JOURNAL OF ADDICTIVE DISEASES
Volume 11, Number 19, 2001
Editorial: Symptoms of Eponine Complex
ABSTRACT. It is an established truth that children who are left alone for inordinate amounts of time will create imaginary friends and engage in fantasy play. In the process of building their own universes and instructing the inhabitants on how to behave, these children develop heightened creativity skills. A deceptively positive trait, heightened creativity can evolve during adolescence and adulthood into escapism. Briefly described, in escapism the catered fantasy world becomes more psychologically satisfactory than reality, and the mental division between inner fabrication and outer truism crumbles. The comfortably neurotic victim does not deny the existence of the divider, they simply chose to cross it less and less as the unreal becomes handsomer than the real. When confronted with the realization that the events in their illusory world will never metamorphose, 27% of patients lapse into a catatonic state. The remaining 73% commit suicide.
ABSTRACT. In women, this disorder is sometimes referred to as the Eponine complex, in reference to a female character in the musical Les Miserables. She sings a heartfelt solo entitled "On My Own" in which she laments her unrequited love for the male lead whom she imagines walking beside her as she strolls along the streets of Paris alone.
DESIGN. The attached writings were found in the home of a single woman. The author bled to death after severing her own tongue with a pair of scissors. Her birth certificate, driver's license and any type of official identification that could have irrefutably determined her age was never found. She had no surviving relatives. A note—"Because of him."—was found beneath the cushions of her sofa but was never confirmed to be in reference to her death. A diverse pool of men whose telephone numbers were found in the address pages at the back of the journal were interviewed in an attempt to identify the "him". The majority of the men admitted that they had dated and "broken up" with the woman. None knew anything of any substance about her. All described her rather superficially as being quiet and pretty, "sensual but not affectionate". All had "broken up" with her because no matter how they'd endeavored nothing seemed to make her happy. "She seemed most happy when she was asleep"; "[awaking] refreshed as if she had the most wonderful dreams". All expressed sorrow for her passing and each in their own words wondered and wished they had gotten to know her "just a little bit better". None if they were to be believed had seen or heard from the woman "[in] many years".
For the purposes of the following fantasies I will use the name Dick: a generic name to represent any and all men I have fantasized about.
Fantasy # 8
Dick is my next door neighbor. I've got a secret crush on him. I think about him when I'm in the tub. One night I hear him come home late from partying. It's raining outside. I hear him enter his apartment, his sneakers squeaking across his wood floors into his bedroom. Our walls are thin. Two clunks as he pushes off his shoes at the heel and flings them into his closet with his toes. I'm soaking in a milk bath, playing with the wax in the burning candles around the perimeter of the tub when I hear an unfamiliar noise. A heavy, hollow thump like a body falling, and then silence. I climb out of the bath, into a kimono and out into the rain. Dick doesn't respond to the ringing doorbell so I switch to a pounding fist. I'm never really sure if it's my fist or the raging thunder that starts up as the storm evolves that wakes him. I hear him stumble toward the door. He opens it and sobers up almost completely when he realizes the star of all his fantasies is standing before him naked in a rose-printed kimono with a head full of wet curly hair smelling like milk and raspberries.
"Are you okay?" I point toward his head, which he's clutching with one hand. A rivulet of blood leaks out. He nods, remembering months prior when he met me for the first time by the mailboxes. He wonders how it has come to this.
Now that he's got me in his apartment he'll do anything to keep me from leaving. The positive nod transforms into a panicked negative shake. He removes his hand and the rivulet becomes a stream. I coo worriedly and step into the room.
Fantasy # 17
Dick follows the secret unwritten code of men to a tee. Three dates. No sex? He's gone. No more cheap dinners. No more supposedly committed interest. No returned phone calls.
I know it's coming. I've picked up on this pattern of men over the years. On our third date Dick spends more than forty dollars. A brazen betrayal of rule number I don't know which. This gives me hope. But I'm not surprised when we get back to my house and he assuming I'm going to ask him in, finds a suitable parking spot for the night. I let him in already knowing what I'm going to say. I've got a whole speech prepared. Something about how I'll end up hating him if he makes me do this just to keep him from leaving. I intend to mention that I'm worth waiting for. I want to reenact for him all our dates so that he can see each laugh, each accidental touch, each explosion of chemistry, each passionate stare. I want him to look at it all as a whole. Consider everything he'll miss and be missing out on if he insists on holding fast to some ludicrous boy's club credo.
I'm ready to say all of this as we enter my apartment. I hear the door close and lock behind me and I turn angry now at his arrogance.
But when I look into Dick's eyes I see everything I've memorized to say. He does remember. He hasn't come inside and locked my door because I owe him my all. He's done it because he never wants to leave me.
I sleep with him.
Fantasy # 21
Dick is a dog person. He has a gorgeous black Shih Tzu. He loves the dog more than he loves me.
Admittedly he's had the dog since he was a boy and I've only been in his life for a year but it's still a silent bone of contention between us. The dog puts up with me whenever Dick goes out of town on one of his business trips. But when she leaps into Dick's arms upon his return and licks his face I know that this is dog language for how-could-you-leave-
your-previous-girlfriend-how-much-longer-will-she-invade-our-life? Dick shushes her with a vigorous rub to the belly and gets the Shiht's leash. I know that while they're on their walk they'll talk about me. And even though I share Dick's bed at night, the Shiht sleeps between us.
So when Dick goes out of town for a company retreat and I accidentally leave his backyard gate open and the Shiht runs away—probably in search of Dick—I fake panic. When the Shiht never comes back I fake depression.
For Dick's next birthday I buy him a Golden Retriever puppy. And since I share in his upbringing, instead of driving us apart, the puppy brings us closer together.
Fantasy # 28
Dick and I are together and it's for real this time. Somehow, Dick and my best friend's boyfriend become buddies and it becomes inevitable that the group of us will have a foursome. We eventually move in together. What is not quite as predictable is that my best friend will end up having a nervous breakdown and move to Japan after three such sexual encounters. My best friend's boyfriend is destroyed of course and it's not quite appropriate for Dick and I to kick him out so he stays. My best friend's, now ex-boyfriend doesn't have a job so most days he and I hang out together while Dick is at work. And admittedly, once in a while we take a bath or shower together and end up in bed even though Dick isn't around to complete the threesome. One morning, Dick wakes up first and gives my sleeping face a funny look like I'm a stranger. My best friend's ex-boyfriend wakes up next and looks over at Dick, then at me, then back at Dick and smiles. He means it as a gentle communication of camaraderie but Dick doesn't see it that way. He places a protective hand on my sleeping hip. My best friend's ex-boyfriend places a hand just below Dick's and sort of fondles his fingertips. Dick pulls his hand away. Aroused nonetheless my best friend's ex-boyfriend curls up behind me. I open my eyes and see Dick.
"I can't do this." He says then lifts the covers and gets out of bed.
Freezing air rushes in and my best friend's ex-boyfriend loses his hard-on. Two days later he finally moves out. That same night Dick brings home a strap-on.
Fantasy # 30
Dick takes me home for the holidays to meet his family. I'm nervous beyond belief because I know that this is a test. If I pass, Dick will want me forever.
I don't know what to wear. I want to show off my figure so his father and brother will think I'm pretty. But I don't want to look trashy or his mother will think I'm a slut.
Dick is no help. "Just be yourself."
Traffic is bad so we get there late. Everyone is already sitting at the dinner table and his mother looks like she hates me even though I haven't spoken a word. So right away I'm all out of sorts until his father greets me with a hug and an appreciative glance at the handful of cleavage I've allowed.
The only empty seats are separated which I'm sure his mother has arranged. I end up squashed between his brother and sister while Dick's mother gets him at her right side. The food is essentially good so I'm saved from having to scrape my plate clean with a concentrated look on my face. Dick's father asks me about myself. I think I hear his mother snort under her breath. Dick's brother winks at me. His sister leans over and whispers that she loves my bracelets.
Immediately after dinner, I jump up and follow Dick's mother into the kitchen to help with the dishes. She tells me not to bother but I confess that it keeps my nervousness at bay. I think I catch a guilty smile. Dick's sister brings in some dirty plates and tells me that I'm the only girl her big brother has ever brought home. Dick's mother drops a glass in the sink. She curses under her breath and tells her daughter to put the soiled tablecloth in the laundry. The girl obeys.
Dick's mother picks the glass out of the drain and dumps it. She runs water into the sink to wash away the tiniest bits. All in silence.
I hover next to the breakfast table fiddling with her cloth napkins. "I love your son."
I look up in time to see her shoulders relax. She turns off the water, turns from the sink to face me and again gives me the guilty smile I wasn't sure I'd seen before.
Dick and his brother and father bustle into the kitchen laughing. Dick's father pats my hand as he walks by. He lays a carving knife and some serving spoons in the sink and hugs his wife. I think I see a tear of resolution in her eye before she tucks her head in the space between her husband's neck and shoulder. Dick's brother punches him on the arm. Dick signals for me to follow him outside.
We walk to the end of the driveway and Dick leans up against our rental car and proposes.
I cry. Of course.
Dick pleads. "You're so gorgeous when you cry. Keep crying, but give me an answer first." He produces a diamond and platinum ring from his hip pocket. "It belonged to my grandmother."
Fantasy # 31
Dick and I are together and it's for real this time. We've moved in together. It's glorious. Until the morning I'm halfway through the rainy, foggy streets of London to my ballet class when I realize I've forgotten one vital item. My slippers. I return home to our flat.
It's not like I don't make plenty of noise.
Galoshes on the marble floor. Keys tinkling. Cursing. Now I'm late for class.
Dick isn't even supposed to be home. He was right behind me when I left. In shorts and trainers on his way to the gym.
So I walk into our bedroom and the two of them are surprised to see me, noise or none.
She's gorgeous. Long legs. Green eyes. Black hair expensively cut in an intentionally disheveled style. Small breasts just like he likes.
Dick goes into his speech. You know the one. It's not what it looks like ... I thought you left ... what are you doing home early ... funny, funny words ... looking at me with his tousled-hair innocence like I'm about to get all hostile.
I know what will hurt him the most. Not saying a word. Just looking at him, into him like I would punch him between the eyes if I could do it without getting my hands dirty.
My ballet slippers are where I always leave them. The strings tied, joining the shoes, slung over the closet doorknob.
I go to them using Dick's pathetic diatribe as my melodramatic soundtrack, take my slippers, and leave.
I go to ballet class.
The second I'm out the door, Dick tells the woman to get out. She does not protest. Dick wasn't all she thought he'd be. With such a great girlfriend, she'd hoped he'd be worth stealing. What she didn't count on was that love would render him impotent. She had been deep within the tongue-tied process of urging him to perform when I'd interrupted.
Ballet class calms me. Afterward, I'm walking back to our flat and I pass a church. Something prompts me to go inside. I choose a pew near the front of the empty sanctuary, kneel down and begin to pray.
At home, Dick demolishes our tainted bed with an axe.
I pray for our relationship to unfold according to God's will. I pray for strength. I pray for Dick.
Dick leaves countless messages on my cellular phone's voice mail.
I walk home.
Dick has somehow managed to clean up the remnants of our axe-deconstructed bed. And in its place sits a several thousand dollar replacement.
Dick is just arranging the pillows over the stuffed duvet.
He sees me and relieved, launches into a plea. It begins with an explanation of his stupidity, his dementia. Follows with the announcement that he is not himself.
He's angry with himself. To conclude, he is confused, sad and sorry.
I am not really listening. I'm focused on tying together my ballet slipper ribbons and placing them just so over the bedroom closet's doorknob.
Let's go back to that B&B, he pleads. He's talking about our first vacation together. We went to a small town in Alberta, Canada and stayed at a B&B that had once been a church. He wonders aloud if they'll allow us back after the ruckus we made swinging from the
chandeliers and all. Dick says he'll make all the arrangements but he never does.
We cycle back into our old routine, each at our jobs, watching our favorite television shows in silence, sleeping on separate sides of our expensive bed.
And then it hits me as I'm running errands—bottle of perfume, a picture framed, bath beads—one afternoon. I'm right near Dick's office, walking, and instead of heading straight back to my car I keep going, turn the corner, walk up and down a hill until the stone and glass-faced building rises up before me.
The first person I run into is Dick's boss. He smiles brightly, suppressing his shock. He gurgles that he hasn't seen me in a long time. And I realize after I return his thoughtful smile and head up a flight of stairs to Dick's office that he doesn't mean just in the last month since I found Dick in bed with another woman. He means before then. Well before. Years.
The hallway is what reminds me. I see sandaled feet on the red carpet, a sundress, a basket in my hand, Dick's favorite cream cheese, roast beef and red onion on rye. Cherries. Pellagrino.
I don't knock. I open the door and walk into Dick's office.
He's leaned over his desk pasting photographs onto a piece of black foam core, writing the key elements of his presentation in between the ambiguous images in his swoopy calligraphic handwriting.
He looks up at me and even though I'm in jeans he sees the sundress too. My Keds ... sandals. My pony-tailed hair ... loose. Framed picture ... sandwiches. Perfume. Pellagrino. Bath beads. Cherries. Crying. Smiling.
Dick cries too.
I've finally forgiven him.
Fantasy # 39
Dick asks me if I have any fantasies. I laugh out loud, then quickly reassure him that my laughter is not directed at him. I end up saying "two guys" which seems to satisfy him. I want to tell him about this gorilla thing but I'm afraid he'll mistake it for bestiality. But when Halloween comes around, it's not such a big secret anymore when I urge him to try on a furry black suit at a local rental house. When he suggests a leopard cat suit for me it's clear we're both on the same page. It's the shortest appearance at a party in the history of partygoers. We literally walk in the door, accept paper cups of tainted punch from which we take no more than four sips each, eat one partially salsa-dipped chip each, bob our heads in time to the music, kiss a few cheeks and head out the back door. The house is up in the hills so it's perfect when we're instantaneously lost in their lush landscaping. Dick tears holes in our costumes in just the right places. When he takes me from behind I understand immediately why Diane Fossey went missing.
Fantasy # 42
Where is Dick tonight I wonder as I wander around the party, empty buffet table, wilted lettuce leaves that made Swedish meatballs look appetizing, balloon covered pool, the host masquerading budget magic tricks as the spectators cheers wearily because all the liquor is on him.
My friends are gone. I’m sick of them anyway, asking how much my dress cost and checking to see that my hair only reaches to the crest of my shoulder blades while theirs continues on.
Two nameless men corner me, been watching me all night, sandwich me, grinning wildly, not speaking any English. The adoration is comfortable. They are good flirts.
One has longish brown hair and reminds me of Dick. The other has a blond goatee twisted into a finger-sized braid with a black rubber band on the end. He tugs at it trying to look sinister or courageous. He reminds me of no one. They both wear tuxedos. And then that moment comes when you know something paramount is going to happen.
It occurs after they follow me to my car. Dick-esque offers to drive me home, I suppose from his broken English, than decides that I’m not wearing any panties, confirms with just the fingertips of his left hand. Goatee Braid pulls me into a kiss. It’s clear they mean to share me. Paramount.
We need to stop at their place before they take me home because they have to pick up something, they manage to explain this through grunts and an elaborate exchange of hand gestures.
Going there, they argue repeatedly in their language, flipping a linguistic coin: Who will have my front and whom my back. I’m sure.
Where is Dick tonight again I wonder as we wander off toward the Hollywood Hills.
Fantasy # 46
Dick has broken me for the last time. I hate him. I hate all men. I am going over all the ways I will hurt him—pose naked for some jerk-off magazine, do 69’s with all of his friends, carve “I have no penis” into the hood of his new car using the key to his apartment he so romantically gave me—when I see her for the first time. She reminds me of my best friend when her hair was dyed black and cut fearlessly short except she's about ten pounds heavier. And it’s nice, her curves, her wit, and even-toned skin. We become instant friends until the weekend in Jersey City when we get buzzed at a beachside lobster stand that boils them up for you right there. And we stumble back to the hotel and take a shower together. It is clean and intense. A month later we are still together and I am in tears because I don’t want to be a lesbian. But then I run into Dick at an outdoor market and it all makes sense among the sun-dried dates and rose petal jelly. I do not love women. I love Dick. He hurts me, so I run, but I have not changed.
Dick is confused. “Is that you?”
The girl and I are holding hands and he is momentarily turned on as he struggles to ascertain the parameters of our relationship.
The girl is aggravated, she pretends to be fascinated by the fresh cilantro and jicama.
“I can’t really talk now.” I mumble under my breath.
“Huh, why?” Dick is in love all over again.
Telepathically probing me for details, fully understanding my secrecy and lapsing into a fantasy of his own; that I am truly a lesbian and he is the only man I have ever been with.
“I’ll call you.” I give him his fantasy.
The next night Dick enters our candlelit apartment in a daze. I've decorated the path to the bedroom with flickering candles. Dick finds his way; the girl and I have already begun. He joins in, delighted that he is welcome, then suddenly self-conscious and burning with inadequacy. He plunders on, fucking the girl as I watch, hurt, but so used to Dick’s abuse it feels like pleasure.
It’s over and the girl is crying in the bathroom shower—nostalgic with memories of our first night together. Dick confides his dissatisfaction with the whole event (He loves me, that is plain to see), but if it makes me happy he’ll go on doing whatever will keep me.
“You make me happy.” I sit perfectly still so he can absorb my naked sincerity.
From the bathroom we overhear the girl gasping, drowning in her own tears.
Dick smiles knowingly.
Fantasy # 48
I get invited to this unbelievable party in the penthouse suite of a luxury hotel. Everyone is stoned including myself. Dick is supposed to show up but he never does. I hear rumors that he is with his new girlfriend, away somewhere for the weekend. I am hurt and lonely even among so many friends; it makes me self-destructive. I wander down to the hotel’s pool with a group of partyers. We break into the locked area and strip down to our birthday suits. The water feels like glass against my naked skin.
The alcohol has dissolved all of my inhibitions. I emerge and walk around the perimeter of the pool like a ballerina, with my feet pointed outward almost perpendicular to the concrete. The boys watch me, following my wet nakedness with their intoxicated eyes.
I dive into the pool just as Dick walks in with his girlfriend. He has missed my little show but the hypersensitivity of the moment does not escape him. I float on my back, uninvolved, as Dick undresses and cannonballs into the pool. His girlfriend sits in a nearby pool chair, fully dressed. Dick coaxes her in but she declines. She has her period.
I float soundlessly.
Dick seems skittish. He breaks into laps. His girlfriend gets annoyed and leaves. The second she’s gone, Dick is at my side trying to get me to lose my concentration. He’s seen me naked before but not like this, in full glory with chlorinated water rushing over me.
I keep my eyes shut tight to further his suffering. I float past him, then let myself sink, swim underwater, seek out the underwater activity of kicking feet and dangling genitalia like Jaws. I emerge within a circle of partyers. Dick spots me from the other end of the pool and butterfly strokes after me. The partyers are rowdy, telling jokes and unbelievable stories. I laugh excitedly.
Dick swims into the circle and tries desperately to fit in. The others and myself are higher than him; we're on a whole other level. I laugh dramatically at the others’ tasteless anecdotes but when Dick tells one I’ve seen him perform a billion times before, I bite my bottom lip and dunk my head under the water to clean out my nose and rewet my hair. Then I stare off into the distance. Dick notices.
Everyone starts to get restless. I swim to the opposite end of the pool, climb out, and recommence my ballerina routine.
Dick is submersed in my nakedness, his nose running, his eyes bloodshot, his teeth chattering. He finally comprehends that I am gone.
That he has lost me.
I dry off and go back to the party . . . nude.
Fantasy # 52
Dick never noticed me. I sat pining away for him, coming up with all these scenarios about our fantasy life together but none of them ever actually happened. Years later, after I had finally made a vow to move on with my life, finally forgotten about him and all that life in his eyes pretending he's so happy better than anyone I've ever known, I run into him at a party and my world comes crashing down. He sees me from across the room and can't believe how great I look. Every flaw I've ever exhibited has miraculously disappeared and been replaced by its polar opposite creating the effect that I am the epitome of physical beauty. Dick walks over and is of course finally in love with me. Inside I can feel it starting up all over again ...
Fantasy # 53
Dick is in love with me; he just doesn’t know it yet.
Fantasy # 54
Dick loves me.