Sunburn

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Right now, from the back, I look much like a ripened tomato. My shoulders and upper back, as well as a small triangle on my neck, are raw with sunburn, which I’m smothering with E45 cream every hour, to keep it from peeling later.

I spent Easter with my then-boyfriend’s extended family at the house where I used to live during the second year at university, more than two years ago. We’re good friends he and I, and his mother, who used to be my very, very accommodating land-lady, became like a second mother to me for a time. I hadn’t heard from her for a long while, but Friday evening she contacted me asking if I would like to spend Easter Sunday at a party she was throwing for the extended family. Being a Buddhist, I’m not big on the resurrection of Christ, I mean I’m not against it, I’m just hard-pressed to believe such things, and I wasn’t planning anything special, and I hadn’t seen many of those attending for a while, so I agreed. I’m close to Anne (that’s her name), and I used to have a place with her other sons, and her eldest’s finance, so much so that at one stage I was to be a bridesmaid at their wedding. Inevitably, after the break-up (still a severing I don’t entirely understand the reason for), this became void, and for some reason, I don’t think now, I’ve even been invited to the wedding.  I’m sure everyone can understand the hurt of not meaning as much to someone, as they do to you, but when the people in question felt at one point like proper family, I can assure you, the sting is difficult to carry.

I went because I wondered how much I still counted to some of them. Family bonds are tight, but I was perfectly under the knowledge that except for Anne and her husband, my beloved then-boyfriend, I didn’t count as family anymore. Being human comes with all kinds of inexplicable agony, I suppose to counter the immeasurable joys; being in a place where you want to be so happy for someone, and yet you feel the searing cuts of the past creeping up is one of them. I accepted a while ago that the bonds between us had withered and altered, but hearing about a celebration I was no longer even to be witness to hit me in uncomfortable ways. No one was trying to upset me, of course, far from it, but knowing I was the only person there not to be attending made me feel like a jigsaw piece mistakingly put inside the wrong puzzle-box. Selfish of me really, but sometimes, as faltered human beings, we can’t help but feel as we do. I pushed it away into the lock at the centre of myself, where I refused to feel it, and for the most part, I enjoyed myself. Then-boyfriend’s two six-year-old cousins were present, as well as a rather elaborate paddling pool with an attached rainbow water-fountain and slide. I spent most my time as children’s entertainer – I find children much more accommodating than adults. We played in the pool and with bubbles and colouring books. I had a small time talking with some of the lesser extended-family, who had met me pre-break-up; I’m sure some of the others pondered what I was even doing there.

Our memories arn’t developed enough between the ages of five and six to really store all the people who come and go from our lives. At first, to the little girl in question, my name and being were unrecognisable, but little girls are easy to be in favour with, and I’m a sucker for children’s games and activities. Like I said, children are easier for me to socalise with than adults. All you really have to do, is work on their level. So, once again I had the friendship of a six-year-old. I was surprised when she turned during a colouring session, when I was going to get married to my then-boyfriend. What could I say? I could have been honest, I could have told her we probably would never get married, than people change and relationships end, and that’s life in all its heart-breaking, and yet wonderful glory, but, selfishly, I just couldn’t, because it still burns me up somewhere deep, that it all changed, and I’m still not sure why. So, I told her I’d colour the princess’ dress pink, and left it at that. Normally, children are insistent to know information denied them, but this particular little girl, must have sensed my emotions, because she didn’t try to push the subject. Another reason children are such wonderful creatures.

Pain doesn’t matter. It’s not an excuse, and it’s not good reasoning to believe it can be. I learned this the hard way, a long time ago; now when I feel emotional pain, I try very hard not to allow it access to my brain. I’ve managed to compartmentalise the two – feelings and reasoning. Pain doesn’t matter, because pain is a very selfish human part of us, dwelling the ancient, primal instinct that we are more important than any other thing. It can’t be denied, but it can be overcome.  While it hurt to know I was no longer really a part of the family, I still wish only the best for the future of what would have been my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, despite having to do it from the outside of a proverbial window. And, I’ve gained for my losses, in ways I wouldn’t have imagined in the days quivering in my mind only yesterday, and more importantly, so did my then-boyfriend, whose place in my heart will never dwindle, for his kindness, for his humour, for his constant passion in everything he touches. Sometimes we don’t get what we want, and that’s okay, it’s how it should be; something we have to wait for what we want, and sometimes we have to work very hard for them, and that too is necessary so we grow as individuals.

And, who knows, maybe things could still work out as they once would’ve, only better. Afterall, sunburn isn’t a reason to hide away in a dark space, and never allow the sunlight to touch your skin.

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