Anxiety

I had a bad dream. In that dream, I killed Sarah. But killing her wasn’t the bad part. The bad part was that when I woke up, for one brief second, deep satisfaction swept over me. It left me cold on the spine.

Sarah was my best friend. I couldn’t remember since when we had become close but we did everything together. We went to the same classes, we talked about boys, we braided each other’s hair, and we shared dirty little secrets. She knew me more than I knew myself, which sometimes even creeped me out, but I couldn’t say I knew her the same way. I don’t think I really knew Sarah. I mean, yes, I knew her, but not in that intuitive way that I could instantly get all her thoughts or predict her actions. I only understood what she chose to show me. Beneath that carefully crafted surface was the mystery of Sarah that both scared me and drew me to her. There were times I felt like I did really get to her, I could surprise her with my detailed analysis of her inner working. But then I became the one who got surprised. Shocked even. She could suddenly get intense, random, unbearable. She would meddle in my business without my permission, or manipulate me to do something she saw fit which I often regretted later. Though she would make sure she could never get blamed for it. It was always something else, something outside of herself, something she did to protect the ones she loved which largely included me. And I always believed her. I thought it must be for my own good. She said, “I love you.” She said, “This is not okay, let me handle it for you.” 

When did this all start? Maybe it had been that way since the beginning. But what I remembered the most was three years ago when I fell head over heels for a boy at work. Of course, it was a boy. It was always some boy that brought Sarah and me closer together, sometimes too close it became suffocating. Sarah didn’t care about this boy but she did care a lot when something wasn’t going well between me and any object of my desire. She would be there, watching my every move. She would ask me a lot of questions and she would list all the scenarios how things could go wrong so I could be emotionally prepared. Sometimes it helped me manage my expectations but there were times it made me feel really nauseous. I couldn’t tell if Sarah’s involvement was good or bad, but then I thought at least she was always there with me. When one day the boy finally ignored all my text messages in a painfully casual manner which could only be interpreted as “you’re so insignificant to me”, I couldn’t move for a day. But indeed, I wasn’t alone. Sarah was lying in bed with me the whole time. She placed her hand on my chest, feeling the drums of my heart and the weight of my pain. It was the first time I’d felt her so close to me. She whispered, “Stay still, stay still, don’t move,” while I found myself sinking in the ocean of my own despair.

She did the same during my every breakup, when I downed enough substances and couldn’t sleep at night, or even after I had sex with a guy on a first date and hated every inch of my impulsive self. She made me believe I was worth more than being just a quick lay, casual evenings, and not being fully chosen. She told me my body was sacred and needed to be treated as such. She wanted to make sure I was always desired and cared for by the men I was with... sometimes almost as though she thought I could never be okay on my own. That was how a narrative was formed in my head, along with the standards and expectations and specific timeline of everything I should’ve done to deserve myself, the self she believed I truly was. Meanwhile, I was dealing with my natural desires, needs, and wants, which often times conflicted with the beliefs she wanted to instill in me. I wasn’t sure who was right. I wasn’t always sure why I had to look outside of myself for the safety I should and could provide for myself, why the absence of something or someone could threaten my value and wholeness as a living human, why my self-esteem was tangled with so many stupid things out of my control or even with men whose opinions I had few reasons to care about. She told me I should care. Because being well liked was rewarding and beneficial and life-saving. She told me I should try to gain all the control because that was how I could finally be safe. She seriously wanted me to be safe. She cared about me and she was confident she knew better than me. It was true I must admit. She’d saved my life in the past. She’d stopped me from doing plenty of reckless things, or even from harming myself and others. She said, without her, I’d go crazy. I’d get tied up somewhere, nights after nights. I’d jump out of windows, sleep in bloody bathtubs, and slit throats for fun. Without her, frankly, I’d be a psychopath. All too dramatic? Maybe. But well, she got a point.  

I had imagined my life completely without Sarah and it wouldn’t be the most pleasant, for others and ultimately for myself. I would feel little shame, little remorse, no real sense of danger, and I would probably check every bullet point on that reckless list of hers, or even worst. In other words, you could say, I would be very fascinating. How comes, you might ask? Because there would be no way to predict me. I would be impossible to grasp, and don’t we all love what we can’t understand? I would become some sort of muse, a case study, a fantasy, a thrilling real-life nightmare, and ultimately the reason many stay awake at night -- including family members, lovers and potentially lovers’ family members. But I wouldn’t give a fuck about any of these people. I would be free. I would not think twice about leaving my breasts and bum freely enjoying fresh air inside my black dress, about admiring my own curves in front of a mirror and other pairs of eyes, about walking away when holding on only made me want to puke, about saying it as it is -- that some people made me want to puke and do rude things to them. I would splash the juice in that boy’s face four summers ago, I would leave one naked and soaked in front of my apartment, I would force their head down and down there until it could sort of make up for the way they continually punished me for my decision to share my body with them, and I would not look back for any reason whatsoever. Or even if I do, I would feel nothing and think of nothing. I would see everyone as exactly the mortal men they are in bones and flesh, no more no less, and I would make them squirm understanding that their feeling of superiority and everything they had proudly achieved in life was ultimately bullshit -- but with so much confidence that they would find the honesty, again, fascinating and irresistibly sexy. I would use my own body for my benefits -- no shame, no insecurity, no nervousness. I would stop subjecting myself to so much nonsense, desires bound by nothing. I would have so much more fun and take no shit from anyone. No value, no time to play, goodbye.     

But of course, there came Sarah. Like clockwork, she scared me with the consequences of every little thing I entertained doing. She wouldn’t leave me alone. “You, what are you doing? What if they get back at you? You. Take care of yourself, won’t ya? You want to slit throat? What if yours is the one to get torn open first? What if no one wants you anymore? Without people, you’re just worthless.” So, I said, “I don’t know, Sarah. What if I don’t care? What if I just bloody do what I want and move on with my life like nothing gets to me? What if nothing gets to me? What if I have no need to be met by anything outside of myself? I mean who the fuck cares if I already don’t?” See, that’s how we usually got into an argument. And that’s where I couldn’t read Sarah. Because Sarah didn’t just have one reliable reaction to all this. I wouldn’t know what button of her I had just pressed, or if a terribly wrong one. But let’s save that for later. Because seldom did I manage to get there. Normally, before I even had the time and strength to fireback, she would already take control of the situation and sit me down like a puppy dog. “Listen to me. Don’t you dare to fight me. Haven’t you learned from the past? Do you not remember how bad you were hurt last time? How much work we had to get done together to bring you back to normal? Don’t you feel it right now?” It was her tactic. She always made me remember. And it was all too vivid. I could feel the end of me coming, the weight of my own existence pinning me on the hard ground -- which made me wonder how something empty could be so heavy. I got really, really scared of what might happen to me. Then the headaches and chest pain came. I found myself swallowing a few tablets to ease the ugly physical feelings. I was lying on the floor by the side of my bed like a fetus both scared and desperate to be aborted. I was practically paralysed. Sarah was there the whole time, watching me suffer, looking pleased. She whispered in my ear sweetly, “I’m sorry but see, this is much better than you running out there making trouble. Let me take care of you. Let me get you through this. Tomorrow will be better. You will be fine, baby.”

That routine was toxic, yet addictive. It had turned into a very, very bad habit. I became dependent on Sarah. It got to a point where I wasn’t actually keen on going through with any of my fun crazy ideas but instead anticipated her to come and tend to me like a mother to a sick child; otherwise something would feel missing. Sometimes I suspected that she might have drugged me in some fashion at some point… or even over a period of time. I couldn’t know for sure. I just felt so frustrated and angry at how much power she had over me, and especially my inability to fully fathom this. Perhaps that’s what happens when you’re so close to someone, you share with them too much, you leave yourself no space to grow and live your individual life free from unsolicited influence. Or maybe she was jealous of all the fun I could have without her. Maybe she was just a sadist and I was the chosen victim, the one most accessible to her. I really couldn’t tell. I just knew that I didn’t want to feel anymore the pain and fear and dependency on all sorts of random things outside of myself, or like I was completely worthless. So, in my dream, I killed Sarah.

It was a sexy dream. She was lying in bed next to me with her hand placed on my chest as usual. She was beautiful when she was asleep with her feminine figure finally still, no force, no tension. I turned to her and held her hand throughout the movement so it wouldn’t drop off my chest. My body was closer to hers than ever, all my senses possessed by her peaceful beauty -- a very rare scene indeed. Holding her hand didn’t feel enough; I remembered wanting to caress her face, draw my index finger along her pale neck down to her defined collar bone then down more to the pretty, soft parts -- just out of a long-suppressed curiosity. I wondered what it was that made Sarah so concerned about me, what she saw in me exactly that made her care so much. Regardless, it gave me a surge of affection towards her, accelerating my breathing. Then she opened her eyes and stared right back at me. She smiled with a pointed look, our intertwined fingers instantly tightened, I could hear my heart thumping. She always seemed to know exactly what I was thinking and what to do to me. She got me like I was a little bitch -- even then.

That thought immediately wiped away all the positivity in me. I felt overwhelmingly resentful. I wanted her to pay for all the control she had over me, all the tablets I had to take, all the crazy fun robbed off me. However, for a few minutes straight, as though she knew I’d got another reckless idea whose subject this time was none but her, she paralysed me with her actions -- she started touching me. Sarah forcefully locked our fingers, anticipating my discomfort. Her other hand slowly moved down my legs while she kept the eye contact and devilish smile. She felt my inner thigh with her palm, blood rushing to my face. She was warm, I was heated up. As her fingernails slowly moved upwards tingling my sensitive skin, I couldn’t help but squeeze my legs together. Embarrassment swept over me. But truly, it only intensified the excitement. I wanted her to go in. I wanted her to make me moan, to finally give me some pleasure. But I was so mad. So mad that she had me even in this orgasmic moment. I couldn’t let her win. I decidedly broke my hand out of hers and grasped her other hand before it found its way inside of me. Just when she lost the grip a little, I pushed her flat on the bed and climbed on top of her, positioning her neatly in between my legs. I must say I thoroughly enjoyed her shocked expression. Especially that look of disbelief and defeat on her stupid face. I was so satisfied. I felt fully enabled and revived by a newfound power. Meanwhile, Sarah quickly regained her composure and jerked her chin at me challengingly. She didn’t even bother to fight back as if knowing for sure I wouldn’t dare to do anything to her. Normally it would piss me off but it didn’t matter then. All the better. I bent down close to her face, whispering in the same manner she usually did -- full of control and aggressive gentleness, “Thanks god, you finally shut up”, then I proceeded to do the same thing she was about to do to me. As she grasped the situation and her pupils quickly dilated, I pulled down her underwear with one hand and thrusts two fingers inside her in a motion that was so rushed she shrieked in pain. I repeated it until she couldn’t contain herself no more. I pulled my fingers out, leaving her dripping and rough, traces of white and red sticky on my fingernails. My blood still wouldn’t stop boiling. I grabbed the pillow next to her and forced it down her face. She shook uncontrollably, making struggling muffled noise like a helpless rat. Five minutes later, my dear Sarah went still. Her legs stopped moving, her arm dropped by her side, her pale skin looked like it was about to turn parchment-white. In deafening silence, I realised what I’d done.

I woke up, my entire body sweating. Sarah was watching me by my bedroom’s door as though she was studying an object. I sat up, meeting her dim eyes. We were both quiet. “Did you just have a nightmare?”, she asked, still keeping her distance. I nodded. Looking at her like this, I wasn’t feeling sorry about killing her, but I didn’t wish she had been dead either. I suspected she knew it. She knew I wasn’t too happy about the dynamics of our relationship and what it had come to be. She said, “You know it’s not about me, right?” I raised my eyebrows, letting her finish. “Why would you want to kill me? I heard you saying it in your sleep. Go die Sarah. Why?” I felt nervous. “I’m sorry…” “Don’t be,” she said firmly. “It’s okay you want me to die. But you know however you feel about yourself is not on me, right? I’m just trying to protect you.” I was caught off guard. I had never seen this calm, soft side of her. I had expected her to storm inside the room and yell at me in full rage once she caught my ill-wishing mumbling. But she just left. I didn’t have to put up a fight. I didn’t have to yell back at her that I didn’t care about the consequences of my actions. She just left. No button was pressed. No force was exerted. The battle lost its meaning, the cause vanished. There, she managed to surprise me yet again.

For a while, she didn’t come around to see me. Life was just quiet and normal as I wasn’t too bothered to be a full-on psychopath either. Though I couldn’t get that soft side of her out of my head. I thought long and hard about what she’d said that day. She might be onto something. Indeed, it wasn’t on her. I kept looking at her for approvals which she didn’t have any to give -- I did. I kept searching outside of myself for answers which no one actually knew but me. I kept thinking the world owed me something but it didn’t; it got here first. I kept waiting to be filled up but I was already full. I was already so full. System flushed of self-generated adrenaline; every curve, every strand of hair, every smooth surface rightfully attracting attention; heat radiating endlessly. I was alive. I was everything I needed, and I was free. I understood this but I had never been able to live it. And that’s why Sarah was always so worried about me. She didn’t think I was capable of getting here -- trying to kill her and eventually being okay without her, without anyone. It was my fault. I had never stood up for myself. I had never assured her that I understood I didn’t belong to the past or the future but I existed right here, and right here I didn’t need her or anyone for that matter. Right here I was safe. Right here I was all I needed to be happy, to feel good, to bathe in the power of my physical existence. And there was nothing to be worried about, life always went on. A little bit more slowly then, but it was nice. I started to savour the normality without Sarah. I couldn’t say I wanted her back, not immediately, but I wondered about her often. I wanted to have her stand by my bedroom’s door again telling me it wasn’t on her. I wanted to keep that safe distance between us so I could be able to breathe, to heal, but I also wanted to know that if I had ever told her to leave me alone, she would, and if I had told her to come back, standing right there watching over me, she would too. Just close enough to protect me, and far enough to let me be half the psychopath I could be.

Now and then, Sarah would visit me. She still cared about me. She still did what she usually did. But I wasn’t so defensive anymore. I had come to accept her and our special relationship. It helped that for the first time in a very long time, I knew so sure that I was okay. There was this idea long planted in my head that I wasn’t, but it was simply unfounded. I had always been okay, with or without Sarah. I had underestimated my own power to draw the boundary between us. I should’ve known that intense and domineering as she might seem, she would listen. All I needed to do was to take a deep breath and tell her, “I’m safe, it’s okay”, and she would let me be. She would gently let go of my hand and we would both realise nothing terrible happened. “Sarah, don’t worry too much about me. Let me be here, be me, concerned about no past and future, and enjoy this present fully.” I would say, and she would nod, smiling, leaving the bedroom door open.