A temporary resident shows us how to handle the unexpected

(This is another post with brief sexual themes, again nothing explicit.)

While Greta and I are not determined to be the only people in our body forever, we do know that we aren’t ready to deal with someone else here yet. A handful of times we’ve had weak, poorly developed walk-ins; usually we tell them politely but firmly that they need to go away, and on all but one of the occasions they’ve taken this well enough.

This time was different. Eliza was much stronger and more clearly characterized than our other walk-ins have been. She had a name from the start, and she showed up very suddenly: one night we went to bed alone, and the next morning she was there fully formed. We did have an idea of where she had come from; she had some attributes of a character from a book we’d been reading, and then there was a dream we didn’t quite remember but clearly involved her or someone very much like her. But there she was, and she was so friendly and clear and human it really tested our resolve to kick her out.

It turned out we didn’t have to, exactly. We get the feeling that had we wanted Eliza to become a permanent or semi-permanent part of our system, she would have at least considered doing so. But she wasn’t set on it; what she really wanted was to have sex with me and then take off. We both found her quite attractive, so we were, you could say, willing to entertain this idea.

There was no time for such activities at this point, though, as I needed to get to work, so Greta and I had plenty of time to consider what was going on over the next eight hours. We worried briefly about getting too emotionally attached to Eliza, and wondered if this maybe wasn’t part of a nefarious plan she had. But then I remembered what we were just talking about last month: sure, we aren’t planning on adding someone else to our head, but maybe if it happened accidentally and we weren’t too upset about it, it could turn out to be a totally positive experience. So we kept on.

We went through the day at work a bit distracted (someone who has the ability and desire to make herself exactly what you like best and keeps teasing you even when you tell her to go away has a way of doing that). We got home and offered Eliza a drink (she liked our whiskey) and tried to find out a bit more about her, and then we stepped into the bedroom. (Greta was present and interested but kind of faded into the background behind me a little bit since Eliza was really mostly interested in me.) And a few minutes afterwards, Eliza said she’d better be going, and she was gone and the room felt noticeably emptier. We even felt kind of lonely without her.

She is actually still accessible to us, after a fashion. We can still talk to her and maybe pick up faintly on a few emotions if we think about her. But she won’t say much beyond general pleasantries, and she explicitly refuses to repeat the experience or tell us anything more about herself. What we got that day last week is what we’ve got – and that was, after all, what we wanted.

Here’s what Eliza told us about herself. We were interested and maybe a little bit worried about what would happen to her when she left our mind. She claimed she moves between systems regularly and we were only one of perhaps an infinite number of stops. She certainly had a fixed personality and past experiences to match. But it wasn’t supposed to mean she’s some kind of supernatural being that can travel between minds; rather, she says she appears separately at certain times to many different people and remains consistent because she is a sort of element of a collective unconscious that is the same or similar for all her hosts. We’re still not sure what of this we should believe or what it means, but it seems worth pondering. (It brings succubi to mind as an element of folklore and myth, but Eliza was not the slightest bit demonic and this doesn’t seem to fit.)

She’s gone for now, but she said she may visit us again some day. Indeed it seemed like she thought it was more likely than not that she’d be back, but she made it very clear it will be when she’s ready and when she thinks I’m ready, and there’s nothing I can do to change the timing. It felt like she was talking about a timescale of years. Her next appearance might or might not be on the same terms.

Greta and I have always been a little bit uptight about walk-ins. We’re going to be a lot more relaxed about them from now on. We always felt before like we had to defend ourselves against them, but now I think it’s better to plan to be not just polite but thoroughly friendly, if that’s what they want. We don’t have to offer them a permanent place here, but as we found with Eliza, that often isn’t their goal anyway.

The main reason we chose to write about this at all, and particularly this week, is that it’s probably not entirely coincidental that this whole thing happened right after our post about the gender identity crisis last month. Even if it is, it’s certainly a meaningful one. Last month was a study of what happens when you refuse to accept unexpected events for what they are; perhaps shit would be the concise description. This month is a textbook example of what happens when you stay open and accept them as they come: we had fun, it made us think, it certainly made our week a lot more interesting, and we came out the other end no worse for it. We’re humbled by the contrast, and we hope you’ll take it to heart as well. And who knows, maybe you’ll run into Eliza someday…

(N.B. for the curious: I know we’ve talked about the computer program ELIZA on this blog quite a bit, but it really is a coincidence that our walk-in was named Eliza. Greta and I can see where the name came from, and it’s entirely unrelated.)

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