Texts From A narcissist
‘’Obviously for me the words are what’s important and that’s the subject matter. Words or sayings can reflect how we live or the language that we use.’’ Jon Campbell.
When my sister was 4 years old, she had an imaginary friend. His name was Melville. He worked at the Melbourne zoo. He fed the elephants. My family lived on a dairy farm about four hours drive from Melbourne. This imaginary friend gave her so much joy. One summer evening, in the light from the hot sunny day, now hazy. When your shadow would stretch on for so many metres, you looked like a tall skinny giant. My little sister got on her tricycle and made off to visit her imaginary friend. She was fearless and determined. I called out to her to come back and take a bath. But, she was already peddling up the big wide dirt road. Her hair shining in a messy ponytail, half falling out.
You are like an imaginary friend to me. It is like you do not exist in the physical world. Perhaps that is why you have so much power. You inhabit the place that is usually just for me. My invisible world compels me to do some silly things.
I had been talking about you a few days before this. Telling a friend how glad I am that I can be your friend. Which is why this hurt me so badly. Why I need to write it out. I am struggling to articulate why it devastated me so. They say this is a feminist issue that the more women who try and write about what can be so difficult to articulate, the better. You shall not silence me. I have done nothing but love you unconditionally. I loved you as a lover and you hurt me. I love you as a friend and still it happens.
Imaginary friends are meant to make the reality of the real world less horrible and scary. They exist to help children meander their way through what can be confusing and traumatic. You are not like that. You do not exist to help me. You do not exist to love me or protect me from the reality of existence. The brutality of adulthood. The terror of being a woman and existing in a world where it is safe to say any of my extreems can be described in one antiquated and phallocentric ideology; Hysteria. You are an imaginary friend that feeds of my hysteria. It makes you stronger and puffs out your chest.
On the Sunday before you sent me the texts of doom, I attended a breakfast club for the arts festival called Next Wave. The breakfast club event was entitled Drifting Right.
Deborah Pearson is a writer and performer, and the founder and co-director of UK-based Forest Fringe. Her most recent project, The Future Show, is currently touring internationally to Belgium, the USA, Canada, Ireland and Portugal among others. She is an associate artist with Volcano Theatre in Canada and is currently studying for a practice-based PhD at Royal Holloway in London where she is also a Reid Scholar.
For the Next Wave Festival 2014, Deborah will be premiering a new piece called Drifting Right. The project is a one-on-one conversation in a canoe with an audience member who is also a conservative voter. The piece seeks to engender a dialogue between her left leaning tendencies and those who support the current rightwards shift in Western politics. The project will conclude with a Breakfast Club, Next Wave’s highly successful talks series, curated by Deborah alongside her conservative canoeing co-pilots. Together they will open up the discussion about left vs. right and the tenuous possibility for dialogue to a larger audience.
The idea was that she would engage in polite conversation with these people and try to find out if polite and patient diologue was a way in which we could understand why people voted the way they did. The artist was very careful not to antagonize or be overly demanding in her questions and conversation. It was this idea that had drawn me to the breakfast club at The Wheeler Centre. I wanted to see how the artist carried out her idea. I come from a family of conservative voters and when I discuss politics with my father, it usually ends in me calling him a bigot. He loves me anyway and I love him. We will never change each other’s mind.
It was an over cast morning as I made my way up little Lonsdale street past the state library. I was wearing my brown dress with the white polka dots and a green little windcheater that had the word wildcats written across it in white. The windcheater had been a gift from my housemate. She had lovingly left on my bed with a chocolate bar, fpr me to find on my return home one night. My hair was out and I was wearing my animal print animal ears headband. It was a bit early when I arrived and the doors to the large room were not opened yet. It was the social aspect of these breakfast meetings I loved. You showed up and took your place at any table. If you come alone you get to sit at a table with intelligent and intellectually curious individuals. You get to talk and discuss the provocations of each speaker.
When they finally opened the doors, I made my way to a table at the very back of the long wide room with big high windows and soft dark carpet. There was a breakfast bar a few steps from my table. There was one handsome volunteer setting up small containers of yogurt and berries and muslie with plastic spoons stuck in to the delicious mix. There was also coffee. It was all free! I lined up behind a couple of women who were friends. The tall handsome man smiled at me and handed me a cup. ‘I come for the ideas but the free food is an appreciated bonus.’ I tell him. I make up my paper cup of coffee and carry the cup in one hand and my container of yogurt in the other. I start walking back to my table where I have left my bag on a seat. ‘Hey.’ He calls to me. I turn around with my hands full.
‘’I come here for the ideas as well.’’ He tells me.
The people who sit at my table with me are all intelligent and leftist. There is a young woman from Brazil who discusses the need to fight for ones freedom. There is a married couple from England. There is a dark haired brown eyed Adonis in opp shop clothes who discusses his leftist upbringing. The time goes quickly and my intention to take notes gets forgotten. It is all consuming this subject matter and conversation. I take some notes from the final speaker who is a liberal voter and who was a political publicist for the prime minister. It is interesting to say the least. He closed by provocating the idea that in order to make the most change shouldn’t we do so by drifting right?
‘Politics is the long slowboarding of flooring.’’
‘Do not believe in charismatic politicians.’’
‘’Do not believe that they will save your life or fulfill your dreams.’’
‘’I do not believe Australia has moved to the right in recent times.’’
‘’Australia does politics quite well.’’
‘’There has never been a more stable political climate than Australia. People like the system as it is.’’
‘’Australians are very skeptical of extreemists… Of rants and taking self to seriously.’’
‘’We have to be carefull.’’
‘’Beware of your own enthusiasm.’’
‘’Don’t think politics is going to transform the world.’’
‘’There is an environment in which things are reasonably fair.’’
‘’Put a counter argument. Should politics be dull?’’
After the speakers had finished there was a brief address from the arts director of the entire festival. I know her as we did the radio course at Triple RRR together. I try to catch her eue after wards to say hello but she averts her gaze and keeps walking.
Some people are like that sometimes. She tells people who have purchased a day pass to gather in front of the tour guide. She says your name. She says the name of my imaginary friend. The effect is fast and physical. It is like I am about to fall backwards down a long flight of stairs. My hands get sweaty and my heart starts beating so fast that I feel a bit sick. I do not see you though. Someone at my table wants my number. She wants to get together and talk some more. I wonder if she is just being polite. I am still falling backwards. This is what happens when you are reminded of your imaginary friend’s physical existence. He is real to other people.
Just not to you.
By the time I get to the entrance there is no sign of you so you must have already taken your group on the art tour. The sun is out now. The sky is blue. I walk around the city in a daze.
I go home as the sun begins to sink and the air gets cold.
Monday morning my imaginary friend makes contact.
My housemate saw you at the Next Wave Breakfast Cub at the Wheeler Centre on Sunday morning, I did not. At least I think they saw you. Sunday night after I got home from my tours they told me that they’d seen a girl getting yoghurt after the first speaker and then realised you weren’t a girl. You were wearing the cat/bear ear headband? They had had the reaction that jealous older women have of you, like she was threatened or something. It, her reaction was weird and strange, and i told her so.
I awake to find the contact made. I am still in my moose pyjama pants and my hair is as tangled as my sleep addles brain. I make coffee before texting back.
It’s cute how she reacted.
This is why Roxy always noticed older women glaring or frowning at me.
Is because in a way I kind of won?
Won the ticket to go either way ?grown up or little pixie?
You live with an older woman now?
It would be lovely to hang when your not busy.I watched Antichrist last night and could not sleep! Anyway it was a therapeutic experience.
Oh no, she’s not an older woman, but she had the same reaction that older women have of you. Sorry, I should have been clearer. I reread my message and can see how you wouldve read it that way.
I did just over 8 hours of art touring and talking Saturday and then about the same on Sunday for next wave.
I did like antichrist, and worse, I like that I liked it. I hated melancholia.
I am not surprised you like that you like it.
I mean your mother issues are extensive, kid.
Wednesday morning could work .
Oh and if she ain’t actually old.
I do not know what her fucking problem is.
Because I did not “notice” her due to her and most other people’s banality.
I’m pissed off now.
Maybe a shower and some Beyonce will bring my groove back.
I told her it was fucked. She reneged and felt sheepish and agreed with me.
Sorry didn’t mean to bring on a bad mood. Fuck.
How nice of you to educate her.
I can’t see you this Wednesday. Not because I’m pissed because I have no money.
Please don’t be snippy. I was just saying I was surprised at her reaction and shut it down because I was insulted by it, insulted that she could have that reaction to someone else, another person who she knows nothing about. I wasn’t telling you a shut her down and you should be grateful for it.
You tend to jump to the worst possible conclusion, imagine that I’m thinking the worst possible thoughts. You do not know everything, and I’m not saying that you claim that you do, but you make a lot of assumptions and I see this every time you write something about me: no I don’t respond to your texts straight away, I want to, but I don’t want it to turn into some passive aggressive little argument or for you to text back and misconstrue something I’ve typed because you’ve read it in the wrong way. I hate fighting with you. I don’t hate you. I don’t love you. I like you a lot. I think you’re amazing. I hate that you hate me for not loving you. I am not a boxing bag though, and that is why I struggle for days before responding to your texts. Why I don’t hang out with you. I don’t like being treated like some asshole for having been honest with you. I never lead you on, I was up front, yet you make out I’m some selfish lowlife fuck that used you. On the first night we drank beer and you told me that if a girl wanted to have sex, all she had to do was say ‘yes’ to someone, and that someone was of little consequence, you said that I could’ve been anyone else. We agreed that with you travelling to the uk we would just have fun and not take it seriously. I told you not to write to me because I didn’t want you to dwell or waste your experience over there by writing back to me, especially when you had do many other friends and family already in your life that you had a greater history with and I didn’t want you to get hung up on me. I didn’t break your heart, I just said no.
It does not make me feel better. I take my lap top into the bathroom and set up some Beyonce. I turn on the hot water and stand naked and shivering as the water heats up. The tiny goosebumps pop up along my arms and I trace them with my fingertips. I step into the shower. This shower is one that can also be a bath. The bath is deep and wide like a spa bath. So in order to step in I have to step over the high bath edge without slipping. It is a sunny day and the bathroom is filled with natural light. I stand under the hot water and imagin him coming home to his young and smart and beautiful housemate. I imagine them discussing me. Did he tell her that he and I got as close as two people can? Did he tell her how I got on my knees for him in a shower once or twice? Did he tell her that I comforted him when he cried? The answer to all of these must be, no. I started crying and it mingled with the shower water. I thought he was special that he saw something in me that sparkled under his minds eye and his alone. Is this the kind of company he keeps now? The company of shallow and narrow minded people? Who cannot cope with kindness when they are presented with something slightly skewing from the norm? Did this girl make him feel ashamed and embarrassed about our shared history? I wanted to scratch my skin from my very bones with shame at the thought of his possible shame. I had not noticed anyone staring at me but I never do. My short sightedness is a gift. Beyonce was not helping me feel more bootalicious. I felt the opposite. I felt pathetic and ugly. He was no drop dead fred, sent to keep me safe from overbearing people and a complicated mother/daughter relationship. I had so wanted to be his good friend and to make him feel better when he was sad.
I cry so much I get the hiccups and my head hurts. The long rectangular window is above my reach. It shows clear blue sky. The sunlight comes slanting in. I stand naked and wet and red faced. Look up at this patch of blue. The water falls down my crooked back and drips from between my legs. I could stand here forever and it would not wash the memories away. It causes such pain to imagine him regretting ever touching me. I do not regret touching him. He is not Heathcliff. In breaking my heart he does not break his own. I am not disappointed in him like a lover. I am disappointed in him as a friend. He cannot see the difference.
I get out of the shower and wrap my blue and white striped towel around my small and bony body. I remove my shower cap. Dizziness takes over and I need to sit on the edge of the bath for a moment. Doing nothing. Thinking nothing. Trying to negotiate an inner balance within. Trying to decipher what it is I should be grateful for. I do not owe people who do not know me, an explanation. It is not as if I would make comments about someones appearance that could not be explained. They are strangers in the street and they all shimmer with mystery to me. I am in awe of them at times. So many stories I will never know. So many secrets I am not privy to. I stand and carry my lap top back to my room. I dry myself and text him back as I stand clean and naked. It is my defiance. My towel is puddled about my bare feet. It is slightly damp now.
Why are you bringing that up again.
This is about how I just always have to have someone explaining me.
It makes me sad.
“How nice of you to educate her” is a passive aggressive stab as though I’m suggesting that you owe me for having explained it or dealt with it for you.
“How nice of you to educate her” is not saying “uh I know, it’s so annoying I’m forever explaining myself and it makes me sad”
Well I would give you a kidney for your trouble
But they are a couple if lazy punks these days so would be of no use.
Perhaps a beverage would be better.
Oscar Wilde did say “the only thing worse than being talked about. Is not being talked about. ”
Also my comment was not passive aggressive.
It was balls out aggressive and I’m sorry for that.
Please could you understand this was nit about you. It was about me being reminded of stuff about me that I cannot change.
I think it’s your default mode with me now.
You told me about this person having a reaction to me. Why did you tell me? Did you on some level want to make a point to me ? that you are a good guy?
You do not need to try and prove it to me.
I already know.
Why the hell do you think I want to hang out with you! Because you
And you can talk to me about books! I love that shit! And now I’m crying because I feel bad that you feel bad.
I’m depressed which is probably why I reacted so badly in the first place.
No excuse though.
I wanted to tell you because I was surprised by her reaction, I consider her open minded but that response made me take a step back. I thought it was isolated to select group of bitter older women, but apparently not. I also told you because I was there, you were there, and we did not see each other, well I didn’t see you, but I found out later you were there by a description that could have only been you.That part was nice. That someone, a stranger, could see you and you be so unique that I knew exactly who they were talking about.
Yeah that part made me smile too. Also I wanted to try and find you to say hi after I heard Emily say your name. But I got stuck exchanging numbers with a lovely woman called T.J .
Also you were probably in art star mode.:)
The phone gets put down and my towel gets picked up. I apply moisterizer to my bare skin. The kidney disease has made parts of my skin break out in itchy rashes. It is mostly on my hips, left buttock and my left inner wrist. These places on my body are a map in limbo. In a process of survival. It is wonderful and incredible to be in this skin. I try not to feel the long gone sensation of your hands on these places. You deceived me in your very footsteps. You do not own up to your mistakes. They are all mine and of my own doing. You will never stop pretending that you didn’t break my heart. That is not even why I am upset with you right in this minute. Right in this second. I consider asking you for coffee. I consider the option of trying to explain to you face. Meybe then you would understand and say sorry for making me feel like that. Maybe then you would assure me that you do not regret anything. That it is a silly notion of mine to have. But, the thought of looking at your face reduces me to fresh tears. I cannot change you. I cannot make you see.
The sadness washes over me as I stand at the stove waiting for my noodles to cook. He thinks I owe him for simply being me. The thought hurts me and the tears prick again. I do not finish my noodles.
You do this to yourself. The voices start inside my head.
If I was in your head, I would be exhausted by midday also.
My housemate comes into the kitchen and sees me crying.’
’Oh, what’s wrong?’ She exclaims and gives me a hug. She is small and short like me and it is like getting a hug from myself. A hug from a prettier more even tempered self. She begins making us earl grey tea. In tea cups with matching saucers. Sophie; a physicist phd student, purchased them from Savers.
We drink them outside In our sun drenched back yard. The back yard that seems to span back for at least three houses long. The grass is long and the breeze makes it undulate like green waves. My tears have stopped now. I am laughing. The tea is sweet and hot and tastes the way things do when you do not have to make them yourself.
My housemate Celeste has bought out a thick volume. ‘I have to read you this out loud.’’ She says. I see that our other housemate has clothes on the line. I check and find them dry. I take them off the line one item at a time. Each item I fold and place in a pile on a chair. As I do this My housemate reads aloud an excerpt from Sylvia Plathe’s journals. It is about the almost sexual pleasure she gets from all the different elements of nose picking. I recommend reading it if you can be bothered. It is poetic genius. The sun is bright and warm on our backs as we laugh in delighted disgust. ‘’This is amazing.’ I say, taking down a pair of black underwear.
‘’I have drawn a love heart at the top of the page.’’ She tells me with a laugh. Why do we take such pleasure from this? Could it be because it reminded us both of the power women takes from the written word? From the freedom in controlling the pen of your own and creating the written word yourself?
That beauty can be found in all things. Both the dead brain cells lodged in one’s own nostril, to the confusion and sadness caused by the misunderstanding of two people. That it is so delightful to read a woman writing about something so gross and so taboo. It sets our own soul free to read it. To share it with one another. While the sun shines and the sky remains blue. I can appreciate it now.
At 11:12pm the imaginary friend texts me again.
The daily dot have an article titled ‘James Francos Selfie-Inception ois all our faults.’ It’s nothing new but nice to see those ideas broadcast on the interwebs.
I stare at the text message as I sit at my desk in my navy blue onesie and tomatoe red ugg boots. It is not an apology.
They say that the largest diamond in the known universe weighs approximately a million trillion trillion pounds, making it as massive as the sun. But nobody has actually seen it.
Imaginary friends do not need to apologize.