Sinking Or Swimming

Dear Andrea,

I’ll try not to muddle things up in a cascade of words, but I’ll probably fail, like I always do.  I’ve had dreams and nightmares of this day for a long time.  It feels like making a deal with the devil; to remove the shackles from my legs, I must cut off my feet, like a coyote gnawing its way out of a trap.  I didn’t make this decision with ease,  as I’m sure you’ve noticed the turmoil within me bubbling over into erratic behaviour.  I shouldn’t have put you through that, and I’m sorry for being too weak to control myself.  I’m sorry for a lot of things, but none more than this.  I’m leaving you.  I’m leaving everyone.  I’m leaving this life behind.  I’ve been washing down these pills with scotch on the rocks.  They say you’re not supposed to drink on them, but they don’t know me.

I’m sorry that I can’t give you a proper goodbye.  I know that if I did, you would talk me out of it, and in that moment, I would be happy that you did.  But we both know that happiness doesn’t last with me, not here.  Slowly, I would creep back into my depression, bringing you down with me.

Sometimes I dream about you, but it’s always the same dream.  It’s winter time and you’re on a boat at night.  You’re the only one on deck, hanging over the railing, looking pensively into the darkness.  The only way you can make out the horizon is by looking at where the stars stop, the glittery sky turns into the deep black of the ocean.  Despite the almost still night, the boat hits a freak wave and the jolt knocks you overboard.  No one sees you plunge over the railing into the icy black water.  You are frantic, screaming, swirling your arms and legs to stay afloat.  No one seems to hear you, and the boat keeps drifting off into the distance.  Your clothes become lead weights as the water soaks into your jumper and jeans.  You’re tiring quickly because of the shock and the cold. You are still treading water, but your movements get weaker as your lungs constrict.  Your head dips down, you splutter as you breathe in salty gulps.  You’re panicking worse and worse, sinking deeper and struggling more.

The weird thing about this dream, is that I’ve had it so many times, but it always ends in one of two ways.  The first, you sink deeper and deeper, screaming and crying in between mouthfuls of water choking their way into your lungs.  You take one last breath, a mix of briny water and a little air, your head dips down and you never resurface.  Then I wake up, sweating, sometimes crying.  Once, I woke you with my whimpers, but I told you it was nothing, just another nightmare about what happened to my dad.  You rolled over and put your arm around me, then drifted back to sleep.  I let the tears pour down my face in silence, trying not to wake you again.

The other ending leaves me more at peace.  You’re scared and screaming, thrashing about in the water to try and stay afloat.  You know that you’re going to drown if you don’t take your clothes off, but still you hesitate.  It’s freezing and you think you need the clothes to keep you warm, to hide your shame.  Yes, they do those things, but you realise that they are also what is killing you.  The cold is already gripping your body and they have become useless.  You struggle, but somehow you stay afloat as you pull each boot off.  They sink to the bottom as you let go, and already the fight gets easier.  You pull off your jumper and top, and they lurk in the water next to you.  You’re beginning to calm down as you ease out of your skinny jeans.  They’re difficult to get off, but somehow you manage to slide them off your legs.  You are left there, exposed in the frigid murky water, in just your bra and underwear.  You can keep your head above water now, taking deep gulps of pure night-time air.  You are freezing, you are suffering and you are exposed, almost naked, but you can breathe.  You can survive.  Despite the pain of the freezing water, you can now tread water with ease and a sudden sense of calmness sweeps over you.

I’m not too sure what happens after that because I wake up, but I know that you survive.  Maybe a fisherman comes and picks you up.  Maybe you’re strong enough to swim to shore.  I don’t know the details, but I have an unwavering feeling that not only do you survive, but you live, you flourish, you fulfill your dreams and you find happiness.

This isn’t something I’ve ever talked about with my shrink.  You know how I mainly keep up with the appointments to manipulate him for pills.  Even with all of my stupidity and my lack of a piece of paper on the wall, I think I can make a pretty good guess of what it all means.  After a lot of thinking, I’m pretty sure that I’m the clothes.  The clothes have always kept you warm, kept you safe, kept your secrets and scars hidden from the world.  You love your clothes so much for what they do, that you can’t see that they’re killing you in the first dream.  You don’t have the confidence to be exposed, to be alone, to be near naked, without them, without me.  Somehow, in the second dream, you find the tremendous courage to take them off, to strip yourself of the weight that’s bringing you down, the weight that is killing you – me.

I can’t let the first dream happen – I can’t let you drown.  You have too much to give to the world.  I can’t just wait around, hoping that the second ending will prevail.  Clothes can’t take themselves off –  I’m not a fucking playwright, and this is where the analogy kind of breaks down – but I can leave.  I can take the weight away from you.  It will be cold, and you will be exposed and you will suffer.  But you will survive, and you will find more strength and happiness than you ever thought possible.

It is both cowardly and arrogant to say that I am doing this solely for you.  Really, I’m doing this for both of us, and I hope I’m making the right decision.  I’m throwing back whiskey, trying to calm my nerves.  You know how much I hate flying.  It’s a long haul flight to Peru, so I’m hoping this knocks me out for most of it.  I’m leaving not just because I need this, but we need this.  Independence will make us both stronger, and I’m hoping that the jungles and the beaches will give me a new perspective and help to heal me.

I’m still looking forward to living out our dreams together.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget about London, the little terrace house and holding each other close on winter nights.

I just don’t know when.
Written by Johnny Economics. Photo by Emmanuel Rosario.

Categories: Short & Sharp
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