A Hole Where Her Soul Should Be

As soon as I met Narinda I could see she was missing something. She was friendly, funny obviously very smart; but there was a hardness to her, a lack of concern for anyone. Art college was a fluffy, hysterical place and we all wailed our way from one drama to another while Narinda stayed back, calm and quietly scathing.

We lived three doors down from each other in halls, and spent polite time together, but she wasn’t someone I could go to with howls of indignation that my latest project had only got 54%, even though I’d poured my soul into it, or tell her the sexy dream I’d had about Brennan from our pottery class. She made me feel childish and emotionally messy; and to be fair I was. Anyway, I didn’t know what set Narinda apart until one drunken night when the truth spilled out of her. I say ‘spilled’, it was more of a controlled release. We were talking about our families. I said how mine was like a zoo: you know, everybody trapped and pacing. Narinda replied,

“My upbringing was like a psychological experiment. In fact, I think that’s what it was. My parents never hugged me or gave me praise. They didn’t like playing with me, never took my photograph even. I thought that was just how they were, and then my sister was born. You should have seen how they were with her: constant kisses and affection. Little gifts that they’d buy her, they’d tie ribbons in her hair. And we had photo albums filled with pictures of her stupid smiling face.”

“Why?” I asked, aghast.

“I said earlier, it was an experiment. It took me a while to work it out, but it’s how they deal with everything. They experiment with food, trying out new recipes and putting odd ingredients together; they buy from different shops and compare prices and quality, writing it all down a notebook. They experiment with TV programs and technology. Once my dad wired a Furby up to the vacuum cleaner. They want to play with things, see how they turn out. My dad wanted to be a chemist, but he couldn’t pass the exams.” She shrugged as if she didn’t care, her voice even and with the slight sneer that accompanied all her words.

We never talked about it properly again. I think with all the other emotions flying around our classes, her measured sadness wasn’t loud enough to be heard. And I didn’t forget what she’d said, but I didn’t think about it either.

The night Narinda vanished, it took until midnight to notice. From there the situation quickly escalated. There was the neatly written note explaining that she’d decided art college wasn’t for her, the measured request for no one to come looking for her. Within a few hours her parents had arrived from Stockport: two nervous, wide-eyed people who held on to each other and fretted. I’m not sure how I ended up looking after Narinda’s father, feeding him tea and awkward sympathy. There just isn’t much to do when someone goes missing, mostly you sit and wait. So he sat on my scabby armchair that I’d found in the street, huddled over a chipped mug and unable to stop talking. I think guilt had caused his mouth to spring a leak.

“We tried to be good parents, we really did. I expect she told you we didn’t care, but we cared, we tried,” he paused, looked at me pleadingly, then shook his head and looked at the floor. He let the words spill again,  “We knew we weren’t giving her what she wanted, but we didn’t know how. We never understood her. She acted as if she didn’t want to be our daughter, right from a baby she was bored with us. It was as if we couldn’t connect. She wouldn’t hug us, didn’t want dolls. I remember I tried to tie a ribbon in her hair once, she pulled it out and threw it in a puddle and stamped on it. She found everything we did an irritation. In her high chair she’d sit and scowl at us, as if we were wasting her time. I thought it was us, but then her sister came along, and well, she was a delight, we could make her happy. But Narinda, it was as if she had something missing. You know?” He looked up at me, his face a cacophony of guilt, sadness, bewilderment and loss. I nodded, because I did.

24 thoughts on “A Hole Where Her Soul Should Be

  1. A brilliant and involving anecdote, sensitive, well paced and with an unexpected ending. The Narinda character — it is a character, right, and not a real person? — sounds to have been on the autism spectrum: distant, oversensitive where intimacy might be involved, analytical, judgemental, finding empathy difficult, all these are traits that those with the condition often exhibit. It’s hard on the parents, unable to understand, unable to get it right; hard too for Narinda who feels and acts like an outsider. Small wonder that many neurotypical parents have the sense their child is like a changeling.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. She is somewhat a character, somewhat based on a real person. My brother is autistic, so I know well how tricky it can be for the parents. I think you said you are also autistic, is that right? It’s a far more recognised condition these days, which helps, I think.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. An excellent piece which resounds very strongly with me, especially the character of Narinda; I have no memories of being hugged as a young space-person, and even now, long space-years later, physical contact is an unwelcome invasion of my personal space. It feels like this story is a little slice of a real life, and I love how it’s explored through the thoughts of an outside observer. Thanks for a wonderful tale!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This resonates with me too. I understand Narinda only too well. Life is difficult enough when you feel isolated from the people who should be close to you and the arrival of a younger sibling who ticks all the right boxes without even trying makes it harder still. You portray her situation so very well. I don’t know whether she’s a character in fiction or a real person – but you’ve got it just right.

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  4. This is probably one of my favorite things I’ve read in my years of exploring different blogs. This story just, in a strange way, resounds very deeply with me. I love the different perspective you gave when you introduced the father, and how that threw a twist into the whole story. That was so clever! And the character of Narinda intrigues me so much. Most of all, I love how easy it was for me to get immersed into the story. I felt like Narinda was next to me the whole time, and I felt like I could just picture her talking with her slight sneer. This was fantastic, and if you ever decide to revisit this and tell a little more about Narinda’s story, I’d love to read it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, I’m really happy happy that it connected with you so strongly. I want to see if I can figure out what happened next with Narinda, I don’t like to think of her just disappearing.
      I’m glad you stopped by, have a lovely day 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Very interesting story. I liked the way the character slowly unfolds and you get to know a little more at a time. I thought it was really good the way you put in the different perspectives of the characters without changing point of view. Also very well done using first person natarion to tell somone elses story I don’t often see that.

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