Take, for example, the way I’ve approached this café this morning.
The look on my face needs work. I don’t smile, my chin and lip area under the mouth so soft and relaxed, the lip itself falling out as if the scaffolding has gone, and it’s suddenly turned into a Dali painting. I order the coffee, skinny latte. She asks if I want a single latte, because she’s misheard me. That’s another symptom – small talking. I’m a low talker. Because I don’t want people to pay me any attention. I repeat skinny, no smile, and say that I’d like it stronger. That’s what I say: something like,
‘No, I’d like it… stronger than that.’ A long, adjective filled sentence that apologises for its existence. Instead of just, ‘No. Skinny, two shots.’ That would take power, volume, intention, desire for something I believe I am entitled to, among other things.
‘That’s okay – we have a special, 35K for a large,’ she says. And because that doesn’t really follow from my own speech, I wonder for a moment what’s going on. Is she saying I need a special? Yesterday, I was so nervous handing over change that I think the assistant gave me what I wanted when I was 1Kr short. I panicked and didn’t check. There was someone behind me. There is someone behind me today. Will I get enough coffee in my drink? Will it be skinny? I leave it all. I want to make sure (paranoid), but I don’t have the confidence to check (low self esteem).
There is no smile in my cheeks, or my eyes, or anywhere where that sort of this is supposed to happen. Andrew tells me we will practice – how to hold my face so that I don’t concern shop keepers. People I talk to on a daily basis. Perhaps this is one reason I’m a writer – or perhaps it comes from writing, and being so often alone. But I can’t blame writing, because I was an alone kind of person before it came along. I don’t have an identity other than that – nothing I can put my finger on.
Because I don’t want to put my finger on sorrow, I guess – sorrow for no reason – and say that this is who I am.
My hair is a different colour today – I had it done, yesterday, by a friend of Marie’s, free of charge, because Marie swaps treatments with her. I didn’t have to pay. I feel like Marie is too nice, but there is no such thing – too nice for me to deal with. Because I’m sick. Can’t relate to people well. Have a lot of empathy for people – but not the ability to relate.
I have to talk to the hairdresser the whole treatment. Feeling my sentences get less and less cohesive. The same page of the New York Times open in front of me the whole time. Not reading about Syria. I get my eyelashes done, my eyebrows waxed. That’s good. But outside, I feel like a different person, not in a good way, completely uncomfortable with myself. Don’t know what I look like. I used to be blonde, but this is new to me. I’m staying in Marie’s house, in her room, because she insists.
I walk around Copenhagen, my path on octopus arms out from the Stork Statue, not eating cake. Making a conscious effort to not eat cake. Catching glimpses of myself in windows. I go home.
Alone in the apartment, there was a buzz at Marie’s apartment door. I wasn’t expecting anyone yet. Andrew is out playing Aussie rules in Copenhagen (!) and Marie is at work. I am holding a coffee and put that down to open my door. There is a man standing at the outside door. He is in a tracksuit and holds papers to his chest. I opened the door because he had buzzed, not because I wanted to.
He came in, and started putting the junk mail in the letter boxes.
Suddenly I became worried – worried that the people here, in this apartment block, wouldn’t like that someone had let a guy in. And I would have to stay with him, while he finished. I advanced a step.
‘I’m sorry. I actually shouldn’t have let you in. Can you please go?’ I said, still holding open the door, and indicating that he should leave out of it. He looked at me, and didn’t go.
I put out my hand, to the area where at his chest, he held the papers. ‘Please go,’ I said.
He pushed past my hand and kept putting the papers in the boxes.
I panicked. I felt myself go out of myself, and I pushed him, on his chest and the papers, toward the door. ‘Go!’ I yelled, ‘or I’ll call the police!’ He lurched a bit towards the door when I pushed him. But he came back in through, and looked at me. Not pushing me back. He was not just standing, not trying to figure it out. He was focussing, and not pushing back; making an effort not to. Because that’s not what you do to a woman, I suppose. I yelled. ‘I will call the police if you don’t leave!’ I said. I pushed him again. Pushed him out the door. He resisted, but not as much as I’m sure he could. He stood outside the door as I made the lock catch, and ran up the steps.
It felt as if time was lagging. Things were not happening, in these moments after I closed the apartment door behind myself. There was nothing in the air. My chest and my heart. My breath, not coming. The small noises I made to myself. Not exclamations, not to the normal person, but exclamations to me, small noises that marked that something had happened. Noises I make when I am remembering something from my life that I regret.
I regret, more than anything, pushing a man I didn’t know out of the apartment. I regret that this is my reaction to fear, to discomfort, to violently make the thing not be happening any more.
I think of my future children. Whether I will act in that way when they provoke me. Think about not having children because of it.
I call Andrew, on WiFi, knowing he will not have the reception to pick up. I turn on the TV. I got to the drawer and eat four tablespoons of Nutella. The next two hours, in a dream, pressing the program button on the remote.
It all comes down on me like a wave, and I curl up in the foetal position, and stare at the ceiling. I read some Bleak House.
That Dickens really has a way with words.