"The things about the rat-race is that, even if you win, you are still a rat."
I had to learn that the hard way but from a great teacher. Robert and I had always had a somewhat turbulent friendship. We could natter about nothing or discuss things that really did matter but we were and still are two very different people with different views and different dreams. I just hoped that after five years... really? Five years, how did that happen? Well, I guess I hoped that maybe things would have been better. Hope's a cruel feeling. Full of the promise of good to come; Hope parades into your life; offering itself as the only life-line, a beacon of goodness in the future yet to reach you. Hope always lets you down, no matter how much faith you put into him he'll turn his back as soon as things get too tough.
Robert was the third response. His first words to me after five long years of silence. I'm somewhat surprised he still remembered me if the truth be told.
I thought you'd given up talking to me after that little incident we have. I can't say anything, you just get on with your life and I'll get on with mine. it was, after all, you who said we should never talk again. Or maybe you're just hypocritical? Either way, I don't give a shit.
No, "hi" and not even a sign of his name. A seemingly subtle but blindingly obvious indication to me that Robert didn't know what to say to me and cared even less...that and the fact that he'd told me, "i don't give a shit" that's always a bit of a clue.
Robert and I were, "two sides to the same coin" that's what Mum always told me. Different yet far too similar. We were highly ambitious and made everything a competition. It started with small things like grades at school but, as I so very often tended to, I went and took it too far.
We share a past which is so full and dramatic and exasperatingly crammed with emotion that we had nothing left for any kind of future together. We were drifting, floating and fading further from each other with each passing day. For so long it had been the wrong of our relationship that had made it feel so right but it wasn't real. It was just a facade. We were no good for each other. I can't remember who saw it first but the wall we'd put up around us was growing weaker...it wasn't cracks in the walls or flaws in the foundations. One day we both realised it was built out of playing cards and so fragile it was tumbling around us.
We'd always argued but they were fun arguments. We teased each other and made little jabs because we could understand the joviality behind it. Then one day we couldn't. Our silliness became snide, our words wounding and even our voices viscious.
"Why do you do that?"
"Flirt with every guy in the room."
"I'm not the first to notice it. I protested your innocence for so long but now it's so obvious. Caitlyn, some of these guys have girlfriends you know."
"Yes. I know."
"So what do you think you're playing at then?"
"Robert, listen, this is a party, everybody is joking around and having a little fun, is there anything wrong with that?"
"Fun? You're throwing yourself at anyone and everyone even glancing in your direction."
"What does it even matter to you? It's my life, am I hurting you in some way?"
"I'm trying to look out for you, you're drunk and you're making a fool of yourself. Do you really want some bastard to take advantage of you."
I grew aware of the slurr in my voice and even as I was speaking I wasn't quite believing the deceptions of my own lips.
"I don't know. Maybe. It's be a hell of a lot more of a laugh than standing here with Mr. Too-Frigid-For-Fucking-Words."
I regretted what I'd said even before the twinkle in his eyes dimmed. Somehow the words, heavy with venemous anger, kept spilling from my open mouth.
"Oh boo-fucking-hoo. Grow a pair you prat. You think you're looking out for me? I'm 22 for god's sake. I don't need looking after."
I wanted to stop. Robert's face had clouded cold and blank. I knew that what I was doing was wrong but I wanted to show him that I was independent, I didn't need anyone. I wanted to hurt him. I grabbed the first guy who passed us by, he was a randomer from university that I'd maybe said, "hi" to once or twice. I didn't know his name, I didn't want to. I kissed him hard and with purpose. It was the worst kiss of my life; almost agressive with no heart at all. He wasn't holding me warm and secure he was groping all over me. He tasted of alcohol and cigarettes. I felt sick. Sickened by him and sick with myself.
I turned back to Robert. I stared him defiantly in the eye as if to say "See." I think Robert understood immediately.
"I see. Fine. If that's how you want to live your life then fine, Caitlyn. Goodbye."
He walked away from me.
"Go on. Turn your back and walk away. See if I give a damn. Don't ever speak to me again."
I spat those words after him and until today I'd never been sure of whether he'd heard that last part.
I'd won the race but I was still a rat.
I guess that after five years I was hoping for him to see my cry for help as an olive branch. No such luck.
Hope'll offer you comfort for five minutes but he'll leave you before the sun even rises.