Susan Shirley


“I can’t go on, I can’t go on, I can’t go on.”

“I can’t bear it, I can’t bear it, I can’t bear it.”

I screamed those words over and over and howled like a wounded animal, sobbing as I did so, for days on end.  The pain I felt was physical, it really was.  I didn’t know how to bear it.  I still feel the pain as keenly as I did back then.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, nobody else knew then, nor do they know now.  I still paint on the smile when I paint on the lipstick, just as I did the day after it happened.  It’s just me, him and my friend Annie that know.  I had to tell someone so I told Annie.  But the pain is killing me.  I still don’t understand how he could do that to me.  How could he discard me that way?  Like I was nothing?  Maybe I was nothing to him?  I’m not even sure that he cares.  Maybe he didn’t ever care?

I play this over and over in my head, every single day.  It’s driving me insane.  I’m not interested in other men.  My sex drive has vanished, which is probably a blessing.  I keep asking myself whether the pain will ever diminish and I don’t have an answer.  I suspect that now, it won’t.

“I can’t bear it, I can’t bear, I can’t bear it.”

When I’m alone, I can feel the tears welling up in my eyes and have to pinch myself hard to stop them.  It seems to me that there is only one way out of this.  I’ve heard it said that drowning is quite a pleasant way to die, although I’m not sure how anyone knows that.  I could walk into the ocean and just keep walking, until the sea covers me.  Perhaps that is what I should do?

I honestly don’t know what I did that was so wrong.  I thought adults discussed things, but we didn’t discuss it.  He ended it by text and gave me no chance to explain myself.  I thought he would have met up with me to discuss it, but no.  Yes, I had been wrong to question him by text.  I admit that.  It had been a hard evening.

“You do know that he’s having an affair with Emily, don’t you?”  they said.

“Why would I know?  I don’t know him that well?”  I had become very accomplished at the lies.

“He’s leaving his wife for her.”

It wasn’t that that hurt so much, although, of course, he doesn’t know that.  If, as I really suspected, it had been a one night stand, and she’d embellished it to make it seem better for herself with her friends, I’d have understood.  I wouldn’t have been happy, but I would have understood.  Things had been difficult between us.  We’d both been working silly hours and I had been working away a lot.

It was the private things, the things he told me that only I knew that hurt; that made me think there might have been some truth in it.  I would have told him this, if he’d given me the chance.  But he didn’t.  It was almost as though he couldn’t wait to rid himself of me. He’d needed me once, when things went wrong, when his child was taken into hospital, when his father died.  How did it all change?  I don’t know how to shield myself from the pain.  I don’t know how to stop it hurting.

He told me that I shouldn’t have doubted him, but I didn’t know what he felt for me.  My own insecurities came right back to hit me between the eyes, but he didn’t know any of that.  He still doesn’t.

Of course, I don’t walk into the sea.  I don’t know whether that’s cowardice or courage.  I exist.  I even smile and laugh, outwardly.  But, inside, I am dying.  Still dying.  I can feel myself becoming brittle and solid so that there is no heart or soul left; just a shell of skin.  People just see a shrivelled up old hag now.

It was all so many years ago now, I’m in my seventies now.  It’s what, 30, 35 years ago?  Of course, I know exactly when it happened.  The date is imprinted on my memory.  I still cry, frequently.  I don’t self-harm anymore.  I stopped that about 15 years ago, when it stopped helping.

My health is failing now, despite keeping reasonably fit.   I don’t have much longer.

I still wonder whether I should just walk into the sea.

©  Susan Shirley 2015