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Anatomy of a confrontation

Before I say anything I mull it over intensely. I consider the effects of my words (which you can never accurately gauge regardless of how many confrontations you’ve had in the past), I consider what retorts I’ll make in response to theirs; I consider every possible turn the conversation could take.

Then I say something. The moment is awkward. I feel like I’m speaking but it’s not really me talking. My face flushes out (I don’t know if they can see it or not). My voice wavers a bit. The astute observer can pick up that I’m scared.

The confrontation happens. Most of it is them speaking while I search for words which never come to me in time. Sometimes I can respond, but mostly not. While it’s happening I usually feel regretful of having said something in the first place, but over time I’ve conditioned myself to believe that having the confrontation is necessary for the greater good (my greater good).

Afterwards, silence ensues for the duration of the time we’re together. I work silently, he works silently (or whatever the situation may be). I’m extremely uncomfortable in my movements but try not to show it. If it was over work I pretend harder to show how hard I’m working. If it was over something else I try to show that I’m not affected. He does the same thing, it seems to me.

When I’m alone, I mull over once again, only now on what actually transpired. I think upon what I said and what they reproached me with. Without fail, what I said or thought starts diminishing in vigor as what they said begins to cloud my judgment of whether what I did was even right – whether I was right. I start doubting myself. I begin to doubt myself and place myself in the guilty party box. “I was wrong. My thinking was wrong. I should’ve been thinking this way and not that.” I respond to my own doubt, saying “But how would he feel if he were in my shoes? Wouldn’t he feel the same way?” The response that comes back is “But he’s not in your shoes. Your position is different than his, and they’re not interchangeable except hypothetically.”

Soon after this begins, I start thinking farther back in time, through the entire tenure of our relationship. The mental timeline is laced with significant events, i.e., when I liked and respected him, when this happened and I felt betrayed, when that happened and I lost respect, etc. I go back and start reevaluating whether my feelings at those junctures were appropriate. Did I make too much of something that was nothing? Did I overreact? Was I overly sensitive?

I wonder about other people: How is this going to affect my relationship with this or that mutual acquaintance? If and when they hear about this, will they take a side? Will they agree with me or with him? I wonder about my record with such incidents and start worrying that maybe it really is just me. I’m the culprit, I’m the problem, I’m wrong.

Throughout the long ordeal flashes of consolation reach consciousness. “He’s like this other person I used to know with whom I had a similar incident. Maybe I just don’t get along with their types.” “I was not wrong. His behavior is condescending and he should be made aware of it as well as the fact that I won’t accept it silently.”

As I sit here now, hours after the fact, I wonder about tomorrow. How will his behavior toward me be tomorrow? I know he’s not afraid of me. I’m not afraid of him either, but I am afraid of confrontation. What if he says “Go fuck yourself.” As extreme as it may be, it’s something I wouldn’t know how to respond to. I would remain silent – not from shock, but because I lack the substance (the ability to lose my sense of presence and being) to initiate physical struggle, and that’s all that remains after that verbal level is reached.

It’s already been tense. I picture going in tomorrow and the atmosphere around the scene of the incident will envelop me, taking me back to the frame of mind I left in the night before. I’ll be tense the entire time I’m there, as long as he’s around. I won’t want to initiate conservation, and he won’t either (from past experience with others). If anything consiliatory takes place, it’ll probably be in another setting, outside the environment the incident transpired in.

That night as I try to fall asleep, I mentally vocalize different conversations with him. I’m back to the very first step where I’m calculating what he’ll say in response to my words. I choose what I’ll say according to that. Most likely I won’t get to say what I come up with during the night, but it’s a habit I can’t break out of. If I wake up during the night, it’s with this incident in mind, and it keeps me from falling asleep for some time. Then I fall asleep for a while and wake up in the morning, again with this at the forefront of thought.

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