Friday, December 9, 2016
Charmaine* struck me as insightful and intelligent, if a little prickly about how she is perceived. I don’t know what she saw in me, but I found the stories she had to tell very interesting. I love a good story, and she had some juicy tales about acquaintances we shared from our distant past. I guess that’s how we hit it off. Naturally, our conversations moved from the past into the present, and there was no shortage of opinion about the people we had in common.
One day, the penny dropped. She confided in me that she is a spirit medium; that she is guided by the whisperings of the dead on a daily basis. She said it explained the slight flutter of her eyes every few minutes while we were in conversation, which I noticed but didn’t think upon too deeply. During those moments, apparently, the dead are talking to her, whispering the truths that only they know.
It turns out she moonlights as a spirit medium to Sydney’s elite, or at least that’s the impression she wanted to give as she name-dropped a handful of Supreme Court judges and senior execs in tech and finance. It’s why she comes across as prickly: she’s had enough negative reactions to not share such information so freely.
Amused, I invited her to try her skills on me, but she didn’t tell me much that she couldn’t have already intuited through conversation. Then again, it’s not as though people don’t think I’m crazy when I talk about Wing Chun… I just nodded along absent-mindedly.
As time went on, Charmaine opened up more. She told me about the people she didn’t trust, the people scheming behind her back, the men around her with less-than-noble intentions. It became all that she talked about, and it occurred to me that she was very unhappy.
I also began to notice the eye-fluttering a lot more. At some level, I just treated them as the kind of short, dramatic pauses you’d naturally get in any conversation, but I can’t say for a certainty that her revelation about how she communes with the dead didn’t affect my perspective.
Then one day, over the phone, she told me about an incident at the club we frequented. It had happened the day earlier. A fight had nearly broken out and some of our friends were threatened. She told me about people’s reactions, the political fallout, and how it fed into her growing discontent with the people around us. It was a discontent I was beginning to feel as well.
There was just one problem: everything she was saying was either wrong or exaggerated. I knew this because I was there when it happened.
“Where did you get this information from?”, I asked.
“Because a lot of it isn’t right.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well,” and I began telling her about the incident as I recalled it – who was present, where we were all standing, what was said, by whom, to whom…
“How do you know all this?”, she demanded.
“I was there.”
There was an awkward silence over the phone.
She never answered my original question, but I realised then that she had a toxic personality. And it was spreading to me. I realised that if I didn’t buy into it, I’d become a target as well.
And what if everything she’d been saying – the people scheming around her, the men hitting on her, the skeletons in people’s closets – was the product of a series of delusions?
I broke off all contact with her as gently as I could and she eventually left our social circle.
Months later, she came back. She pretends I don’t exist, which is fine I guess. But I noticed one of the friends we had in common musing about how a toxic person will try to control how others see you when they realise they can’t control you; that others will see the truth as you did, so long as you stay above it all.
It turns out he was talking about Charmaine.
I feel like I dodged a bullet.
*Not her real name, obviously.
About today’s photo: It’s Zombie Friday, so I thought I’d share a story. If I’m not careful I suppose it really could become a trail of destruction…