A tree grows beside an opening

A solitary porcelain teacup rattled on its mismatched saucer as a train passed nearby, its destination away from here, the lower panes of a window lightly fogged by the teapot which wispily waited upon the lacquered wooden table, its yellowing surface scratched and worn, her elbows resting at its edge as she sat there, forearms bending upwardly and coming together in clasped hands to support her head as it lay tilted on its side, her eyes unblinking as she gazed through the window, a pair of cranes screeching at one another as they alighted clumsily in the patchy grass which hatched angrily alongside a stagnant pond, blackbirds protesting noisily, a turtle easily slipping beneath the water’s surface from where it had been sunning itself on a broken branch, a stillness settling once more.

You are my only friend, she said. Can you help me understand why it is I become such a despicable thing when I am in the company of others—some others besides you, that is? We seem to find such peace and amity when together, an ability to be ourselves as we are, a tenderness unknown outside of these walls, the sincerity and kindness with which we regard ourselves, that joy we feel in our own company, the silent knowing as we exist so near to one another, our deepest intimacies entwining us as we conduct our lives gently within this room.

Though when it is interrupted, she continued, I come apart and behave maddeningly, as if I am without the means to control myself. I speak ill and act the same, as if I am a foreign thing, myself distanced yet remaining physically as an ugliness, this thing continuing in my place, a polluted proxy which knows nothing of my intention or identity: in a misused word, I become selfless, without self, with my true self finding itself lost and torn from here, banished into some manner of prison, unable to reconnect and intervene as such terribleness goes on and on, as if I am locked away and damned to view this catastrophe as it plays out in front of me, myself behind a thick wall of glass, myself separated, shorn, shrieking without a voice: Stop! Why must it be?

It is due to the fact that you detest yourself so, her self responded, that you cannot bear the shame of presenting yourself as you are. You have manufactured poorly-stitched-together identities out of scraps which you have found laying around, pieces and bits which you have witnessed others take kindly to, their shared affability and agreeableness with one another when speaking of this or that, displaying this or that, when relating to one another. You see this and take it for your own, stowed away, kept in the attic of your being, there to be retrieved when needed, when it is required that you be present apart from me. You slip into these fairy suits and fumble, for that is not meant for you and it is ill-fitting, you are not that which you are pretending to be.

You know little but what moves you genuinely, her self said, her own eyes shifting towards the window as well, settling on the menagerie surrounding the pond. The gentleness you feel when we are alone, together, is our selves allowing ourselves the comfort of being, authentically. We know of that which we adore, what moves us, what we agree to believe. We are not ashamed of those things, those thoughts, that aesthetic, this way or that. We feel—strongly—and what leaves us mute is that which identifies us, to our selves, precisely. We are friendless, not unfriendly. We are in pain, hurting, though not hurtful. We know the deepest joy, though are not joyful.

Our shame is what destroys us, the depth of this embarrassment, the gravity of feeling entirely worthless. Her self rises and moves across the room, settling messily on the floor, her face pressed against it, her body folding itself into herself, as she grows weary. Only when we feel comfortable will the monsters cease to come, cease to manufacture malady in an attempt to comfort us, to protect us, only to make matters worse. These foul, distorted attempts at preservation are our curse, dearest, so wipe away the tear and the thoughts which provoked it: let us escape into our selves, let us be with our private peacefulness, our playfulness, our own mirthful, mistaken ruin.