The dark shadows under her eyes give it away. She is hurting. Not that anyone else has noticed. Nor have they noticed that her already pale complexion has gone a shade lighter still, that her eyes look a little dull, and that there’s a constant tightness in the muscles of her face. They just see the smile that she plasters on instead. It’s normally a genuine smile, but now it serves as her mask. And they only hear the cheery tone she is choosing to project in her voice, and not the underlying sadness. She is the consummate performer. A skill she’s had ample opportunity to refine through the course of her life.

It has become almost mandatory to hide the pain in situations like this. To appear to be mature, sensible, sensitive and caring about the other person’s feelings – no use crying over spilt milk right? So when he told her, out of the blue, that he no longer wanted or needed her – he didn’t even do it face to face mind you, he hid behind a letter – she automatically came out with the expected platitudes; like thank you for your honesty, and it’s ok, I understand…when really it wasn’t ok, and she didn’t understand.

And she stifled what she actually wanted to say, and was feeling. Which went something like this…

‘Fuck you, you cowardly little prick. What is this fucking bullshit you’re dishing out to me? You have hurt me, confused me and left me feeling used. And just because you say (in your letter!) ‘I didn’t mean to hurt you’ it doesn’t absolve you from feeling any responsibility over what you’ve done you know! If you didn’t want to fucking hurt me then perhaps you should have stopped to think with your brain, rather than your dick, before asking anything of me in the first place, and then going and declaring it’s all over in a letter! You know you’ve left me feeling completely fucked over and used! ! What exactly do you think gives you the right to treat me like some little toy, completely disregard any feelings I might have, just so you can get a root, and then extricate yourself when I’ve served my purpose, without even showing me the respect of doing it face to face?

And what’s this bullshit about being ‘friends?’ First we’re friends, then you want to share something ‘deeper’ with me, and now you say you just want to be friends again? It seems I, mistakenly, drew what I thought was the logical conclusion, that as intimacy deepened so too had our friendship. But where the hell is the care, respect, consideration, sensitivity and support that are part of any real friendship now? I’m not fucking seeing it! From where I’m standing, it looks like that ‘friendship’ bullshit was just a façade you used to get your end in. That’s not bloody friendship! And you want to stay friends now? My arse! You couldn’t even be bothered to tell me directly, and you’ve pretty effectively distanced yourself from me ever since, yet you want to stay friends? Fuck that! A bit of bloody honesty somewhere along the way would have been nice.’

But she didn’t say any of that, no, instead she swallowed it, pretended, and now deals with her pain privately. Why? Is it to save face? Or is it because of the social conditioning she’s received through life that as a grown woman, she shouldn’t get angry, she shouldn’t show her pain, she should keep emotions hidden so as not to rock the boat?

And perhaps it’s also because she thinks that if she expresses herself she’ll be hurt even more, reminded that he doesn’t really give a toss about her. And if she does do that then she’ll have to suffer even more of the stinging humiliation by having her face rubbed in the fact that what they’d shared had absolutely no substance for him whatsoever, she essentially had just been a fuck buddy, not worthy (in his opinion) of consideration and respect.

Yet, because of her silence – this feeling like she has to cover it up and deal with it alone, the dark shadows and pain will linger far longer than they should. And the questions she should have the opportunity to ask, will remain unanswered, her feelings trapped inside her, unexpressed.

She knows she’ll get over it, eventually; she’s no stranger to this. But God only knows how long it’s going to take this time. It’s a familiar pain, a type she’s nursed herself through often enough before. But each time she feels it it seems harder to recover; the wound inside her gets that little bit deeper, more scar tissue forms, and it becomes harder for her to let anyone penetrate it.

Judi Reed, 2012