All I seem to do lately is run away. Today I left the farm I was on for over a month and was previously happy. I had been having issues with the farmer there. Lately, whenever we were in the field or alone (or even around other people) he would make comments about my work ethic, my fashion sense, my attitude... When he realised that I was no longer responding and pretending that it was banter, he continued. And when I stopped responding even with single syllables ("yeah.." "oh?" etc.) he began making comments about how over-sensitive I was and how I need to "toughen up a little bit". And when he knew he had completely crushed my self-esteem for the umpteenth time that day, he would say "come on, I'm just teasing".
I used to really like this man and I think he liked me. I suppose that the stress of living, working, eating etc. together has put a strain on our relationship and for whatever reason, he had decided that of all the people on his farm I was the most useless. I felt like I was choking every time he was in the room, knowing that another insult was headed my way just as soon as he could find a way to frame it as a joke. When I thought back to the last time I felt so powerless and unhappy in this way, the only memory I had was high school. Early high school.
When I told him this morning that I was leaving, he took several opportunities to insult me again and list the qualities about me that needed to change and that had made life on the farm difficult for the past few weeks. I began crying. Unfortunately, the farmhouse is over a hundred years old with paper-thin walls. My entering my room was not enough to stop him hearing the sobbing and entering, without my permission, to tell me the things I "better do if I wanted to leave today"; basic kitchen chores (scrubbing the kitchen floor, wiping the counter) and listening to him some more. When he was done for a second time, I packed the last of my things, did the jobs he had suggested and called a cab. On my way out of the farm, he followed me to the taxi asking me why I would do this to his partner who had been so good to me.
At this point there are a few things I should say. This man's partner is one of the most beautiful people I have ever encountered. She was truly supportive of me when I was heartsick, when I was homesick, and when I had poison ivy... she's great and I love her. But she hasn't been around for the last couple of days and it is when she's not around that any and all positive influence she has on her partner disappears and he continues his blunt and passive aggressive behaviour toward the people who piss him off. I am one of these people, evidently. Why I piss him off, you ask? I am not the most talented person in the field, despite how much I enjoy living on the farm. He likes to point out that I am a slow weeder or, when I am going fast, a careless weeder. There are many other farm skills of mine that are also under par, including washing harvested vegetables quickly enough and storing them properly. Indeed, my abilities involving dish washing, tea-making and other chores are also disappointing. And unlike some of the other volunteers on the farm, I don't elect to work full days in the field, choosing instead to stay inside and make bread or process vegetables once my obligatory hours are done. And this week I've had poison ivy covering my legs. I requested not to be in the field at all because of the soreness and itchiness becoming unbearable in the heat. In his eyes, and I mean this in no way sarcastically or self-pityingly; I am a lazy person, less focussed than the rest of the people on the farm and not emotionally open to him.
His resentment of me grew, and due to his, mine grew in retaliation. But only one of us was expressing these feelings toward the individual in question so I suppose mine may take longer to subside. When I inhale and exhale and imagine I'm with my family on the beach, everything feels a little more bearable. But today I felt like dying and the strength I needed to get out of that house exhausted me.
I don't know where all this ugliness came from or in whom it was worse; him or me. I just know that this past week has been one of the loneliest times in my life. I finally feel sort-of safe. So I'm dreaming of home until this starts to feel good again, or my journey across the sea has to begin. Right now I think that if I dove into the Australian ocean and swam until I couldn't breathe, I'd still be further from drowning than I was today.
It's not a perfect metaphor.