Vanishing Point A Bookand Websiteby Ander Monson


About Andrea

In this other, smaller, denser world, there is Andrea. I resist bringing her to life, to light here, but she is powerful, and eventually she surfaces.

She has in the past said she dearly wants me to write about her, though I think her vision of what this writing would be is different than my own.

There is the question of writing about people at their request, or, sensing their desire to be written about: should we do it? Can we not do it? Do we really want to encourage that kind of behavior? What do we owe to those we're writing about? What do we owe to the writing? What do we owe to the selves that are doing the writing? And is it interesting enough to bother with?

Fact, insomuch as it's possible for me to claim anything as a fact: Andrea suffers from delusions with tenacity and frequency.

She does not consider these delusions; they are instead the records of her experience.

However, they contradict the perceptions of most of us: few others see the world as she does.

In another self she might be an artist, usefully unhinged, a mouth through which something wonderful and terrible pours out.

In another self she might have figured out how to channel these pressures outward from herself; in fact she gathers them in. She stores them, makes them material, the facts of her life.

Fact: I'm not sure what she wants from me, or whether, for instance, I might be playing into these delusions by writing about her. Or whether 'tis better to confront them, and by so opposing, end them in one way or another (or end myself).


But wanting to write about Andrea isn't simple. Sometimes what appears to be a single star turns out to be a binary. Polaris, the north star, for instance.

Andrea and anyone are binaries, and Andrea and I are no different. Both stars exert force, and the gravitational center is somewhere in between.

Let me be straight, however: Andrea is a wreck. She's miserable; every time I talk to her she has a new complaint about the world. Sometimes you can have a good conversation with her about the past, things we did together in college, for instance, and names of people we both knew. But with the last few years it is as if everything in the world revolves around her. Self as unhappy sun. She suffers thousands of indignities--I mean beyond the ones we all suffer and chalk up to experience--as she makes her way through the world. She clearly tallies them up, writes them down, pulls them apart at night.

This is a rough story for me to tell.

People suffering from delusions fit into a bunch of different psychological categories. No one is my family is a psychologist, but it's become pretty obvious to me that Andrea suffers from a particular strand of ailment termed delusional disorder (that is, a disorder in which the sufferer has delusions of one sort or another, in this case, delusions of persecution, and presumably that rolls in grandiosity). There are a number of excellent online resources that talk about these folks, usually from the perspective of those who love them and are living with them.

The saddest stories are those of the spouses, usually, although sometimes it's also the parents or children of people like Andrea, who cannot see an end to their shared predicament. If the sufferer will not submit to medication (and it's easy to see why they might not--partly because they perceive that as persecution, and repeat--or because they can't live with how the medication makes them think and feel; can you blame them for not wanting to shift their world to fit another's for his or her convenience?), then there's not a whole lot that can be done, if these stories are to be believed (and they ring true to me). You can't rationally talk with people like this. You can't argue. Communication is increasingly difficult and asymptotically approaching impossible. It's a conundrum. They cut friends and family off. Or piss them off. But the lovers of these sufferers are in it for the long haul, and can't conceive of divorce or abandonment. Or, actually, they can. They are all close to it, and they think about it constantly (how could they not?), but something keeps them from going there. Better days are breaks in clouds. Better days are looking into the past, what lives they've had together, what lives they continue to have together.

At the same time, this stuff, this haywire brain, is interesting. It surrounds your life, becomes it, and starts to overwhelm it when you have Andrea in your perimeter. The star shines brighter and brighter, and what she sees--and says--begins to mess with the gravity of all involved. There but for the grace of god go we, we say, and it's true. We talk about Andrea. We think about Andrea.

Clearly the brain is a fragile system: its chemical makeup doesn't take a whole lot of tinkering before it starts to do some really strange things, and then you end up in a place where, what, you're not supposed to trust your perceptions? Isn't that all we have? Perceptions? If the filter between world and brain goes screwy, how are we supposed to live or think at all?

If the job of nonfiction (and all literature, but more obviously nonfiction) is primarily one of seeing, then the mechanisms of sight and understanding--when fogged--begin to clog and cog-slow and grind. Eventually they will halt, we know, and then what are we?

Seeing--and recording what we see--is the highest praise we can give to another, even if the details are not pleasing.

So: the world has taken notice of Andrea, she thinks. It conspires against her. She matters to it.

With the last 20 years of technology, and the rise of crosslinked electronic records and documents and what is generally termed the information revoltion, it might appear that all of us are far more on the map than we were even a year or two ago. Our birth dates. Our residences. Our taxes. Our credit histories (if you have experience with your credit history you know just how long things track in your credit life), chat transcripts, usenet posts, blogs, traffic cameras, court records. The list is long and growing. But in the proliferation of information, how does it all get sorted? Who tracks us? Is it better to believe that we are tracked, or that we are forgotten?

The Romans knew that the record could be tinkered with. History was edited. They reserved the punishment of damnatio memoriae for those who had most greatly sinned against the empire (the rulers of the empire). These names were erased permanently from the record. It was as if they never existed at all.

Is it worse not be a dot in the cosmic wash or to be a dot that gets more attention than the others?

I don't know, Andrea. I would say it's better to be remembered than to not, no matter how that memory portrays you.