Now, she had half killed him but she wasn’t going to admit it. That would mean, amongst other things, having to begin a sort of grieving process which would be a signal that everything really was over, and that because she thought it was so, it would be so. But how could she grieve over someone she hated? It would be a peculiar process, there are many different kinds of hatred- cold, hot, angry, emotionless- her’s was angry and hot and that kind denied thought, defied verbal expression. There was something about him that caused a pyschic block in her, like a tree trunk flung across the path of a river, which she feared if removed, would give reign to all sorts of nasty emotions and actions she did not want to believe she was capable of.
At the moment he was in a psychiatric hospital being force fed and he had forbidden her to visit, though she wouldn’t now anyway. Not when she was cited as the main reason for him being there.
‘She won’t be friends with me!’ he exploded at a friend’s house.
It was true, she had stopped. After a year of trying to help him with his problems (that was how she saw it), of giving endless advice about his inability to love, his raging emotions, self hate and self destructive actions- self harming for example, she’d stopped. She’d stopped because one day she accidentally overheard how he really felt about her..
‘Oh I rang Lydia and all she did was go on about how I can’t love because I won’t open out and it’s all my fault- she really made me feel bad man, like I was someone awful because I was like this.’
When Lydia heard Ben say that she naturally cut off. Not violently, but sadly, with resignation.
‘Well I just try to help you know, and if he can’t take it, he can’t. There is nothing I can do and he’ll continue to fail in his career, in his life, until he does.’
When Lydia first met Ben she was a dreamer. She wandered the streets when she wasn’t working ruminating on love and Coelho and Osho, she spent hours visiting spiritual book shops on St Martin’s Lane and reading about the Incas and Castaneda and the such like and attended yoga classes often. She was like any young woman who thought they’d found a new religion, perhaps even a vacation and she found herself bursting into tears at inappropriate moments and usually for no reason.
‘Although there is always a reason’, she said to friends.
She wanted to help people. She decided this was her real calling, if she could she would wander the towns and cities, staying at friends’ houses and talking to people. That’s what she wanted really. But she would always keep away from the beggars and the mad shouting out on street corners, she kept away from the drunks and the violent ones.
For a long while she remained suspended and stranded with all the information and love emotions she was accruing inside her. She spent hours on her prayer mat meditating about herself, holding up a mirror and probing deep and calling it self knowledge. However she did not like arguments or discussions and always avoided them if possible. They were ugly in her opinion, unnecessary.
When she met Ben in a pub she thought she had found what she was looking for. A failed actor, he now worked as a mime artist under the London Eye, spending his days being prodded, poked and pushed by the General Public. She was his saviour. An obvious Bio polar case, as was the fashion, she gently made friends. Believing that in everyone there existed a secret seed of love just waiting to sprout and flower, she tried to draw him out- for her everything came back to self and looking inward rather than outward. She encouraged him to talk about his feelings, express them, she probed into his private life, chose his girlfriends (‘that one’s skirt is so short man, she’s a slut’) and even said to his face she didn’t like his friends. Ben lapped it up and fell under her spell but only because he saw what she did not, that she was in love with him, and it tickled him. Sitting and listening to her talk sometimes, he would kick back his heels, flash her a smile and think, ‘Ah you don’t know it my girl but it’s me who’s rescuing you, not the other way around!’
But he only gave their friendship a few months, Ben was not prepared to change or if he was it was on his terms only and certainly not on Lydia’s. He saw that Lydia needed to control, her fatal flaw.
Sure enough, Lydia began to get frustrated with Ben. She wasn’t honest with herself about what she really wanted, which was to sleep with him. She despised sex, especially for its own sake. Everything in Lydia’s world had to have a certain kind of beauty- Lydia’s beauty- not anyone else’s, which would, by definition, because it was not her’s, be ugly. For this reason, when Ben sometimes wanted to sleep with her, though he did not really love her yet, she refused. The time was never right, it was never on her terms but on his. The issue was control, the issue was she could not let go and let what be be, she was afraid it might not be beautiful.
Lydia had a lot to say about how scared others were but she never talked about herself. If she was as scathing about herself as she was others, she never let on.
The inevitable fractures between her and Ben lengthened into deep cracks. Lydia was restless for new students, new fodder. If Ben ever came to her with a problem now the response was always the same- ‘You’re not being open.’ Hence Ben’s unhappy confession to a friend which she over heard.
You might have thought that Ben would have been relieved to have rid himself of Lydia but he couldn’t let her go. He’d appear uninvited at coffee meetings he once attended, or at trips out to the cinema and would tag along, making himself look stupid, yet he couldn’t help it. Lydia had not actually said anything about the friendship ending, therefore he was stuck- there was no defining point to mark the friendship as being over so he could go and get on with the rest of his life. Lydia may have been aware of this in the same way one might be aware of a dull headache- it’s there, but you don’t actually say, not even to yourself.
Because the people weren’t finding a way, life had to find it for them. Events conspired to ensure that Lydia and Ben were both invited to the same house party. For hours Ben mooched by himself in the corner, his eyes fixed on Lydia as she laughed and chatted girlishly with the others.
‘Who’s that?’ a friend asked Lydia, referring to Ben.
‘Oh don’t worry about him,’ Lydia laughed nervously, averting her eyes.
There was a tense silence for a while, Lydia was aware that Ben’s brooding silence was spoiling it for everyone and she was scared that she would be painted with the same brush too- but it was only momentary, no wanted the gathering to get gloomy. The conversation picked itself up again, though out of the corner of her eye Lydia could see the look of cold anger on her friend’s face. At last though, Ben went out into the garden by himself and sat on a deckchair.
It was the splintering of glass that alerted them and then the loud roar, a roar with no words. Ben lay on his back, frothing at the mouth, his hand cut to shreds and bleeding because he’d put it through the greenhouse. When Lydia tried to approach, he screamed at her to keep away and when they went inside to call the police, he was up and scrambling over the wall, running across the city in bare feet and blood stained hair. The police picked him up hours later.
He was better now but he still did not want to see Lydia. She herself could not forget that look on his face when he screamed at her. She knew he knew how she really felt about him, she knew her betrayal was too great and too final. Now he was lying drugged up in a psychiatric ward and she needed to grieve, she needed to grieve to let him go but hate was in the way. She was also afraid, what if her waves of hate were so strong they caused him to die? It was a funny thing to grieve for someone who was not yet dead and who one hated.