friends there too and they look after
him, cutting him the slack he needs when he needs it. I try not to talk about work around him, because there isn’t much to tell, other than customers are either rude or stupid or both, and none of my colleagues can stand me. Just the standard effects of being a fixedly miserable bitch, but what can you do?
I think I’ve trapped myself, not just here but to everything around me. I can’t leave this town because I can’t leave my friends; I can’t leave my job because I need the money; I can’t leave him because he needs me and I need him, and I don’t want to. I can’t die. The consequences of my death, at my own hand or otherwise, would ruin everything I’ve done. I’m tempted to do it, not all the time, but there are moments when the opportunity arises – a car speeding past when I’m walking towards the kerb, my hand on a knife when I’m cutting a carrot, a silent drooping moment when I’m smile-less and my eyes lock of a pair of nail scissors. But then I think about him, I think about my little sister, I think about my mum crying at my grandmother’s funeral, and I can’t.
Though I never forget that I have the choice. Don’t I?