You were quiet, thoughtful, extremely well-read, very particular about using the right words, very sensitive about language, outwardly very calm, inwardly very, ehm, shifting between different options, yet very loyal to your decisions. But still, ever pondering. Yet never moody. Dreamy, calculating for self-preservation, but always considerate, never selfish, funny, very charming, conflict avoiding, or no, conflict smoothening, good at creating a sort of cosy, classical atmosphere, very much a fan of candle light. HIV-positive.
You’d think that somebody like me who looks at life, like life is this cursed burden one is carrying to the edge of a cliff to throw it down and lose forever with one’s neck tied to it, would be ok with that. Would insist on unprotected sex. As a sort of legimitate way to circumvent the suicide label/sin/legacy. But I wasn’t. I didn’t even trust it with one condom. Was much more considering putting on two. The worst was that I couldn’t lick you without putting some plastic cover over you. Which tasted rather chemical. I never got to taste you. A point of frustration, because I need that. It suits my taste for extremes. Not that it’s extreme to taste a woman, but it’s extreme in the minds of some. Never ignore the revulsion of the imaginary audience we all have there sitting with us, when we are doing the old in and out. The things we do for effect on the audience that isn’t even there. You were a psychologist. What we do in bed we always do with the judgement of the outside world somewhere in the back of our mind. You agreed that this unseen audience exists. Always. And that mine was big, being something of a narcissist. Besides, I simply like it.
You were very ok with being HIV-positive. “These days it’s not that different from being a diabetic.” It had made you cherish your days more, made living much more acutely felt. “I know it’s a cliché”, you said, “but it’s like that. Faced with your mortal nature, living is more intense. I’d almost say it was a gift.”
It wasn’t a gift of course. The day you found out, you called the 34 guys you slept with. And the one girl. Your number one move-towards-value was respect.
You were a vegetarian. Of course. Not so much because you loved animals so much, but because you thought putting people in factories to butcher animals, was degrading. You’d eat meat if you had raised and slaughtered the animal yourself. You didn’t, because you didn’t have the time and you didn’t like the taste of meat all that much.
Dating a psychologist comes with certain advantages. Especially if it’s a smart psychologist. “I didn’t learn psychology at university. Those five years were an introduction at best. A rather boring and lengthy one.” She did have an astute insight in anything revolving around emotions.
About my writing: “You are too afraid of hurting your characters. I mean really hurting them. Make the worst thing that could ever happen to them happen. And then make it some worse.”
I said I did that.
“No, you don’t. You only make bad things happen to characters if you don’t have an emotional bond with them. And so neither does the reader. You’re basically too nice towards your characters. Your readers want to be moved, they want to have the emotional piss kicked out of them. Hurt them, by hurting your characters. If it hurts you to write it, you know you’re writing something good. If literature isn’t there to shake people’s feelings up, then it has little or no value. The action in your stories doesn’t magnify reality. It needs a bigger scope. And a bigger scale. Higher stakes. The decisions your characters take need to have bigger consequences.”
About my narcissism:
“you are not a real narcissist. Maybe you could have been one. You have the right setting for it. Only child, good memory, good people reader. Assets that make life dangerously easy at times. But you aren’t. You have it in check. It only comes out in certain circumstances. Like when you’re playing a board game. Then you throw in some nasty personality traits, but never when it really matters, not in real life. And not in your writing, which is a pity. Your writing needs more evil. Real evil. It’s all too sweet.”
“that’s easy, your love for women has several components. There’s an aesthetic aspect, you find women to be the most beautiful thing to look at, by far. There’s the sexual attraction. There’s the trophy aspect, the status involved in having a woman by your side, a way to emphasize your masculinity, you basically like to talk to women, you don’t bond so easily with men, because your father scared you, and you don’t like drinking or sports, or action movies. All your male friends are a bit effeminate. You expect some therapeutic, healing skills from women. You’re very lucky with me there. Also a basic human fear of being alone, of course. A love for strategy that asserts itself in the hunt for women. It’s a pity you can’t find an other area of life to do something with this strategy thrill. You’d make a savagely successful banker, if you were better at mathematics. I also suspect a need to leave a legacy by raising a family. Also normal, except that with you, there’s an impulse not just to raise a family, but to found a dynasty. If you could, of course. You need a woman for that. And not just any woman.”
She had basically said that she didn’t correspond to my hidden demands. We couldn’t raise a family. Unless we adopted.
“You basically like to get to know people inside out. And to get to the bottom of people, in your case women, it helps to have sex with them, of course.”
“Maybe a need to control. To prove to yourself you can turn a situation to your advantage.”
“That’s the same as a love for strategy.”
About my career options:
“Failing a talent for mathematics, you should have become a lawyer. Especially divorces and murder cases would have been right up your alley.”
“I find that very hard to believe.”
“That’s my professional opinion. It combines manipulation, reading people, a good memory, acting skills, and you would always be defending somebody, you wouldn’t be playing dirty tricks for your own sake, and it gets you attention. And it has status. Entirely undeserved in most cases, if you ask me, but still.”
“Well, it’s too late to become a lawyer.”
“It’s never too late, and you know it.”
“Any other options?”
“You’re way too insecure to join the military. And a military career would seperate you from women much of the time. So that’s not an option. And military strategy these days is too much about pretending to protect human rights and shit like that. You’d feel held back by that. Anyway, good option, but you’re too insecure.”
“And I’d have to cut my hair.”
“And you’d have to cut your hair. And anyway, it’s not so much about the options. You simply need a very wise, very driven male rolemodel who will coach you through it, very closely, who understands you, sees your ambition, and can help you overcome your insecurities.”
“Why can’t a woman do that?”
“Men and women do things differently. Sometimes anyway. Different approach. But it’s not that. It’s that you need an older guy to believe in you. An older guy who knows the world, especially how to move in the higher circles. To overcome your worker background.”
“What is worker background in psychological terms?”
“Fatalism, the basic idea that you are fucked no matter what you do, this self-fulfilling prophecy of naturalism, pent-up despondency, a resistance to smooth-talking, a resistance to give up dialect, you suffer from that, though you could turn it into some charm, if you stopped feeling less for it.”
“For what? For speaking dialect?”
“Ok, what else?”
“A basic fear and hatred of government and all official institutions. A scepticsim towards anything that reeks of official doctrine. An adversity to passing through regular channels to obtain something. A reluctance to communicate openly, figuring ‘anything you say can and will be used against you’, and most importantly a deep reluctance to seek professional help in any area of life.”
“You learned that in school?”
“Of course not. And see: if I had learned it in school, you wouldn’t believe it. Because it would qualify as official doctrine.”
“And what to do about it?”
“Learn from somebody who has a better belief system. Not a worker belief system.”
“Any other option?”
“Why do you need options? I thought you’d decided. You decided to be a writer and you are one.”
“Not a very successful one.”
“A very impatient one, you mean. Just keep at it. The world will never run out of the demand for good quality stories that move people. Keep at it.”
“And what do you look for in men?”
“It’s not so easy to analyse myself. I can’t be objective.”
“Ok. Support. Loyalty. Good conversation. Cosiness. Humor. Discussion. Mutual respect. Always treat each other respectfully, like adults. Always. To share problems with each other and talk things through. Openness. And sharing moments.”
“So your parents fought a lot? And one of them drank heavily?”
“And your mother played the martyr?”
“You don’t need to study psychology to figure that one out.”
“Why does one need to study psychology?”
“Good question. To get a methodical approach, I suppose. To have a certain basis to fall back on.”
“No. That’s crap. I mean it’s crap if you treat it like some oracle that’s always right. The DSM offers a basis, it needs the interpretation of a trained psychologist. Otherwise it’s worthless.”
“You ever cure people, you think?”
“I am curing you, aren’t I?”
You were. Slowly. Not just in our after-sex-conversations, but with the assignments you gave me.
“Make a list of all small daily pleasures you can come up with. Not sex related.”
“I don’t care for those at all. They scare me.”
“That’s why you have to make the list. Life will always be a burden, if you don’t learn to enjoy the day to day small pleasures. It’s part of living life in the moment.”
“What if I come to like them so much I accept a simple life?”
“You want to be miserable, and desperate, and insecure and afraid and feel inadequate all the time?”
I made the list. 50 items. Just like she asked.
“Most of these things I never see you eat, or drink or do at all. Some not even once.”
“Ok. Next assignment. In the course of the next two weeks you will do all of them.”
“All of them?”
“Yeah, come on. You can do 20 in a day, if you wanted. That’s why they are small pleasures.”
I did thirty or something.
I drank a cup of green tea.
“Now just enjoy the tea. Taste it. Right this moment, nothing matters, except drinking that tea. No unfulfilled ambition should spoil the taste of that tea. It’s all you’ll take with you to your grave, that’s the sum total of all moments like this. Savour the tea.”
I took a sip.
“I’m sceptical about this, to say the least. Must be my working class background.”
You stared at me with mock commanding eyes.
I took an other sip.
“So this is called mindfulness.”
“Forget concepts. Focus on the tea. Right this moment, nothing is more important. Be one with the moment.”
A big sip.
“This isn’t working you know. I want to be a famous writer. I want to fuck you and then read about it in the papers and have my name twittered 100,000 times.”
“Quit the sarcasm for five minutes. I’m really trying to help you.”
“No, you’re trying to save me, because your mother couldn’t save your father. And now you want to have an other try, with me.”
“That may very well be. But the point is to be one with the moment. Stop thinking. Focus on the tea.”
“Life is just a string of moments. The you today is not the you yesterday. There’s no point in judging yesterday’s actions. No point in pondering over tomorrow’s potential problems. There’s just right now. Life has no history and no future. Only the now is real.”
“You also ponder. You also have worries.”
“I’ve mastered this technique and I’ve learned to bring everything back to the now.”
“So if we ever go on a trip I shouldn’t let you plan it?”
“Wrong. I can plan intensely well. The now would be the planning process. I would focus just on that.”
“Ok, ok. And how does this help?”
“It lets you shed all unnecessary ballast. It masters cravings. It keeps frustrations at bay. It’s a great technique. Always return to the moment. Because the moment is…”
“…all there is. I have a lot of difficulties with that.”
“I know. You are almost never in the now. Always somewhere else. And missing out on a lot of things.”
“You were also in the now when you contracted HIV?”
“That says nothing about this technique. Look, if you don’t want to be helped, tell me. If you want to be stuck in your tough set for destruction, beating by all odds, belief system, then fine. We can watch a movie and stop wasting our time.”
“It was a joke. I am in the now when I make a joke.”
“Maybe, yes, whatever.”
“You are not in the now now.”
“All I was trying to make you see, is that most of the time you feel miserable and frustrated, because you think you need to feel that way. Because you focus on certain things that feed those feelings.”
“I know. I know. Thanks.”
“You have to get centred, when you get those feelings. Shift your focus to essential things.”
“What if it’s essential to me to want to be a famous writer?”
“Focus on the writing. Feel the writing. Enjoy the writing process. Focussing on the frustration of not being a famous writer is never going to get you there. There’s only the now. There’s only writing. You are a writer. You write. The fame is only a very small, insignificant part of writing. If you can’t be in the now when you write, it won’t work.”
“Ok, ok, that makes sense.”
“Really, life changes when you focus on being in the now.”
“What if you are being violently tortured. You should be in the now then?”
“No, of course not. I’m talking about every day life.”
“Is this technique going to give me self-confidence?”
“If you master it, yes.”
“Because you master the now.”
“And the now is all there is.”
“So you become better at what you do. Hence, your self-confidence grows. And also, if you live in the now, you stop questioning things like your self-confidence level.”
I must say, your technique works. The trouble is, I always forget to apply it. It requires constant training. I’d have to get up half an hour earlier each day to do nothing else than programme my mind for the now, for the rest of the day.
We did that for awhile. Together. At the same moment. But in separate rooms. Half an hour each morning.
It worked. For awhile. Until I saw the down-side, the gaffe of the technique, it made me…settle. Settle for just about anything. Your technique was even more fatalist than my worker belief system.
And the now with you, was like living in a private sanatorium. Everything got psychologized. I caught myself reading something into the way I arranged food on plates.
We decided we needed some now-time, apart.
The now-time apart, became the forever-time apart.
Therapist-patient relationships make the now expand steadily towards unbearable intensity. That in the end has very little to do with being a couple or unconditional loving support, without resorting to some fix all technique. Living in the now gives me a feeling of eternity and immortality. Which is probably great for most people. But immortality is the last thing I want to experience. The jail of now. You had blown up one of the aspects I seek in a woman: a blissful way out of the now. That half hour in the morning, we should have spent locked in each other. The HIV risk was enough for a very intense feeling of now.