“What are you doing?” She asks in a derisive tone. Standing above me, she hangs over my shoulder, staring at my computer screen.
“What does it look like I’m doing?” After a brief pause I add, “working.”
“Why? You know you’ll never get anywhere. I can see you now – a pathetic, decrepit woman, with scraggly white hair in her 80’s, hunched over her computer saying, oh, if I just keep working, maybe I’ll become a successful writer.” And then if you still haven’t convinced yourself, you’ll say with a last hurrah, “It’s never too late!”
“You don’t understand. It’s a part of who I am now. Even if I wanted to stop, I can’t.”
“That’s your obsessive-compulsive disorder kicking in. That’s all.” She says it in her VERY familiar authoritative voice. A few seconds later, she adds, “you’re unsuccessful at everything you do. Capital L-O-S-E-R, loser!” She screeches the last word at me as if she were stabbing me in the heart.
“I can spell,” I answer.
“I should hope so. How do you even get up in the mornings? Or,” she tilts her head back, claps her hands together, and says, “Why do you get up in the mornings?”
I sigh, and ask, “Are you done, yet?”
“Not yet. Shall I list our failures?”
“No, thanks,” I answer sticking my hand up in front of her. “I have that list too.”
“Listen, I don’t mean to be so negative…”
“Really? You don’t?” I say swinging my head in her direction with a mix of frustration and sadness in my voice.
I must get my emotions in check. I can’t let her know she’s winning.
She shrugs her shoulders, and says, “One of us needs to be the realist, the sensible one.” She paces around my office, touches my stuff, and continues saying, “listen, if you keep working at just your real job, you’ll probably make it to retirement, and won’t end up broke and homeless. Maybe you’ll even make it to old age. You can’t keep working and writing at the same time. Your body is showing the signs it can’t handle much more. Give up, and you’ll be buried an old woman.”
“You’re so much fun. You should stop by more often.” I say sarcastically.
“Well,” she says, “if you keep up with this nonsense, no one will come to your funeral because you were too busy…” There’s a short pause, and then her fingers rise up in the air, and she makes the quote signs, and continues saying, “working all the time.” She huffs, stomps around a little, swings her head in my direction and with her nose in the air adds, “no one will care that you’re dead because when you were alive, you never made time for them.”
“Can you stop talking?” I say as I face the white glow from my screen.
“No,” she says inching her way closer to me until she’s standing to my left side. And of course – she’s still standing above me.
“Accept your fate.”
“Stop it.” My voice wobbles with weariness. She’s crushing me. We both know it.
“Why do you think you’re so special?”
“Oh, come on,” I huff in frustration. “I don’t think I’m special! I just feel like I need to try, to make an attempt!” A cliché spins to the top of my mind and before I can stop myself I use it saying, “I would prefer to try and fail, than never to try at all.”
“Cliché,” she announces to me in that dismissive, superior tone.
“I knew you were going to say that. Sometimes clichés last because they’re true.”
“Or, maybe they’re lies that continue to linger because people want to believe them.”
“Fine. Maybe. Are you done?” If I give her a victory, make her believe she’s won, she might go away, and I can get back to work.
“What’s that line that we laugh about? It’s the opposite of an inspirational quote. Was it, failure, when you’re best just isn’t good enough? Was that it? She says scrunching her eyes at me like a cat does when their plotting to trip you at the top of the staircase so the feline can get their inheritance.
I snort with laughter. Okay, sometimes she’s pretty funny. “Yes, that was it.”
I remember the quote so well, by a company called Despair Inc. I get their sense of humour. They have multiple posters with similarly sarcastic quotes. But that one stuck with me, with us, for a long time. I remember the photo they used: a runner sitting on a bench, hands on top of his bowed head. It was an image of utter defeat. The whole thing was perfectly packaged encompassing a huge range of emotions; sadness, humor, and accented with a heavy dose of honesty.
“That’s you,” she says gleefully.
I know how to get rid of her.
I stand up from my desk, and I’m finally at eye level with her. It’s just the two of us.
“Are you ready to accept defeat?” She asks with one eyebrow raised, jaw is locked, eyes are fixed on me.
“No,” I say stubbornly. “Did you know that some people say that failing is necessary? That so long as you learn something from the experience, it might make you better? I’ve heard of people who were fired from their jobs that went on to start their own successful businesses.”
“You’re not them,” she says as her eyes shift from side to side with uncertainty.
“I’m going for a run,” I announce.
“You’re running away from your problems.”
“Nope, that’s not it. You’ve used everything from name-calling, to my concern that I’m being neglectful to my family and friends by pursuing my passion to try bully me to stop me from writing. Then when that didn’t work, you started to discuss what my funeral might look like. Who does that? I need to get away from you.”
“You can’t get away from me. Not permanently,” she whispers in my ear as I change as quickly as I can into my sports bra, running pants, and sweatshirt. “I’ll be back,” she says finally.
I yank my sports watch on, run down the stairs clasping my MP3 player, and pull my running shoes on.
“DO YOU HEAR ME? I’ll be back!” She screams at me as a last effort to be heard.
“I have no doubt,” I answer just before I slip my headphones over my ears. “But when I get back, you’ll most likely be gone, and I can finally get some work done.”
She leans over the railing staring down at me. “Fine. Go then. I still think you’ll never amount to anything.”
My eyes flutter as I look up to the woman at the railing. I smile. I say nothing else, and won’t even acknowledge her existence with a good-bye wave. I turn the door knob, set my running watch, and my legs slowly begin to move from a walk, to a trot, until I’m clipping along at my fastest speed – which in truth, is terribly slow. It’s a race pace that translates to a 6 hour marathon.
But, I don’t care about how fast I go. Because right now, I can’t hear her scolding, hateful, bullying words, anymore.