"Enough, enough of pretending! I don't want them to come near me again. I don't want them to lay their hands on me again. I don't want to hear them, or of them, ever again. I want them immediately out of my life, all of them. Enough of pretending to be what they want me to be!"
It took him a while to crystallize even those simple feelings. For a long time, he had been trying to track down the obscure cause of his vague feelings of anxiety and frustration. After he had reached the deepest abyss climbed out, only to slip down again in a banal Sisyphean cycle, he finally came up with the certainty that his friends were the ones who were repeatedly shattering the fragile but truthful self-image he was trying to construct.
He had come a long way before orientating himself on his friends as a marker. Somethings was wrong with his life. He could not, and would not, accept the arbitrary and inconsistent pattern as being normal. The sense behind it all, which he never ceased to search for, being convinced there was some sense, always seemed to escape him. The few occasions that he had been convinced he had got on the right track were brief since his anxious mind began to doubt and consequently pulled to pieces its own reasoning. Nothing would satisfy his abnormal hunger for all- encompassing and fundamental solution.
What were the manifestations of that peculiar but rather mild state of anxiety that he suffered from? He slept well enough, his appetite was never particularly poor, except for the times when he insisted on smoking his body weight of tobacco before breakfast. That is was all of his own making he had sensed dimly for some time, but the realization only aggravated his anxiety. It wasn't a physical object he had to eliminate in order to regain (yes, he could swear that there had been a time when tranquility wasn't just a word ) his peaceful state of mind, but rather a phantom with no dimensions and no address, just a something that lurked in the house and poked his mind every now and then, a constant buzzing in both ears.
It was at its worst when he was trying to do something, when he needed all his mental faculties, all the powers of concentration in the world. Yes, it had got to that; even simple tasks, like applying for another job he would not get-just writing the standard letter- entailed at least a quarter of an hour of gearing himself up before he was ready to approach the sheet of paper with a pen.
Not getting better but not getting worse either, he plodded along with his anxiety. Sometimes he was content to think that he was keeping it under control, or if he wasn't that nobody else was either, so that his lot wouldn't seem so hopeless. At other times he got very impatient with himself and with that stagnating and tiresome state of anxious bewilderment and wished hard that resolution would find its way into the dusty and rusty fore of his mind and force his feeble being into a conclusive and liberating action. When the decision was behind him and he could comfort himself with the notion that very soon all his misery would be over, he had time to think back and marvel at the obviousness of the solution.
With the forbearance of a man who had just abolished the last obstacle in a long struggle, he languidly contemplated his friends, the relationships he had so labored first to create and then to manipulate, and their recent behavior that had brought him (he could now say in retrospect) to the bottom of the deepest abyss he had never known. If at first he had been ready to admit some fault with his conduct, some inadequacy in interacting with people, now, after indulging in that spiteful and bitter spate of thought, he was truly convinced of his own innocence of the evil intentions of his former friends.
The only way of dealing with their sort was to be utterly ruthless.But calculated. On no account should he allow his mounting hatred and bitterness to blind him and trip him up. He must be double careful. They weren't stupid. He wouldn't be able to get the upper hand on them so easily. They would be waiting for him to slip and then they'd turn om him like vultures, showing no sign of remorse, sympathy or human compassion. He discarded that image quickly; it was too horrible to dwell upon if he wanted to gear himself up into a positive and winning mood.
He would have to be stronger than them. Them! He viewed them in his mind's eye, grinning and mocking him whispering behind his back, moving slowly around him in a circle, making him move quicker than he wanted to, losing his balance and falling on the ground, on his face, completely helpless and at their mercy. Not daring to roll over because then the blows might start landing. He preferred to lie with his head down. Bury his face in the dusty earth and listen to their abuse. Let them drain their hatred and mockery and then listen to their voices moving away from him as they got bored with such a pathetic and unworthy victim. And he still called them friends!
He was filled with blind rage each time he remembered. He hated himself, fit clenched with fury, for not having done anything., not fighting back, never showing them that he was better by not rising to the bait but standing up erect and proud and… He'd better stop thinking about it, the tears were choking his throat.He needed to be positive, he couldn't let the past weaken him with the reminders of his failures.
When his mind was almost too tired to process even the simple idea, when there was a danger that the fragile organ would cease to function because it had been fed with stale and stagnating data about its master's inactivities at that last and final moment before the final and ever- lasting eclipse, a tremendous spark lit up the darkening corridors of his mind and set all the branches dancing and vibrating with excitement at the totality and the curative nature of that marvelous idea- getting rid of his friends as the solution not only to his own personal problems, but also as a model for anyone who would also be desperate enough to use it.
"I shall just bump them of, one by one, or all together, depending on the need or whatever else, and I'll be free, FREE AT LAST!"
"You know what Ted is like sometimes, don't you? He gets strange notions into his head and works himself up for really idiotic reasons.
You really don't want to let it worry you. He'll be fine if you'll just leave him alone for a while. You must let people like him work through their bitterness alone, otherwise they think you're being understanding and compassionate, or even worse, sympathetic. They can't stand that because then they lose their claim for uniqueness, their momentary but dear position of being on the periphery, almost on the brink of normality."
"I don't think you understand. It's not one of his moods again.
I wouldn't have troubled you if it is was. They are too boring to even mention. No, it's something else this time.
"He hasn't been to his office for a whole week. I know that from a guy who works with him. He told me that when he rang Ted up to find out what was the matter, someone lifted the receiver on the other end but said nothing and after a few seconds hung up. He said that there were no lights on and nobody answered the door- bell. He rang me straight after he got back. He didn't want to ring the police or anything before he let someone else have a go at locating Ted.
"I think we should go and visit him. He might be needing help."
"They didn't fool me! No way!
"I knew what they were after, coming here supposedly to visit me, to see how I was! Ha!
"They won't catch me off my guard that easily. They must think I'm a real fool if they dared to try such a simple one on me. But I showed them. Didn't I? I told them what was what! I doubt that they'll try again now, but I'll have to be very careful in the future all the same.
They can be very cunning if they want to, and considering what's at stake, I can't risk being complacent.
He had to think of a total solution, an instantaneous and over- whelming way of eliminating the threat that their presence was posing on his wellbeing. It had to be destructive enough to achieve its goal, but also gentle and subtle so as not to leave any traces that would incriminate him. An occurrence so mundane in its appearance that nobody would suspect its instigator even when the unforeseeably tragic outcome was known.
How easy must it be to mistake a cat for a lion when the mind is shackled by terrible bonds of hatred and fear! When the idea occurred to him, he could hardly contain his delight. Such a simple idea it was too! As if mocking his concerted efforts, the logical step-by-step progress, the idea of inviting them all to a party and there poison them seemed so natural, so easy to follow.
As if it was already behind him, as if the conception of the idea automatically brought about its execution, he felt confident and secure enough to abandon his vigil by the window (which he had kept for the past three days, since he'd had the last visit from his concerned friends), and lie down for a spell to recover his strength for the forthcoming events.
"You see, I told you there was nothing wrong with Ted. Obviously he wasn't feeling quite himself last Tuesday when we saw him, but now he already wants to have a party! He's mad! He goes from one extreme to another. Well, I suppose it's part of his charm."
"Do you mean you're actually going?"
"Of course! Why? Aren't you?"
"No! His parties are terrible. He invites weird people that never get on. The last one I went to ended up in a fight between a few macho types he dragged up from the abyss of his dreary childhood."
"Oh come on! You must come, we can't let him down. There'll be a lot of booze, I'm sure. Anyway, it was you who was so concerned about his well- being last week, and now that you have a chance to show your affection you chicken out! I don't get it!"
"I've got this terrible feeling about Ted, as if something is going to happen to him and I'm destined to witness it. It's like I've had a bad dream with him in it. I can't remember dreaming about him though but the feeling is there all the same. Strange."
"I'm sure it's nothing but maybe you're right; his parties are usually a bore. Maybe we shouldn't go after all."
"I wish you would make up your mind about things. Just when I was beginning to try and overcome my premonition, you suddenly get cold feet!"
"Who says we both have to go, anyway?"
"Look, why don't you leave me alone and let me decide what I want to do and who I thinking for me?"
"Don't get shorty with me! Who do you think YOU are to talk to ME like that? What right have you?"
"Oh, go away, will you?.."
"Sorry…no…please don't… pleas stay, I didn't mean to say that.
But don't ask any more questions and don't look at me like that…
Sit there, not too close, and be quiet. I need to think. You need to think."
"It's not an easy decision, even if it appears to be so. Think it over once, and then again, and then let me know. Don't jump to conclusions just because I got mad at you. You know I didn't mean to shout, don't you? But you must realize how difficult it is sometimes.
"You're so demanding, so self-righteous sometimes, I just can't stand it anymore…Please don't go yet, I need you now, you need me?"
"You need me more than ever now, don't fool yourself into thinking that you can manage without me. You know it will not work."
"Look what happened when you had to make all these decisions about the party, who to invite and all that…."
"Listen, if you just sit there quietly, I'm sure nobody will hear you, us. Nobody will come to our party, we will be left alone, as we, you, wanted us."
"And we won't have to kill anyone, will we now Ted?"
"Are you listening to me, Ted?"
"Don't look at me like that, please, I'll have to make you stop and that hurts, doesn't it? Please, please…"