TITLE: High, High Walls
By Bella Louise
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It seems to me that, every time I let someone get close enough to me, they leave again. I’m a terminally shy person, and it takes an awful lot for somebody to climb over the high, high walls of my heart. In fact, other than my immediate family, only a very few people have made it. My shyness can make me appear rude and arrogant to people that don’t know me. When I do begin to feel comfortable with someone, sometimes I make clunky remarks that they never forgive, out of sheer social ignorance. The higher up the high, high walls they climb, the more it hurts me when they decide to let go, and the more times I’m hurt, the higher the walls become. Even people in my church don’t normally make it, though they’re politer than most.
The first person to make it was a friend I will call Chelsea, four or five years ago, when I wasn’t shy and the walls were only very low. She was the only girl near my age in the church, and we used to listen to awful boyband music on the radio together, and discuss our latest crushes. I used to let her read my poems, things that I kept hidden away from everyone else. Most Saturday nights would find us staying up all night talking, on the futon at their house, her little sister playing in the room next door with Barbies. Chelsea had a dolls’ house, and, though we all told ourselves we were too old to play with dolls (this is when I was eleven or twelve), we used to while away many happy hours rearranging the furniture and making little pictures to hang in it. Chelsea was the first person I ever really let in, except for my mum and dad.
Right after I let her in, Chelsea left the church. No, not left-was pulled away by her mother. Chelsea’s mum had engaged in an affair. She didn’t want to be around other Christians any more. I never got to say goodbye to Chelsea, never even knew she was going until she was gone. It hurt. So, to prevent the same thing from happening again, I unconsciously let the walls get a little higher, and a little harder to climb.
Shortly after she left, though, a beautiful, eccentric young girl arrived at our church. A former art student and the sort of person who wears bags made of recycled crisp packets and long tie-dyed skirts over patched jeans, she was about eighteen years old. The hippy streak in me was drawn to her, and she began to treat me as a little sister. She would help me with my art homework and do my hair and take me out for hot chocolate and cake. Every Sunday, without fail, she would have something new and interesting to tell me. I absolutely loved spending time with her. She became a sister to me.
It was utterly predictable that she would marry. A little while before the wedding, she went to her homeland in sunny Africa. The danger of being a Christian hippy, of course, is that the hippy side might catch up with you. With Ella, it did. She got involved in a cult. For a long while, I believed that she would come back, long after everybody else gave up waiting. I held onto her for too long, and when I eventually realised she wasn’t coming back any time soon, I didn’t want to believe it. It hurt far more than letting Chelsea go. First Chelsea, and now Ella, and the walls were getting higher.
The only other person to have made it over those walls until recently was Keeley, and her story is a little more complicated. You see, I still call Keeley my best friend. We attended a summer camp together, became Christians together, lived out the first few years of our Christian lives together. She holds a lot of my secrets, and I hold far more of hers. We still talk regularly, online and on the phone. She lives quite a fair way off now, and I can’t afford to go and see her so often. I’m very, very blessed. I go to a church that is very much living and growing. Keeley wasn’t quite so blessed. Stuck in a stale, tired church, with only online friends for company, she began to retreat into her own world. When you do that, as I have learnt through painful experience, you begin to lose perspective. You get depressed. Keeley got very depressed. She started self-inflicting. Nothing I could say could make it better, because, after all, who can heal self-harm other than God? I felt like a failure as a friend, and I started self-harming as well. Horrible. And I didn’t know how to stop. Keeley dropping out of my life was far harder than Chelsea or Ella, because I had to do it. I had to cut my emotional ties with her. She couldn’t be my confidante any more, because it wasn’t healthy. I had to walk out of the closest friendship I have ever been in. Even when God sorted Keeley out, she didn’t get back over the walls. I’d built them up far too high.
After this very, very long introduction, I come to the point. It’s happened to me again, and far more painfully this time, for the person I let in this time did become family in a very real way. People, actually. Two people. My brothers.
Trent and Tristan weren’t my brothers three years ago. I knew them, then, but it was before my mum formed the close friendship with their mother that meant that they became such a part of my life. I’m not sure when I started talking about my brothers, plural. I’d had a flesh-and-blood brother for most of my life. People become confused when I would talk about my brothers. Surely you have only one brother. We’ve seen him. Tall lumbering teenage chap, looks a lot like your mother and nothing like you. I just laugh at that, and tell them it’s a private joke. But it isn’t a joke, not to me at least. Probably it is to them, and that’s okay too, but it isn’t a joke to me. We pick them up every Friday and take them to youth. I go to my church’s youth group for girls, Jon and Trent to the one for lads, and Tristan to the one for pre-teens. They collect us from our respective houses, halls, and student accommodation at the end of the night. Mum cooks for them on a Monday, because their folks are at band practice. Trent comes over on a Friday before youth, and we all three eat pizza together. The whole family spends Christmas at our house. Not this year, but they did last year and the year before, and maybe even the year before that. Trent is the same age as my flesh-and-blood brother, Jon. They are both fifteen, though Trent is actually six days younger than Jon. This time, I’m using real names, because I know they won’t resent it.
People think that I’m poor, socially, because I have so few friends. Not true. Perhaps my “circle of friendship” is limited, but it is so close that it doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter except at times like now, when someone is leaving. Trent and Tristan are moving back to South Africa. They actually left last Friday, but it is going to take a while for that to happen in my head. I keep wondering why I haven’t seen them around, why they aren’t in and out of my life, irritating me and teasing me and being my brothers. Because the walls were so high by the time Trent and then Tristan got over them, they were-are-very special to me. It hurts, you can’t imagine how much it hurts, for them to be leaving, have left. I suppose there is a danger, this time, that I’ll make those walls so high that no-one will be able to get over them anymore. That I’ll be isolated from everyone.
That’s not going to happen, though. This time, I’m made a decision. Yes, my brothers were and are very important to me, and it hurts lots for them to have gone. I’m not a crybaby, but I have wept buckets over this-embarrassing myself by crying in the middle of youth. But wasn’t my relationship with my brothers so special while it was the way it was that it is worth risking the pain? I’ve chosen, this time, to change my mind. I’m starting to work on knocking the walls down. I used to be an incredibly friendly, bubbly, accepting girl, who would love people almost straight after I met them. The years of hiding away made me shy and timid, but it’s not who I really am. Perhaps I won’t be that girl again for a long time, but I know it’s who God created me to be, and I know He’s going to help me. The process will be long and painful, but I have made my decision, and I just wanted to share it with you.
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