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SCHADENFREUDE — a fiction
Their unhappiness is your happiness
The last time we argued, you hit me across the face full-on, in front of everybody. Maybe I deserved it. Who knows. I don’t really think I’m the best person to judge these kind of things anyway. I’m too ‘involved in the moment’, as my old mum used to say. Even if I was trying to be honest about the whole thing, there would probably be something I would hold back; something I would keep even from myself, maybe, just to add that extra level of authenticity to my protests in the hope that this time — this one time — you would believe me.
But it was the look of your family that really got me. This was supposed to be it — our big weekend away together. A chance to heal all of those wounds from decades ago and play Happy Families late into the night; a last ditch attempt by your parents to stop everything from falling apart at the seams. Well, we put pay to that idea, didn’t we my dear?
Oh god, it was glorious. There was the slap itself and the sting that quickly followed; sure, I didn’t enjoy that bit very much. OK, so we once tried a bit of the old S&M in the bedroom, just to mix things up a little, but pain has never really been my sort of thing. I think we hold the record for the quickest ever use of the safe word. If it’s not for everyone, then I am most definitely everyone. But it was the moment immediately after the attack that got me.
At first, just a second of silence. Just a second. No longer. A single tick of the clock. The birds stopped outside our window. The farmers in the fields stopped their tractors to get a better view. The squirrels in the garden stood up out of respect and waited for the world to draw breath again. If I’d known such a small action could have such a huge response, I think I would have done something to initiate it years ago. Utter, haunting, heavy, solid silence.
You see, in situations such as this, one often expects a reaction from the audience. We imagine it to be like that moment in the puppet theatre when Punch puts out a hit on Judy — the blow lands and the punters wait for the flurry to follow.
Are you not entertained?
But this was a bit different. For in this performance, it was neither Punch nor Judy who continued the action, but rather the watchers themselves in an awful parody of audience participation. Your mother spits at your father; your brother turns on your sister as they did when they were children; our brother-in-law leans in to defend her; your father winds up a hit on your mother before their son steps in to parry the strike; sister scratches at her husband for stopping her from fighting her own battles; mother screams and falls over grandchild; brother-in-law berates his mother-in-law for another example of irresponsibility; father has his shirt ripped open, pigeon chest exposed in a failed attempt at regaining his masculinity; all voices raise, all fingers pointing, and you and I stood in the centre of the kitchen, watching it all.
Schadenfreude. I guess that’s what brought us together in the first place. It seems appropriate that it would have come to our rescue when our relationship was most in need of a little support. When everything is falling down around your ears and all that you love seems to be coming to an end, it’s sometimes good to take a moment and remember that somewhere, maybe closer than you might think, someone you know is going to be having a much worse time than you. I like to think we can take pleasure in that.
Originally published on Tumblr
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