Happiness – a short story

“I sit in the bathtub and try to relax. I  used to love baths, I loved slowly lowering myself in scorching hot water until it didn’t hurt anymore, my index finger drawing swirls in the cloudy water. I used to think it was relaxing.

So I sit and wait. I wait to feel relaxed. But the water is hot and it gets steamy and I can feel streams of sweat running down my cheeks and with them the expensive facemask I bought with money I don’t have.

I sit and wait and grow restless. I used to love baths so why isn’t this working, I wonder. It was meant to be good. Expectations do that to me; they make me feel unsettled. I rarely enjoy something others have deemed life-changing. I find the unexpected more comforting.

So I think about all the things in my life I hate but won’t change because it’s easier not to. And about my mum who says: you should write more. I know, I say, I used to write all the time.

I used to be sensitive and thinskinned and now I’m only the latter. I used to be passionate and feel everything so strongly and deeply and everything made me cry. I would daydream all the time and have lots of imaginary friends with complicated backstories and I used to spend every waking moment secretly pretending to be somewhere else.

I sit in the bathtub and wait and try really hard. I think about him and how I loved him and I liked pretending he loved me. He’d say you’re so pretty when you smile and I would blush because no one had ever said that before, because it isn’t true. I seldom smile and if I do my smiles are fake and they’re not even that convincing. Sometimes I’ll find myself in a situation where I’m supposed to smile – like, the old man who lives upstairs saying good morning or the shop assistant asking if I’m sure I don’t want a lotion for five pounds more, it’s on offer you see – and I just forget to curve my lips.

I loved him because he had the most perfect, joyful, child-like smile. I’ve always looked for what I don’t have.

I sit in the bathtub and wait and suddenly feel lonely and I think it’s because I have stopped. Immersed in hot water and silence I can’t rely on the distractions I surround myself with and suddenly I remember that everything I love will one day die.”

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