The Uninvited Guest

Entry by: Mac

14th July 2016

I first became aware of my uninvited – dare I add, unwanted – guest at quite an early age. I shan’t say when exactly because I doubt that you would believe me. My guest is male, except when she is female – which isn’t that often, really and is, I am now convinced, more of a protest against overt masculinity … usually in others, rarely in me.

The unnamed, faceless guest took up residence and refused to budge, though there are dormant periods … but they are few and far between these days. Ah! Voices in my head – I have sensed your assumption, your conclusion. People always want conclusions, especially around these kinds of issues and their own assumption is to be preferred because it carries with it the illusion of conviction, wrapped up in the blind certainty of familiarity.

Do I see anything? No, of course not. I am not delusional. But I do sense his presence and there are, it’s true, words, sentences in my head but I can’t say it’s actually a voice. That would be going too far. There is also a stifling, deafening silence when he begins – a silence that buries all other sounds, other voices in a world with which I have only the most tenuous links. Barely hanging on some days. It’s why I only hear about 20% of what anyone says to me. The silent voice, a non sequitur if ever there was one, intervenes: my uninvited, unwanted guest. So if you do decide to speak to me, speak slowly and say little – simply be there. For he will be seizing on any ambiguity to force me to leave the task of listening and explore, instead, the labyrinthine meanings within what you said, desperate to find the ones that place me further and further from you. Yet I would dread your complete silence most of all because it is then that he will roar, tear up our history savouring the destruction of my ties with you.

It’s quiet right now; well, I am writing this, lying in bed, contemplating. I don’t want to get up because movement would commit me to involvement in the day, in routines, in the perils that shift surreptitiously around me. These perils have teeth, you know, and my guest is capable of arousing them with a seemingly insignificant memory; then within seconds I am in danger of being devoured by the failures, regrets, consequences of my past. Worst of all is the sense of injustice – even when it was my fault, was it really so bad that I have to endure this? Perhaps yes. That is the influence of my guest. Right there. “Perhaps yes” … he wrote that, not me.

Dismissal is the worst injustice. That moment when you realise you simply don’t count. You have done your bit, served your purpose. But you are not real, you have no place amongst those who matter, those who are valued simply for their presence. Then my guest becomes at once tyrannical and cannibalistic, slowly stripping pieces of flesh away, flesh that confirmed my existence. And I begin to disappear. Soon I shall be nothing more than a skeleton. He assures me that when I am dismissed it is my due, I merited it; it’s my karma.

I sought medical help, following advice from the friend I talked to who quickly became too embarrassed to stick with it and be with me. You need a doctor, a psychiatrist, a counsellor. Someone. Not me. I added “not me”; my friend didn’t say it … but I heard it. The doctor reached for a box of tissues when I began to cry.
“You have the following options,” she said. She could have been the disembodied voice I hear when I call the number of my bank. Ignoring her list of options I went to work and brushed it off. I smiled and people said hello but they didn’t see me.

Massenet’s “Thais Meditation” reaches a climax and the composer’s notes state “with a little more passion”. Then the ending has the violin playing harmonics above the subtle blending of harp and orchestra in chords that barely register. Forget the passion of the climax and reach instead for this moment of peace. Peace within the harmonics, not within the notes. It is almost enough to silence my uninvited guest, at least for a few minutes. Peace.

My uninvited guest pours me a drink some evenings as soon as I arrive home. It’s a dangerous move because it inevitably leads to a postponement of dinner – sometimes until the following evening. But I continue with my lie that I eat well; it’s a half truth. I do eat well when I can be bothered. I enjoy cooking when I can muster the enthusiasm. I want someone to cook for, someone to be here. Love might be a step too far. So I can settle for someone simply being there … someone besides my uninvited guest. But I am afraid. I don’t love well. D was my latest love and possibly my final one. Nothing to say except that we fed off each other like parasites - but D proved stronger and, in leaving, drove the final nail into my straw coffin. Love is not the answer after all … I just wanted it to be.

My daughter sent me a photo of her son - my grandson. He is sitting on a little stool, gazing into the open dishwasher, hands on his knees, lost it seems in contemplation. He is two and a half. The Buddha of the Dishwasher. The photo means everything and nothing. Except I was like that once, sitting in the open doorway of my childhood home watching the rain bounce upon the road outside and gush towards the drain in the gutter. Everything and nothing.

My daughter made a casual comment and my guest placed the barricade just behind my eyes. It isn’t constructed; construction takes time. This is instantaneous. I can’t speak. I can do nothing. I smile and pretend. Pretend to be engaged. Pretend to be there. I am not.

Since this is a narrative, there ought to be a sense of a journey, of development – movement towards …. what? A tragedy? Salvation? Perhaps simply hope? An elliptical glide towards possibility, at least. But there is only tomorrow. And tomorrow is today unrealised.