I lost my beloved partner, Craig, on 20th March, from an unexpected heart attack. Since then, I'm almost agoraphobic and avoid seeing anyone at all costs. I wrote this story/metaphor to help others understand how I feel and why I'm worried about being going anywhere. I hope it helps others. xxx
The Party Guest
I feel like the only person in ugly fancy dress, at a party where everyone else is in their finest clothes. And I've forgotten my wallet. No one dares mention anything. It's easier to pretend I'm not here, so instead they drift away to speak to someone else, someone who fits in, so they don't have to have that awkward conversation about why I'm dressed this way.
They assume I want to be left alone anyway - they assume I can't face the excruciating conversation about my wrongful, solitary attire either. They assume I want space, but they don't realise when everyone assumes the same, 'space' shape shifts into an even deeper loneliness. I feel like I'm standing at the bar alone watching from the outside in. An alien creature in a foreign landscape. An uninvited guest.
Some who dare to approach me desperately avoid the white elephant in the room. The strange, ugly and inappropriate outfit that I didn't really choose to wear to this party tonight. They wish I'd chosen not to come. Or they uncomfortably avoid the topic because they don't know how to ask me about it, so they'll pretend I'm dressed like they are. Because it's easier all round that way.
My presence in strange clothing somehow dents the smooth flow of the glamorous party and slightly disappoints a few, who see me as a blight against the beautiful surroundings of the otherwise perfect party.
I sense that everyone would find it a lot more comfortable if I'd joined them in their collective sartorial choice - one more fitting of the fun occasion. One that wouldn't create an awkward glitch or twitch at second glance. I sense some would rather I'd not turned up at all.
I suddenly remember seeing such an ill-fitting party guest such as me before, and remember how my heart sank a little that they'd come to the party - they might spoil the fun. They might darken the light and didn't we all deserve to enjoy ourselves without their jarring presence? A stab of remorse about my previous ignorance slices my heart. I see things differently now. I know.
An anachronism of sorts, I'm juxtaposed with everyone around me. Strange and awkward looks are the only accessories adorning me at this occasion. A few ask me if I'm too warm in my fancy dress and ask if they can get me a fan to cool me down. Or some water. I'm grateful.
Some of them somehow know I can't take this outfit off, but I appreciate their offers. The bolder, unwise few ask why I don't just change into something more suitable. Why don't I just go home and stay there, or come back wearing something more appropriate, so I can glide back into their evening without a stir. If I could, I would.
There are the few who ask me what I'd like to drink without me having to ask for one. They know it's easier to offer me one than to let me ask for it. They know specifics are needed. They know. They ask how I'm feeling in my conspicuous outfit, knowing I feel so different from everyone else in the room. They're not afraid.
They take the time to see my eyes through my unchosen mask: they know I'm not okay, but they stay with me a little longer, even though they're missing some easy excitement in another corner of the party.
Some of the guests forget that I didn't choose to spoil everyone's fun at this party. I didn't choose to be dressed differently from anyone else. I didn't choose to make things awkward for people who just wanted to have fun and some light relief after a heavy week.
Some have forgotten to think that I had my other party outfit all laid out and ready. His beautiful outfit was next to mine. We were excited about the party and the fun we'd have - we couldn't wait and had talked excitedly about it. But our party plans changed without warning.
We didn't choose any of it. His chosen outfit lies unworn. No more parties. Nothing. My outfit lies loyally next to his, our sleeves just touching, with something indistinguishable there. The faintest glimmer that mine may one day be worn again, but will never look quite the same as it did before.
I didn't choose to wear this fancy dress. Beneath it I'm burning up. I'm struggling for air - I can barely breathe. I didn't choose to go to the party alone, but here I am. Alone. Different.
I want people to remember although he's not at the party, he was supposed to be. I want them to acknowledge his absence. And who he was and is to me. Acknowledge his name was on the guest list next to mine. Acknowledge our outfits were to be worn together. Acknowledge me and who I was, and who, unwittingly, I now am. I'm different now; I no longer know what to do at this newly unfamiliar party. But I'm here. See me.