Dialogue Between the Self and the Other: An Exchange in Intimacy
By Francesca Di Fazio
Enter the SELF and the OTHER. Both are human-like figures, although their long black robes hide any physical feature. SELF wears a mask depicting the face of a young person. The mask moves to make facial expressions, as if it were effectively a human face. OTHER also wears a mask, but this one is completely blank.
OTHER notices SELF and approaches them politely.
OTHER: Greetings, old friend.
SELF (startled): Fuck’s sake, mate! Don’t sneak up on me like that!
OTHER (laconically): Apologies. What brings you here, friend? You seem a bit lost.
SELF: I sure wasn’t looking for you. (pointing at OTHER’s mask) That thing scares me, y’know. What’s even going on behind it? I can’t trust it.
OTHER: But you know what’s behind it. Change. (Points back at SELF’s mask) You change as well.
SELF: It’s different. I show one face at a time, you show none. Do you even have a face?
OTHER: Faces are a mundane privilege, old friend, of a world the Other doesn’t belong to.
On that note, it makes no sense to talk as though you are addressing another Self. There is no “me” in here. Only you.
SELF (confused): … but you address me directly.
OTHER (patiently): Of course, you are a Self. You are blessed and burdened with identity.
You were assigned a name, a gender, a nationality. Reality is your realm. See, the Self is, the Other could be, or could have been.
SELF: But you- er, sorry… You’re- no, wait… (stumble upon their own words).
OTHER (resigned): It’s fine friend, no need to adjust your language. (sighs) A Self can’t comprehend.
SELF: Well, anyway, as I was saying: you aren’t the only Other I know. What about the ones outside? They let me address them personally.
OTHER (smiling slightly, head shaking): Those aren’t Others, old friend. Those are also Selves. (smiles again, benevolently, at SELF’s confusion) It’s a common mistake, really. Selves aren’t very good at recognising their own kind. In fact, you end up projecting the Other, the only one you know, onto what you don’t know. In this way, you feel more confident, less vulnerable.
SELF: I don’t feel vulnerable!
OTHER: Yes, you do. Don’t try to lie on your Other. Would you ever lie to a mirror?
SELF: Does that mean that you are… (voice faltering) me?
OTHER: Yes. And no. The Other isn’t you, but it could have been. You leave it behind every time you make a decision, even the smallest one. That’s why it has no face: it has all the faces that aren’t yours, and those that could have been. All this at the same moment, because the Other has no temporality. It exists because it could have existed. Again, attributes of existence – name, nationality, sometimes gender – are a privilege of the living. They only make sense in the world, for different Selves to recognise each other. (chuckles) Although you aren’t the best at doing that.
SELF: … why am I speaking to you, Other?
OTHER: The Other doesn’t really speak, old friend. At most it echoes. (glances at SELF, who looks back in dismay) Maybe you’ve been a bit lost recently. Maybe you’ve come to take a peek under this mask.
SELF (visibly upset): No. No, no, no. I don’t think I can. Don’t think I want to.
OTHER: All life long, the Self makes decisions. That’s what you do, and of course this means that many possible facets of the Self are left behind. They become like ghosts, and it is scary to look at them, old friend. And yet, sometimes it is necessary in order to move on.
SELF: … are you happy, Other? I mean, would I have been happy?
OTHER: It’s impossible to know. (Points at the blank mask) Too many ghosts, too many voices merging into an indistinct chanting. But you can try to hear from yourself. (gently pulling the mask aside) Are you ready, old friend?
SELF: … yes.
(The OTHER takes off the mask completely, revealing a kaleidoscope of faces, a symphony of voices. SELF is bewildered. They can identify laughter and cries, tears and grins. In the end, they delicately touch the OTHER’s mask and pull it back in its original position.)
OTHER (gently): What did you see, Self?
SELF (short of breath): Nothing I wanted to. And everything I needed to.
OTHER: Are you happy, Self?
SELF: Quite. But not completely. We need to move on.
OTHER: You’ll move on, Self. And as you do, more ghosts will form under this mask (tapping on the mask).
SELF: I won’t look under your mask ever again. But stay with me, old friend. (looks straight into OTHER’s mask) Speak to me.
OTHER (smiles): We can definitely do that.
SELF (surprised): Did you just say “we”? I thought there was no you.
OTHER (comes closer to SELF, chuckling): For what it means to you, we can do it, friend. But just this once.
(Both turn to look in the same direction. SELF leans on to OTHER, OTHER puts a hand on SELF’s shoulder. SELF finally seems at peace.)
- THE END -
Francesca is a Global Media and Communication postgraduate student at LSE, and a Staff writer at Clare. A fragmented Self, she usually writes about the world to find her own place in it. Being an aspiring journalist, she usually writes non-fiction, but she’s always up for new creative challenges.