The Mind Refrained

I don't know why he's like this. He just is. Maybe it's in his blood, his dad was certainly an asshole of epic proportions. The day his dad beat the shit out of him in front of me for screwing up a math exam is burnt into my mind. The blood had stunned me - pouring from his nose, smeared on his shirt, dripping from his dark hair. Red and violent. Glorious. Maybe he's an absolute prat because of how he was raised. Maybe he's been shaped by the way people have treated him. Then again, maybe it's because of me.

He wants me so bad and he hates it. He hates the way people think he's better than I am. He hates the way I appear to assume I'm better than he is. He hates my arrogance. The way I refuse to grovel for him. The way others do. He hates the way people look at him, like if the world ended at that moment, they'd be happy having seen him in real life. He hates the way his ridiculous tabloid nickname is 'Adonis' and the way people think he likes the attention. He hates the way I shy away from it like he never could.

He moves in a world which he loves to hate. A world which is so shallow and superficial it reflects itself. A world where your worth is calculated in dollars. A world where people love you for what you look like, what you wear and who you pretend to be, not for who you are. He can't tear himself away from this world though. He can't even leave for a while. It breathes the life into him. The glow he emits from inside fades away from his spotlight. This glow, it draws me to him. Makes me spurn him at the same time. No one should be blessed with such elegance and purity while being so inherently jaded. Dark. It's his scowl which draws me in the most.

He loves the parties where people fawn over him just so he can push them away. He loves the red carpet events where people scream his name and take photos, just so he can glower beautifully and turn his back on them. He loves the fashion, he's always the trendsetter, two steps ahead of the crowd. Designers beg to hang their clothes on his languid, lithe form. He loves the insecurity and anger he feels when his picture and latest escapade is splashed across news headlines. He loves leading people on. He loves leading women on. He loves lying to the people who love him, just because he knows that they only love him for his looks. He loves that I hate him.

I can't get away from him. Everyday there is something. A note at work or in the mail. An email cluttering my inbox. A rose on the doorstep. All the pretty words and flowers in the world couldn't bring me to his bed and he knows it. And he loves me for it. The words he writes are not those of love. Not in the traditional sense. Sometimes it is simply a date. This morning a scrawled note shoved under my door - November 15th, 2003.

We'd been 15. It was the day his father destroyed him physically. The day his blood stained the floorboards. Painted his world black. He loves that the memory will pain me. Loves that it haunts me and that I will dream for days of his broken body at my feet. Loves that I'd do any to change it. Loves that I can't.

He loves me because of all the people in the world, he understands me best. He knows that the more notes and flowers and emails he sends the more I hate him. He also knows that I am a broken girl and that only one so violated as himself would ever understand his cruel, callous ways. He was there when they broke me and he knows that something in me was changed forever. But even as they held him there and made him watch, even as they beat him down, their fists scouring him of all morals, years after his father beat them into him, even as they watched him scream my name and held him while he tried to struggle towards me, they never realised that they changed him too. They'd been out to get me but they'd ended up with the pair of us. Back then, there wasn't one without the other.

He loves me more than anyone could know. He also hates me with so much passion he's driven himself to become the one thing whose existence he always, always hated - a celebrity. In his absolute, utter hatred of who I am, he's become what both of us hate most, an actor. Someone who pretends for a living. Someone who can take honest words and twist them into lies. Someone who is in love with a feeling they can't have. The feel of real life. The feel of walking down a street - one in a million. The feel of the wind in your hair - wanting nothing. The feel of hearing a shout across a room, not for you but for the person beside you. The prettier, smarter, more charismatic person. Because he loves me so much he's pushed himself further and further from those feelings and now he can't have them, just like he can't have me.

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She's a plague on the earth. Flitting here and there with her bloody notepad and camera. I almost never see her face anymore, just the black of her camera lens never pointing at me. She taunts me with a flick of her hair, a roll of her shoulders. She'll glance at me through the crowd, smile her cruel, knowing smile and walk away. I hate her more than anyone could know but at the same time I love her so much it hurts.

When we were kids it was never like this. When we were kids we were normal and happy. We bitched and moaned about teachers. We pulled pranks in school corridors. We locked my dad in the bathroom so he would leave me alone. It was us against the world until the day she turned seventeen. Then it happened. The night that changed us both forever. The night that left me barely recognisable and her broken, in a pool of her own blood. That night I became the one thing I hated. That night she became the one person that would always, irrevocably, irretrievably hate me for not saving her but also the one person who loved unconditionally me with more passion and more rage than a wildfire. I take her heat into myself. It makes me glow. People ask me, where does it come from? This vitality? It almost melts the camera lens! The people can feel it when you're on the screen! I never tell them know. I never tell them that the girl I abhor most in the world gives it to me freely by her simple presence.

I send her things every day. Not one goes by when I don't take the time to send her something. If I'm overseas it's an email. If I'm in the country it's a letter or a flower. She hates it. I know she does. But I also know that she reads everything I send and I know that secretly, it inspires her. I know that secretly, she would rather die than have me cease. I'm her lifeline to a world she hates more than life, but loves more than death. Her last published photo essay had phrases pillaged from my notes. I hate her for it - those notes are the little originality I have in me - the rest of me is pretense. She knows this, of course, which is why she does it.

She hates me with the fire of a thousand suns but she can't live without me. She hates the world I move in - I'm only here because she does. She hates that I'm famous and loved and she hates that she's a self-styled nobody. She hates that she wants to be a nobody in a world where people love the ones they see on the silver screen. She loves that she'll never, and always, be one of them.

She lives in a world of artists and poets and writers. In a world of wafting skirts, tie-dyed bandanas and silk-screened t-shirts. A world of prescribed cliches, stifling stereotypes. She lives in a world where you are your art and your art is what people see. She lives in a world where there is expectations for every time she takes a photograph, writes a line or has an idea. She lives in a world where creativity is forced from peoples brains and fingertips and labelled 'art'. I hate that her world fuels mine. I love that sometimes her words fall from my mouth when I least expect it.

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He ignores the girls and women beyond the barriers screaming his name. Not even a smile touches his lips. I hate that he doesn't acknowledge the people who put him on his pedestal, I hate that he doesn't care about them. I stand there silent in the media area, ignoring the flashes going off around me and the hoarse voices of tired celebrity journos who've been shouting questions at arrogant, ignorant stars for hours - for years. He looks towards the area like I knew he would - he always knows when I am near, which irritates me to death. I twitch a corner of my mouth up just enough to let him know what I think of him. He nods in return. The people scream louder.

I hate that the slightest movement on his part sets them off. They want him so desperately, it makes me want to cry from the beauty of it - unrequited love. Though I love that they'll never have him. They'll never, ever get closer to him than an arms length - even if they are in his house, or in his bed, or if his lips are on theirs and his hands pulling them against his hard, lean body, or running through their hair. I love that they'll never be closer than me - the one who hates him with a desperate, burning passion because it will always be me he's feeling. It will always be me in his arms, my nails raking down his back, biting his shoulder, gasping in his ear. Just as every touch which burns my skin is his, though I have not felt his hands on my body since the day I turned seventeen.

I leave after his customary display of arrogance and head to where the premiere after-party is being held. I greet the security guard and the door manager and head in - I am a regular at these things. Propping myself up at the bar, I settle in for the wait until the celebrities and their handlers show up.

He arrives fashionably late, as usual, and without trying makes an effortlessly graceful entrance. Every eye is on him. His seek mine - I raise my glass mockingly and tilt my head back in challenge. He grins, accepts a flute of champagne from a mingling waiter and heads off into the room, apparently completely unaware of the flirtatious glances from women and admiring, jealous glances from men. Half of his mystery, his allure, was from the fact that people didn't understand him. I hate that I do - if I didn't I wouldn't have the energy to hate him and would not be caught in the endless web he weaves subconsciously, trapping the world in his deadly, beautiful embrace. I love that I'm the only one in the world who can manoeuvre without being trapped. I love that I'm always one fingertip ahead of him, no matter how far he stretches. I hate that I struggle every step I take away. He vanishes into the crowd for an indefinite amount of time - I mix, with a drink in one hand and a tape recorder in the other, talking to various celebrities, from A-List megastars to up-and-coming starlets out to grab the limelight any way they could.

Eventually I ended up just metres away talking to a minor star, a sweet British girl, who has blown people away with her performance in the premiere everyone has just attended. I like that she's still unassuming and polite. I like that she still thinks that talking to someone like me is a pleasure and an honour. Because I like her, she'll get a good write up. Maybe it will take longer for the fame to get to her head than it takes the others...

I turn away from her as she's swept onto the dance floor by some charming lad looking to take her home and I run into him, he is most talented at looming up out of nowhere. He smiles at me - his first all night. Around us, time stops. People are trapped by that smile, trapped and killed. People don't expect it and it floors them. I hate that it knocks the wind out of me every time, without fail. I stare up at him accusingly and tuck a strand of hair behind my ear.

"Asshole." I say calmly, not breaking his now mocking stare.

"Thank you." He says solemnly. I hate that a ghost of a smile crosses my face. I hate that I lean towards him, breathing in the air around like a lifeline. I love that he's itching to be closer. "You know, Niamh, most people just say hi." His words are conversational, his tone desperately clinging to the few words we exchange. I hate that he wants to be anywhere but here. I love that he can't tear himself away.

"Hi." I mutter, breaking his stare, hating that I immediately want to look back into his gray, scathing eyes but daring not for fear he would know it.

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