Some of us sacrifice bits and pieces of ourselves by continuing to hold relationships that incrementally burn away our enthusiasm for good people. We stand close to the fire out of loyalty, confused interpretations of the word love, or because we fear that our lives will have a void where people of merit should stand. I’m equally guilty. By depleting my limited supply of peace with lesser people, I rob my future self of openness with people who love sharing the same with others.
She looked in the mirror as she drove away, seeing that foreign place recede from her. Once she became an adult, she’d already forced her way out of her old exoskeleton, even though it tore at her viciously as she escaped it. It wasn’t her choice to shed that skin; the people who should have loved her trained her with callous hands and closed hearts. Being without her protective layer hurt her deeply at first. In time, she grew to understand that being vulnerable ripped away the defenses that those people tried to beat into her. It’s impossible to join the ranks of the living with skin so thick it can’t be pierced.
The house she was departing had the critical components expected of a house and home. All the doors and windows were there, the lawn carefully manicured. Inside, people roamed the halls and kitchen, smiling and motioning as if they were made of the same clay as she. Weirdly, she often surprised herself by remembering the house in sepia tones, as if the vivid colors of the world were removed during her visits.
They weren’t made of the same stuff as she was, though. Her home was filled. Not simply with functioning human beings, but with love, vivacity, and laughter. Conflict surfaced, bubbled, and was pushed aside for better things. In the house receding behind her, she could feel the collective weight of the stones in their hearts. Their mass lessened with distance.
On those drives away, though, she’d ponder the thousand little arrows fired toward her. There were no simple words uttered in that house. Each was chosen to send contradictory reminders of status, connection, and affection.
As she did each time she departed, she mentally washed herself free of the house and its occupants. The blood and kinship she shared once again began to fade by the time she reached her claimed hometown. She could already feel the welcome arms of those waiting for her in her own private place.
Over time, she didn’t need to accuse the people in that foreign house. Her life itself was the accusation, unspoken and directed at no one. Though she was simply living her life in the best way she knew, others waited to use that against her. It was worse than a no-win situation.
“A life well-lived silences the critics,” or so said the old cliché. She didn’t believe it, no more than she believed the other companion cliché: “Don’t start none and there won’t be none.” With many people, the truth is that they can only bring themselves up by using their gifts of love and intellect to stab at people around them. Trying to step close to them with the best of human feelings inevitably gets you stung.
Instead of warm, deep affection and shared memories, she accumulates brief interactions. Standing in their living room, she dreams of the drive-away, where she can escape back to her normal affection-filled house.
One day, she’d find the words to explain their loss to them. It would probably be a day too late for reconciliation or reprieve. All she could do today was drive away. She pressed the gas, going even further away to attain the escape velocity needed. Much to her dismay, she found herself pondering their arrows. Though she was leaving, they’d found their mark with the little doses of poison. Never enough to kill but always enough to wound.