It isn’t a promising start.
‘I don’t want to be here,’ he says. ‘I don’t want to speak with you.’
Though he’d come of his own choice, it set the tone for our meeting.
He begins restlessly to describe his life, rubbing his eyes a great deal, shifting position as each new nightmare is revealed, jerking from positive to negative and back.
‘It’s shit, Simon, absolutely shit – but that’s fine, that’s fine, that’s OK…’
‘Twenty years in this job, they’re bastards, total bastards, but I mean they’re fine, they’re OK, I’m not complaining…’
‘My wife’s great, absolutely amazing, brilliant – really brilliant.’
‘Do you like her?’
Pause. ‘We’re moving apart, that’s another issue, I’m not sure what’s there now. But hey, that’s OK, that’s OK… Christmas is going to be shit.’
He is opening up, stuff spills out; but he keeps it a moving target, never staying with anything long, lest it be reached.
‘I’m a passenger in my own fucking life! I don’t know who I am anymore. Never did, who knows? But I absolutely need to win. It’s all about winning. Everything. And nothing wrong with that, that’s a good thing. Everyone needs to win.’
He resists any intervention. When I say something obvious he pushes it away, ‘That’s not it, that’s not it,’ he says, wearily.
‘I’m absolutely sick of this, I just want a break! I can’t open my post – I’ve left it for six months, unopened, can’t face it, absolutely can’t face it – but I mean, that’s OK. Money troubles, they come and go, and I’m fine with that, you can’t help me, I know, it’s the way things are…and I’m happy with that.’
‘You’re not happy with that.’
He stops for a moment, a prize fighter taking a punch… but he recovers and moves the target again. There’s not much for me to do but to hold the space. At the end, I say I hope we meet again.
‘Beneath your difficult and distressing narrative, and it’s both of those, is another narrative, which I’m not sure you’ve considered. It has deep roots in you. It would be worth exploring.’
He says he will return.
‘In the meantime,’ I say, ‘try and manage a little self-kindness. Is that possible?’
His face hardens towards me. ‘I have no idea what that means; no idea at all.’
I feel the impact. ‘Then I hope one day you will.’
Have we met?