At the dinner party, a small group of us breaks away to nestle ourselves in the observatory with our desserts. There, in the dusky light, I watch you stroke her ego, and I become unexpectedly and extremely jealous.
For a moment I think you’re doing this deliberately, to get to me. Because clearly you’re enjoying this.
Then it becomes evident that you’re oblivious to my jealousy, that what you’re enjoying is being able to provide this psychological pleasure to her. This fact only makes me more upset. I hate how you seem compelled to gain a sense of satisfaction from this. You don’t need to do this to feel good about yourself. I worry that it’s the beginnings of an addiction.
Later in the week, at the risk of completely ruining the ambiance of the beach on a beautiful autumn afternoon, I confront you about this.
You simply tell me, “It’s no big deal,” your words almost blending into the rushing hiss of the waves.
“But it is. I mean, how can you do that with her when you don’t even know her that well? When she’s so into this superficial appreciation but doesn’t necessarily care about who you really are?”
“Do you feel left out?” you ask earnestly, but to me, it feels like an accusation.
I don’t know how to respond to that. If I’m honest, yes, sometimes I do want you to stroke my ego, but I want more than that. I want for you to be fulfilled.
You reach toward me with your validating thoughts and say quietly, “Here, let me—”
“No!” I shout. “Don’t treat me the way you treat her, like you can make yourself feel better by making me feel better.”
I’m so angry, but I start crying. A moment later, I’m sobbing. My mind is filled with a single thought, the question you haven’t fully answered: she might not really care about you, so how could you do this?
You wrap the warm, wispy tendrils of your concern around me. I have the impulse but not the will to fight them off. Then you caress not my ego but my heart. And reluctantly I begin to think maybe you’re right. Maybe it’s not a big deal.
Soramimi Hanarejima is the author of Visits to the Confabulatorium (Montag Press Collective, 2017) and works on information design projects that visually communicate aspects of subjective experiences.