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A Letter To... The Guy Who Sleeps Next to Me

by Sincerely, Mickie 4 months ago in dating

What do you want from me?

Trigger Warning: Mental health and relationships.

You set the essay question down in front of me. You get to be the teacher because you’ve always had the upper hand. I get out my favorite pen and sit up straight in my seat. Poised and ready. I look down at the paper and read the question, mouthing the words even though they burn the tip of my tongue.

What do you want from me?

I look up at you and say, but I’ve answered this question before. You don’t respond. You don’t need to; the answer is in your eyes. You still don’t understand.

I sigh and get to work.

I want you to text me back. Not all day, every day. Not when you’re at work. Or even when you’re on the way home. I want you to text me back when the plans change. When I say goodnight or when we are far apart. I want you to understand that it makes me anxious when you don’t text back. I want you to understand that my brain is telling me that the lack of an outright response and reassurance equals rejection. And I want you to care enough to accommodate me.

I’m proud of my paragraph. I hold it up to you, ready for change. And ready to see the dawning in your eyes. You read my words and nod. You give me an A on my essay and we cuddle the rest of the night.

I texted you five hours ago. Your green dot was online thirty minutes ago so I know you know I contacted you. We are the same age and we were raised in the same generation. We have gone out together countless times. I know how often you look at your phone.

I know that during your conversations with strangers you think of a song or a fact and your very first action is to look it up and show it to them. I know that even if your Facebook is offline for hours on end you will be taking over as DJ with YouTube and adding these strangers to your contact list and calling them friends. I know that they look at their phones giving you a moment of reprieve if you need a spare second to read and respond.

I know all of these things as I lay in bed and stare at my phone. As I try and distract myself from your absence by binge-watching TV shows and journaling and reading. I make up reasons in my head for why you can’t respond even though the reality is that you can. My imagined excuses range anywhere from your phone died to you, yourself, no longer exist on this plane. Sometimes they are more sinister fantasies than that. Sometimes you are standing at the bar laughing with another woman, looking at your messages, seeing my words, and putting your phone back in your pocket without a second thought while she curls a manicured hand around your upper arm.

It doesn’t matter that as far as I know, my darkest thoughts have never been the truth. It’s been seven hours now and my message is still unread.

You get home and the first thing I say when you walk in the door is you didn’t text me back. I’m not trying to fight but I am upset with you and I am also anxious. I try to tell you how I feel and we fight anyway. We fight for hours. At some time between one in the morning and three you turn to me and say.

What do you want from me?

I stare at you in disbelief. I’ve been crying for hours now and it’s like you hit restart. I feel like I’ve answered this question a thousand times since you got home. But I take a deep breath and prepare my answer.

I want you to listen to me when I tell you how I feel. I want my feelings to make a difference in your behavior.

You can’t control me, you interject.

I know. I promise I don’t want to control you. I just want it to matter when I tell you how I feel.

So, we can talk for hours like this? Is this fun for you?

No, I promise this is not what I want. Okay, what I want from you is for you to understand. I am not mad that you went out. I am not mad that you came home late. I am upset because you didn’t take a moment to think about me. I try not to message you when you are out but when it does happen, I would like a response.

Fine.

Will you look at me, please?

What do you want from me?

I want you to care.

I do care.

It doesn’t feel like you care.

What do you want from me?

I want you not to get mad when I am anxious. I want it to be okay that I am upset. And I want you to communicate with me instead of fight.

Okay.

I don’t know why my heart is racing. There isn’t anything wrong. I have been fine, all day and there is nothing to complain about. You come home from work on time. You say hello to me. You sound a little off. Like maybe you don’t like me so much right now. I list off in my head what I could have done to displease you but come up empty. You left early this morning we only said goodbye. Nothing came up today so we did not chat while you were at work. There is nothing.

I try not to nitpick. Most likely it isn’t you, it is me. I know you don’t like it when I am anxious and I call out something you are doing. It makes you frustrated and that is fair. So, I decide I am going to tell you the truth. I will confide in you and that will usurp the fight over my anxiety because instead of finding a flaw in the way your shoulders hunched forward and your forehead creased when I asked you what you wanted to eat, I will just say it.

I’m anxious right now.

Why?

I don’t know why. I just am.

So, there’s no reason at all?

No, there is not a reason.

I cannot deal with this right now.

Deal with what?

Nothing.

Why are you mad at me?

What do you want from me?

I don’t know what to say. I tried not to make it about you. You have accused me countless times of coming at you with my anxiety. Of taking a day that my heart has decided to sign up for a race I was unaware of and making it about the color of your shirt or the way you said hello. I thought this would work.

I close my eyes and get out my pen. It’s time to write an essay again. I look at you and try not to cry. I know you think it’s childish when I cry.

I want you to be okay with my anxiety.

Right. I’m just supposed to accept that.

I would like you to because it is a part of me.

Because you choose it to be. Because you won’t get help.

That’s not the kind of support I would like from you.

What do you want from me?

I want you to hold my hand.

You want me to coddle you. That’s not going to help. It won’t make you better.

I don’t want to be mean. I don’t want to attack every time you have been there for me. But I try and think of a time I was anxious and we didn’t fight. I can’t think of one after the first year that we were together. I wonder why you think kindness won’t help when the experiment has never been conducted. There is no evidence to use when the action in question has never been tried.

I wonder when my anxious thoughts and manic moments went from stroking my hair all night and watching funny videos to that look you have in your eye right now. The one that makes me think there is something inside of you that would be okay if you never saw me again. I wonder what I did to make the vulnerability you used to compliment a weakness. I wonder how I went from being a human you marveled at to one that irritates you with any emotional reaction.

I wonder when the goal became to fix me.

I don’t want you to make me better.

You don’t want to get better.

Either way, you can’t fix me.

What am I supposed to do then?

Just be there.

You’re trying to change who I am. I solve things.

I don’t want to change who you are; I want you to change how you respond to me in these situations.

What do you want from me?

I want you to know that I know I have mental health problems. I want you to know that treated or untreated they are a part of me.

I want you to love the difficult parts of me because you know that they are weight-bearing pillars in the structure that built me. I want you to love the difficult parts of me because I wouldn’t be me without them. I want you to love the difficult parts of me because they are the reason that, that first night I slept over in your room and we went for a walk the next morning and told each other things we had never said to even our closest friends, at least not sober in the light of day, are the parts of me that made me able to understand you.

We go to sleep. Only for a few hours. It’s five in the morning. As you often point out, it’s always five in the morning. I don’t mean it to be. But writing this essay takes skill and practice. I have to rework the sentences, repeat myself, get to the point, and then start all over again. One of my favorite images to use in a metaphor is clocks moving backward and I wish I could get the minutes on the little hand to regress so you wouldn’t be so irritated at how long it takes me to revise this answer. I got an A on the first draft but I think every revision knocks me down a peg.

Why are you crying?

Because you’re hurting my feelings.

This fight comes quickly after the last one. I think it is residual. We get into ruts like this. One fight after the other. It used to last for weeks. We’ve managed to cut it down to a day or two.

You need to get your shit together.

Stop being mean to me.

I’m not mean to you.

But you don’t understand the absence of kindness feels like meanness. You don’t understand that I don’t want those thoughts. I try and show you videos online of people explaining it better than I can but you dismiss that as silly and arbitrary. But it’s really how it is. I know you’re not being mean. I know your monotone response isn’t mean.

But the other me of the we I talk to in my head doesn’t know that. The other me of the we that I talk to in my head whispers to me with a tongue that licks my eardrum and says:

Did you hear the way he just responded to you? He hates you.

He thinks you’re the most annoying person on the planet. He’s only with you because you make it so easy for him.

He can get his life together and then leave you. It’s been the plan for years. Remember when you moved and he broke up with you two weeks later? He tried it then. He just felt sorry for you when you cried to get him back.

How could he ever love you?

You’re disgusting.

He’s too busy playing video games with his friends. He likes them better than you. He would’ve gone back home and left you by now if there were better jobs in his hometown.

Sometimes I can squash these voices but I only have one tongue and the tongue of the me that is the we that I talk to in my head, their tongue is split in two.

Can you be nice to me?

I am nice to you.

I’m crying again. It’s the way the words I am nice to you sounded like knives cutting into the spaces between my ribs. It’s the way you said it with your eyes closed, head laid back on the pillow, hands folded on your chest. Like a corpse in a coffin. I look at you lying like that and I know you know that I hate when you do that. I know you know it makes me feel like everything happening around you is passive and casual and you don’t care yet you don’t refrain from that body language. So, I cry even harder at the meaning I have attached to this stance.

You groan and roll over placing the pillow over your head. You fall asleep and I cry. I cry like the person I love most in the world just died. I cry like a toddler told no to more TV time. I cry like anything other than a grown woman in a fight with her boyfriend. But it hurts so much more than that. It hurts like every time I tried to make a friend in high school and they dropped me within two days. It hurts like all the times I fell in love with a boy who fell in love with someone prettier than me. It hurts like every time my mother told me I was too much or being overdramatic right after the lash of her wrath had fallen across my face. It hurts like every time I have ever felt lonely. And it hurts like all of that all at once.

You tell me that’s not normal. That’s not how normal people feel or react. Maybe you’re right. Or maybe there are lots of others that feel the same as me. But either way, it doesn’t make it any less the truth.

In the morning you don’t greet me with apologies. Instead, you hand me another piece of paper and a pen. My eyes are grainy and sore. I don’t think I’m ready for the essay question today. My lips are still swollen and I think I would rather watch the bachelorette for hours on end with the blanket pulled up to my chin.

But I muster the last bit of energy I have left and sit up in bed. I lay the paper out in front of me and read the question.

What do you want from me?

I want it to matter when I cry. I want pillows soaked by my tears to be unacceptable. I want it to hurt. I want there to be a point where you recognize the argument has gone too far. I want there to be a moment where love melts the anger. I want the cutting words that make my lip quiver to make you second guess. I want them to make you pause. I want them to make you ask to rewind and pull me into your arms and shield me from your own offensive strikes. I want pain in my heart caused by you to make you restless. I want your body to reject sleep if you are aware that I am lying beside you rivaling the river of wonderland.

I do care when you cry.

Then how come you go to sleep? Why don’t you ever hug me?

I don’t know.

How don’t you know?

I don’t know.

I feel numb when I hear the words I don’t know. I want to turn my paper over. I want to write my own question on the top of the page and take your golden apple and set it on my desk instead. I want to be the one dishing out the grades and reviewing the sentences making sure they all add up in the right order. I want to make an answer mandatory. I want to give the same test over and over again until the results come out in my favor. But that’s not how it works. I am enrolled and you are employed. Compulsory but I earn and you are owed.

Weeks go by and everything is okay. I think we are on the right track. I think maybe my last essay was the one. The one that we will frame on the fridge and our children will ask us about when they are adult enough to care and we are old. I think I finally stuck the key in the right lock and things are going to be okay.

I don’t know who starts it. It’s like the age-old question of the chicken and the egg. Did the look on your face come first or was it my perception of the way you turned on your x-box before kissing me when you got home from work? I know the origin. I know where this whole circle was born. I remember the caves of our first apartment together muddied with broken families, grief, and toxicity. But after the birth of the circle itself, it gets a little mirky.

Maybe we can chalk it up to resentment. After all, it is like tar seeping in through the cracks and coating the bones of a house long after the paint has been refreshed.

I look down at the paper you have set on my desk, interrupting me from the story I am trying to write about the high schoolers that fell in love. I don’t have to read it to know what it says.

What do you want from me?

I want you to know me like you know the lines in the palm of your hand. I want to be read by you like your favorite book, memorizing every sentence and favorite word. Every scene that pulls you deeper and knowing that even those parts that make you cringe and want to slam it shut have you coming back for more.

I want you to see through me when words fail. I want you to hold all of the twisted things inside of me with gentle hands and soft fingertips. I want you to pace across the living room floor with me when I am too anxious to be still. I want you to hold me, laughing until the sun comes up in our bed when everything gets too loud to sleep.

I want compassion, patience, and affection without a price.

I want you to respond to my weakest moments with love instead of anger.

I want you to follow me anywhere as long as it is my hand you are holding. I want sunrises and sunsets and to believe that life can feel like a movie even if it's only for a moment.

I want to fall apart and know that I won't slip through the spaces between your fingers.

I want this me to be the version of me that you want. I want to be loved without whittling down the pieces of myself that don’t make sense to anyone who isn’t inside my head. I want to know if I’m enough. I want to know that if I can give you everything in this world except peace that you will still want to intertwine your life with mine. Because the waters beneath my skin don’t ever run still or cold. And if the answer is no, I want you to let me go.

Maybe I’m asking for too much, but I don’t think I care. I think I deserve not to settle for less than what makes my heart feel whole.

I want you to want something from me. I want you to want something from me that is about how to love you.

What do you want from me?

Sincerely, Mickie

If you enjoyed this story check out the rest of the A Letter To series:

A Letter To… The Guy Who Ghosted Me

A Letter To… The Guy Who Got His First Tattoo for Me

R.H. McMahan’s novel, Worn Out Places debuts on September 1st, 2021. For more information and to see the cover and blurb reveal this April follow her here: @sincerelymickie

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Sincerely, Mickie
Sincerely, Mickie
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Sincerely, Mickie

R.H. McMahan (Mickie) is a YA Fiction and Creative Non-Fiction author.

She aspires to open a bookstore one day and is debuting her novel Worn Out Places this September. You can find all of her work at sincerelymickie.com

See all posts by Sincerely, Mickie

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