Benjamin sent Alanna a friend request.
If he was still as unwanted
as the tick that gave her Lyme disease,
all she had to do was strike delete.
Her no thanks message
was as unexpected as a Trump tweet hurricane
trumping a Pulitzer Prize winning novel.
It was civil, friendly even.
Philosophy seeped into Benjamin’s reply,
like blood soaked beef into a vegan buffet.
After touching on creating life’s meaning,
instead of tracking purpose down
like a misdirected package,
he urged Alanna to pave her mosaic highway
and follow it to the zing of her electric violin.
She responded with her “bluntest voodoo pin”.
Memories of Mister opinionated,
obsessed with views she overrated,
infiltrated, irritated and grated.
Benjamin’s words were as benevolent
as midsummer watermelon
buried in crushed ice
and as valued as antique seafood
bathed in bin juice.
Victorian era squid
might be excellent fertilizer,
Ben’s guru drivel on the other hand…
Alanna’s affection for him was a sand mural
claimed by the tide long ago
and her loathing embossed in titanium.
A message Benjamin sent years ago,
was as tangential as a forest burying vine.
You’re off your medication, aren’t you,
Alanna accused then and now.
Couldn’t she tell the difference
between sewage outfall rants
and paragraphs as tidy as a Japanese garden?
Why hadn’t he waited until he was mentally stable to message her?
Ben was as flabbergasted as a pixie
who is expected to incinerate a dragon,
with the friendly glimmer in his eyes.
He thought Alanna knew
that people on the brink of psychosis
aren’t renowned for sensible decisions.
Alanna imagined she knew something of bipolar disorder,
but she’d overestimated the impact
of occasionally missed doses of mood stabilizers.
What she’d seen
was the branding of Benjamin’s father’s world view,
on his adolescent brain.
That takes time to recognise, despise and neutralise.
There’s no medication
for the flammable, windblown rage
of a young man,
failing to catch a habitual rapist in the act either.
“Do something about it” Ben screamed down the phone.
Attempting to coax Alanna
into making another police report
proved as futile as trying to lift himself skyward.
She’d already endured the sneering denials
of sergeants who mistook shock for shonkiness.
Benjamin felt smaller than a neutrino,
once he realized broken silence equals a broken neck.
Alanna’s mother didn’t believe her.
Ben didn’t believe, he knew.
The terrified pleading and fistfights in her sleep,
said more than bruises and torn dresses.
The rapist poisoned them with rage.
Then they poisoned each other.
Pointing that out in 2020,
could’ve triggered an eruption of horrors,
as agonizing as stitches ripped from the tongue.
What irked Alanna the most
about Benjamin in the old days
was not his verbal explosions
and launching of plastic bottles.
Neither was it his gawking at every delicious creature
who flirted with his perpheral vision.
After a buxom blonde Goddess caught his eye,
at a nightclub one night,
the cage imprisoning his polyamorous urges,
stained the dancefloor red.
Adulterous friends of Alanna’s
agreed he was the epitome of evil.
There were no points for ending the relationship
without episodes of abominable mischief,
he may as well have had a secret harem
since their first kiss.
A sentimental yearning for friendship,
explained Benjamin’s Facebook request.
Upon Allana’s urging,
he offered social isolation as further explanation.
He praised her socialising tips
and accepted their estrangement.
Alanna was treating counting to two
like it was advanced calculus.
Suspecting Ben was still in love with her,
she questioned him beyond midnight.
His task was as titanic
as explaining colour to the congenitally blind.
Alanna’s social advice shapeshifted into paranoid rage.
She was convinced she was his emotional well,
that he wanted to suck her spirit dry.
If in love is considered evidence
of siphoning the nectar from the flower of marriage
and not in love is deemed a synonym for leach,
what’s the right answer?
All Benjamin wanted
was to rekindle the gleam of hope in her eyes
and bask in her childlike joy;
once a season or so,
if her schedule was as crowded
as a Beijing commuter train.
Multiple times, he’d accepted it wasn’t to be.
“Will you stop saying that” she raged.
Appeasing Alanna’s anger
was like wading through a swamp
without getting wet.
Silence is all that’s permitted,
until you’re chastised for not answering
and ultimately accused of prolonging the conversation.
Without the aid of emotional sonar
the argument labyrinth is as unnavigable
as extra-terrestrial runes.
Why can’t the scorpion pit and the exit
be labelled as such, in English?
In the old days,
Ben’s moods were as erratic as mountain weather.
His button pusher denied her console existed.
How do you have a rational conversation
with someone who is reacting to history
like a viper tortured with a cat of nine tails?
In the context of now,
Alanna’s cynicism was as unfathomable
as the behaviour of an accountant
who writes vampire penguin novels
on his clients tax returns
and mails them to A.S.I.O for decryption.
In the context of history,
her paranoid fury was comprehensible.
Desperate for a serene goodbye,
Benjamin persevered to no avail.
“You’re not a prisoner in this conversation”
after his apologies and acknowledgements
were machine gunned again.
They had been two damaged people
trying to heal each other.
Benjamin hadn’t been ambushed with a hammer
or physically felt the blood smeared tracings
of The Beast’s knife,
but he’d been as distraught as a polar bear
on a collapsing ice shelf nonetheless.
Their compatibility was a sand island
at the mercy of swirling currents.
Ben wasn’t trying to revive the dead,
just restore what lived.
Alanna assured him their friendship could not emerge
from its nuclear winter.
Which part of “I accept our estrangement” hadn’t she heard?
What did she imagine he sought now?
It was all as bamboozling as monkeys
randomly rearranging a novel.
What had been cut and pasted in her head?
Memories of Alanna pestering him to purge
his creative writing obsession
and transform into a dancefloor worshipping extrovert,
seeped back into Ben’s exhausted brain.
It was time to get ready for work.
The news Allana’s auntie was buried alive,
as the roof of a limestone cave collapsed,
beneath her quadbike,
shed further light on her ill temper.
A turn of the century Valentine’s Day rose,
sits in its frame, slowly crumbling to dust.
Ultimately, Ben will scatter its remains
in the river pools they waded across,
before hope was rationed like tank water.