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Narcissist’s Relationships Via Two Pets (True Stories)

Uploaded 10/12/2023, approx. 14 minute read

Some narcissists sometimes show more compassion and affection and empathy for their pets than they do for their spouses or children. Pets, you see, don't talk back. They don't disagree. They don't argue. They don't criticize. They are happy to see you. Their love is unconditional, maternal in a way, and they are dependent on you, which is very empowering, enhances the narcissist's sense of omnipotence and godlike qualities.

So narcissists bond with pets and attach to pets in ways which can never happen with human beings. These human beings threaten the narcissist's grandiose, superior, perfect self-perception.


And today I want to describe my two marriages through my pets.

Yes, I've had pets, unusual pets, because I'm an unusual person.

But still, I've had pets.

I want to tell you the story of my snail and my goldfish.

And through my snail and my goldfish, I forge you a glimpse into my marriages.

My name is Sam Vaknin and there is a playlist on this YouTube channel of short fiction, poetry, and film reviews. And I strongly recommend that you have a look there.

There are already three or four stories there, all of them true events.

So have fun and enjoy yourselves. If these stories serve to humanize me to some extent, don't fall for it. Don't be malignant optimists or engage in what Shadow De Angelis calls pathological hope.

Let us delve right into my pets and start, of course, how else, with my snail, pet snail.

Noah and I had a snail. We placed it in an empty ice cream packing on a bed of lettuce. We took turns spraying the snail with water drops.

Mornin come, Noah would emerge from our bed unkempt, disheveled, and sleepwalk to inquire how the snail was doing. She rejoiced with every black-rimmed bite, clapping her hands and drawing me to witness the tiny miracle. She replaced the perforated leaf of lettuce with a green and dewy one about once a week.

At first, her minuscule charge concealed itself among the decaying greenery. Noah spent hours patiently awaiting an epiphany.

Crowned with a set of dark, huge earphones that I bought her, she pounded her keyboard, keeping a loveled eye on the snail's abode. When it finally emerged one day, our snail, the music stopped and she exclaimed elatedly. Later that year, I was sentenced to a prison term. On the way home courtroom echoes reverberated in the hushed interior of the car.

Noah said, "Let's go somewhere before," you know, before. And I responded, "Let us go to a hotel, there." "A pity the jazz festival is over." she frowned. "A pity." I agreed.

At home, in air of doom, we packed a hasty suitcase and booked the flight.

I think a thing, as I said, reminded Noah of the snail. She held its lair in both hands and placed it accusingly on the glass-top table in the living room. She looked at me. "What shall we do with it?" "Let's leave it enough water and food for a week." I suggested. "It sneezes a few. It is so teeny here. I don't think there'll be a problem."

Noah secured an errant golden curl behind her ear. "You sure?" "I was."

And so we entombed the snail beneath some salad leaves and showered it with water, and Noah giggled, "To him, it's rain." And then she grew serious. It was an early morning.

Noah felt my swollen eyelids pausing her finger on the protruding veins. On the way to the elevator, Noah stopped, and loaded a laden rucksack and hurried to the entrance door, wildly rummaging for the keys in her multicolored purse. She returned to me, flushing and panting, and uttered, "It is fine. It is fine." "It climbed through some lettuce sprouts," she reported. Her morning voice was moist and hoarse. It did be up-like.

I cast a virile hand over her shoulder and guided her outside. So we spent four days in Eilat. We slept a lot, and we swam the pools, and among the waterfalls and artificial rocks.

My sister happened to be staying there with her newly minted family, but it was already chilly and a tunnel, and four nights later we decided to return. My imminent incarceration loomed, and Noah was atypically broody. I tried to comfort her, thinking what a consummate liar I had become.

When we reached home, Noah dumped her suitcase precariously balanced on its two hind wheels. I heard the metallic clinking of unfurled bolts, and she was gone. A minute or two later, I can't find it, and then it is not here, Sam, the snail.

We cautiously separated one gnawed leaf of lettuce from another. We studied the inside of the box and its immediate neighborhood, the marble counter. The snail was nowhere to be found.

Noah was restless for the remainder of that day. Downhill, at a crossroad concealed behind a gas station, stood an intimate French restaurant. It was our crisis eatery, a refuge of self-administered great wines and nouvelle cuisine.

But today, its charms failed. Noah was crestfallen throughout dinner. She sat and gestured and chewed the food mechanically. Still, ever so practical, faced with numerous arrangements before my disappearance, Noah recovered.

But she refused to discard the now orphaned container, and she made sure the leaves were always fresh and glistening.

She thought that I didn't notice how she inspected the box, hoping to find her snail in it, Revenant.

"It must be bigger now," she sighed. "And then today I plan to clean the entire house. It is your last weekend here.

On cue, I went to the public library and spent a few good hours reading Kafka's Metamorphoses, a story about a respectable clock turned loathsome insect in his sleep.

We used to clean the house together. Noah and I. She would sluice the floor and I would dust, scrub the bathrooms and kitchen. It was one of the last things we did together.

And then itstopped.

That afternoon was muggy, and I walked home immersed in thought. I found Noah slouched on an armchair, surrounded by heaps of furniture and bundled carpets.

Her face wore tearful makeup, her eyes were distant, and her hair bedraggled.

I up turned the chair and faced her silently. She pointed speechlessly at the general direction of the kitchen and then subsided.

"I stepped on it," she said. "I squashed it," she added frantically. "I didn't mean to. It is still so small and I don't know how it made it to the corner. To that corner."

It must have climbed the refrigerator and descended to the floor, I ventured.

She signaled me to keep away. "I had to clean the house because of you. Because you're going."

In an accusatory tone. I didn't know how to respond so.

I tiptoed to the kitchen and contemplated the mess of snail and concha on the floor.

"Shall I wipe it off?" I inquired meekly.

"Now I don't even have a snail." Tears blended with startled exhalations.

"You will be gone, too. You will be gone, too.

I thought you and I could fight the world. I thought we were invincible.

But it is not like that at all. We can't even look after one snail together. We can't do anything right.

"Are you mad at me?" I asked.

And she snorted, part pain and part content. She scooped the shattered snail with a paper towel and dumped both in the overflowing trash bin.

She froze like that a while and then, as if reaching a decision, she deposited a box replete with lettuce leaves in the garbage can.

"I don't think I'm going to need this box. I'm never going to have another snail," she posed.

"At least I'm never going to have another snail with you."

That was my first marriage.

And now, to my second.

Lydia returned home, all dusty and breathless, as was her habit ever since we have bought the apartment and she embarked on its thorough renovation long months ago.

Between two delicate but strong fingers, she held aloft a transparent plastic bag, the kind she used to wrap around half-consumed comestibles in the refrigerator.

Instinctively, I extended an inquisitive hand, but she recoiled and said, "Don't!" There's a fish in there!"

And this is how I saw Ned for the first time.

"It is a male."

Lydia told me.

"Freddush is a female."

In the crowded and smelly petrol, the salesgirl elaborated on the anatomic differences between the sexes.

So now, Freddush had a mate. "Fred is Frederica, our first attempt at a goldfish."

One of the handymen gave Frederica to Lydia, to keep your husband company while you're away, he explained mischievously.

Fred grew up in a bowel and then graduated into a small and rather plain aquarium.

I placed a clay elephant and a plastic one-legged ballerina in the aquarium, but this unlikely couple did little to liven it up.

Fred's abode stood on the kitchen counter next to a pile of yellow bananas, flame-orange mandarinas and assorted shrink-wrapped snacks.

She swam melancholyly to and fro, forlorn and lonely, toying with her own reflection.

A fortnight later, Lydia and I purchased a bigger tank. I filled it with tap water and I dumped Fred into it.

Shocked and distressed, she hid under a shell and refused to emerge no matter the temptation.

Hence Ned.

I knew next to nothing about new fish tanks, the need to cycle them owing to the absence of nitrogen-devouring bacteria and the stress that all these caused the unfortunate inhabitants of my aquarium.

I dumped Ned in the crystal clear waters as unceremoniously as I did his would-be mate.

But Ned, having graduated far worse aquaria in dingy pet shops, swam a few triumphant laps around the receptacle and then settled down to business, to the business of chasing food scraps.

Fred eyed him shyly and then joined him hesitantly.

It was the first time she had moved in days.

As the time passed, Fred, a codependent goldfish, if I ever saw one, excitedly clung to Ned's bright orange tail.

She followed him wherever he glided.

But Ned did not reciprocate. Far more aggressive than Fred.

Ned deprived her of food, pursuing her in circles and leveraging his longer body and broader amichip to tackle the silvery female.

All my exhortations and threats went on deaf, non-existent ears.

Ned would coyly slink away only to resume his belligerence when he figured that I am out of range.

Still, every few hours Fred and Ned would align themselves, as arrow-straight as soldiers in a parade. And they would swing to and fro in unison in the currents perfectly at peace, the delicate fins flapping regularly and slowly.

It was bewitching, a hypnotizing manifestation of some primordial order.

I used to sit on the armrest of a couch enthralled by their antiques, monitoring who does what to whom with the avidity of a natural scientist and the wonderment of a child.

Gradually the saturation of the ear-pump, the gentle breeze of bubbles and the elegant motility of my fancies all conspired to calm my rampant anxiety.

I made a living of the proceeds of books I have written about my mental health disorder and so was gratified to escape the stifling and morbid environment of my own making.

And then one morning I woke up to find the couple gasping at the shell-covered bottom of their tank, tails and fins streaking red and rotting away, beat by tiny and ephemeral peace.

The magic gun it was replaced with a nightmarish horror that permeated the rest of my existence.

I felt guilty, somehow threatened, imbued with the profound sadness that other people, normal people, associate with grieving.

Reflexively I surfed the internet frenetically for answers. I downloaded a dozen books, I read them all, and I got up all hours of the night to change the water in my Ned and French menacious cesspool.

I woke up with dread and bedded with foreboding and so did my version of Fred, my lady. Ned's body was decaying fast.

Fred continuously nudged him, "Are you alive? Are you coming to play?"

But when she saw how serious his condition is, her whole demeanor changed. His swim bladder affected, his dwindling scales plastered with bowering parasites besieged by toxic levels of ammonia.

Ned's compromised immune system, ravaged by his crammed and foul apprenticeship at the pet shop, didn't stand a chance.

Ned wobbled pitifully.

Fred stood next to him, still as a rock, allowing his sore body to rest against hers, giving him respite, the solace of her company.

Then, exhausted by her own condition and overpowered by his much larger weight, she would swim away, glancing back sorrowfully as Ned sank, and darted, staggered, and careened.

Yet Ned wouldn't give up. His magnificent tail consumed.

He still took after the flakes of food that drifted down the watercolor. He still tore at his new home, left over fins flailing, bullet-like bodies strained, eyes bulging.

He still teased Fred when he could, and Fred was much alive when he revived.

They slept together, occupying an alcove that afforded them protection from the filter-generated waves.

As the days passed and I added salt to the aquarium, Ned seemed to have recovered. Even his tail began to show some sign of black-tipped resurrection.

He regained his appetite and his territorial aggression, and Fred seemed delighted to be again abused by a reanimated Ned.

I was the proudest of fish owners, and Lydia's crystalline laughter reverberated whenever Ned's truncated trunk ballistically carroered the waters.

But this was not to last. The salt had to go. The fresher the water became, the sicker Ned grew, infested with old manner of grey, shrunken, lethargic and immobile except when fed.

And this time Ned ignored even Fred's ichthyological pleas.

Finally she gave up on him and drifted away, sullenly.

One morning I lowered a tiny net into the water.

Ned steered and stared at the contraption and then with an effort that probably required every last ounce of his strength, he bubbled up, rolling over and over like a demented cork.

All the while eyeing me as though imploring, "You see, I'm still alive. Please don't give up on me. Please give me another chance."

But I couldn't do that. I kept telling myself that I was protecting Fred's health and well-being, but really I was eliminating the constant source of anxiety and heartbreak that Ned has become.

I captured him and Ned lay in the net, quiescent, trunk-wind. When his mutilated body hit the toilet, it made a muffled sound. And to me it sounded like goodbye or maybe why.

I flushed the water and Ned was gone.

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