Today I came across a faded pink post-it note in an old book of mine. I recognised my own handwriting, hasty and unintelligible as ever. It was a Maya Angelou quote, sieved through the filter of a shaky, sceptical hand: "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you."
This got me thinking. About life, literature, and the importance of good stories. You’ve heard this before: life cuts me, and I bleed stories. They’re the backbone that holds my sense of self. Without them I would shrivel and collapse, calmly but steadily implode.
I like to think I’m able to amass the chaos, the facts and the anecdotes, the places and the people that come crashing in and out of my life, and shove them into the reassuring boundaries of a story, the straight lines of an archetypal narrative, the solid silhouette of pre-written characters.
It’s a tool for survival, the shelter in which I seek refuge during the storm of the week. I have been accused of living in a permanent state of denial, of being out of touch, turning a blind eye to alternative realities that are foreign to my eyes, but possibly more valid than my fantasies.
So I’ve tried to change a little bit. Some things have happened. Or more precisely, some people have happened. They came and they left and, for the first time, I chose not turn them into a story. Exhausted and in desperate need of change, I thought that maybe I would keep some things to myself, leave some of these stories untold. I decided to be an internal observer, to stay present - but remain still.
I sat back and, contrary to everything I believe in, I just let things be. And just like that, I was haunted by the ghost of the unspoken word, an insidious thought that penetrated my dreams and turned them into nightmares. It whispered in my ear, begging to be banished, pleading to be turned into a more-or-less cautionary tale.
And that’s exactly what I'm doing now. I have returned to the crime scene, as they say. And here I am, with nothing tangible to remember it by, only memories and impressions made blurry and unreliable by the state of emotional and physical intoxication I was in when I first collected them.
This is an experiment. It’s the story I tell today versus the story I’ll tell in a couple of months, when the dust will have settled and the bitterness will have lost some of its fierceness. It’s going to be a completely different story, then. And maybe that’s for the best. Maybe that’s the only way for me to finally learn that time is relative and so is my perception of the damage caused by some of the incidents of the present.
All I have to justify this feeling is a song, the memory of hands on legs, formerly meaningless details of my face that I now have to confront every time I wash my face before bed, a bag of ground coffee that stayed in my life for longer than the people I drank the damn coffee with.
It’s the small things: a crumpled receipt, a bench in the park, a bike in the hallway, a sign in the street. It’s a reminder that the most bittersweet stories are those we will never be able to tell because they only existed in our heads, little more than fairy-tales, well-rehearsed prayers to recite at night to dispel the monsters produced by the sleep of reason.
It’s the story of two paths that crossed, briefly, of a person who set to live a story of their own, leaving a vacuum that only I can see, deeper and larger than my capacity for love and gloom, a trap we’re both bound to stumble on, sooner or later.
I am torn between the shoulds and the coulds, the graceful acceptance of the fact that everything ends and the foolish hope that makes me say: I don’t want to change you but I still want to save you. I don’t need your love, but I need you to need mine. I want to talk to you about the things you can’t see now but will only see when the time is right, be it tomorrow or in twenty years, when I’m someplace else, doing God knows what with someone who is capable of receiving what I am willing to offer.
You're not for me. But I still want to sit and listen to the stories you can’t bring yourself to say out loud, to be let into your truth, finally catch a glimpse of your authentic self, minus the drugs and the booze, free from the chains you’ve wrapped yourself in to convince everyone (and yourself) that you’re stronger than you really are. I want to prove you that you're not broken - but you just choose to "feel nothing" because it's easier that way. And forgive my arrogance, my claim to know you better than you know yourself. Allow it, ‘cause you don’t see what I see.
I don’t want you but I want to be there for you, present, I want to prove you wrong, show you that love is real and that you're capable (and worthy) of it. I want to heal the wounds you’ve neglected for far too long, make you a believer in the beauty you can’t see in this very moment, and show you how to recognise it when it finally falls into your path, one day, in the shape of man that is not me.