No Lonelier Place

by Madeleine St.Jacques

I preferred the days when you were simply too tired to move—asleep most of the day…
Or you’d become a permanent fixture on our living room couch,
Watching your favorite legal or crime drama unfolding on the screen.
Watching anything, really.
Still and quiet.
You were vulnerable, then.
It would take a lot to prompt you to action in this state…
To awaken your anger…

Is it fucked up to say that I preferred you wrapped up in sadness, exhaustion, and defeat?
I preferred to enter the room and find you on the couch or in bed, eyes fixed to the TV –
Too defeated and tired to care about much.
You’d worn yourself out.
No caretaking today, but that was fine by me. I knew how to fend for myself.
The absence of your care was far preferable to your scrutiny, your judgment, your rage, your labile moods, your love, your hate, the plotting, the ranting, the bullying, the pending destruction of something I held dear.

Just as I tiptoed around you when you were ‘awake’, taking great care not to set you off; those low times were a welcome respite from the everyday assault.
And I crept around you like someone who doesn’t want to wake a colicky baby who has finally, mercifully, fallen asleep.
If you were just sad enough, then I could escape.

But there were spaces preceding the collapse where you were clearly battling with yourself—Resisting the inevitable downward spiral…and you would demand to be taken care of…bullying and guilting me into caring for you…issuing edicts and missives from whatever perch you’d claimed for the day.

This, was a slippery space to be in.

Because while clearly tired and in need of help, you could, in this state, still strike at any moment; could be roused, given the right conditions; could be triggered into some other state where I could be called upon to do any number of things and forced to react in any number of ways.

And though I would often say to myself – and out loud, “something’s wrong” …somehow the blame and responsibility fell on my shoulders.
Somehow a belief formed that it must be my fault; there must be something wrong with me; I must be making her do these things or behave in this way, because why else would she…..

And there was no lonelier place.