I have a terrible relationship with Essays. I can’t stand them. I find out I have to complete one and I glare at them from across the room. They glare back, and make passive-aggressive remarks at me whenever I leave.
“I’m not going to write myself.” they chide, “I guess you’ll just have to fail, since you’re being so stubborn about it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!”
Then when I sit down to work with them, their smug expression pours out from every word.
“I knew you’d be back. Can’t stick to your guns can you? Well I’m sure there’s nothing better for you to do is there? How pathetic.”
I hate this Essay. I hate them with a vengeance that scrunches me up from inside, that makes me scream at them, insults tossed back and forth like warheads, each designed to force the other into submission. The grinding anger of a thousand whetstones sharpening every vocal barb, every daggered look. The deadly dance of hatred filling the air with the pungent smell of grudging procrastination.
They start to hang around, sniggering as I try to distract myself from their looming, unstoppable deadline. They force their way into conversations with tiny remarks, innocent in all appearance, but biting in a way only we understand. Their twisted smile haunts me as I bide my time, looking for a way to get back at them. It starts to consume me, my every thought pointed to beating them at their own game, lining my armoury with semi-ironic jibes and sassy quips to defend against their barrage of ego-snuffing remarks. Mutual antagonism becomes a daily game, an endless spiral of rising stakes and falling boundaries.
Drinking with friends devolves into an endless sass-war with my ceaseless adversary, and with my inhibitions fall the gloves. The burning explosion of an alcohol fuelled bonfire of loathing erupts, burning away the bar and the world as nothing but our mutual destruction remains. It should have ended long ago, I should have finished by now, beaten this demon like so many others had, but now it’s too late. Now I need them. Now the churning, eager fires of passion needs that force, that power, that pressure of constant battle. The symbiotic bond of abhorrence has grown into something more, something so powerful that to lose it would empty a hole that has been ripped into my soul. Somebody needs to win. It’ll be me. I can’t let them succeed. I’ve fought for too long to stop now. The thrill of the chase is too intoxicating. Any moment now…
And then I’m awake. There they are, getting dressed to leave. How did this… what? I don’t understand. I… I hate them! I mean, what’re they? They’re nothing. It’s not like we have any connection. There’s no bond here really. It’s all just a game. And yet… Awkwardness mingles with hangovers, and dubious excuses are made. It was the beer. It was an ironic gesture, because as if it’d ever happen really. Duh. Come on. Pff.
Another assignment comes up, and I make sure to get busy. I don’t want an Essay. I don’t need them anymore. I’m done with them. I’ve got this project. And they’re so much better. I’m happy with them. We’ve got something special. Not like that Essay. There was nothing between us. Ever.
Time passes and I work on my project. It’s a good project. Everyone can see how well it’s going. But Essay’s always there. I can’t help but look. I can’t help but wonder. Not that there was anything there you understand. But… they were such good times. Such good, hateful, anger filled times. But I’ve got this project now. It’s nice. Yeah. It’s nice.
But nothing lasts forever, and the project’s done. They’ve had enough of my distracted, far off looks. All I ever talk about is that Essay. Always on about how much we hated each other. They know what’s going on. I tell them time and time again that nothing’s happening, but they won’t listen. Nobody will listen. I begin to wonder just who I’m trying to persuade.
Over time I thought about calling Essay. They’d moved away after… well, you know. But I never could quite manage it. I’d pick up the phone and stare at it. Just stare. What would they say? What if they had moved on? What if I was just a sentence in the story of their life? I’d put the phone down again. Years later I’d call, but by then it was too late. They’d already gone. They’d already been marked. Their tone was sad, pitying. How like them. If it was any consolation to me, I got a First.