A short story by D. F. Wharton
Montaigne said, “We are all patchwork, and so shapeless and diverse in composition that each bit, each moment, plays its own game. And there is as much difference between us and ourselves as between us and others.” Well said. Lewis Thomas wrote an essay called The Selves and in it he talked about all the different selves we have running about within us and how different and contrary they are. This is a short story about one of my more troubling selves—my impulsive-self—and how I started dealing with him. It is also a story about the birth of another self, that I conceived in my mind, to handle my troubling self, that is, my impulsive-self.
I moved into my own head a bit more thoroughly, and entrench myself, as dangerous as that type of thing can be, and tried to find a way to manage my impulsive-self a little better. I wanted to take a look at the process between my impulses and actions and find the way to take authority from my impulsive-self. I got the idea to put a buffer-self between me and my impulsive-self, because my impulsive-self was able to streamline its will and take control of my actions. How did my impulsive-self, at times, get immediate accesses and authority over me? I had to do something.
This self would have the job of serving as a kind of liaison between me and my impulsive-self. She would be a proxy and would act as a mediator. She—yes, this self would be a she—would hear the cries of my impulsive-self and bring those cries to the attention of my outward-self in a calm and sober manner and we could discuss it, and decide together if the impulse under review should be manifested.
I knew that this would be an outrage to my impulsive-self. I was, in effect, attempting to take away his access from me. Nevertheless, I moved forward with the creation of this much needed emissary. I couldn’t handle my impulsive-self on my own, that much had been proven. When my impulsive-self got to me, he had complete control until he calmed down. I had to find a way to stop this beast. He would speak through my mouth, passing me by, laughing at my attempts to stop him. I would indulge in his cravings while my outward-self winced and knew better. That food is not good for you, I would tell myself, to no avail, because my impulsive-self had taken over. It would not be until he was satiated and had gotten his fill before he would retreat into his layer.
Who could handle the job of managing this dragon? Who would she be? I knew she had to be a woman, and not just any woman, but a woman that could handle the job. I knew that I could not get completely rid of my impulsive-self. He was a part of me. She would have to restrict his movements, limit his authority, his access.
I conjured up another self within me to handle the job. I tapped into the strength of my imagination and understanding through literature.
Her name would be Rehab. She was a prostitute in the book of Joshua, from the Old Testament of the Bible, and a hero of the faith. I fashioned her by combining characteristics about her I read from the Bible along with certain characteristics from the madam’s in John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. I even took some characteristics from Cathy, directing her malice toward my impulsive-self.
After I had Rehab, the first move made by my impulsive-self was to send an outrageous craving—into my nervous system and stomach and mouth—for junk food. I was about to indulge, as usual, but Rahab came to my attention and confronted me in a way that was seductive, malicious, and scary, yet kind and intense. She was smoking, as if she had just stepped out of a furnace. She was bronze and her eyes were ferocious. I was frozen.
“What are you doing?” said Rehab. Her voice was a compound of elements unknown to me.
“What?” I said.
She crossed her arms and looked into my soul.
“I was just going to have a little snack,” I said.
“Just a snack?” she said.
“Yeah,” I said, “just some chips, you know? some soda? maybe some cookies?” I started to hesitate. I knew she was not going to like this.
Rehab said, “When you open a bag of chips, what usually happens?”
I hung my head in shame. “I eat all the contents of the bag.”
“All?” She was mocking me now.
“And what happens when you start drinking soda?”
“I drink too much.” I couldn’t lie to this women.
“And how about cookies?” said Rahab. “What happens when you start eating cookies?”
“I finish most everything in the package.”
“Everything,” she said. “Why do you feel you need to get drunk?”
“Hey! Wait just a minute,” I said. “I don’t drink alcohol.”
Rahab lowered her eyes and turned her head slightly to one side and gave me a malicious grin. “Religious hypocrites like to get drunk on eating and then take comfort in the fact that they didn’t drink a beer or have a drink of whiskey. Is that what you are? A religious hypocrite?
I was caught off guard. “No, well, maybe. When you put it like that, maybe I am?”
“Of course you are,” said Rehab, “secretly passing judgments on a person drinking a beer while you are finishing up your second plate of food and getting ready for a third, feeling justified because you’re not drinking anything with a measure of alcohol mixed in the ingredients. Meanwhile you are eating for the buzz, getting a little drunk on food. And now you’re about to start eating junk food in between meals. Well, let me ask you a question: How is your weight?”
“Not good. I’m over weight.”
“Right you are.”
There was a long silence before Rehab spoke again. “Who told you to start eating this junk?”
“My impulsive self,” I said. “He told me I had to eat, needed to eat.”
“Let me ask you something else,” she said, “If you brought me into your life to deal with your impulsive-self, to be the liaison between you, why did you hear him before me?”
“You know,” I said, “I didn’t even think about it. I’m going to have to get used to having you around.”