The Damkeeper and the Baker

The dull ache that had made itself home in my chest was heavier than usual. With every breath and exhalation it tightened a bit more, constricting itself, adjusting its dense body and making itself a little more comfortable in the nook surrounding my heart. It was alive and it grew, just the same way any ‘thing’ that was alive grew. It needed the same essential ingredients for its survival, which I, though unwilling was bound to keep feeding. I convinced myself I could, at times, hear its hoarse rattling breathing when i stilled my own. It came from deep within; a low grumble, a tremor that I could feel like a shudder through my bones. Slight it may have been, but ever present. It had become a part of my existence, a weight I had to bear with every waking moment. The ache in my chest was like a living lump of coal that I had swallowed years ago that had lodged itself inside me, getting heavier and heavier as the days passed tethered to my heart and living off my grief.

What was the word for a form of love that was willingly given, but not returned? Like a cupcake freshly baked and warm out of the oven, it was made of chocolate with gooey melted chunks of rich goodness inside. It was decorated with a swirl of pink strawberry cream with a casual handful of sprinkles thrown on top. The baker had made these with her heart full, each one a little insight into what was felt inside, for someone. At first, he had taken them gladly, he had savored the warmth and gave smiles in payment. That was enough, at first. His smiles sent sunshine into the darkest of places and sent molten gold bubbling to the surface. His smiles spread smiles to her face, and those moments were enough to keep her heart full. But as time went by, the smiles slowly turned into passing comments; conversation which once flowed easily and smoothly like a river of crystal clear water downstream over the ease of polished smooth boulders allowing transparency into the depths underneath, had slowed down to a trickle of muddy water in damp, cold, wet sand and a desperate thirst hanging in the air. It was as if he had built a wall, a dam, across the river.

She had seen him carrying the bricks but had refused to believe he would ever complete it. ‘I’ had refused to believe that he wanted to, I wanted to believe that his indifference was only skin deep, and that he was good inside to appreciate a person who cared for him so much. Reassurance in our friendship was not something I ever received. And the smiles that never came anymore were replaced by silence. I could not bake any more cupcakes, when I didn’t know whether he even liked them anymore. Maybe the chocolate was too rich, or the cream was too sweet or just that maybe, he had had too many to eat these past few months.

I could only speculate the reasons, though they kept me up at night. The silence was deafening, and in a moment like this is when the Ache had creeped in. It had come silently, one night, starting off as a little cold pebble picked up from he riverbed as the water had started receding. I hadn’t thought too much of it at first, the hope that things will get better was still too fresh and continued to bake. The pebble had found itself a place inside me, and as the months went by, and though the cakes went unreceived, I never even knew if he took a bite out of the last ones I had sent. The pebble had grown, become harder and coarser inside, a living thing with its tail wrapped around my heart. It was heavy, an overwhelming weight in my chest, aching for its thirst to be quenched.

But the dam seemed shut, its walls even too hight to climb and peek over, and there was nothing I could do but sit on its shores and wait until a time when the Damkeeper might let his walls down, quietly longing for a small piece of cake because after all, the cake had been a small yet secret indulgence in his life. I didn’t know if that day would ever come, it was all but a fantasy in my mind, a wishful dream that he even felt the slightest bit of affection for my being. He acknowledged my existence, yes, but I could be nothing more than a face in a crowded bar with whom he nods the cordial hello, or passes a quick amicable hug. But his attention lasts only a few minutes as if he on purpose moves on to the next person in passing. Politeness, should not be mistaken for kindness?

Sunny side up, or Paranoia-over-easy?

There is no escape from the gripping clutches of insecurity. It shadows over you like an eclipse blocking out the light of the sun, wiping away your smiles and laughter within moments. Huge and ominous flying machines cover the sky in your line of sight, foreshadowing the fields of green and turning them into barren wastelands. It only takes one word, one misplaced thought, one drop of ink in your cup of gold and it spreads with veiny, twisted urgency blackening the view out of your rose coloured glasses. The plains were covered in ashen downpour, darkening mist looming over the horizon, there was no sun shining where you stood anymore. It was getting hard to breathe.

Its grip on your chest tightens with every breath you let out, you suffocate in your own irrational thoughts, your brain swirling in a vortex of unrealistic conclusions. You sit in a whirlpool of despair, going over the same fears in your mind a million times, and you begin to question your reality, your relationships, your friendships. You find yourself waist deep in a river of grey matter slime, it sticking to your arms and legs as you struggle to wade through it to the other side.

Your thoughts have become twisted and thorny, tangling themselves up in your brain resisting your every urge to rationalize them. Devious thoughts that were ready to harm your relationships with the people you cared about the most. Lashing thoughts like whiplashes made of double sided blades that was ready to slice the people you loved to pieces. Malicious thoughts that wanted to mutilate your own heart and watch you break, and weep mercilessly into the abyss. Paranoid delusions that created scenarios of exchanges between a best friend and Him; you saw they way he looked at her, she was far more beautiful, and far less in need of your affections. Would they like each other more than they loved you? Why was he ignoring you; why were you left hanging with those two little blue checks for proof of his evasiveness? Had he got tired of your attention, or did he just need some space? Were your friends lying to you, were they conspiring against you, with their heads together, speaking in low voices? Covering up a web of deceit spun in a invisible thread that you felt caught in? The more you struggled to get out of it the more you got entangled in its wires. You irrevocably damaged mind was rearing you up for slaughter, sending you like a bull to its death. Almost like it relished the agony it caused you when it fed you these nightmares.

It was your own mind, fabricating this destructive web, getting your own self trapped in a maze with no way out, each turn leading to a dead end, ending with a painful death each worse than the last. You run blindly feeling your way through this maze, unaware that it is your own mind that is playing the role of the cruel puppet master.

You toss and turn, sending out consistently more erratic feelings and thoughts like rattling pulses out into the universe. You urge with all the hope in your heart for some reassurance, from him, from yourself. You cannot let yourself be submerged in this sticky depraved misery, for that is when you lose your sanity. Knowing in your heart that you loved and trusted all these people, and that they would never deliberately hurt you, gives you a flutter of hope for yourself.

It was the fear of loving someone, and the insecurity of dealing with betrayal in past incidences recurring that made you so irreparably afraid. But could you trust your own instincts, could you trust yourself to even know whether the attachment you felt to deeply for this person was even worth all the struggle to cross the river of muck to the shores of reality on the other side? You look down and you realize that it was the attachment itself that was what you were stuck in, clinging to your body and creeping in to every crevice, holding on to your skin. But you did not need to struggle against it, because you could ease yourself into it and it would embrace you, and you might find yourself in quiet appreciation of being immersed in it…