How many times during your dance with the narcissist did you dread your home that you shared looming into view as you drove towards it or the taxi neared it? How many times did you sit wishing that you were still out and away from its dark, hulking menace as you fumbled for your house keys? How many times did you endure that drive back to the house with us at the wheel as the once vibrant conversation slowly dried up and a heavy, foreboding silence engulfed the interior of the vehicle. Can you feel that knotted sensation in your stomach again as you see our silhouette at the window where we have been evidently keeping watch for your return? The sickness rising in your chest as you see the door slowly open and left ajar, beckoning you inside but we do not stand there waiting to greet you as we foreshadow what awaits you.
It seems that it is only you that suffers this treatment in your own home. It is meant to be a place of sanctuary a place where the toils and troubles of the world outside your window are meant to halt at the door. It should be a place where you feel warm, loved and safe. Goodness knows you have attempted to instil these things in your home as you have worked hard to make it a pleasant and inviting environment, a place to relax and be yourself. Unfortunately, with us you succeeded too well in respect of that last part. Visitors to your home are always warmly greeted by us, cheeks kissed and hands shaken, a firm pat on the back as words of welcome are aired. We act the perfect host, accommodating guests, never hurrying them to leave, always offering a further drink. Of course you play your role as we order you about so you are the one organising the food and relaying the drinks, but it is done in a warm and appreciative manner which belies the reality of our standing over you. You pour the wine into the four glasses as you reflect on how this is the third set you have to buy this year and you are only in May as once the guests have disappeared into the night those glasses are thrown to the floor to shatter as some minor and entirely inconsequential transgression on your part is seized on and becomes the platform for a bout of intimidating fury. How quickly the host becomes the beast once the audience has departed. So many times you have insisted on our guests staying longer and on some occasions offered the spare room in order to keep what invariably follows at bay. Sometimes you have managed to stretch out their attendance until we have nodded off, infused with alcohol and a hearty meal which has enabled you to say good bye to our guests as we have snoozed as you prefer nor to wake the beast in two senses of the word. You tiptoe past us only pausing, ever the caring person, to place a blanket over us as you then quietly head for bed relieved to avoid one of those scenes.
When your taxi halts outside after you have managed to escape the house for a rare night out and you pay the driver, eyes flitting back and forth from that ajar door, the gateway to hell that has yawned open and is beckoning you in, your despair and apprehension rises. The outside world has no comprehension of what goes on between those walls. To everyone else you appear a content couple, enjoying a good lifestyle. Our carefully constructed façade ensures that we are afforded the recognition and status that our kind is entitled to. We ensure that everyone else knows us to be capable, successful, entertaining and personable. That is the reason we receive so many invitations to drinks receptions, dinner, evenings out and prestigious balls. You know that you must never decline them for attendance is mandatory to allow us to walk amongst our people and shine, drinking deep of their admiring fuel. We give speeches at charitable functions and announce a healthy donation as we maintain the gloss of decency and respectableness whilst kicking you under the table so that you smile to all who are looking our way. Our greatness is acknowledged by all in our community and the maintenance of this façade is hugely important to us and not something we can allow to be pierced or destroyed.
Yet all of the charm, the apparent generosity (those donations never come from our pocket but from those of a business we belong to our others we have persuaded to sponsor the event but we of course always take the credit) and the warmth evaporates once the threshold to our house has been crossed. At times, as we have driven away from an event, you have wanted to open the car door and jump out and run away down the road away from the impending horror which you know is waiting for you. You recognise the signs. There is the reduction and eventual extinguishing of conversation after we have muttered some terse criticism of you. You know better than to try to argue back. The drive seems to take an age and you can feel our churning fury as you sit beside us in the passenger seat. As we round the corner and the house comes into view you want to pass out, you want to be removed from the situation but you know you cannot. You walk with heavy footsteps towards that door. We always enter before you and leave it open, in the same way we do when you have gone out without us. It is a clear signal. You are entering our domain now and you will answer for your failure to smile at one of our jokes, or the fact you spent twenty minutes talking to someone else rather than stand laughing and supporting me amongst my coterie. You did not fill up my glass and attended to someone else rather than me. You wolfed down your starter which lacked elegance and decorum. You failed to make a bid during the charity auction. You went to the toilet during a speech. You rolled your eyes at one of my golden anecdotes (having heard it a hundred times before). The list of transgressions, both real and imagined, is long and we will always find something that you have done incorrectly during our time away from the house and once returned you will be punished as we unleash one of our manipulative tools from our devil’s toolkit in order to devalue you. We hope you might argue back and unleash some anger, but more often than not as we push the front door closed with a click and move towards you it is the upset and tears that flow. As our shadow falls over you, already your eyes are welling with tears as you know what will come behind that closed door. The charitable largesse we ladle out to the world at large always ends at home.