Soheil is an important part of the guesthouse drama.
Soheil is the boyfriend, although he is not my boyfriend. Don’t get confused. My love life is quite complicated enough without having two partners, thank you very much. Instead, Soheil is Priya’s boyfriend. He also stays in the house—a bad idea, but no one asked me.
Soheil is mad—in both senses, really–chronically angry as well as delusional. He gets these ideas in his head and can’t shake them, or won’t shake them. And he’s paranoid, so these are paranoid delusions.
Currently, Priya is the focus of his delusions, and mostly what he does is start imagining she’s seeing someone else, that she’s sleeping around, or even perhaps that she’s plotting against him.
It would be sad really, except that he is also so selfish, and it is this combination of not being able to reason clearly as well as a sense of entitlement that makes him so dangerous and that makes him seem like a prime candidate for intimate violence.
Madness—whether we can think clearly, whether we get odd and irrational ideas in our heads—those kinds of things are not anyone’s fault. We don’t know why they occur, but I have no doubt that no one chooses to be that way. It’s unpleasant—quite clearly.
But this sense of entitlement is another thing entirely.
I should explain.
In the night—it must have been around two or three in the morning—he stood outside my window and began calling up to Priya, who stays in the room above mine. He wanted to come into her room. He wanted to check to see if someone was hiding there.
That is not madness. That is entitlement. Madness is the irrational fear, and the way the fear seems so real. Entitlement is the reason you wake up the rest of the neighborhood on account of it.
We all worry. We all get strange ideas in our heads at times and can’t shake them—witness my own paranoia about hosting lice just a few weeks ago. But some of us suffer quietly with our madness or we call up a pre-arranged safe person who we know can comfort us and talk us down from the psychic ledge like toddlers. We don’t stand in the road and demand to be indulged.
I got up and banged the windows shut. This is India. People take hints. Not Boyfriend. Boyfriend went on. But with the window shut, it was quieter. I went off to sleep again.
In the afternoon, there was more shouting. I heard something fall. Being a good friend, I went up to Priya’s room to investigate and, also being a good friend, I said nothing about the shouting or the falling objects. I asked an innocent question related to lunch that I did, in fact, want to know the answer to.
And for a second all was well. I played with the dog, or rather the dog played with me: he still sees me at times like a giant chew toy. My hands are things that belong in his mouth. It’s really the bangles I’m wearing that get him so excited. He likes the sound. And unfortunately for me, the sound is attached to my hands. I asked some questions about what was playing on TV. (Cocktail.)
Then Boyfriend asked, “You were disturbed in the night?”
I wasn’t going to say anything to him about this. He’s not my lodger and not my responsibility how he behaves. But he asked.
And I have this thing about sleep and not being woken up in the night just because someone feels like it.
So I let him have it.
He wanted to argue about this, to say what had kept me up was Priya’s screaming back at him, but if you wake someone up in the middle of the night to check for nonexistent suitors, screaming is a perfectly reasonable response. Also, by the time she started shouting at him, I was fully awake.
He wanted me to understand there were reasons. I told him I didn’t care. In fact, I should have said no one had snakebite or was delivering a baby or bleeding to death. No one had been physically assaulted or robbed blind. No, there weren’t reasons. But you never think of those things, do you?
At last, I told him that if he understood that what he had done was wrong, then he should apologize. And if he didn’t, there was nothing further to say.
So he said he was sorry.
But he still wanted to go on, to justify his actions, to persuade me of something. I told him he had apologized and had accepted the apology. There was nothing else to say.
And then Uncle #2 came and made him go away.
By the time this was all over, I was out of breath with shouting and with rage.
Don’t wake me up in the middle of the night. Not just because you are feeling uncomfortable. That isn’t a reason. It’s an excuse.