Here I am and there you are. And there’s the clock on the wall. I pretend I don’t want anything from you. You pretend you don’t want anything from me. Our pretending binds us like a form of artificial intimacy. And keeps us hungry, a million miles apart.
I pretend I’m listening to you. You act like you’re listening to me. Whilst you’re talking I’m thinking of what to say next. I do this by hearing a few words then drifting off into my composition. When your babbling ends, I recite my version of what you reminded me of whilst you were speaking about stuff I wasn’t listening to. You do the same in return, and our failures to listen to each other bind us together in monologues of mutual avoidance.
How are you?
‘How are you?’….’I’m fine. How are you?’….’I’m fine. How are you?’….’I’m fine. How are you?’…..’I’m fine. How are you?’. We play ping-pong and our gamesmanship binds us together in aversion to the truth of how we really are, separated only by a little net.
What did I do?
‘Oh fuck off!’…‘What did I do?’….’Just fuck off!’….‘No, I won’t fuck off until you tell me what I’ve done.’….’If I tell you what you’ve done will you fuck off?’….‘Yes.’….’Ok, you didn’t do anything. Now fuck off!’…..‘But what did I do?’…..’Nothing. Fuck off!!’…...’Ok, I’m fucking off…’……’Go on, run away! I always knew you’d leave some day….’
I’ll pretend I like you if you pretend you like me. I’ll pretend I’m not pretending so that it makes it easier for you to pretend you’re not pretending. That way, we can both pretend that we’re being genuine with one another. By pretending we’re genuine it means we can act like we give a damn, when neither of us do.
He’s a prick, isn’t he…..Yes, he is a prick……Did you see what she did the other day?…..I know, what an old bitch….He’s a prick and she’s an old bitch and we’re not cutting each other’s throats. By not cutting your throat, you agree not to cut mine. We pretend we’re close and that we won’t talk about each other when our backs are turned. But deep down, we both know you’re a prick and I’m an old bitch.
A sense of achievement
I’m ok. No you’re not. Ok, I’m not ok now, but I’ll be ok if I get a degree. No you won’t. Ok, I’ll be ok if I get a distinction. No you won’t. Ok, I’ll be ok if I get a Masters degree. Maybe, but only if you get a distinction. Ok, I’m ok now that I have a distinction. No you fucking aren’t. Ok, I’ll just do a PhD. Ok, do that and maybe you’ll be ok. Ok, I’ve got the PhD – should I call myself Dr, or put PhD at the end of my name? It doesn’t matter, you’re a fucking fake either way. No I’m not. Yes you are. I’m fucking well not. You fucking well are. Why? Because you spent ten years in university getting bits of paper trying to be someone else, so now you have three bits of paper and you’ve wasted ten years and you’re in debt up to your eyeballs and can’t find a job and you’re still a loser. Man, you’re hard to please. That’s because you never listen. Ok, I’m listening. Ok, you’ll be ok if you get off your lazy ass and get a job…
You’re very negative….No I’m not……Yes you are. You’re always criticising me….No I’m not…..Yes you are. You’re always judging; pointing out what’s wrong; saying what’s wrong instead of what’s right……No I’m not…..Yes, you are. You’re always dwelling on negative feelings and how unhappy you are…..No I’m not. I’m just being honest about how I feel….Yes but it’s always negative. You’re always pointing the finger; criticising the world. You should focus on the good, not keep pointing out the bad. No wonder you feel low……I feel much lower now……See, you’re being negative again. Cheer up. Be positive. I never feel low because I always focus on the positive in people….
Hide and Seek
I am the me I show to you. I am the me you do not know. In showing you the me I show to you, I hide the me you cannot know. I punish you for not acknowledging the me I hide, who you cannot know. You approve of the me I show that is not me. In approving the me that is not me I remain empty; hungry to be seen for the me I hide from you as I punish you for failing to see. When you see through my game I punish you for the shame I feel in being seen in my hiding. I feel invaded and so reject the part of you that sees the part of me that hides and wants to be seen but conceals itself from being seen. And so I become the me I show to you. And forget the me I hid from you that wanted to be seen but could not bear the pain of being seen by you.
Photo: ‘Glasgow Man’. Charcoal on paper, by the author
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