Wrapping her scarf around her neck, she thought of him. Of how he had taught her that she had been putting it on “incorrectly” all these years. Her whole life. A life that apparently her parents didn’t see fit to give too much instruction on. Letting her figure things out on her own, only to realize that she wasn’t adept at so doing. That they had not “taught a man to fish,” as it were. Therefore, it often felt as though Tristan was her surrogate parent, “training” her how to do the things that maybe her mother and father should have. Or maybe it was a matter of this being the pre-#MeToo era, when women simply “went along” with abusive behavior posing as “gentle guidelines” of how to be and act because it still felt “normal,” acceptable. She couldn’t say for sure now. Or even if the feeling of queasiness in her stomach at this very instant was a result of sentimental nostalgia or disgust over what she had allowed to happen. Of how she had let Tristan dominate her in the hope that it would somehow make him truly love her despite the fact that he was incapable of the emotion.
“Poor Deborah, she never learned how to tie a scarf,” she could hear him saying in her head as she deliberately flung it over her neck instead of tying the noose knot he had told her would trap in the most warmth. Protect her better from the cold. Would that it could have better protected her from his cold. Or rather, his coldness. Utterly unable to feel for her in the same way that she did for him. And yet if you asked her now, she couldn’t tell you why it was so important to her that he return her affections with even a remote level of the same intensity. Not because she didn’t genuinely love him and want him to feel the same way, but because the her of now knew better than to waste time on a person that didn’t make you feel like you could be yourself. That you were never going to be “enough” of what he wanted to get the desired reaction. The craved feeling of reciprocation. She was too wise to engage in such a futile cause in the present. Or maybe just too hurt and too numb to bother with trying at the particular cause of love again.
She wished love could be taken back like, well, an unwanted scarf. That it was exhangeable, regiftable. To someone who might actually appreciate it. Alas, it could not and she was stuck with the unshakeable notion that once you give all of your passion, all of your all, there is nothing left to offer a potential other, or next person. That even if you tried to, it would somehow be unfair. Because all that you were capable of exuding and expressing has been spent, exhausted.
Deborah was aware that her perception on this matter was considered “overly dramatic” by most. She was told she got off on tragic romance. On the ability to feel sorry for herself because it hadn’t worked out with Tristan, who she had recently learned moved on to more malleable pastures in the form of a girl he had met at the gym, of all places. She recalled that he was always trying to get her to go with him. To “channel her neuroses” into something other than drinking and wallowing. But drinking and wallowing was about eighty percent of who she was and when you got right down to it, that meant he could only really tolerate about twenty percent of her, if that. “Tolerate,” in this case, being the sad substitute for “loving” her. There were times when she could’ve sworn he did. Flashes to the past, filled with precious few moments of kindness that she perhaps increased by dwelling on them more than the far more numerous awful instances of abuse, made her second guess if her current contempt for him was in error.
But no, almost reflexively tying the knot as he had indoctrinated her to, she shuddered, thinking of Julia Roberts in Sleeping With the Enemy as usual, her fear of putting one of the hand towels askew permanently ingrained within the terror that controlled her psyche. Deborah’s psyche, too, continued to be run by the same terror. Not just that Tristan’s conditioning of the habits that formed her character would never completely fade away, but that the pall cast by his judgmental shadow would render her too afraid–too rattled–to ever trust anyone enough again to reveal herself as she was without the smoke and mirrors of self-deprecation and total emotional detachment. Yet she was starting to question whether or not it truly was smoke and mirrors. For, these days, she didn’t seem to be reacting to anything, good, bad or otherwise. She simply “was.” And with the weather being that combination of gray and frigid that can make you wonder why you bother to stay alive at all, her tendency to remain in bed later than she ought was putting her in a particularly reflective mood. One that was further triggered by her need to wear a scarf so that she might briefly go outside to the corner bodega where she could stock up on necessities like Advil and cooking wine (which meant that, at six percent alcohol volume, it wasn’t doing much to turn off her mind as completely as she wanted). There was nothing to be done, however, as she was unwilling to leave the confines of her isolated block, even though, just two more over, was a proper wine store.
When Tristan was still living with her, he had been a source of galvanization for helping her work from home as effectively as possible, which meant that it was easier for her to pay for things than it ever had been. In fact, she was still sort of living on what was left of that era of her savings during this marked low. There was just something about the winter that made her think of him, and of their brief idyllic time that punctuated the outset of the relationship. A time before even the way she cut garlic would get on his nerves. Send him over the edge to the point of sniping at her with sharp abruptness consisting of such criticisms as, “Jesus, didn’t you learn how to do anything?” No she had not. Least of all how to repair what he had broken within her.
As she began to rotely perform the noose knot tie, she stopped herself. She would fashion her scarf however she goddamn well pleased. And it wouldn’t matter. No one cared enough about her now to order her around. For wasn’t that what the male mentality–the brainwashing of a patriarchy-dominated existence–deemed as the definition of “caring”?