School of Health in Social Science

Contemporary Fiction and Psychotherapy: Meetings in the Shadowlands

I remember X playing with reels of film in the studio while I lay watching from the bed. Image after image - momentary differences progressively accentuating, slipping silently into one another. He concentrated hard and I watched him…. and the film… and myself too: he, absorbed in his activity, and me, thoughts free-floating, reflecting on the whole of the scene within which we were contained.

 How, thought me, did I come to be in this moment?


A sense of presence… of a place divorced from the rest of reality.


No one else knows here, I thought, or ever will.

These thoughts in my head are mine alone.

How characteristic of me to think this, I thought.

And of him to carry on, intensely focused, oblivious to all the intricacies I perceive in this interval.

Is he conscious of our sharing in it?

Or so fully lost in his part of this picture that I am gone entirely from his awareness?


You might say that I knew the answer… but I was holding out, just to see… to see what might happen next.


Super 8 and 16 mill. Pictures from X’s everyday extraordinary - life. The once present as it passed - small fragments of what had been, were captured on the silent film that clattered through the hot projector, every time a wonder when it didn’t snap, ready to reveal itself another time around. We watched them on the walls: images of other places…Moments I had missed.


Where had I been then?


We watched the films looping round, listening to X’s music, also on a loop, and time stood still. I found it both hypnotic and tedious…. My mind wandering in its own loops, trying to find some significance. I can still feel that in my body as I tell it to you now… the sensation in my stomach… the wanting to leave yet the compulsion to stay… there in the moment. I believed, believed very hard, or was romantic enough to indulge myself, that if I stayed there watching I might eventually enter in… entirely… and become someone who belonged somewhere. If I swallowed it all in, I must have reasoned, perhaps that moment would in turn swallow me… become about me too.


I have no idea if that’s true.


The truth I was avoiding? Perhaps I was very bored… it’s boring being the girl watching from the bed.


by Melissa Dunlop