Inoculations

Sequel to my movella Iris. It is two years since Iris met Gareth and she is only just beginning to re-assemble the pieces...

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3. In which I expound upon some contradictions

I played a well-rehearsed part of ‘being cruel’ but my ‘being cruel’ was not so much cruelty as honesty. My offhanded offences and my lack of likability were customary and so people learnt not to take them as more than bad manners. There was no problem with that; I tried to ward people off and so permitted myself to mildly injure them. Becoming attached to people was dangerous because the only person I’d ever really become attached to prior to Gareth was my murdered twin.

I was also close to her murderer although it was more by obligation than by choice that I would run to hug the body that hated me.

My true cruelty came whenever I let myself get close to people because I would, invariably, destroy them. I could be harsh but there was never any depth to that; the cruelty came when I got so close to another human being that I allowed them to believe in love. Somehow, I could capture their trust but the instability of the formulas that had created me meant that I’d erupt and sweep them away in the seismic shift of my dishonesty.

My old social worker “felt that it was vital to continue to maintain healthy contact” with me in order to “collaborate” with me against the effects of “drastic change” while my new psychiatrist told me it would be better to get “a clean break” from “all of that mess” in my past. That disagreement proved to be evidence of the true nature of the problem. The uniqueness of my case meant that no one could really decide what they were supposed to do with me. For all their titles, they could no more solve my problems than I could myself. The problem was not merely that they were unable to reach a compromise between then but that they could not discern an agreement with themselves. My psychiatrist would big-up my sufferance when it came to legal issues but then encourage me that my messed-up-ness was so small that it could be stepped over whenever the law courts stopped peering into my life. I could not work around the contradictions; I wanted a solidity that simply did not exist.

My social worker wanted to keep in touch and would visit me frequently but simultaneously forbade me from reaching out to touch any of the other kids from the Home. Not that I’d ever really liked them; I just would have liked to feel a bit wanted. To all who bore me I was a burden and I couldn’t help thinking that it would have been a lot simpler for all involved if I had never been dragged from Mr Thomas’ office. I never quite gave up on the idea that Abdul would show up some day and ask me for a cigarette I was no longer allowed to smoke. Gareth’s dependence on me had scared me, arguably because of my creeping dependence on him, but Abdul’s dependence on me had always been a comfort. As long as I proceeded with the act of charring my lungs and as long as nicotine continued to be an addition; Abdul would keep coming back. The beauty of the relationship was that there was nothing personal to it. Or, at least, he believed that it was personal because I told him things, what he didn’t realise was that the secrets I told him were the ones I could do without.

Abdul needed my cigarettes more than I needed his trust.

The smoking was at least one thing everyone agreed on. Together we all tried to reverse the damage; attempted to un-Rhona me. What we soon realised is that you can take the fire away from the girl but the burns don’t heal and that you can take fire away from the girl but the girl will never leave the fire. The girl liked being burned; it was a shard of ritualistic atonement for the sin of being the half that survived.

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