#5: Materialisation and its Dangers

Saturday / July 27, 2013 / 10 pm / Her apartment, NY

This time, the Other was real.

It wasn’t some figment or writing device, like all the Others she had previously used and discarded. This one was real, and it threatened her. Well, considering the Other most likely did not know she existed, one might have to say that she perceived the other as a threat. The appropriate term for this situation might be: an ‘unrequited romantic rivalry.’

The circumstances that led to its formation were complicated, not least because it had all taken place within her own mind. She had met a man, and had made the mistake of rationally entertaining the possibility of the potential to fall in love with him. What that meant was, she saw in him certain characteristics that adhered to the mental checklist that she had been maintaining for a couple of years – the one for a hypothetical mate. The only thing that kept the “falling in love” part potential rather than actual was the presence of the Other, to whom he might as well have been betrothed. She found it quite improbable that she should fall in love with someone who was otherwise unavailable, and felt quite content to continue on with her life while occasionally entertaining the thought that their union might one day dissolve at the exact moment that she would just so happen to be meaningfully present in his life. The Other remained amorphous; they had never met.

Then it happened. The Other was suddenly amorphous no longer, and it wasn’t because of something superficial, e.g. she had seen a photo of the Other and the Other was prettier and skinnier and possessed whatever other attribute that she objectively knew shouldn’t matter if the world ever became post-sexist. The Other became real when she came across a piece of information that revealed to her, not that the Other was better than her in areas she knew she could not excel, but that they shared a certain obsession, a way of working that she had fallen into the dangerous habit of thinking she monopolised. The Other became real when the Other became familiar, parallel, similar. A true competitor in a made-up competition.

She paused for the sake of reasoning it out. Why now, why that particular trigger? The trigger itself, the obsession, was so raw. The fact that the Other had publicly affirmed this similar obsession at a time when she was struggling with it most, when it seemed to be slipping through her fingers, was absolutely alarming. There existed a person who was willing to use this particular obsession as self-definition, another person who just so happened to belong to him! What pained her more – that the Other had, in her opinion, stolen something that had made her impressive; that the Other appeared to have a much better grasp of it than she ever did; or that in some alternative universe, if the Other had never existed or no longer existed, she possessed at least some of the qualities that might have caused him to love her instead?

(In the midst of her numerous realisations, she had forgotten one – that the Other, the true Other that resided within her, sought to possess any being that she feared had achieved a state of herself superior to what she could ever hope to be. The Other had become real before, and it would become real it many different forms for the rest of her life, and what she should learn to fear is its malleability.)

Something else had happened. Because the Other had materialised, because this seemed proof that she might ever seem desirable to him, because in their limited contact he was so oblivious to both her affection and her jealousy – she had managed to convince herself that she had fallen in love with him after all, that he might be that elusive “soulmate” (according to her mental checklist, of course). The fixation was happening again, and there was nothing else to do but wait it out.

Berny Tan