by Emma-Jane Bradbury-Jackson
Who are you? I don’t think I recognise the person anymore. How many years did “I know you” and now? Now I hear stories, the whispering, that once was so soft and quiet that I could almost ignore it, like a very gentle sea breeze or a light, rippling wave that was a little bit louder as the tide came in, but when it went out, the whispering was lost once more, getting swept away with the water. Now, the light, rippling waves have gained momentum, but with a more sinister undercurrent, and with a tinge of sadness. I realise that these stormy waters are not going to abate any time soon, but they will only increase and become more stormy, more violent. The once beautiful, sparkling, crystal clear blue water has turned murky, a dangerous undertone to it. The ripples, once calm and gentle are now increasing, reaching a deafening crescendo, chaotic, frenzied and something I can no longer ignore.
I remember when I first met you. Your smile was comforting after a torrid childhood. I really wanted to trust you but after years of bullying and betrayal, I was cautious. It was easier to doubt you, to think that you would cause me harm, hurt, upset and more misery.
But over time, my doubts began to ease. I let my guard down a little, trying to rationalise it in my head. Surely this time it would be ok, wouldn’t it? And as the months and subsequent years rolled on and out before me, my doubts seemed silly, trivial and eventually they became redundant.
Gosh, you used to make me laugh with your wicked sense of humour. We seemed to be on the same wavelength. Looking back, perhaps I should have seen your inner demons, your tortured soul quietly crying in pain. A little like the gentle rippling waves I could see, but over the years, especially the last three, the tortured soul and inner demons you had tried to hide, could no longer be quelled or silenced. In fact they erupted, like an active volcano, spewing lava-like venom all about you, burning that could be likened to a devastating inferno, and one that could not be extinguished under any circumstances.
How could a person with such a contrasting temperament be so kind to me? When I was very ill, you were goodness personified, collecting me from hospital, going on long walks together. Nothing seemed to be too much trouble. But then perhaps I chose not to see the other side of you. Or maybe it was never there for me to see. Like two tortured souls together, I suppose we were never a threat to each other, our individual demons didn’t need to cross swords and fight.
As time went on, I became well enough to leave home and to make my own way in the world. My inner demons hadn’t weakened and were more manageable and they couldn’t manipulate me like they once could.
When I saw you now, I could sense there was tension and unseen chaos within you. They might not have been evident for all to see, but because I was a broken, patched up soul, perhaps I could sense and feel your troubles more than others were able to.
An odd comment or a stray word or phrase would play on my mind but no concerns were raised by anyone close to you so I dismissed my worries as just silliness on my part.
Of course it’s easy to look back now and see things for what they were. Hindsight is a wonderful thing isn’t it? Why didn’t I try and talk to you but then would you have welcomed the intrusion? Probably not. Tortured souls don’t like facing the truth, I should know. People’s concerns can be misinterpreted as meddling, nosing into private thoughts are a most unwelcome if it is handled wrongly and clumsily.
And so the years keep rolling on. Time spent seeing you seems to get less and less. Busy lives is such an easy excuse to make but sometimes life just relentlessly moves forward, on and on, a bit like a spiral staircase that you can’t get off. Deep down you know you should, but just a tiny part of you realises that it is better if you stay on it just a little bit longer, for safety’s sake.
Now I arrive at your later years and am shocked at how your inner demons are now no longer hidden away, deep inside. They have taken over your whole body, mind, soul and spirit. Everything has changed. You are not you anymore. You are different. I don’t mean it to be an accusation. Sadly, it is a fact because it is not you I see anymore. I feel like I’m looking at a total stranger. Yes, it is you there in front of me, yet in pretty much every way, somehow it isn’t. I’m scared of what you have become, in many ways, a shell of the person you once were. The larger than life character has now completely disappeared, your inner soul and spirit shattered, broken beyond repair.
I will treasure our last hug forever, special memories we once shared I keep hold of, but this person I see now is no longer a person. Your demons have finally ravaged you completely, you have gone past the point of no return. In fact you only have one way left to you now. When you lie down for one last time before the demons sense that you are there for the taking, and they will come now and encapsulate you forever.
I can see them waiting and then ravaging you for the final time. It is silent and painless to all who are not aware of your struggles. But to me, I can only look on now, as a hopeless spectator, as the hunted succumbs to the hunter.
At least the final act, though deadly, was silent. A blessing that you can no longer be tortured anymore. But for those of us left after the curtain comes down, it is painful for many reasons.
So I settle down and watch the tide come in and then recede. Like your pain. Watching everything be caught up in the waters and then washed away.
When the waters are calm, I can sit here and smile, looking back over good times and happy memories. But when the waters become choppy and the sky turns black and stormy, my eyes well up with tears, remembering the hurt and pain. But in time, I know the waves will flatten and calmness will return, bringing with it peace and solitude. Hopefully akin to the peace you now have, at rest forever where only the tiniest of ripples can exist.