Mary sipped her tea, which was too hot but cooling down by the minute. She sipped slowly, daintily; an unmistakably Mary thing to do.
She had been offered cakes, a biscuit even, but she said no thank you to the server in the coffee shop. This was something that Mary did not do; she did not over-eat, or stuff her face with sugary junk. Mary was disciplined. She sipped her hot tea and she watched everyone.
She watched the server serve. He was tall and youngish, but he had a good manner and seemed older. She watched him smile and talk, offer biscuits, and put customers at their ease. She watched him make tea, stir frothy milk into hot chocolate, toast cheese and ham toasties. She watched the customers leave the counter with a smile on their faces, satisfied at their interaction with the nice server man.
She watched with envy. Because it was something she could never do; be at ease with others, or put others at their ease. People didn’t smile at her. People gave her a wide berth, they moved away from her. They sensed her desperation, her strangeness. Maybe they sensed more from her. And they fled from it.
She’d never really had friends. Not real ones, and only for short periods of time, until they got to know her, got to witness her behaviour. Then they started to feel smothered, weirded out, afraid. Mary was always on the outside, looking in, it seemed. Sat in this busy coffee shop, observing all specimens of life, seeing them all functioning within their social circles, living their lives without her, happy, smiling, connected. But not with her. Outside of her. Mary was completely alone, and her self-loathing and her hatred of society, threatened to rise up out of her throat and her head and her eyes. But she pushed it down. Quietly, again. And all was as it was before.
Mary pursed her lips and drank from her cup. She wished she cared more about this cup, about this tea. Was the tea nice? Who knew? She wished that she had as much going on inside her as other people seemed to have. She wanted their happiness. Whenever she saw somebody turn their head and smile and engage with another human being, she wanted to reach out and snatch that happiness and scream in their faces that they didn’t deserve it, they COULDN’T have it, that it should all be hers… but every time she felt that, she squashed it down. Squash, squash, squash.
She had squashed her rageful thoughts down so many times, that she imagined them to be a big lump of playdoh inside her stomach, sickly and green and cancerous. A huge toxic tumour of hate and despair deep in her belly.
A woman came in. She was slim, blue-eyed, pretty. Mary watched her. Watched her move, smile, unzip her purse, stand in line, hold her body a certain way. Mary didn’t take her eyes off her as she observed, processed, assessed, retained information.
Mary thought about how lonely she had been. Until she had met Mary. Because, of course, she wasn’t really Mary. She had BECOME Mary. Mary had been her friend. Not for very long. Mary had tried to escape the friendship, but this had been the straw that broke the camel’s back, causing the tight cord of sanity to snap, and poor Mary had been brutally stabbed, until every part of her face and body were in red shreds upon the tiled floor. Now her body was in pieces deep within the earth, and Mary was born again. Into a new person, one who was lonely and sad and twisted and looking for connection. Connection at any cost.
‘Mary’ started to subtly mimic the woman, the way she tucked a stray hair behind her ear, the way she hunched her shoulders, the way she smiled nervously at the server before glancing downwards at her shoes. Mary was good at this. She was almost doing it subconsciously.
Mary put down her tea. She stood, gathered her things, and moved across to join the queue behind the pretty, blue-eyed woman. She pretended to drop her scarf, and the pretty woman gasped and bent to retrieve it. Their eyes met. Mary thanked her, reached out a hand to introduce herself, which the woman shook. Maybe she was lonely too. She told Mary her name. “Hello, I’m Suzie.”
Mary’s smile grew wide. She tried the name on for size. “Hello Suzie,” she said.