…to christen into your very own religion
For Helen, the world divided into two neat halves – the known world and the unknown world, two neat halves which could also be termed “the world of Helen” and “the world of everyone else”. However, this neat division was only an assumption. Helen had no hard facts about the other half of the world – that “world of everyone else”. That it involved several billion people and that it took up the vast majority of the earth’s surface, didn’t lean Helen towards assigning it greater weight in her cosmology. In fact, Helen leant towards giving it less weight than the half she knew – variously called “Helen’s world”, the “real world” or “reality”. Of a portion of the world of which she knew little or nothing, of the hypothesised existence of several billions of others, these non-Helen’s who populated the pages of newspapers and encyclopaedias and other such publications, Helen felt disinclined to attribute the same level of reality she attributed to the half she knew.
So even though the world divided neatly in half, one half, the “Helen half”, weighed a whole lot more than the other half, the “non-Helen half” – thus two unequal halves were at the centre of Helen’s understanding of the world.
The world had been divided along the fault line of Helen’s personal experience of the world. But this is all in theory; in practice the dividing line is somewhat blurred.
Oscar, or rather “Helen’s Oscar”, straddles both worlds. There is another side to “Helen’s Oscar” of which Helen knows nothing (which is true by definition – the “other Oscar”). This “other side”, the non-Helen-side, this other-worldly-side, didn’t necessarily bother Helen, it certainly didn’t haunt her, impinge upon her dreams or open up any cracks in her perception of the world – a world of smooth and shining surfaces, whole, rounded objects and actors, and a full spectrum of sensations ranging from the very hot to the very cold. So when Helen opened the door to Number 25 Railway Street and happened upon the recumbent figure of Oscar, she was quite happy to imagine that he had just at that moment begun to exist. She was equally happy, upon gaining her bedroom and locking the door behind her, to posit the cessation of Oscar’s existence. Not that she would have to mourn for her loss – it wasn’t a loss that was sharply felt, or felt at all. It was akin to the loss of dead skin cells from your back as you roll about in your sleep.
In the confines of her bedroom, the front bedroom, the largest bedroom in the house, Helen wasn’t transported to imaginary places. As most of her mental effort was spent maintaining the boundaries of “Helen’s world”, she had insufficient mental resources for flights of fancy. Helen had to content herself with what lay directly in front of her gaze – an array of objects which must have bored her beyond her limited powers of forbearance. Though this array of objects is off stage, and so out of view, we must posit the existence of such an array of objects, even if it is little more than a collection of old clothes balled on the ground. And there must have been something occupying the acres of space inside Helen’s head, and with her severely curtailed powers of imagination, that space would have to be filled with whatever her gaze fell upon, and with her gaze falling where it will it must have fallen on something, and with an array of these somethings already posited, they would have occupied at least one or two of the acres of space inside Helen’s head.
So then Helen decided to expand her world once again to include the existence of the stairway, the ground floor, comprising a kitchen, hallway and cluttered living room, as well as the existence of Oscar, who could be woken from the inert mass he was, in order to fill Helen’s world with sufficient distraction.
“What?” Helen’s-Oscar clearly wasn’t appreciating his grand entrance into Helen’s world.
“Want a game of gin-rummy?”
Helen’s world of gin rummy and cups of tea was a surprisingly interesting world, a world which provided nourishment for the body and soul.
“I’m asleep,” Oscar answered.
But Helen knew otherwise – this was her world after all, and it was her Oscar. Her Oscar was awake. Her Oscar would very much like to play gin rummy. And the manner in which Oscar sat himself up, how he left the dusty blanket fall from his shoulders, and how he wiped the sleep from his eyes, spoke to Helen of a genuine and unbounded enthusiasm for gin rummy, her company and the world of Helen.
Helen won each hand comfortably and established a substantial lead. She was not in the least uncomfortable with the fact that neither herself nor her Oscar had spoken since the game started – not even so much as “it’s your deal”. The cards were dealt, they each arranged their hands and each played their hands. The scores were totted up by Helen and she wrote down the two columns of scores on a torn off piece of cereal box. As Helen approached the five-hundred mark and certain victory she didn’t even raise the subtlest of smiles. Helen’s Oscar didn’t show the least sign of agitation. At least, he didn’t give voice to any feeling of agitation, nor did he throw his arms up in the air, nor make any other melodramatic gesture – therefore, Helen’s Oscar, could only have been perfectly contented with his lot.
It should be noted that Helen’s projection of the image of Helen and the world of Helen took up so much of her mental capacity, that Helen wasn’t only devoid of the powers of imagination, but her faculty of empathy was severely depleted. This accounts for her inability to appreciate the inner turmoil raging through Oscar as he played each hand, the signs of which weren’t melodramatic, and therefore beyond her faculties.
If Oscar was to stand up in a sudden movement and throw his cards on the table with force, a force sufficient to sweep them from the table, taking with them the series of tricks that Helen had neatly laid out as she comprehensively beat Oscar into the ground, then Helen’s Oscar could have been attributed a certain amount of dissatisfaction with the status-quo – loosing at cards to Helen. Another source of his agitation – a source external to Helen’s world – could not have been easily attributed, not unless it was waved in front of Helen’s face.
The vice-like grip Oscar applied to the cards in his hand, the series of easy tricks he missed in every hand, the manic manner in which he pulled apart the remainder of the cereal box, the water collecting in his eyes which caught the light when he turned his head to the left and looked up at the light streaming through the Venetian blinds as though craving mercy from an unforgiving god… all of these signs didn’t feature prominently in Helen’s world and so didn’t form any part in Helen’s Oscar. That wasn’t Helen’s Oscar. That was someone else, someone with another name.