Peter is gazing in my direction across the table. But he doesn’t seem to be seeing me. His eyes look out of focus. He is talking about what happened yesterday when he saw his psychiatrist.
“The thing is, it’s like there are so many of me. I told him that. Never said it before. To anyone. Well, as far as I can remember. That’s why it was so confusing – is so confusing. I mean, which one is talking to him? How do I know? It’s like there are these bits of me which speak and want things, yeah? But they want different things. And how the f**** do I know which one I should go along with? I mean, it’s like I want someone to tell me how to decide. They are so f***ing different. And it’s like there’s no me outside of all that to sort of make a decision, decide what to do, what to think. But the other thing is like personas, yeah? The thing is, right, it’s like I realised that I just slip into these people – like slip into different characters, you know? – and then I start acting like them – I become them! And then I’ll catch myself – it happened in the bath this morning. I was in the bath, thinking about something. Nothing major, just thinking. And then suddenly it was like I caught sight of myself thinking, and I realised that I was playing a part, I was thinking in the character of someone else! I’m not even sure who it was – I think it was someone I’d heard speaking on the radio earlier. And I was thinking like him – well, as I imagined he would think – and the thing is, that’s horrible, and I felt really weird, and kind of frightened. Because I was thinking and making decisions as him. I was making decisions about what I would do later in the day as if I was someone else. And what he wants and what I want are different. Although, like I said, I don’t really know what I want – don’t know how to know what I want. There are so many different bits of me, I never know what I want. Often I feel like there is no me here at all. Just lots of different selves. Different characters. Personas. It’s really hard to know what you want. I mean, you can’t know what you want if you don’t feel like there’s a you to do the wanting.”
Peter’s eyes focus, and he sees me again. I want to say to him that I have just heard him. That there is a you, and he has just been speaking to me. I become aware of the sound of traffic outside the cafe, the morning air, the grey February light. I drain my coffee. Peter does the same.