The Constant Battle
“I had a dream,” I begin, shifting in my seat trying to get comfortable in a chair that was not to my liking. She waits for me to settle down with practiced patience.
I finally concede to folding one long leg over the other and not meeting her eyes because I’d probably get indignant at her even expression and lecture her about her choice of furniture – a distraction, she would point out, and an argument would prevail.
“I had a dream where I was minding my own damn business and I suddenly spy a tattoo. It’s an elaborate rose and the petals are little lines of a script. It catches my eye for two reasons: it’s brilliant in terms of skill and art, and it seems familiar, even from afar.”
My hands let go off my leg at this point and wave about for emphasis and to help eloquence find its way out of my mouth. Sometimes the words get stuck between my teeth and spurt out as a garbled mess.
“So, I ask the owner – is that the right term for a person who has a tattoo – are you the owner of the tattoo?”
She looks at me, starts to form an answer, and changes her mind. She knows if we get into this, I will never get past this point of the session.
I clear my throat and continue, “anyway, so I ask the person for permission to examine this gorgeous tattoo and he’s proud to show it off anyway. It’s on his tanned forearm and there I am, holding his arm as if holding an antique book and reading the script of words within the rose, and guess what?”
She raises an eyebrow.
“It’s a poem. MY poem. But it’s not credited to me. It’s credited to someone else.”
She makes the effort to understand the surge of emotion in my voice and the struggle to stay even-tempered.
“It’s my fucking poem, it’s tattooed permanently on some punk’s skin, and it’s not even credited to me. This was scandalous to me on some godawful level. I felt this liquid fury form in the pits of my stomach and I lashed out. I hacked the tattoo off. I ripped the canvas of his skin off. And it was bad. I mean, horror movie bad. Horrific.”
I shake my head and readjust my feet. But the restlessness is too much and I leap up and start pacing.
“Suffice to say, it left me shaken. I’m not violent in nature and all that blood - yeuck. But the whole episode felt so savagely bizarre. Who was that ‘me’?”
I run my hand through my hair, as chagrin pools at my ankles.
“You have to understand that I’ve been plagiarized before. I mean, literally. Poems taken from my blog and posted as their own. And I’ve just been meh about it all. I’ve tried to keep myself from being too emotionally invested in my work such that if it’s good or it’s bad or it’s deleted or it’s stolen or whatever the outcome, it does not, or rather, it should not have an earth shattering, globe shifting effect on me.”
“But it has,” she surmises.
“Inevitably. I think that it hasn’t bothered me before because it’s been inconsequential. No awards or rewards given to the thieving bastards. But, in my dream, where there was a permanent effect, recognition, concrete evidence that something once mine no longer is…that bothered me to no end. That bothers me.”
She nods her head and taps the pencil against her pad in a rhyming tat-ta-tata-tat. The clock ticks serenely in the background, an accompaniment to her tapping, and my shuffling feet. I move over to the window, looking down at the marching ants of humans and crawling maggots of cars.
She interrupts my silence with: “I detect shame within your narration. Shame that you too feel possessive over what’s rightfully yours. That you too feel such a basic and wasteful emotion such as petty jealousy that someone tattooed the words of others on their skin, and not yours, but essentially yours, but not correctly accredited to you. Shame that you feel slighted by the denial of experiencing the flattery of such a tribute, such an honour.”
She pauses to let her words sink in past my armoured psyche. And they do. I bury my face in my hands and grunt.
Her voice takes on a kinder tone, “you’ve been conditioned to see these negative emotions such as jealousy and dismay as petty emotions. Worthless and not becoming of you. Someone set the standards very high of what you should be and what you should not be–”
“We all know who!” I interject. But she doesn’t let me get away with it.
“You are your own person. You let yourself be defined by the choices you make.”
“Yes, I get all that, but wouldn’t you agree that jealousy is a bad thing that has no cure an if you give in to it there’s no escaping it?”
I think I’m wearing an eager expression on my face – I so dearly want her to agree with me – that she breaks into a smile. It’s almost sympathetic.
“But this is always the thing with you. Afraid of your natural instincts; you fear that if you acknowledge that you are jealous, you’ll turn into a monster and no one will like you.”
“You need to have more faith in yourself. In your goodness and your sensibility. And to pull a leaf from your own book –” she glances down at the words I told her to write down in a previous session, and looks up with a winning smile “– just be.”
“Human. Flawed. And all that.” I sigh. “Just be”