One of my favourite places in the world is London.
I don't live there, but I go there from time to time. I love its hugeness, its immediacy, the way every time I go I see giant buildings being demolished and rebuilt. Constantly in flux, never settled, always the same. I love its incomprehensible vastness, the huge numbers of people who never look at you, the way you can melt into it like a drop of water into the sea. I feel comfortable. I feel safe. I feel anonymous. You could do anything, in London. You could be anyone and no-one would ever know. You could find a tiny flat, a room of your own, a nook high somewhere among all that dizzying multitude of roofs, and no-one would ever need to know where you lived. You could have a safe place, all yours and only yours, with no-one else ever invited in.
Anonymity is one of my favourite feelings. Sometimes I sit in my flat, watching a film I have chosen or reading an obscure book, and revelling in being alone and unknown. Sometimes I'm watching something, or doing something, cooking a meal on my own and a sudden feeling of freedom sweeps over me, the knowledge that nobody has any idea that I am here doing this particular thing. This feeling that my essential being is free, that I am a person separate from other people, that I exist in my own right.
Other times, on bad days, I feel spread out, owned, pinned under a microscope. A tiny and uninteresting insect dissected and then dismissed by an omnipotent giant. These are the days when it is a struggle to get out of bed.
All my life, I've attracted people who want to control me. Matthew, and people like him. Managers who insist on inspecting every piece of work I do. Friends who put me down, choose my clothes for me, tell me how to do my hair and who I should go out with, expect me to drop everything immediately just because they want to talk to me or see me. People who never see my point of view. Who never take the time to realise I have one.
It's one of the reasons I've never had a serious relationship. I'm scared of being in a relationship. Very scared. To spend that much time with someone, to let them in that far - if I choose badly, if I allow the wrong person to bully me into giving more than I want - then all that freedom could be annihilated.
I'm well aware that this is ridiculous. There would be nothing to keep me in a relationship that didn't work.
Except, except...some people know how to manipulate you. Some people like to control you. Some people hate it when they don't feel that you are giving them the respect they've decided is due to them, when you don't agree with them all the time. Some people walk into your life, sit down, and say: "I'm your friend," or "I'm your boyfriend," and it's only later that you think: did I make a decision about that?
But by then it's too late. This person who has unilaterally decided to be part of your life requires to own you and gets angry if you won't let them. Because my default position is to assume that other people are right and I'm in the wrong, I give in. I text them when they say I should. I apologise when they scream abuse at me. When they behave badly, I make excuses for them. And then I open the door and smile and let them walk back into my life and bully me again.
So imagine a boyfriend like that. I can imagine a boyfriend like that.
And it's difficult to tell, you can't always tell, you can't ever tell. I've been caught out before.
The issue is me, essentially. Me and my fucked up boundaries. Me and my inability to stand up for what I believe in, or articulate what I want. Me and my lack of trust in my own judgement, strength or ability.
Me, me, me, feeling like the only way to be free is to not be seen, like any small scared creature that hides in a hole and runs out when it's dark to steal seeds, any scrap of fur destined to end its life as a damp squeak in the jaws of something bigger and crueller. I have the same anxious instinct.
Hehh. Enjoying the fucking pity party, Alice? You don't have to obey orders just because they're given. You don't have to hide. You can stand up and say what you think and what you feel. It's your responsibility to ensure your own rights are protected, just like it's your responsibility to ensure you don't infringe anyone else's rights.
I know. It's just, some days, I don't feel it.