Gaslighting

Pants by Maison Martin Margiela

A plate I took out from the dishdrawer broke in two halves. Just like that: I took out the plate and in my hands I held its two halves. It was an old plate. Through the years it had been exposed to the microwave, to the dishwasher, to being taken out, put back, to being rinsed under a hot tap, to food being put on it, hot food, cold food, numerous times, during many years. It was full of cracks. It had a fracture right through the middle. This is about as much as what a plate’s life can be about, apart from slipping from someone’s hand and breaking to pieces, which had never happened to it. But old age had crept into it. The integrality of the structure had been hanging by a thread. This had been the life of a nondescript plate. This was how it had ended.

I had the plate when my husband died. I was strangely moved by the uneventfulness of the plate’s passing. It made me realize how completely resigned to my life I now was, a life without my husband, with my children out of the house, a life without friends in the country of my exile, a life with two cats that I can’t imagine to ever die, or even grow old. A life finally straightened out by a fat bank account; millions sitting in investments, going up, going down, but never keeling over, pretty much left to fend for themselves, unmonitored by me. A life with no responsibilities, no commitments, except to work. A life as bland and joyless as devoid of a desire to the contrary. Like an old plate, I’m tempted to add; except that I’m immune to old age. I deposited the two halves in the trash can. It is next to the dishdrawer. I could almost do it in a single move.

Jeans by Victoria Beckham

My chest feels heavy and I lie down. A certain pandemic has finally caught up with me even as measures to contain and eradicate it are being lifted. I think I have a fever. I am not into medical things. I don’t have devices to measure or monitor my temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen level. I wouldn’t know the metrics telling the normal from the irregular. When there is a fever inside one, in one’s lungs and trachea, one’s perspective shifts, especially reminiscing. Stretched out, with my eyes closed, I’m transported back to early youth, my life as a young girl. I remember with insistent lucidity how certain buildings – schools, community centers, undefined, anonymous public buildings in general, and archways – used to fill me with fear or despondency or profound sadness, or a desire to be killed. The smell inside some of those buildings, say an old school where I had piano lessons, which I received at first from a pretty young woman, later on, as I grew in proficiency and was prepped for music academy, from an older woman with a pretty face, thin hair and a bad hump, made my legs feel heavy and increased my desire to be killed, not violently – despite the occasions where I had been a victim of it, I didn’t understand the concept of violence – but peacefully, if against my will.

But as I’m remembering this, my feverish mind starts to gaslight me. It forces onto me a new take on these recollections. It revisits the old emotions, investigates them freshly, and works at reframing them. This leaves me uprooted, faced with the impossible task to redefine emotions prompted by images that now are just incomprehensible, not threatening, but alien and weird, skewed. They are images that I can no longer deal with the way I did at the time when they were registered by the young girl I was so many years ago.

This is not necessarily a bad experience. Perhaps it is a good one. I have the gift of being able to empty my mind to the point where there is nothing going on in it. That’s when I fall asleep like I’ve just died.

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