Short Stories

Dear Diary

Deep down we are empty shells

Friday 8th July

We broke up tonight, like many times in the past; every time it hurts more than the last. I cannot take it anymore.

The reason is always the same. We should have ended it a long time ago, to save all this heartache. James agreed, the situation won’t change, why drag it on?

We finally agreed to go our separate ways. Sounds so ridiculous. We never lived together as a couple, we don’t get up in the morning from the same bed, we don’t wash our clothes in the same machine. We never really got together as a family, how can we go our separate ways?

I was looking forward to today. James took half the day off because I had a day off. I like spending time with him. He makes me laugh and he’s good company.

When I heard James’ car stop at my front door to pick me up, I couldn’t run fast enough to greet him. It was always exciting to see him.

We were talking and laughing all the way to the Dandenong wholesale butcher, to stock our freezers. We were both in a happy mood. The radio was playing our kind of songs; there was nothing I wished for more than that moment.

On the way back, I reminded him that he said he would talk to me about “what we can do to solve our problem.”

I asked him whether our talk would upset me as it did in the past.

He said, “No, I don’t want to upset you, we’ll find a solution.”

I was so pleased to hear that. I knew that once the simple problem was solved, I wouldn’t have sleepless nights anymore. I was glad that he finally saw how easy it was to solve the problem.

But I was so wrong. James didn’t see how simple the problem was; instead he wanted me to accept the whole situation. In other words, he was not solving the problem at all, he just repeated the words he said in the past, totally disrespecting my values and beliefs.

I would not continue to let him manipulate me. It had started from the very beginning. I would change the negative atmosphere that had come into my life.

He had forgotten what he said to me on the phone. He did not intend to solve our problem. He must have thought I was a fool. If I take the manipulation, I must be a fool, like he thought.

Words and words, nothing but words. Words are cheap, especially when they are repeated from the very beginning.

“If you don’t accept it, we may as well part” he said, using both his hands to help express his view.

I felt cold, from top to toe. My head felt hollow, inside my body felt empty, I couldn’t think or speak. I was desperate for water to moisten my dry mouth and throat.

I would pay any price just to wipe him out of my memory. I had thought he was a kind-hearted person but no kind-hearted person would treat others like that. Manipulation is a cruel act.

All the things we went through became a big joke, a laughing matter. How could I be so stupid as to fall for it?

Once I felt that James was not thinking about my wellbeing, I knew he had no love for me. When love’s not present, nothing really matters. The rest is easy to handle; sadness was not in my vocabulary at that moment. He destroyed our romance; gave me the freedom to look ahead.

With emptiness inside me, I wish for nothing but my own space; maybe this is a good thing after all.

Saturday 9th July

I had a very good rest. After waking up in the morning, I was ready to start my new life.

I told Karen in a few sentences about the parting when we had our workout in the gym. She asked me to join her and Olivia for dinner in an Italian restaurant in Hawthorn. Olivia had asked me the other day; I turned it down because I was going to spend time with James.

Today was a good day, relaxing and productive. My mind was occupied with my work, the work that I enjoy doing.

Time flew today. When Karen called and told me what time she’d come and pick me up, I realised I better put down everything and get ready. Lucky I was ready when Karen came and picked me up.

Dinner was very nice; I even had dessert, sticky date pudding with butterscotch sauce. Forget about my weight, I am going to enjoy my life fully.

I had the same dessert last Saturday with James at the Christmas in July function, what a coincidence. I couldn’t help wishing I were with him; how foolish I am.

Once James entered my mind like that, I lost my peace of mind.

Did I do the right thing? Did I give us a fair go?

I don’t want to misjudge anyone, especially James. We had lots going for us for a long time. I don’t want to make a mistake.

To move on is easy, to find true love is not easy. If James really loves me, I don’t want to be parted from him.

But what is love? It doesn’t have a physical shape; how can one know it is there? James told me that he loves me but his words and his actions didn’t match. Should I trust his words and ignore his actions? Maybe he has no ability to see things like me. He is just like all the others, how could I punish him for not understanding it?

My ability to see things as they are is a curse. I can’t have a relationship because I can’t cope when they are lying. Lying is deceiving.

What if they don’t understand things at the same level as me? I have been through such relationships before. The other party simply could not see what I saw; I thought they were evil. How could they not see, it was so simple; they had to be evil, I didn’t want to be with an evil person.

I thought James and I had good communication. I was wrong.

I didn’t want any regret in my life. I needed to be sure so I thought maybe I should give it another go.

I called James.

He came to my place. We had another talk. He looked tired, said he didn’t sleep till 4am this morning. I felt bad.

He still repeated the same words. I wished there was a button that I could push to stop him saying the same words again and again. That reminded me of Dr John Collingwood. He told Darren off. Darren was going on and on about his own opinion like James. The doctor said: “Stop, stop, Darren she’s leaving you; what are you going to do to stop her?” It was Dr Collingwood who suggested I leave Darren.

If James and I were in front of Dr Collingwood, he would suggest the same thing. I could see so clearly that James could not handle me at all. Who can? I see things before they actually happen. I am an intellectually honest person. I’ve not yet met anyone who has this kind of ability.

Maybe I am destined to be alone. So I don’t have to deal with people, they drive me nuts.

What can I do? I don’t want to hurt others; I cannot help those who I have hurt in the past but I can stop hurting James.

I could see James was suffering; so was I. I’ve stood by my values and beliefs all my life, that’s who I am. I won’t be happy otherwise.

Sunday 10th July

Last night I slept well until 3am but I felt irritated when I woke up. A lot of mental energy needed to be channelled somewhere. Where?

My perception was running rather high. James’ words became more ridiculous every moment that passed. I saw his great suffering but it was all self-caused.

It’s good to be accommodating but if James isn’t treating me respectfully, I need to tell him what’s what. I am too strong to be a doormat!

James wanted to continue our relationship as always; how could we? My feelings for him had already changed. I used to believe that we were similar; now I realised that he and I are in totally different circles, our social standards are extremely far apart. We only have similarities on the surface: we are both human with one head, two arms, two legs, that’s about all.

Now I understand my intuition when I first met him – there’s nothing more than the physical between us.

We go to functions, restaurants, movies, theatres and social activities and we travel together – physical companionship. All we have is on the surface; deep down, we’re just empty shells.

James’ anxieties stayed with me. I think that was all he was capable of offering me. I was with the wrong man, in the wrong place at the wrong time, as usual. What’s new?

A writer told me many times that “You are too refined for this rough world.” He was my adopted mother’s friend; the remark came after decades of knowing me.

I know I need to relax a little, to get rid of that feeling of being surrounded by predators; they can smell my frustration. My great energy should help me blend right in and even take advantage of them.

Maybe I should be alone right now, to make the situation simpler. Make changes in the future. Leave the emotional housecleaning job to another time.

More and more I understand why I have chosen to be on my own most of my life. To be understood is a great feeling but maybe no one on Earth has the ability to understand me.

Oh boy! It sounds so lonely.

I thought I could build a deep and comforting relationship with James, what a disappointment that was.

After 6.30am I closed my laptop cover and went back to bed. I wanted to get up before 9.30am, have a Sunday workout in the gym with Karen.

I missed the workout with Karen.

Someone forwarded me an email. It was a chain letter that said:

May today there be peace within.

May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be.

May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others.

May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.

May you be content with yourself just the way you are.

Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.

It is there for each and every one of us.

I deleted it.

I don’t believe in chain letters.

I don’t believe I am exactly where I am meant to be. I won’t pass on the love I received from James to anyone else. It’s a casual kind of love, no good for anyone who has any decency. It’s against good values and beliefs. It causes pain and disappointment.

Faith, that’s what I don’t have. I can’t have faith in anything or anyone if I don’t understand them. Sometimes even when I think I know them well, I would still hold back from trusting them. Faith is blind and I am not a blind person. I see things, with more than my eyes.

Yes, I was disappointed with James but he was not the only person who has ever disappointed me. I’ll get over it and move on as always.

James called in the evening.

I told him that what I think about him has changed, for my own sake I would like to stop seeing him. I want the centre of my life to be me, not him.

After more than an hour talking, when I finished saying all I had to say about how I felt, James said, “I have no complaints about you. None! You are an intelligent lady, you see things clearly. I have lots of respect for you, I wouldn’t know what to do if I lost you.”

He did not say any negative words about me, after I had gone on and on in a negative way. James, oh James what did you do that to me for? Why can’t you point a finger at me? Make it easier for me to close the door and put all this behind me.

Finally, we agreed that we would still be partners to help each other when needed. Other than that, he was going to give me the space I needed.

I agreed to give it a try, see how it goes. We both became emotional; he said his throat was dry and his hands were shaking. Join the club.

He said if I didn’t want to be his travel partner, he would stop travelling altogether because he did not want to travel with anyone else but me. If so, why doesn’t he do what is necessary? A simple step he just refused to make. I don’t understand it.

Oh boy, I don’t know what to think or what to believe. Was it I who was the problem maker? Why can’t I take whatever comes to me? Why can’t I take his word and don’t mind his actions? Why do I have to be an intellectually honest person? Why can’t I do everything to suit myself like James? Why do I always have to do the right thing?

I am too hard on myself, hadn’t I heard that from others often enough?

Am I hurting James? Oh God, please don’t let me hurt him. Let me know, should I or shouldn’t I trust him? Why won’t he see our problem? Why does he ignore my needs and not do what is needed?

I felt emotionally exhausted.

He asked if I would go to bridge class with him, which we’ve been doing for the past few months. I agreed.

I don’t know why I agreed.

Monday 11th July

Outside was cold and wet, a miserable day.

I enjoy my little warm cosy place; everything in it is of my own choosing. “Your place is just like you—elegant.” Darren said that when he first walked in many years ago. James said “It’s like a lady’s place”. The white couches are an easy giveaway.

Every corner is bright, even when the sky is grey. That’s the way I like to live my life – always bright and cheery, even when the world is full of miserable people.

“The time to be happy is now; the place to be happy is here; the way to be happy is to make others so.” I bought a plaque with this on it while I was travelling in Queensland. This sums me up perfectly. I hang it by the front door, where everyone can see it as they go in and out of my place. Hopefully it can bring some positive attitude to people who happen to be associated with me.

When I was younger, I had a feeling that I was here on a mission. After my adopted mother died, I was left alone. Without family, not knowing who my biological parents were and Darren becoming my ex-husband, the feeling faded with the changing signs of the Moon.

Without feeling a purpose in life, I needed a reason to continue. For a long while, James was my reason.

I thought of him the first thing in the morning, the last thing at night, he was the centre of my life. I never had such strong feelings for anyone else before; it won’t be easy to ignore.

Once the thought of James entered my mind, I was finding it difficult to stop my emotions from erupting. I know this indicates a conflict inside me; I won’t be happy until I take steps to put it right.

Why did I agree with James to give it another go? Why was my decision based on what he wants instead of what I want? I had done it again, always putting others’ needs in front of my own. Wake up Tara, stop putting your needs second.

What do I want? I want him to solve the simple problem, to prove to me he cares about how I feel, as simple as that. If he won’t do it (it’s not that he can’t do it), why should I bother to care what he wants? I should pack up my emotions and move on.

I was quite content before the thought of James entered my mind. Doesn’t it show I should cut this ridiculous situation off?

Was James playing havoc with my emotions? To manage this ambiguity is not going to be easy and I am somewhat on the edge.

I am asking for stability and he’s offered nothing but vagaries and uncertainties.

James came to have dinner with me before we went to bridge class.

When I opened the door and let him in, I felt a sharp pain right in my heart. It felt like someone had stabbed me with a knife; I couldn’t even ask him how his day had been.

We tried to talk casually, we both felt uncomfortable. Dinner was tasteless to me; he said it was very nice. He tried to be nice; so did I.

I felt like I was split in two halves, one half of me wanted to hold him tight, and tell him that I loved him no matter what. The other half of me wanted to tell him not to call me till he solved our problem. 

It was hard to concentrate in the class; I tried but failed. I was so unhappy; unhappy that I let myself be in this kind of situation. Why didn’t I walk away from it when I first found out the truth? I knew once I walked away, I would put all the unhappiness behind me and look forward to a new start.

But I don’t want to make a mistake, somehow I believe James really loves me. Most of all, I do love him with all my heart and soul.

Tuesday 12th July

Didn’t go to bed till 2am this morning, spent time with my diary. I need to let out my pain, hope it will help me to cope.

Last night James said this was a new beginning. Whatever the beginning was, I felt miserable. God! I am more than melancholy, please help me. I want my happy-self back.

For a long time, I believed James and I were soul mates; we think the same way, believe the same things. We have the same sense of humour and love to be with each other. We adore each other and like each other’s make up. I could not see my life without him.

One action changed all of that; how unreliable love is.

I felt emotionally exhausted. I need a rest from this whole thing, I want time to return back to five days ago. I wish we had never had that talk; I wish a natural disaster would destroy all suffering life forms on Earth. Mercy, please God be merciful.

Yes, we had had lots of laughs, lots of fun together. I have no doubt that James is a nice person, in a worldly way. I have not met anyone better then him yet.

Personally we lost that vital connection, which I miss very much. If we could get it back, I would stay with him regardless of how hard that would be.

I miss our trust, the basis of our happiness.

I am so terribly frightened of falling into a regretful mood. My problem seems to be that the perspectives it promises makes me suffer.

The relationship with James doesn’t help my self-confidence and it constantly makes me feel that I am not doing the right thing, not being fair to myself, that I’m not in the right place. I know what I should do but hesitation comes before every decision. It looks like I won’t break from James just yet, my head tells me to keep going anyway!

I want more bold, decisive action in my life! If James can’t give me stability, he is probably not right for me. I need someone steady and strong.

Am I letting myself be cheated by unscrupulous James and drawn into dubious affairs?

Wednesday 13th July

I was unpresuming as usual, had my head down and was reading my book on the train to work. A passenger sat near me, kept staring at me. I felt uncomfortable. So I got up and moved to the other side of the carriage, then I heard someone calling my name. I turned around, nearly had a heart attack. Standing behind me was that man who had been staring at me.

How could I not recognise him? Joshua! He was a client of mine, from many years ago. When we first met, he was a happily married man and I was engaged to Darren. Now we both had ‘divorced’ in our marriage status column.

How life changes.

Suddenly I was a bit tired and had a worn out feeling. I had to push myself to do work. I know my mind and body both need a rest from living. I need to go away, away from reality. I want to miss out on every single thing that is going on around me, disregard all the messages that are coming from my brain.

Joshua called me at lunchtime, asked me to have a drink with him after work to catch up. I told him that I already had a previous engagement. I wanted to go home after work, back to my sulky mood. Before I work out my next step, I need to stay in that sulky mood.

When James asked me out the first time, I turned him down.

I met him in a social function; a few men from that function asked me out. I had no interest to go out with anyone at that particular time. I was there trying to make a few work related connections to open up new opportunities.

James was persistent, he called very soon after but I told him that I was busy.

I met James again, in another function with the same social group. His magnetic charm made him shine both on the inside and on the outside. He had the right words and the right gestures. I took notice of him.

He was projecting a quiet strength. I allowed my guard to drop a little.

For a long while, James became the centre of my life.

Maybe I should go out with Joshua; change is good.

James doesn’t seem on the same wavelength with me anymore. If I push him for an answer, he may dig himself in even deeper!

I would like to discuss our problem with him, if he actively expresses his reasoning and doesn’t hold back, like he’s keeping his thoughts a secret.

Where’s the James I knew who spoke with passion? Even though I may not have necessarily agreed with what he said, I felt free to respond with an equally passionate retort. I think we’ve lost it; maybe our pre-destined relationship has come to an end.

If Joshua calls again, my answer will be yes.

Thursday 14th July

The instability around me and the irresponsible side of James hit me, even though I am under the protection of my own strength which prevents me from committing serious errors. My imagination has been let off its leash; I can’t get my feet on the ground. The painful ideas in my head don’t go well with my current state; I should pick a new direction for my life.

I venture out of my comfort zone and I realise the answer to my confusion.

James and I had the opportunity to discuss everything that needs sorting out.

We did not succeed but we had tried our best.

The weird part was I could see James’s point of view, although he never presented it to me.

I was prepared to make a sacrifice, to swallow my pride and give up some of my prerogatives so I could maintain some sort of harmony, to stay on good terms with James.

I thought it was necessary to act with prudence and to remove one obstacle after the other in order for me to make progress. No one can blame me for not trying; I simply lost my patience. Whatever I do, it all turns out to be full of frustration.

I feel the need to reflect on my situation, to find reassurance within myself in order to redefine my bearings and reshuffle my emotions in the light of recent events.

It is time for me to tap into that inner resource that I have always known existed. My ability to survive is extraordinary and there’s no point in denying it any longer. I need to step out of the relationship with James, start afresh on my own.

It’s time for positive reassessment; a certain reshuffling will need to take place. Something in my life is coming to a close and it is not at all certain that such a change will necessarily be against my best interests. It is best for me to remain quietly confident and to see how I can turn things round to my advantage.

It ignited a fire and set me off on a searching spree. I started to look for my birth mother.

For a long time, I had no desire to find out who my birth mother was. After my adopted mother died, Aunty Liz tried to encourage me to search for my biological parents.

Whatever for? They abandoned me after I was born; they have no love for me. Why should I bother to find them?

Now all I need is some distraction. Whatever it is, hopefully it will lead me out of this unpleasant trap.

Friday 15th July

Had dinner at Olivia’s place. Terry is in Singapore for his medical conference. Jason is in the Sydney office this week and will fly back on the 7pm flight.

It’s not often the three of us have a chance to have dinner on our own ever since Olivia and Terry got married eleven years ago.

We had pasta with salmon; it was delicious, so was the marshmallow cupcake. Terry is lucky to have Olivia for a wife; a smart woman with brains and beauty.

I watched 6 year old Kent and 3 year old Stan play together; they were two happy children. Suddenly they were fighting; fighting about nothing really. That was from my point of view but how would I know? I am an adult, not a young child, how would I know what a child would feel? My understanding of life and rules are not the same as theirs. They haven’t experienced life yet, their values and beliefs are still on a different level from mine.

Olivia told the boys to settle down; otherwise she’d send them both to bed. She didn’t try to find out what was wrong between them. She said it didn’t matter who was right and who was wrong, they need to learn how to get along.

How wise Olivia was; members of a union need to get along. I learnt a lesson by watching the two little boys playing.

I know that James does not want to submit to my rules or desires. Because I said white, he said black! This got on my nerves and gave rise to a sense of frustration.

I worked myself into a state of chronic introspection, just because I am not sure what I should do about James who seems to be playing games with my heart.

The strange and the weird invaded my humdrum daily routine; I am suffering trying to stay on top of my worries.

I don’t want to accidentally act the wrong way at work or socially; nothing would be more harmful to me than letting my pride be misplaced.

James called; we spent 25 minutes on the phone.

He didn’t like the new arrangement but accepted it.

We both felt a bit lonely without our daily connection; we’re both looking forward to tomorrow’s bridge class.

As I put down the phone, I realised that my heart had already started to turn away from James.

Good on you Tara!

Saturday 16th July

I had a good sleep last night; what a difference it made.

Dear diary, thanks for being a good mate, helping me to sort out my feelings.

I’m feeling a surge of passion in my heart; I’ll direct this to my future. The keyword for this beautiful sunny day is optimism; I marked it with a pink heart on the page. Dear diary, the heart is for you.

No longer inclined to look on the gloomy side of everything, so I am determined to keep my chin up and give this happy day the credit it deserves!

James came early for a change; lately he always comes on time or even earlier. He’s trying; I know he’s trying to do the right thing.

Dinner wasn’t ready; this is the first time I was in the middle of cooking when he arrived. I could not bring myself to organise things better. I felt I had no interest in cooking the dinner. I had to force myself to do it; I was not sure why I was doing it at all.

I didn’t feel like playing bridge tonight. I wished I didn’t have to go to the class.

Why couldn’t I say “no” to James?

“Tara, what’s wrong with you? How can you move on if you keep seeing James?” Karen was absolutely right.

Why? I asked myself, again and again.

“He does not care how you feel, that makes you unhappy. Why do you let that happen to yourself? Where is your clear mind and high intelligence?”

I wonder where my sensible thinking has gone? I always know what to do or how to act; obviously I’ve lost the plot.

I’ve not only lost the plot, I’ve lost the interest for bridge too.

In the class, I saw Tony. He once asked me for a date; I said no. He kept asking. I had to agree with him to end the situation, then later called him to cancel the date. He pretended he did not know me; that was fine with me. He knew I didn’t like him, why make a pretentious acknowledgement? Hope he didn’t like tonight and won’t continue attending the class.

We greeted those we know very well in the class; lots of hugs and kisses. From the surface nothing has changed; has nothing really changed?

I knew very well that I was not as happy as I used to be; I didn’t really want to be there.

I couldn’t wait to go home.

James said it’s nice to play bridge with me again. It was nice to play with him from my point of view too. He is a good player, a clever one. Not many people have his talent; I am very lucky to have him as my playing partner.

Do I really like bridge that much?

If everything else is OK, having him as a bridge partner is a blessing.

Playing bridge is not an important thing in my life, it is another way to mix with people, to fill up the gap in life.

Maybe that was how James felt too; he could not care less if we break up or not. We’re only partners for card games, to fill each other’s gap in life. Why should he care what I feel? Why should he care what my values or beliefs are?

Sunday 17th July

I try to give my life a sense of purpose, to define what I want exactly. Such reflections lead me to adopt a new orientation.

James took me to the nursery this morning, helped me to choose the plants that will replace the dead three in my back yard. It was a bitterly cold day. I had a good morning workout with Karen. I still felt the warmth from the hot shower when James came to pick me up.

I was not ready when James arrived at the door. I just couldn’t make myself be on time. I had lost all my enthusiasm; I felt flat.

James must have felt it; I could not hide my feelings.

He went to buy the newspaper to give me time to get ready. This has never happened in the past; I was always ready long before he picked me up.

I am almost always standing in the doorway when he opens his car door; at the very least I would be racing to the door while he pushes the doorbell. Before we would say anything, we were both laughing. That happened about 3 to 5 times a week, for the past 4 years.

Suddenly, it was all gone. The excitement, enthusiasm, passion, thrill and impulse were all gone. Just like that, disappeared without warning. Not even agitation or commotion left; what happened to me?

After lunch, we went to James place. I saw a newly framed photo of his family members. He never framed any photos of me. I knew then that I hadn’t made a mistake. He has his loved ones; he has no room in his heart for outsiders. I would be an outsider no matter how long we were together. Thus he behaves the way he behaves; I don’t blame him.

We want different things in life, James and I. I refuse to be sad or depressed. I am going to start again from zero and head for a different direction.

Needn’t say anymore.

My dear diary, I won’t bother you with the problem of James anymore. You already woke me up by letting me express myself freely, open up my thinking and vision. Thank you, you are my best friend and life coach.

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