Apparently, I’m a monster. According to the women I’ve been involved with, it’s not that I’m cold, I just don’t seem as invested in them as I should be. I’m more interested, more excited to read a new book, spend time with my friends, research the kind of puppy I want to get (a fox terrier of course), learn how to cook something new or spend time with my family. Relationships were always somewhere at the bottom of my priority list. This, for some reason, attracted them at first. Then they hated me for it.
‘You never yell, you never get excited, you just exist with me. But the second you see your friends you’re like that donkey from Shrek but on crack. I don’t get it. I don’t get you.’
‘Whoever did this to you is a bitch. She ruined you for the rest of us.’
‘I thought it was sexy that you were hiding your passion for me but then I realised you weren’t hiding something that wasn’t there.’
All of them were saying the same thing in different ways. And now when I think about it, I can’t remember which one said what. This sounds terrible I know, but I can’t even match up their names to their faces – Anna, Sarah, Elinor, Yasmine, Kristina – blond, brunette, pink tips, shaved head, nipple piercing, lilac smelling, gluten free, jam making, yoga instructor, lawyer. They all became the same person, the same woman, all of them trying to figure me out and then getting furious at me for not letting them in. I don’t do it on purpose, honestly, I don’t. One of them called me an impossible algebra equation. The truth is she’s right. I don’t even know the fucking answer.
‘It sounds like you have a disease. And it’s from your childhood, I think, it was your childhood that made you like this. Your childhood made you a monster.’
I think it was the yoga instructor who told me that. Whatever my faults are, I found it odd that my childhood would be blamed. I never gave it much thought except to ask myself, was my childhood sad? Was it fucked up? No. Like most people, my self-examination ended there. But then something small, something banal would happen and down you fall through the rabbit hole.
It’s fairly noticeable on other people – when they are staring into nothing in the middle of a dinner party, when their eyes are closed while they listen to a song, when they sigh for no reason. That’s where they are. Down the rabbit hole. Most of the time there’s no choice, it can happen anywhere. A scent, a sound, a face, a word and the memories whiplash leaving you dazed and aching.
When I thought of my childhood in the simplest meaning of the word I thought of nothing else but my bedroom. Over time, nothing had altered the memory of that room. The walls were sugary white with drawings of dogs and horses. My bed had red bars and the sheets, covered with cars and trucks, were never made but sat in a bundle or spilled over the edge. The floor was strewn with books, toys and clothes so that I hardly saw the rug underneath. I also remember my windowsill by my bed. I’d rub my fingers over it, digging my nails into the wood while I watched the sun rise through the leaves of the eucalyptus tree in our front garden.
I’m not that old, in fact some would say that I have my whole life ahead of me. This is true. But throughout puberty and all other nonsense associated with growing up, the memory of that place and time, though still there, was set aside, forgotten momentarily.
All it took was a song and a stupid question at a party for the slithering of memories to begin until it was a full torrent of sounds, smells, images and feelings. If I could go back to my childhood bedroom and explore it now after so many years, I could excavate and separate fact from fiction, imagination from lies all to find a truth. Perhaps that truth or the solution to my algebra equation is a cacophony of thoughts and incidents neatly arranged into a story.
So anyway, here we go. The beginning of this story is actually at the end of it. I was at a party, in London, Kensington, which makes no sense since I lived nowhere near there. It was in one of those homes where the floors were too shiny, the walls were covered with paintings of blotched masses and framed drawings of urban plans. The tables were filled with things that were old but sparkled like a graveyard of souvenirs and the furniture looked too modern or classic to be comfortable. Somehow though, it all looked good.
The parents of our hostess were abroad I was told. Rich people, and she, the girl who lived here, was the beautiful one with the black hair. I never saw her, only a glimpse of a salmon coloured dress escaping around the corner through the crowd when we first walked in.