Sleeping Wide Awake


The very first melancholy episode I can remember experiencing occurred when I was ten. It was a simple moment of darkness, of feeling inexplicably down. Given it arrived with little surprise, things must’ve been happening earlier that normalised this for me, although I don’t recall anything specific.

These episodes got worse through my teens, along with periods of agitation, punctuated by the occasional manic burst of energy. But I learned to mask it all as best as I could, although that wasn’t always easy. These things made it hard to fit in, hard to connect, hard to be like everybody else. Everything was an act. I looked like one of the humans. But I couldn’t fool myself. Something was broken inside me and it always created this unnavigable separation. I could only fool others.

The only time I genuinely felt good about myself was writing. I handwrote my first fantasy novel when I was 15, retyped it on a typewriter as a 17-year-old, and rewrote it on a PC as a 19-year old. There was such virginal joy and expectation about it. Anything was possible. For various reasons (which I might write about one day), time would turn it into a dirty, disease-ridden, irredeemable whore.

Where do you keep finding that joy? Where do you keep finding hope? As a writer, we write because we want to share our stories, but sometimes, you reach an end that’s not just dead, but cremated and buried. And you begin to feel, to believe that, for whatever reason, this is where this is meant to exist.

BEST FRIEND believed in my writing. I don’t know why. And it was a selfless belief. She didn’t expect anything for liking it, for championing me, for listening to me and talking to me, and propping me up whenever I wanted to toss it all.

IDIOT FRIEND, on the other hand, once told me he wanted to protect me from parasites who’d leech me for screenwriting projects, and then would proceed to leech me for screenwriting project after screenwriting project. He never did anything with them, though. He was good at talking, but not so much at doing. There were always excuses. Apparently, this was everybody else’s fault, though – mine most of all.

EX seemed agnostic about my writing. One time she told me I should write something that would sell. Okay. There’s an easy fix. Other times, she could say the right things regarding encouragement, but it was so rote it was disingenuous. Her pragmatism could never reconcile how I could expend so much effort doing something for so little return.

Because BEST FRIEND was a writer herself, she might’ve understood how important writing was for my well-being, although the simpler truth was she understood me. EX claimed to, but was always disappointed, or frustrated, when I didn’t respond the way she wanted me to. Any time I didn’t meet her expectations, she’d draw out a parallel with “normal” people, like there was a standard that everybody but me adhered to. It was a crime to be different. Sometimes, she accused me of actively trying to be atypical.  IDIOT FRIEND only thought about himself, as much as he might’ve claimed he didn’t. Any interest (in my writing) he provided was because it served his own ends.

That triumvirate, and their vastly oppositional attitudes, often makes me think of the nature of relationships; to some extent in the last couple of years before her death, I burned BEST FRIEND in maintaining our friendship because it was the only way to keep EX content (she claimed she was fine with the friendship, but there were several unjustified incendiary episodes that proved she was not, that she was still insecure and paranoid), while I kept trying to make things happen with IDIOT FRIEND in screenwriting, although I knew all he brought to the partnership was bluster, lies, and disappointment.

We all make choices. I seem to make a lot of fucked ones, especially in the last couple of years before BEST FRIEND died.

Sometimes, you wonder how long you can keep making the wrong choices until you stop believing there are any right ones. At some point, you look back and all you see is the desolation that the wrong choices have wrought.

I used to believe there was meaning in things, like I had decades of such bad anxiety and agoraphobia because I could then teach others who were experiencing the same thing, and help them avoid all the same pitfalls. But, nowadays, there’s only the meaningless, and maybe that’s the purpose of life or, at least, this life. I have certain theological beliefs, certain spiritual beliefs, but I’ll never know – just as none of us will – what exists after death until we do die.

Maybe if EX or IDIOT FRIEND died tomorrow, I’d feel different, but the angry side of me really couldn’t give a fuck, and only laments the time and energy wasted on them, while all I can think about is I let BEST FRIEND down and hurt her, that she might’ve died feeling those things, and now that she’s gone that’s not something I can ever fix in this life.

Some things, you can’t get away from. They don’t just leave scars, but pain that becomes so ingrained in who you are that you carry it every day.

In the end, it becomes who you are.