Glasses clink against one another, the sound reverberating through the evening air. I glance at each person’s face as they sit around the mahogany table and wonder: what are they hiding?
I say this without malice. It’s a genuine question.
At a young age I learnt that people aren’t as see-through as the glass in my hand, but rather they are murky, illusive, and deceitful. Everyone hides things, and as I focus on the five other faces around the table, I cannot help but wonder what their smiles conceal.
Probably they are benevolent secrets, but there is always the possibility of something deeper, something with weight and gravity that affects its surroundings; these secrets are the ones to look out for. You cannot afford to be ignorant of them. In my own experience of hiding things I have witnessed too many friendships lost and lives destroyed to permit history to repeat itself.
But I also know from experience that keeping secrets is an act of survival.
I stare at the multicoloured light as it reflects and refracts through my drink, and I think of all the lies behind me and all that lies ahead. Finally, I am rid of my burdens. I am free of the expectations I carried, and I am free of the person who put them there.
At the age of twelve, I received glasses from the optometrist, altering the way I saw the world around me in the most literal sense. Suddenly I could see details in my surroundings that allowed me to appreciate the bigger picture, and I knew I would never revert to going without them. But I never considered my vision being obstructed by another person.
I have spent so long blinded. It is easy to view the wrongs committed against you with hazy eyes. But the world is no longer blurred at the edges, and I can appreciate its beauty.
Moving on from someone that significant is not simple, but being rid of their influence is a relief.
Our glasses collide violently. In fact, I am surprised that mine remains intact, when I feel like I could fall to pieces.
It took a great deal of effort to be here tonight.
I have been a tightrope walker, a house of cards, a bubble made of soap and water. Sensitive to the tiniest wind and destined to fall, but not yet fallen. Despite numerous close calls, I have avoided catastrophe, although only barely.
The strains of work and family and life are too great. But I am a professional at almost falling apart. I can persist for so long whilst barely holding myself together. No one else needs to notice. The people at this table certainly haven’t, although I’ve been doing it all year.
But I am bound to snap eventually. It is inevitable. The question is when.
I stare at my glass, it’s smooth surface continuous and unbroken. I think about home, if you can call it that, and I am glad I am here. I will take any reprieve, even if I waste it gazing into middle distance in between half-hearted attempts to engage in polite conversation.
I know everyone here can see that something isn’t right. They pretend they want to help, but even if that were true, how do I explain that nothing is wrong exactly. My household may be splintering into factions, but they aren’t at war yet. There’s no overt issue, but the signs are there, and I’m dreading what they might foreshadow.
After all, you can never tell how bad a fracture is until everything falls apart.
The sounds of the toast echo in my head, getting louder and louder, transforming into unintelligible noises. I take a deep breath and focus on trying to piece the sentences back together.
I am getting good at solving these kinds of puzzles. Ever since the accident I have been mending things; conversations, my body, relationships, my life. Slowly but surely, I am inching my way up the cliff face that overlooks rock bottom. And with each movement, I gain the determination to make one more, just one more.
This year has demanded too much of me. But times are changing, and I have my own demand, a simple resolution.
I will make it through this year. I will.
As the fireworks above illuminate our glasses, I smile. It is the time of new beginnings, of replacing old obsessions and habits with new ones, just to do the same again in a year’s time.
Nonetheless, I know which habits I’m letting go of.
I’m letting go of the lies I have told others and the lies I have told myself. For too long I have justified my tendencies to “bend the truth.” Never lying, just bending the truth.
Lies of omission. White lies. Elaborate deceptions.
I’m sick of convincing myself that it wasn’t lying, so long as I was using technicalities. I’m sick of the damage it caused. I can’t know what this year will bring, but I know what I’m leaving behind. And I can’t wait. I can feel the new beginnings and possibilities unfolding before me.
Happy New Year.