I will have told you that I only have eyes for you, that you are the one, that I am completely dedicated to you and that I only ever want to be with you. You make me say these things. It is your expectation of such faithfulness to you and you alone, indoctrinated into you by the world, that causes me to have to say these things. I need to fulfil your expectations in order to capture you and then keep you. It is a ridiculous state of affairs. Since when can a person be sustained on one thing alone? It is impossible. At its most basic, you are given only water to drink and nothing to eat. You will starve. Then if you are given just bread to eat your body will be malnourished as it is not getting the nutrients it needs from fruit, vegetables, meat and so on. One food stuff alone is not sufficient. Take your job. If you had to do the same thing over and over again, the absolute same task you will go out of your mind with boredom. Either that or you would lose your job to mechanisation. One thing is not enough.
Have you only ever had one relationship? Unlikely. How else would you know whether this is right if you have nothing to compare it against? Can one man win a football match? Of course not. He needs his team mates. Where does your stimulation come from? Are you confined to reading just one book repeatedly? No. One film seen countless times? No, you like and prefer a variety of silver-screened entertainment. Do you have just one person you interact with on a social level? Again the answer is no. You draw your social nourishment from different friends, family members, acquaintances and so forth. One is not enough.
I am no different. The thing that sustains me is fuel. I must draw this from several sources. Yet, my necessary actions in acquiring this fuel subject me to moral indignation and disapproval. How is that fair? I do not tell you that you must only eat one kind of breakfast cereal for the rest of your life, why should I be expected to gather my fuel from just one appliance? I need the variety. Not only is this necessary to ensure that I have fuel on tap at all times, it is necessary to provide the catalyst for the provision of fuel from my primary appliance. If I have nothing by which I can provoke a reaction from you, your free-flowing fuel will soon dry up.
The result is that you and I are never alone. There is no singularity despite all of my words asserting that this is the case. When I first ensnare you there will be another who is being subjected to my vitriol. You are most likely warned of this psychotic ex. What I am less likely to tell you about is my ongoing campaign of denigration in order to harvest further fuel from this harlot who has let me down. I will be faithful at first. Yes faithful by your understanding of the concept, namely that I will not physically consort with another. I am not faithful however in just being solely committed to you. I will be reaching out to others in order to bring them into my sphere of influence, most likely whispering the very same things that I have said to you. My lips may not lock with these new opportunities but that is more by accident than design. I have certainly locked with them in order to draw fuel from them. As I walk through the day those invisible fuel lines reach out and attach to most who I interact with.I am sure, judged by your standards, you would not be overly concerned about the methods by which I draw fuel from some. In other instances you would be most concerned. Yet, you must understand that I am only doing what everyone does. I am seeking variety. In your instance you do it because you prefer it that way. It is interesting. Maintaining a variance keeps things fresh and stimulating. In my case I have to do it. There may not yet be any lipstick on my collar but there are scores of fuel lines attached and in ways that you are always going to find distasteful. That is of course if you ever find out.
Remember when you would wake up and reach for your mobile ‘phone and find that loving and uplifting message that I had sent you? I always rose before you and ensured that a delicious, tantalising text was sent to you ready for when you woke. Like a morning cup of tea on your night stand it was that little gesture which made you feel special. It told you that the first thing that I thought of when I woke up was you. This message of love, desire, passions and excitement would provide you with the first buzz of the day, a delicious reminder of how wonderful I am and how marvellous we are together. The first text of the deluge that would follow throughout the day, scores of little gift-wrapped presents which you open and smile, laugh and melt over. Little did you realise that these messages had been recycled from your predecessor and would be used again for your replacement. Little did you also realise that two other people were receiving these messages first thing in the morning.
Now there is nothing. There is no chime of that early morning text. There is no winking light denoting the text waiting for you to open it. It is silence. As your eyes open, the conditioning that I caused makes you immediately remember how you used to feel when that text arrived. Where once you woke with excitement in your stomach now it is just the sharp stab of pain as you know there is nothing waiting for you. You understand this is how it should be, the need to stay away from me, but it hurts. It hurts so much and how long will this pain remain with you? Will it ever go away? Those months of daily morning texts has ingrained a pattern and a longing inside you and no matter how hard you try the first thought of your day is always
“Four months ago he was still sending me those wonderful texts.” Last month it was the same sentence only it began with three. You roll on to your back and though you know you shouldn’t, you cannot help but allow me into your mind even further as you recall those mornings where we ended up late for work because of our passionate love-making. That quick dart to the en suite and then back into bed where I was waiting for you. You turn and look at the empty pillow and that all too familiar bitter sweet sensations sweeps across you. You know you should not do this. You know you ought now to seek refuge amongst the ghosts of once what was, but it makes the pain lessen, just for a while and it is just a memory isn’t it, thinking about me just the one time cannot do any harm can it? Just the one time. You give a twisted smile at that sentence which has somehow become your daily mantra as you struggle to escape the toxins that I have left inside you, the legacy of my oh so effective seduction and poisoning of you. Just the one time you check on my tweets and who is following me and who I am following. Just the one time you parked near where I lived and watched slumped in your driver’s seat to see who might appear at my door. Just the one time you sent a friend to watch me at an event you knew I would be attended and to report back on what she saw. Just the one time you re-read the e-mails I sent you. It was just the one time for them all and more, well one time a week then one time a day, but I dont know what you are doing do I, so where is the harm? Just the one time you return to my Facebook profile, scouring it, looking for clues like some desperate detective intent on tracking down the prolific killer. You check what I have liked, a picture here, a comment there, some meme about relationships which could be a dig at you but you are not sure. Any trace of you has been erased from my profile, gone are the messages, the comments and the pictures. Somebody else is there now, although there is some ambiguity. A red-headed woman appears in several pictures, laughing with me. You see one where her arms is draped around my shoulders and you feel the burning jealousy and anger and curse both you and I for this feeling. You fling your tablet to one side, muttering under your breath, just the one look having derailed your day before it has begun and vow not to look again. But you will. Just one look. A journey through the carousel of pictures, checking fingers to see if rings have appeared on them, of both me (it would be awful to see that rings on my wedding finger, something I always denied you) and of the women I pose with (it makes you feel sort of better if they wear a ring, that means that they won’t be with me, doesn’t it?)
You skulk amongst my twitter posts and return to my profile on my work website, reading the biography which you know off by heart. Your fingers rest on my profile picture as you see again the tie which you bought me for that particular photo shoot. Some days you wish it would be updated and then others days this once look makes you feel that perhaps I do not hate you, how can I if I still allow this picture to remain? You try not to think about me but somehow your mind just wanders there of its own volition, snaking through a thousand memories that spring up each day. Perhaps you will stay awhile amidst them, just the once minute of remembering. At the weekend you drove out to the forest path we used to amble along during sunny September mornings. Nobody else was ever there. Just you and I. You walked that path again, it was just the one time you needed to do it, to converse with the ghost of my presence as you found yourself talking aloud to me as if I was still walking beside you, holding your hand. It was meant to be just the one time but you have returned three times since, each time swearing that this time is when you exorcise those spectres.
What am I doing now? No doubt getting ready for work, perhaps showering and singing away as I once did in the shower we shared. Am I with somebody? Is somebody preparing breakfast for me or reclining in bed waiting for me to return to the bedroom towel draped about me? It seems so long since you have heard from me and so much remains unanswered, unsaid and unresolved. How would I react if you rang me? You cannot bring yourself to delete my number, just in case there was that one final conversation which could take place and put so many issues to bed, slay so many demons and close so many doors. That would all that it would take surely? Just the one conversation. Keep it business like, keep your emotions in check but just to get some answers so you can move on. Surely that is owed to you? You wonder whether I would answer if you rang me? How would I react if I saw your number on the display? You doubt I have blocked you, why would I do that? Your fingers toy with your phone, you need to know, just the once, just to make the hurt go away. You find my name. You want to hear my voice again, talk and no more but you feel anxious and the trepidation crawls over you. You need to know. You need the answers. What about ringing me and then stopping before I answer to see if I call back? Yes, that is a good idea, that would then show that I do want to talk to you, without the fear of having me hang up on you. That’s it. You will telephone me again after these months of nothing and let it ring and then this ever present agony can be eased. The questions can be answered when I call you back. You will not melt into my arms again. No, you are going to resist those sweet charms because you know what lies behind them. You have earned your stripes in that regard but you need to have this conversation, for yourself. You need to know I will talk to you. A text message isn’t immediate enough. I might not see it for some time or delay in replying, but a missed call, that brings a potential for urgency and immediacy and I am bound to respond to that aren’t I. You will call me. You will call and let it ring. Just the one time.
Society and people need rules. The requirement for regulation looms large in everyone’s life. Pay your taxes, don’t park in that place, don’t drop litter, say please and thank you and so on. From laws to rules to codes of conduct, through to convention to procedures to etiquette we are bound up in rules wherever we go and whatever we do. People grumble and complain about them but ultimately they prefer the world to have these rules. People like to know where they stand. You know what you can and cannot do. You may not agree with it, but you at least have some certainty. Those that found themselves in the horror of concentration camps complained that there was never any certainty to the day. You could be subjected to punishment for walking too slowly one day and too fast the next. It was random and awful, yet such a system is horrendously effective at undermining someone’s will and paradoxically causing them to try harder in order to avoid a sanction.
Our behaviour is much the same. There is no rhyme or logic to it. Last week I said I liked sugar in my tea and this week I do not. I deny that I said I liked sugar in my tea and moreover this triviality causes me to erupt in rage when you put sugar in my drink this week. You are confused and anxious by this random control that I exert over you. It is all intentional. Do not make the mistake of thinking that we cannot recall what we said or did the previous day, that we are somehow blind to our previous likes and dislikes as if affected by some form of amnesia. This disorientating tactic is deliberate. You may as well ascribe outcomes to the numbers two through to twelve and roll two dice. That gives you just as good a chance of determining how I will behave. One week I sleep with the bedroom window open, the next it must be closed. Yesterday I want silence in the kitchen in the morning, today I want the radio on. Each day you are put on parade and then awaiting the inevitable criticism as I will find some fault in order to control you, demean you and provoke a reaction. I am like an insane regimental sergeant major who deems the buttons on your uniform to not shine enough despite the hours you spent polishing each one. Like his parade ground bark, I will unleash my haphazard criticism of you with a barrage of abuse, raising my voice and making you wince with each syllable. We understand the effect of repeatedly being shouted at and it causes you to submit to our demands Invariably I will see what you are doing and pick the opposite as being what I want. I am a natural contrarian. All of this is done to maintain your heightened sense of anxiety, forcing you to second guess and thus become conditioned to our will. Periodically we will approve of what you have done and your sense of relief is so overwhelming you receive a natural high. This in turn causes you to want to repeat it and therefore each and every day you are walking on those eggshells as you try to please us and avoid our erratic and groundless rage. There is no system you can depend on, no method of working out what is safe to do and what should be avoided, yet still you will try. As ever, you want to make matters right and keep the peace.
Chances are you are reading this on your mobile ‘phone, a tablet or a laptop, enjoying the mobility that is provided by accessing content such as this from an electronic device. You might be at home, curled up on the sofa or you quite possibly are reading this sat on a stool in the kitchen waiting for a pan to boil or a microwave to go ping. Alternatively, you may be on the bus or train, perusing this latest piece of writing with other people nearby and passing you by. Can you see the bus driver? You can. How did you know that it was him? By virtue of his position at the steering wheel of the vehicle, obviously. His uniform and company livery on his shirt, jumper or jacket might also tell you his role. You may be stopped at a station or some traffic lights and you can see a police officer handling an enquiry, marshalling the traffic, handing out a ticket or just casting a watching eye over the world around him or her. How did you know that he or she is a police officer? The uniform stands out most distinctly, as it is intended to do. Easy to spot isn’t he?
How about the man sat across from you? Who is he and what does he do? He is engrossed in the content of his tablet but you can see that he isn’t reading but is looking at some charts. An analyst maybe? A salesman checking his sales performance? A statistician looking over the latest data concerning crime rates in the city? He could be any of those couldn’t he but you could make an educated guess as to his role. What about the lady who is getting on the bus now, what can you tell about her? She is struggling with a buggy and two large bags of shopping as she is ensuring a toddler also clambers on board. Most likely a housewife and clearly a mother. You can see a wedding band on one of her fingers so she is married. Her husband is probably at work as she attends to the running of the house. You have gathered all that in a moment.
Perhaps you are walking home and as you scroll through this article you notice that someone is walking behind you. You lower your ‘phone and look over your shoulder to see a well-dressed gentleman walking briskly along carrying a briefcase. You do not regard him as a threat and you resume looking at your ‘phone as he catches you up and then passes you without incident. Your assessment of him was proven correct. Just like the time you approached a subway late at night and saw half a dozen tracksuit wearing youths hovering nearby. You were taller than them and older than them but something about the way they were stood made you realise that they were looking for trouble so you decided against taking the subway and found a different route albeit longer and circuitous but your safety mattered more than your aching feet.
You evaluate and assess everyone you meet. In conversations with friends you sit and listen and look for visual cues that they are interested in what you are saying. Poker players scrutinise their opponents as they look for the “tells” to assist their gameplay. Boxers stare into one another’s eyes before the bout begins seeing who will break off the stare first and concede a psychological advantage to his opponent. Judges watches witnesses carefully and through their facial expressions they are given hints as to whether the witness is giving his or her evidence in a truthful manner, this observation allowing the judge to assess the veracity of the witness. In bed with your intimate partner you will watch their face and listen to the sounds they make to ascertain what is working for them and what you should do more of. You can tell by the way somebody is walking through the office that with shoulders hunched and head down they are not in the mood to be approached and asked a question about a forthcoming meeting. That person in the corner of the room at the party is staring at the floor feeling too shy to speak to people. Each and every day you assess hundreds of people and make an instant decision as to who they are, whether you like them, whether you want to help them or if they present a threat to you. You instinctively know that certain ways the eyes look amounts to a warning, the slope of the mouth denotes irritation, the tilt of the head confirms a certain cockiness. The way someone stands, sits, walks and gesticulates all tells you something which you process in an instant. You gather so much from a lifetime of watching nostrils flare, lips thin, chins jut, brows furrow and eyes widen. Assessment after assessment is made and invariably accurate ones which enable you to negotiate your way through the day, through life as you interact with so many people in your private life, in business and socialising. You are highly adept at reading the signals, working people out and anticipating what will happen next. It is a highly developed and impressive skill.
Astonishing how much of this goes out of the window when you meet one of us.