It’s a bright new day. I’m greeted by the rays of sun as they caress my face with their warmth. I smile to myself beneath the covers. I love the sunshine, and it reassures me that today is going to be amazing! I wipe the crusted sleep out of my eyes, and get ready to begin my morning. My usual routine–making the bed, eating cornflakes with banana slices, taking my medication, feeding my dog, Bear–is so monotonous and dull. It can make me feel so depressed sometimes, like I’m stuck in a never-ending cycle of grey and boring. But today the sun is out, and it raises my spirits. I can hear the birds singing outside, and I can see the tree branches growing lime-green buds. Spring is finally here, and the feeling of hope seems to follow. I don’t know what the hope is for exactly, but I have a feeling something good is coming my way. As I’m getting dressed out of my flannel pajamas and into my work clothes, I hear the phone ring. At the sound, I try to dress as quickly as I can. Sure enough, there is a loud, tinny beep from the answering machine soon after the ringing, which makes Bear’s ears perk up.

“Hi Jeremy,” says the voice over the phone. “It’s your mother.” The light, airy feeling that has taken its place in my chest gets heavier, dropping to the pit of my stomach. My mom hasn’t talked to me in years. I run to the phone in my khaki pants and listen. “I just wanted to reach out and see how you’re holding up … you know that I miss you.”

She misses me? I can’t help but clench my fists, then stretch my fingers out again as I listen. Up and out and up and out. I don’t believe she misses me. I don’t.

“Please call me later. Maybe we can plan to get coffee sometime? I know you’re so busy these days, I barely ever get to chat with you anymore.” Flames in the pit of my stomach burn through my veins. My fist-clenching gets faster. I am infuriated at her lies. “Well, talk to you later, honey. Love you!”

The message machine beeps again, signaling its end. I focus on the fist-clenching and I bite my lip, hard. I try not to let emotion overcome me as I picture her in my mind—thin lips coated in coral lipstick, curled up in a smile, the way she smiled at me when I was a boy. That smile is a mask, hiding her inner malice. It’s all fake, all of it. I know it, because I can feel it deep within. Do I miss her? Yes, desperately. But I know that she pities me, and that all her sweetness is a cover-up. After all, she knows the truth. That I wasn’t meant to happen. This is what Dad said, so she must think the same exact thing. The phone rings again, and my fist- clenching stops. The caller ID says it’s Amy, my girlfriend. I drop my hands to my sides as I feel my hard, heated anger soften and cool. It’s just Amy, my beloved. I can picture her sandy blonde hair, her sea-blue eyes, and her sunshine smile. The smile is real, showing true happiness and caring, unlike Mother’s. She is gentle and loving towards all living things, a quality that I adore. Though I want to speak with her, knowing that she would make me feel happy again, I don’t pick up the phone because I don’t want her to hear my anger. I still do want to hear her voice, so I lean over the answering machine, silently hoping for her to leave a message. To my delight, she does.

“Morning, Jeremy! I was just about to set off for work. I wanted to know if we’re still on for Chinese tonight. I also wanted to tell you how wonderful you are, and to let you know that you’ve been making a lot of progress.” My heart, light and fluttery, sinks in my chest again. “You’ve really been trying hard to recover, and I can tell. You’ve seemed pretty happy lately, and you’ve managed to not do anything … violent in the past few weeks. I’m very proud of you.”

I grip my shirt at the chest area, because it seems to be getting harder to breathe, like my fear is somehow tightening my lungs. I wish she wouldn’t bring that up. I thought I had asked her not to.

“Well, I better get going. Love you! Kisses!”

There is a wet, smacking sound as Amy kisses the receiver (per routine) and another beep as she hangs up. Usually the act would charm me, but now I’m too paranoid. I begin to run my hands through my hair frantically. She’s been worried about me. She’s been so worried that I would act up again, that I would let my emotions get the better of me. I’ve been a burden to her. Tears blur my vision, all the colors of my house mashing together like some messy watercolor. I didn’t mean to make her worry…oh God, does she feel like I’ve been holding her back? Am I not worthy of her time, or her love? I can’t help but feel like it. I don’t deserve Amy. I really don’t. And this is why I wasn’t meant to happen. If I weren’t here, Amy would be with someone who was emotionally stable, whom she didn’t need to worry about, who didn’t lash out at her from time to time. She could be with a calmer, more mature man, and life could be all sunshine and flowers, the way she deserves it.

As I wipe the tears away, I can’t help but sense a tiny drop of anger mix in with all the aching guilt. Why did Amy have to bring this up? Why did she have to make me feel worthless and disgusting, especially when I just started feeling happy again? At this thought, the drop of anger spreads and grows. I get it…she’s trying to get back at me. All those times that I’ve lashed out at her, saying things that I didn’t mean. She planned to guilt-trip me the entire time. I release a strange-sounding laugh. Well played, Amy. Looks like you aren’t as sweet as I thought you were. All this time, I thought it was the beauty you could find in everything … the truth was that it was the horror you could see, the sickness. And you planned to expose me from the very start.

My legs begin to move on their own, taking me to my bedroom. I begin punching the pillow that Amy would lay on when she would spend the night beside me, back when she used to come over on the weekends, back when I would make us spaghetti for dinner and light the candles and drink nice wine. My tears fall and sobs escape my trembling, chapped lips, making me feel even angrier because Amy managed to make me cry like a child. I’m so sick of all the deceit, all the mind games. I’m done playing. I just want it to be done. I go to the kitchen, pull out a knife and begin stabbing the pillow, and then I slice it up, cotton and cloth falling to the ground. I can’t help it—I just need to get rid of the pillow that Amy rested her head on, so the next time I look over in bed I won’t see it and think of her. When I’m finished ripping the pillow to shreds, I feel empty and hollow. It’s better than the searing, twisted anger. All I can do is stare at the white sea of fluff at my feet, mixed in with sliced-up patches of cloth. I let my heart beat in my chest, thumping harshly, reminding myself that I wasn’t meant to happen, but I’m here, and I should feel sorry for it.

Finally looking over at Bear, I see him sitting up and staring at me with droopy brown eyes. I realize how pathetic he looks. “What are you looking at?” I snap.