I look into Haruki’s eyes and discover something that disturbs me profoundly. There is a familiarity. In the aftermath of The Demolition Of My Construct (my break-up), I must admit I am suffering from a fear of intimacy with anyone, anything. Even these fluffy felines, Haruki and Mowgli.
What I see in his eyes is something close to recognition, trust, perhaps even love. I feel my skin crawl, and in the centre of my chest I feel cold.
I feel a need to flee, flee immediately.
This in turn causes me a considerable degree of anxiety. Have I always been this person? Have I kept others at a safe distance? The latter I admit may be true, to a degree. However, the feeling of panic I am experiencing is new; this complete overtaking of my senses, this inability to move.
It is like a pure anxiety of the Other. It is fear and loathing, it is familiarity breeding contempt, and I am very afraid – afraid of myself, afraid for myself.
A monster of existence, I still sense him – The Atheist (the lover who spurned me) under my skin, filling out my arms, my legs, his visage lurking in my own.
The despair of feeling alien in one’s own body is I believe one vision of Hell.
I fear I am becoming Other, to myself.
Earlier in the week I was worried. Haruki and Mowgli were behaving in a very strange fashion. When I would leave the room for any amount of time, they would follow me. If I entered the bathroom, they would start scratching at the carpet outside. It is well on its way now to becoming unravelled.
When that yielded no result, I would hear a slamming sound. They started hurling themselves against the door, willing it to open with the force of their small bodies. I could hear the scrambling of their paws, on and on they persisted. It alarmed me. What did they want from me?
When I came out they were throwing themselves at my feet. If I sat down they would climb on my shoulders and shove their faces in my face. I cannot decide if this is devotion on their part that I must accept graciously and reciprocate with affection, or them forcing me to feel, something, anything.
I have things I need to do, do I not? I cannot drop everything and shower them with love. I can only do that when I am able. They’re cats, I remind myself.
They are not humans, and yet their behaviour is not so different from humans. Their immense need for some kind of touch, response and affection is rampant in all of us. I don’t believe myself to be immune from this.
And yet, when we see it in another, when another throws themselves at us, often the tendency is to withdraw. When we are given too much we become sadistic.
Are these cats masochistic? Again, I remind myself, they are merely creatures of another dimension. They know no such tangled web of complex construction.
And yet if one watches a cat stalking its prey, say a mouse, there is sadism inherent in the theatre that unfolds. But wrapped in a bundle of fur with perfectly symmetrical features, we fail to recognise the cruelty of the cat.
In fact, cats are some of the cruellest creatures that roam the earth. But aren’t Haruki & Mowgli merely furry kittens seeking my affection?
Yes, I decide. They are.
But I feel like I do not have enough. And after all, they behave in erratic and destructive ways if I do not succumb to their will. I have to discipline them. I have to say no, don’t I?
They are anarchists. They are breaking glasses. They are uprooting carpets.
I start to feel a spreading sense of anxiety again. Perhaps I am the abuser. I cannot live with anyone. I cannot take care of anyone. I am aloof and alien. The walls of my existence bear down too much on me.
I reflect that perhaps being a parent is to be constantly filled with doubt and a degree of self-loathing too. One must become the enforcer, and then when the rules are enforced, one can give love freely. But one cannot reward “bad” behaviour. It is a constant struggle, this interaction with the Other. There is no way of knowing except by experiment and determination.
In relationships of the romantic kind, the same patterns are repeated. Taking and giving; the tennis of energetics – it is exhausting. Making sure the other feels loved while feeling “loved” oneself, at times being child, at other times being parent.
A pat on the head, validation; I begin to seriously contemplate the declaration, “Hell is other people”, and wonder if it should be extended to include “and their pets”, and possibly, “children”.
Image credit: Sascha Aurora Akhtar