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Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Blog 72: Paul's Pretend Friend

I’ve been looking after him for years, he’s a complete recluse with several psychological conditions which I perhaps indulged too much for too long. He has odd arrangements with any delivery service that I can’t deal with for him. When maintenance work happens in his flat he’ll wait in another room with the door bolted and pay in cash by sliding it under the door.

None of his clothes were less than five years old despite my endless offers to buy him new things. I tried acting more directly and bought him a complete outfit once but he just started shouting and threw them out of the fourth story window. He refused to open the door for me for three days after that. We were operating under a deal that he would wear clothes for only one week consecutively before he let me wash them.

He allowed me to see him for one reason and one reason only. He, for five years, believed I was his imaginary incarnation of his little brother. I am his little brother of course but at some point after the death of our sister in the car crash he thought that I had died as well. Paul never left that state of denial after sitting in the broken car as it slowly burnt and watching me and Danielle in the front seats. Danielle died instantly as debris from the wall we’d hit broke her neck. I was pinned in place by rubble as smoke from the engine filled the car.

He saw me in hospital but never found it in himself to believe I had survived what happened. I tried to tell him I was fine in the beginning but his resistance only grew with time. Long walks did nothing to alleviate his fragile mental state. Whenever he hears a car engine Paul begins to shiver and shrink into the foetal position in a breakdown that can last for hours. Something appealed to him in me living on as his imaginary friend. I guess subconsciously there’s an admission there of psychological dysfunction which he never conquered openly. I comforted him as he rejected all others to live alone in his flat.

On his behalf I settled a court case with the company who make the breaks that failed us on that way home. They agreed to make regular payments to my brother through me as his carer. By representing my brother in legal matters life was a little easier in some respects but in others it bound me to him more than I would ever have chosen. I had only enough free time for odd night shifts at local supermarkets and delivery centres but I pay my bills with my allowance as a carer. I had to give my mum and dad regular updates on Paul’s current status which was vastly the same for months at a time with his depression peaking during the winter around the anniversary of the accident. I brought him books from the library which he read at a pace of roughly two a day. He’d hadn’t been much into reading before the accident but even hated the sound of cars on television. Luckily VHS allowed me to screen his viewing experience and enjoy worlds beyond his room together more than him telling me about the latest saga he’d been reading. Animated films or those set in the times before the motor car were the extent of things he would watch. I preferred watching the samurai epics with him. He loved samurai films so much he let me buy posters for his flat, it was invigorating to see new splashes of colour in the otherwise chronologically stunted world Paul inhabited.

He liked drawing samurai battles, not that he was good, but improved gradually as it took up more of his time. I preferred him to tell me about his forming samurai world than his previous fixation which had been talking to the potted plants Danielle had given him when he moved into that flat. The plants which had previously been known as Danni and Bethany, Danielle’s middle name, were renamed Yukimura and Satoshi in honour of noble warriors Paul liked reading about.

Things seemed to be getting worse for Paul when he began retelling the story of his own life through that of the samurai in his to be written book. He thought I would be flattered by the addition of a guiding spirit character based on me who helped his broken warrior brother end a war. In his story that war had brought about the deaths of entire generations which on the side of the warrior left him as the sole heir to broker peace with the rival clan whose loses had been comparable.

The most infuriating thing about such ideas for me was where to pick apart which bits of the story represented something real and meaningful to my brother and which were more irrelevant creations to flesh out his story. Did he see himself as at war with some force which he, as part of another, had somehow wronged equally?

I sought the help of psycho analysts who had helped me in my case to become Paul’s legal guardian. I became close to one, Ellen, who said that she saw Paul’s writings as metaphor heavy embodiments of the battles raging within his subconscious that would become more and more accurate to how he saw himself with time as he replaced vaguely imagined elements with ideas that represented a previously unexpressed partition of his psychosis.

This interpretation seemed reasonably accurate as Paul’s imagining of the world became more and more fulfilled. He drew vast diagrams of family trees depicting dozens of generations of the two warring families and their allies. In keeping with the dire outlook of Paul’s perception of life the vast majority of characters represented on these charts died either in battle of through assassination until there were none but the brightest new leaves on the tree left. His warrior was the last male of his family to survive a war that had broken several peace treaties over four generations and claimed all but his ill mother. The warrior spoke to his family through his brother who began to realise that both families had been manipulated by a darker force bent on revenge. Paul’s dark force had been born during the assassination of a friend of both families who had stood in the way of a business venture between them. Having been killed to further the venture that character chose to incite war between the two clans which had been allied for so long before. Paul envisaged this force as corrupting any possible moments of clarity which might have brought prolonged peace to the clans. At the climax of the book Paul wanted his character to make a pact with the evil spirit to take his life to make amends for the wrongs of his family and that of the other clan.

The dark climactic ending had me worried for a few weeks that Paul might be contemplating suicide to which Ellen agreed it was possible. My fears were lifted when the good spirit rallied the forces of lost clansmen from both sides of the war to face off with the spirit of vengeance. The two clans combined manage to overcome the spirit of vengeance and lift the cloud of misguided rage from both families who make amends. As a lasting symbol of peace Paul envisioned the warrior laying down his sword and marrying the oldest daughter of the other clan to cement the peace. In return for his heroic deeds and dispelling the curse on the two families the ghost of the warrior’s brother is granted a body of flesh and bone during the light of sunrise. The two meet each other to talk each morning before the ghosts body fades in the morning wind when the light turns from red to yellow. The last pages of the book describe as Paul eventually wrote them describe in detail the smile on the face of the ghost as he holds his niece in his arms, born the night before.

This work steadied Paul emotionally. I asked him if he wanted me to see if I could have it published for him and he agreed quite amicably. The book was rejected outright by the first two dozen publishers I took it to who called it run of the mill nonsense. Eventually I took it to a smaller firm who specialised in that particular genre and spent far longer looking over the text. I was told to arrange a meeting with Paul which was the most awkward negotiation of my life. The publishing representative had dealt with plenty of odd shut ins in her time but never any who insisted on talking to her through a bolted door. Small tantrums occurred during edits conducted over the phone with Paul’s permission.

Paul was given a handheld computer as part of his publishing deal. He spent a week and a half staring at it in his chair between trips to the toilet which were the only break he had. This is where the story of Paul’s imaginary friend ends. Another publication, cheaper and less read than Paul’s, discussed my relationship with him less heavily laden with metaphor on my blog which I began at Ellen’s suggestion to combat my own developing social problems.

Paul expressed his betrayal with a punch that broke my nose and threw me from his flat with muscle I would not have thought he had given his lifestyle. We haven’t spoken since that day and in a complete role reversal I now receive updates on Paul’s progress in life through my mother and father with whom I lived up until moving in with Ellen only a few weeks ago.

Paul’s book is doing well for him, heavily advertised by his publishers who seemed to have a lot of faith in it. As with the two clans moving on with life beyond their war now Paul and I are left to get back to normality. I miss him as much as I have ever missed anything but realise he has made more progress in the past few months than the five years before. He still lives in the flat with Yukimura and Satoshi to whom mum and dad added Kenji and Haruda. I enjoy more sleep now than I’ve known since the car crash which gets me through the depressing boredom of a nine to five stacking shelves. Life goes on, so do the issues.

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