Monday, 1 December 2014

Bygones Beth

(c) Denis Fitzpatrick, 2014

Dedicated to Elizabeth Bell: mea culpa.
                                                                                     
Rain always reminds me of unwanted passion. It’s raining now here in Chippendaille, shuttered Chippendaille, although ‘tis a light, sunny rain. ‘Tis also the middle of spring, 2014, and it looks like we’re going to be having a nice, roasting Aus summer. Why rain always reminds me of unwanted passion I do not at all know, perhaps because of its fleeting yet important nature. Passion has always scared me, the thought of someone desperately needing me, relying on me. I’ve always wanted security instead, the security of self-reliance, the only real security. Why I can’t exactly say. This need for self-reliance exclusively I’ve also had from as early as I can remember. In fact one of my first complete thoughts that I remember (I am perhaps a bit too introverted) is: ‘Trust no-one except yourself.’
     And unfortunately breaking this rule brought down disastrous consequences. Let me tell you about it.
     I had not long turned twenty-three years old and Bethany Bielle, also in her early twenties, had just moved into my share house in Chippendaille, on Dengar Street, just off of Chippendaille’s main artery of Cleveland Street, and after setting herself up upon the first night of her arrival she came downstairs to introduce herself to everyone, housemates and their friends, smoking pot in the large kitchen/dining area. I was there and when she said, ‘Hi, everyone. I’m Bethany’ my heart went out to her as I could plainly see that she was genuinely interested in making new friends. I decided to encourage her, and we talked about how she was coming off of heroin, and finding it very hard. Very hard indeed. And speed really wasn’t a good substitute because of its undisputed psychotic possibilities.
     What could I tell her?
     ‘Eventually. Eventually you’ll just get over it. It probably will arrive in small stages but you’ll get there. Just keep trying. Eventually.’
     ‘Eventually,’ Bethany repeated, looking at me with an appearance of an unlooked-for hope.
     She proved to be a quiet housemate even though she was always speeding. She was the only woman in the house and I tried to look after her, made sure she had at least one hearty meal every two or three days. Naturally she noticed my attentions, which were really more brotherly than romantic, being the eldest of three brothers, and she began calling me her ‘best, best beau. The only one that really cares for me.’ She was usually high as a kite when she said this, on pot as well, and initially I discounted it as idle rambling. But I guess I’m a typical male after all. She kept calling me her ‘best, best beau’, buying me the occasional sweet treat, asking me if I thought she was her ‘best, best belle.’ I always replied that I hadn’t decided as yet. That made her laugh.
     Yeah, so I fell in love with her, despite my best efforts to not get involved with a housemate, and eventually decided to declare it in a love poem. I know. Tacky and childish. But I have childhood issues which have always made romance difficult for me and thought this declaration would be the simplest, most straightforward way of gaining Bethany’s love.
     The trouble was that I shouldn’t have had any of the strong smoko before undergoing the necessary stress of the declaration. Before I headed upstairs to her room with my poem I noticed there was a small bowl of pot and a bong on the coffee table. Thinking some ganja would relax me I helped myself to a smoke. The marijuana made me anxious and paranoid instead, and while I was reading the poem I felt all normal inhibitions in my mind breaking away. Simply collapsing in on themselves to be replaced by whatever I defined as Right or Wrong, Good or Evil. And Bethany felt the brunt of this change, myself revelling in apparently a newfound power, in the grip of what I much, much later realised was legal insanity. I have very vague memories from this ‘incident’, with a vague recollection of saying that I was going to and not going to so deeply hurt her. At the time I thought that I had discovered a loophole in the Moral Law, allowing me to threaten harm but if I had no intention of following it through then it was not an Evil action. This realisation, I insanely thought at the time, seeing significance in each random observation, also redefines Good and Evil. Only I, then, had the real definitions of Good and Evil.
     I was of course completely wrong. And when I had sobered up the next day I was instantly horrified by the enormity of what I had done, by the sheer disgusting depths of my sins. I have never been a violent or disrespectful person so my natural shame at my actions made me decide to leave the share house before noon. I felt it was the most honourable thing to do.
     So, shortly before noon I left Dengar. Bethany had just then returned from a friend’s place in a van and I decided to wait until she stepped out. I then went up to her to bid her ‘Adieu.’
     ‘I’m leaving now, Bethany. I’m very sorry for what happened. I hope you have a nice life.’ She simply nodded, looking me in the eyes. Then I left her.

*

I bumped into Bethany exactly a week ago, in the heart of Sydney. By complete chance. I have never had a serious girlfriend since Bethany, simply being far too ashamed of my previous sins. But bumping into her I instantly saw the chance to explain my side of the story a bit more, to explain to her that I have a family history of schizophrenia on my father’s side and that ‘the incident’ was the product of insanity, that I was not in control of my actions in any reasonable and rational way. My schizophrenia is in full remission now so surely she could please spend just five minutes to fully hear my side of the ‘incident’?
     ‘Okay,’ she said. ‘But I want to have someone else there too, one of my friends. You can bring someone too.’ I chose to forgo the offer and in about half an hour three of us were at a café, Bethany, Rhonda, and I.
     I won’t bore you with the minutiae of that conversation, of how she revealed how terrified she was at the time, confused and terrified in a manner unlike any other. She said she knew if she were to flee the house I might get up and pursue her, aggravating things. So she decided to face the fear harassing her. I naturally expressed my long-felt and deep shame.
     But she revealed an ever deeper impact from my uncontrolled abominations: soon after I left she had begun entertaining thoughts of suicide, somehow becoming convinced that everything is simply an illusion, not real. Reality is impossible.
     It was when, the only time, that she drew a flatmate’s razor across her right wrist that she realised she was in serious trouble. So she went to her Doctor and confessed her trauma. Dr Cynthia Berring, knowing Bethany since she, Bethany, was  a teenager, decided to spend the next seven days showing Bethany that not all men, despite the one bastard, are monsters.
     Bethany told of how she responded well to the Doctor’s programme. She quickly realised that reason is a more powerful tool than she had supposed. She reasoned herself forward slowly, setting reasonable goals, finding a teacher’s assistant job that she absolutely still loves, and also had had a few romances since I had left.
     But the central thing she put down to allowing her to manage the pain I’d imparted was eventually throwing away my heart. Once, in her room, having recently bought a wristchain with sundry pendants, I accidentally let drop a heart pendant from the chain.
     ‘Beth,’ I jokingly said, pointing to the dropped heart, ‘I’ll leave my heart here in your safe keeping.’
     Beth made no comment.
     Anyway, after the last day of the sessions with Dr Berring, Bethany threw my heart into the bin. The terror was now trash and Bethany had been able to get on with her life again, albeit the far less trustworthy of those men interested in her natural good looks.
     When she told me that she’d thrown out my heart I was devastated. But looking about in angst I noticed that the ring on my right third finger had a heart in the centre. I had a wild, desperate hope.
     ‘Here is the heart, Beth. I’ve kept it isolated.’ She frowned.
     ‘Let’s meet again, go over our issues in more depth. After all, we were quite close in our own way and if all I ever can achieve with you is to be your guardian, an eldest brother, I will most earnestly thank God for being so. And never fail in my always clear duty.’
     Beth smiled, apparently genuinely pleased, and then looked around for the waiter. Eventually catching a waiter’s eye she signed for a coffee. Such imperiousness is very, very rare with her so she must have felt on the brink of a life-changing event.
     ‘So then at Dengar it was basically because you were an unmedicated schizophrenic?’ she then asked.
     ‘Precisely. But I had no idea of my family history. I know now and because I am compliant with treatment I am in full remission. Since about the middle of 2010.’ (I am now forty-two years of age.)
     ‘So it can’t happen again?’
     ‘Absolutely not. Not while I still take my anti-psychotics on time.’
      Her coffee soon after arrived. She took a sip.
     ‘Okay, Denis. I’ll give you another chance. But you’ll have to give me that ring with the heart in it. It’ll be a useful talisman in case things go wrong again.’
     I gave her the ring instantly.
     We soon bid our ‘Adieux’ and promised to meet up in a week, without Rhonda, at the same café at the same time to further tame our mutual demons. That is, tonight. We didn’t exchange phone numbers the last time we met so I trust that she’ll indeed be at the café. If she’s not, dear reader, I’ll most certainly let you know as that would be an ending contrary to the happy one I’m expecting from tonight. I won’t ask her out to a pub after the coffee, might be rushing things a bit. Anyway, now I’m about to start preparing a big dinner for me to be prepared for any eventuality tonight with the only woman I have ever wanted to protect in my best manner possible. Remember, if you don’t hear back from me, dear reader, Bethany and I are indeed beginning to properly mend. Adieu.


~~~

If you've been enjoying Denis' stories here you may also enjoy his debut novel, This Mirror in Me. It tells the story of Tonia Esqurit Ailbe, a mathematics professor, and her unusual manner of making
her home a social hub, her life's fundamental aim: sitting at her dressing table mirror and imagining socialising with friends and family. It seems the only way, for one reason or another, that she can achieve her deepest aim. It is available on Kindle at http://amzn.to/1gXGF9h for US $3.91, and via Smashwords, whom cover most of the other ereaders, at http://bit.ly/1k7DEIV for US $3.99. If you don't have a Kindle or other ereader you can download one for free onto your smartphone or tablet.

3 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Kindell. It's a fictionalised rendering of the acrimonious parting between my first real love and I.

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