chop suey sandwiches and the troubles of being an optimist

A fiction short story by Tea Jay

On my eighteenth birthday you took me to the penny arcade for chop suey sandwiches. You carried a rack of beer for us to split on your shoulder, but I was grateful for the Wild Turkey shots we took back at your apartment, because I am not a beer drinker. I want so badly for that night to be the memory you carry of me, but I know it’s not, because when I think of you when things are spiraling out of control it isn’t that cold December night, passing a joint to each other on the windy New England coast line, talking about whether or not our futures would intertwine. We believed they would; evidently they won’t.

No; when I think of you it is early in the morning, sleeping next to the love of my life, jolted from my sleep from a virus in my mind. You have infected me. You are my greatest fear. And it’s not so much the fear that you may hurt me again, though I would be omitting the truth if I didn’t state that I jump every time someone extends a hand towards my face. Do you do that too?

I am scared to death, bones shivering, sweat dripping, that you are watching, looking up my name and caught up to date with my accomplishments, my failures. I am haunted by the critical remarks you’ll make of my imperfections, the poking and prodding you’ll make at my simple life. Because it is beyond you to realize how much hard work I have infested back into myself to be the person I am today.

I want to think that I knew you. I want to think that I knew you better than anyone. That I could see through all the bad and find a hurt little boy deep inside of you, who just needs to be loved a little harder. But that isn’t it, is it? There was no way I could love you enough because my love was a piece belonging to a different puzzle, not meant to match into you, your life. I didn’t belong. It took me a while to understand that; in fact it took me being my own puzzle and filling in the pieces of myself that I was missing, filling my life with the things I needed (and with a little self-indulgence of the things I want).

I am a happy person today. But even in the trenches with you, even with swollen faces and text messages stating otherwise, I was happy with you. On my worst days I knew there was still hope and I clung onto it for dear life. I just didn’t know the light shinning from the lighthouse would harbor my ship at a different port far away from you.

With everything I have I believe those days…those days spent on silk sheets and in hospital rooms, those days my voice was hoarse from the screaming matches the night before…I believe with all my spirit and heart that they exist on a different timeline that the one we exist on now. Those days together are an isolated void floating somewhere in space, wrapped in their own bubble. They are fragile and toxic, and if you breathe in too much air from its atmosphere you might suffocate from the love and hate you feel. I need to dissociate from our time together because I cannot allow myself to believe that the girl I was then and the boy you were those days were the adults we grew into. I need to believe that their alters, that they are just costumes we wore in a show we did together, but we’re retired from those people now. We cannot possess the darkness that once coursed through our veins.

I need to believe that so I don’t think either of us are capable of the pain we inflicted on each other are not who we are.After everything we’ve been through, we at least deserve someone in the corner quietly whispering that this is not who we are and we are capable of so much more.

I can’t help but wonder…are your dreams plagued with images of my face, my hair over one eye, my crooked smile and the darkness that could escape my soft lips? I think I’m more scared of those night terrors of myself than I am of you.

You are not the monster I created and I am not a curse.

That’s the problem with being an optimist. You can never admit the reality of things. You can never just look at the man who strikes you and think, “He is bad,” because there are so many beautiful thing about him that you can’t simply rationalize the danger that rests in his clenched fist.

But you also can’t call yourself out for being the bitch who egged him on it the first place. Did part of you want to get hit? What a fucked up reward system.

About the writer: Tea Jay is a 25-year-old stay at home mother and author. She writes with a heavy focus on mental health including personality disorders, depression, suicidal thoughts, and things she finds stigmatized. Her focus is to help start the discussion for mental health and write realistic and entertaining works of fiction. Her current project, Recollection of Recovery, is a year in her own life entries of experimental recovery techniques and options for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

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