An Arrangement of Ones and Zeroes

15 05 2011

RUSLAN: Dr Renard. Thank you.
JACQUES: Please. You may call me Jacques.
RUSLAN: Jacques. Certainly. Thank you, Jacques.
JACQUES: I haven’t done anything yet. Would you like some tea? Hydroponics have grown their first crop of chamomile.
RUSLAN: My national flower! Please. I feel a little embarrassed to be here. It’s just…well, there’s no one else I can talk to.
JACQUES: It’s good that you’ve come.
RUSLAN: I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ve got friends. But they’re mostly colleagues, and I can’t talk about this with people I work with.
JACQUES: Anyone outside of work?
RUSLAN: Not in this solar system  –

Jacques paused the recording. He slid the bar on the screen of his tablet and skipped through the introductions. The recording buffered; a program that transcribed the recording into a written transcript was running in the background.

JACQUES: – should know that, while our conversations are strictly confidential, I will be reporting some parts to the oversight board.
JACQUES: If this is a problem –
RUSLAN: No, not at all. But, is this because of –

He slid his finger forward. Jacques flipped through his notes as he watched the computer populate the transcript.

RUSLAN: – I keep telling myself that I’ll get through it. I mean, I always do. It’s a passing thing, the depression.
JACQUES: But so is the happiness?
RUSLAN: Yeah. It’s up and down. Real mood swings.
JACQUES: What else do you feel?
RUSLAN: Like what?
JACQUES: Do you feel anxious?
RUSLAN: I guess. Not as much. I feel frustrated. Angry. A bit guilty. It’s very, I don’t know.
JACQUES: We tend to be distracted by the popularised notion of unrequited love as heroic and noble, as anachronistic as those notions are –

Here Jacques inserted his own notes into the margins of the transcript: “rapid mood swings.”

JACQUES: Let’s talk about your job.
RUSLAN: Let’s.
JACQUES: Your job entails a lot of work away from the Colonies?
RUSLAN: Mmm. I’m a surveyor. You know, geological features, topography, that sort of thing. I’m often away, out past the ranges.
RUSLAN: Used to be. Before the May, during the Bottleneck, especially when our walkers were down for maintenance.
JACQUES: Do you like it?
RUSLAN: Surveying? It got me into the Project; it got me here.
JACQUES: I mean being alone. Out there, far from the Colonies.
RUSLAN: You know, I think I do. It’s a different world. It feels so strange coming back. It actually takes me a couple of days to readjust to the people, to the noise. But it’s really nice to be out there, seeing things no one else has ever seen. It helps me forget about her, too.

Jacques inserted “introversion” and “avoidant personality disorder” into the transcript.

RUSLAN: – she doesn’t know. I don’t have the guts.
JACQUES: That’s not uncommon. But it’s not a matter of courage, Ruslan.
RUSLAN: Well, it’s the absence of something.
JACQUES: Objects of unrequited affection are usually friends or acquaintances. Or someone regularly encountered in the workplace. Particularly in circumstances – such as yours – that involve the workplace, awkward social situations are created. It’s a relatively modern construction.
RUSLAN: Unrequited love?
JACQUES: No. The interpersonal and social relationships created in the workplace. Some fear embarrassment, or rejection –
JACQUES: – or that to communicate your affections would end access to the object.
RUSLAN: It just doesn’t seem right.
JACQUES: That’s certainly another reason. That there might be an inconsistency between your current association and your desired relationship.
RUSLAN: No, it’s…I don’t know…it’s tired and it’s clichéd. But what the Fram would a woman like her want from a guy like me? I mean, chyort, she’s a –

Jacques brought up Ruslan’s file. He checked the details of Ruslan’s education and work experience. Flicking back to the transcript, he inserted from his notes “underemployed” and “hypergamy.”

JACQUES: – long have you been single?
RUSLAN: Relative or subjective?
JACQUES: Excuse me?
RUSLAN: Factoring in the time dilation of our journey from Sol?
JACQUES: How long has it been for you?
RUSLAN: Longer than the period of time in which my country was at war with Germany in the Second World War.
JACQUES: Interesting that you should think of it in those terms.
RUSLAN: Really?
JACQUES: It’s not a war, Ruslan, it’s –

Out of curiosity, Jacques quickly looked up the figure that Ruslan avoided. He was unsurprised to learn that it was nearly four years. Added the time on Quoqasi, and the sum was a significant fraction of Ruslan’s life.

RUSLAN: What is loneliness?
JACQUES: Are you lonely?
RUSLAN: Yes and no.
JACQUES: That makes sense. It’s entirely subjective. Generally, loneliness is the perceived inadequacy of social interaction.
RUSLAN: I don’t have many friends.
JACQUES: It’s not about numbers. Think of it not as being with people or being without them; think of it as the gulf, the discrepancy, between the kind of social interaction you desire and the kind you are getting. That gap – that’s loneliness.
RUSLAN: So, the gap between the relationship I want with Sze Leng and the one I have –
JACQUES: Exactly.
RUSLAN: Mmm. I’m not sure I buy the idea that everyone comes under a certain set of rules. You know, the way they tick.
JACQUES: I’m not sure “rules” is the right word. Let’s stick with “theories.” There are theories, and then there are theories. Sure, human discourse can never be accurately predicted, nor can the effect of each person’s experience within that discourse. I’m not suggesting that. But there are theories, overarching theories, which are borne out from culture to culture. Theories about the human condition.
RUSLAN: That we all must deterministically seek out our soulmates? Obey some line of coding in our heads? Our hearts? That people like me are an aberrant string of code, an error in the programming? That consigns us to this, this, this crap?
JACQUES: Not an error. More like, hmm, more like a different arrangement of ones and zeroes. Attachment theory is the modern, accepted frame for discourse relating to human relationships. Families. Good friends.
RUSLAN: Oh no. Not my mother’s breast.
JACQUES: No, no. Freud has his place. But attachment theory works as well for adult, romantic relationships as those involving children and parents. There are many styles of attachment; I think you might qualify as fearful-avoidant.
JACQUES: Would you describe yourself as having mixed feelings about close relationships?
RUSLAN: Well, yes.
JACQUES: Do you suppress your feelings?
JACQUES: Mind you, this only applies to Sze Leng. I’m not suggesting you’re fearful-avoidant of your friends or colleagues. You can hold different styles of attachment for different relationships.
RUSLAN: But this attachment theory, it all comes down to long-term relationships with others?
JACQUES: More or less.
RUSLAN: See, this is where I take issue with your set of rules. This ridiculous notion that people measure themselves by their partner. These people who aren’t able to live with themselves, aren’t able to exist as an independent entity –

Jacques paused. He tapped his fingers on the tablet. Ruslan offered such a clear contrast to Jacques’ last patient, a man who so entirely measured himself and his existence by the woman he left behind that, when confronted with that diagnosis, he ended his own existence. The patient on whose behalf this sad malpractice case had been brought against Jacques.

RUSLAN: – we’re all independent. We’re all alone. We should all be emotionally self-sufficient, and leave it at that. Epistemic loneliness.
JACQUES: Ruslan.
JACQUES: Wouldn’t you like a long-term relationship with Sze Leng?
RUSLAN: I…huh, wow. I’m doing it again, aren’t I?

Jacques typed “fearful-avoidant” and “attachment theory.”




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