Short Story: Notes On Therapy [Lover]
Part III of the Archetype Series
This is part of a series of short stories that cover the archetypes. These are the nucleus of all of human being’s “collective unconscious”. Each story explores one of these archetypes. Let us now if you relate in the comments.
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Zelda is a rich tycoon who has been deserted by his life partner, and finds himself in his 100 acre land. He is troubled by a few things: the soil isn't producing this year and the wretched loneliness is eating him alive. In Part I - Magician, Zelda is visited by his daughter who takes him on an expected journey of self-discovery. What he finds deep in his subconscious prepares him for Part II - King, where he faces his wife's death and realizes that it is time to release old grudges, and rebuild. Today's part III by Khaled, takes is into his past, in an almost different world, in a half-remembered dream, where he is a different Zelda and this is his story....
Part III. Notes On Therapy [Lover]
The room smelled just as he expected, musty and dank; the walls were yellow from years of lingering smoke, if desperation ever needed a dictionary refresh, this place was it. Appropriate he thought because desperation was about all he felt when he decided to join SLAA (Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous). He always fancied himself a freethinker and above the mindless conformist drivel shoveled in those kinds of meetings, but he had to admit, he was powerless in the face of his disease and he needed help.
“Hey, my name is a Zelda and I am an addict” he said when a ball was handed to him indicating his turn to speak.
“Hey Zelda” the chorus replied.
“Longtime fan, first time caller” his attempt at humor fell on deaf ears, the crowd here gets off on truth, anything else is seen as deflection and is summarily rejected.
He squirmed a bit in his chair looking at the floor, trying to muster the courage to look the people around him in the eye, when he finally did, to his surprise, he found warm, all-knowing smiles looking back at him. They have seen it all before, they know that to be here is to have hit rock bottom, often multiple times. He got the feeling nothing he says will shift that smile from their faces, there may not be honor among thieves but there seems to be kinship amongst the broken.
“I am here because of what my girlfriend said as she dragged her bags out of our 5 year relationship, she said that I am a monster disguised as a a human being, that I feed on people’s affection and give nothing back, she said that she has never felt more alone than when we were together, she also said that if I have any shred of humanity left that I should kill myself but I think that last part she didn’t mean or maybe she I did, I am not so sure anymore but what I do know for sure is what she said before that was the God’s honest truth, I am a monster; a charming, manipulative, insecure monster that demands love but is himself incapable of either receiving or reciprocating it”
Nobody in the room said a word but then again, he didn’t expect anyone to. He just saw the same plastered smiles except they seemed to get wider, as if to say “you are not done, are you?! This is just getting good” oh these sick fucks he thought, they are really getting off on this but it was too late for him now, he knew he would oblige.
“I honestly had never thought about it in quite those terms until she said it, but it is of course true, and more than that, it makes perfect sense; I was sexually abused as a child, my mom’s love language was the belt and I never knew my old man because he died when I was four, where in this shit soup do you get healthy, loving adult?”
That sounded to him a lot like self-pity and he got angry with himself but it didn’t stop him.
“I thought because I didn’t cheat on her like I did in my other relationships that I was doing great, that I was getting better at least, but that just made it worse, because in my mind she now owed me for my loyalty, and I could justify the abuse and neglect from the comfort of my high horse.”
“Looking back, I truly wish that I did cheat, at least then I might have felt guilty, and from there I know it is only a short stroll to being resentful which is where the fun really starts because that’s when I become truly insufferable leaving her with no choice but to leave. But at least that cycle is known and it is short. I would have spared that poor girl five years laboring in emotional hell”
He was surprising himself as he talked, he wasn’t working an angle, trying to win over a crowd, he was being completely honest with himself in a room full of strangers. This was unchartered water and fear started to creep in, he was willingly giving up control, asking others to form impressions about him that he didn’t deliberately cultivate, he started to also feel untethered to reality; shadows from his past darkened the room around him, memories from his childhood, long under lock and key, started impinging on his psyche.
This was a defining moment in his life and he knew it, there were places in places in his mind he dared not go, but he also knew that if he had any chance at getting better, that is where he needs to start.
“The truth is, gentlemen, that I truly despise myself, and it makes not one scintilla of difference that I have the world to blame for it, the world may have shat on my face but I am the one that has to smell it every day. Love to me is an excuse to dump my pain on someone else and watch as they drowned trying to save me. If I am being honest, I don’t think I have ever loved anyone but I had to delude myself into believing that I did, because only through the magical redemptive, quality of love could I justify the pain that I put all of them through” he snickered as his mind wondered to all the times he said I love you as they were nearly at the door, about to leave him, about to save themselves from his trap…
“NO, the truth is I so desperately wanted to believe that a woman’s love was enough, that I could grow to see myself the way they see me, but I think I realized a long time ago that that wasn’t possible, only instead of accepting it, I chose to bury the truth deep within myself.
I became frantic from that point on, I became addicted. I binged on the affection of wonderful women but invariably, it was only a matter of time before their affection wasn’t enough and the cracks in my soul started to rupture and the demons found their way to the surface, I would get mean and vengeful then, angry at them that their love didn’t cure me, I felt betrayed, I allowed my delusions to justify my behavior and my behavior got worse and worse, I justified cheating, emotional withholding, emotional abuse verbal abuse, I justified it all because they were choosing to see me suffer, they could cure me if only they wanted to, if only they loved me deeply enough, hard enough, sincerely enough”
He started feeling sick as he was talking, like the truth was a new drug he just ingested and it was not agreeing with him, he felt sweat dripping from the back of his neck, he could see his charcoal grey button-up frantically heaving in front of him and the white polka dots that festooned his shirt earlier were now freely swimming in it. He got up as fast as he could and barely made it to the bathroom before he emptied his guts in an empty stall.
“Guys, I am sorry, I don’t feel too good, I think I am gonna go, thank you for lending an ear, hopefully I will see you all soon” he wasn’t even embarrassed when he made his way back to the group, he just felt depleted; emotionally and intestinally empty.
Before he could turn to leave, he felt a hand on his shoulder, looking back, he saw a man in his late fifties, bald, with a large beard wearing that same smile from earlier “better here than alone right now, trust me” but Zelda knew himself enough to know that he needed to be by himself now, come what may, and then it was his turn to put on that all-mighty smile.
“I think I just need some fresh air” he slowly made his way to the door and he was out.
The weeks that followed were the bleakest that Zelda ever lived through; admitting the truth to himself was not the freeing, exhilarating experience he hoped it would be, if anything, he felt even worse, his mind no longer gave him shelter from the demons that now assailed his thoughts with impunity. He took off the mask and with it, all the protection that self-deception afforded, now he was face to face with his true self for the first time and it was horrifying.
His first instinct was to numb himself, he frantically rummaged through his drawers looking for molly, he knew he had some somewhere, it has been years since he last rolled, the last time they had just started dating and they were happy still. He kept looking for a while but eventually gave up, he was only delaying the inevitable. If he didn’t at least try to face his addiction head on, to give himself a real shot at getting better, it all would have been for nothing, plus he thought the come down would for sure kill him now. He went to bed and dosed off after a while into an uneasy sleep.
Spending the following two weeks between the bedroom and the bathroom, he had fully succumbed to depression, he started stalking her on social media, punishing himself as he obsessed over her pictures with friends, he imagined her out on dates, laughing and whispering sweet nothings into a new guy’s ear, he even started stalking every girl he has ever been with imagining them all happy without him. His mind was determined to break him, he pushed her away, he pushed all of them away and now that he is all alone, he is desperate for connection.
“Fucking enough with this already!!!!” he started screaming to himself
“I am not getting better, just because I am not calling her doesn’t mean I am fighting this shit”
“I am killing myself here”
“This is fucking pathetic!!!”
“I’d rather you kill yourself you piece of shit than wallow in this misery for one more fucking day” that last sentence scared him stiff but even that was a welcome change to the madness grating his mind.
“Yes that’s right, if you don’t stop this shit, you might as well kill yourself”
He fell quiet.
There is too many fucking hours in the day he noticed his handwriting when he looked down at his new, leather-bound journaling notebook, he also started meditating recently and volunteering three times a week at the animal shelter and working out 2 hours a day, every day.
When he first started this new self-improvement routine, he was euphoric, he felt like he was finally on the mend, that night in his home with the knife to his wrist felt like a distant memory now, if he takes care of mind and body. If he keeps himself busy with good deeds and healthy living, it will all take care of itself.
But as he sat there staring at what he unconsciously jotted down in his journal, he starting to notice the patterns in everything he did: the binging, the elusive high, the ever increasing need for more, the emptiness afterwards .Whether it was relationships, personal development or even misery, there is nothing that he couldn’t abuse or turn into an addiction. This merry go round will never end, he is bound to keep on living through this hellscape forever, he will never escape, it is futile to hope that things will ever change for him, that was the last thought he remembers before finding the knife.
Life has always been painful for him, and it never played fair, he never intended on being the person he ultimately became; bitter and broken; but he never really had much of a choice. He always knew that much but rather than fixate on how unjust and miserable it all has been, he felt himself getting lighter, his mind started to project unto him flashbacks from the past; his father dying, his mom transforming from the sweet loving woman into a ball of stress and anxiety that she ultimately became.
He saw the abuse that he witnessed at the hands of his step-dads, the beatings he received all throughout school, all the women he loved that ended up leaving. It all played as a collage of horrors, only this time he didn’t flinch, he just sat there eyes wide open, and the more he sat, the less scary the images became and like a carousel, each time they passed through, the villains in his story, they started to smile at him.
They didn’t speak to him but he knew what they were saying without words
“It is not your fault little buddy, you can let go of the guilt and shame that you have been carrying all your life. It was never about conquering us, you can never defeat a shadow, just let us go my friend, just lay us down and walk away, and if others come again to visit, do with them as you did with us: Smile and tell them that it is okay.
Tell them it is no more their fault than it is yours, nobody picked their path in life, we are all meeting along this mystery plane, plucked from the unknown and thrust unto an existence we didn’t chose or understand.
Just nod, smile and carry on my friend, we will all meet again somewhere new, we will be you and you will be us, just remember we are all wandering spirits embodying shells we find along the way, we are no more our shells than the heavens is its own maker”
Zelda’s tears flowed into a river, and in it, he was bathed and born anew, he felt peace for the first time in his life. He woke up in a hospital room, this time he knew he will see this merry go round through.