the intimate stranger*


i hate you, i say to myself.
i know, a voice says, i hate you too.

i know the voice that responds is my voice’. it sounds the way my voice sounds and i can feel the vibrations in my chest, this is the mouth i have always thought of as my mouth, those are my lips and my tongue that moved but is it me’ speaking? it doesn’t feel like me’, and it doesn’t feel like the me’ i used to know or thought i knew.

is one of the voices me and the other an Other, or are they both me’?
or neither?

i am a stranger to myself — whatever it means to say my self’.

everyone is a stranger, but with some strangers you become intimate for a time, and during that time you are able to convince yourself that you know them.

you are always wrong.

the most intimate stranger is yourself, your own body, your own mind. you may be able to convince yourself that you know yourself.

you are always wrong about that too.


* i am eternally grateful to the belgian psychoanalyst paul verhaege for the idea of intimate strangers but i am merely improvising freely on his theme here. to find out what verhaege thinks about intimate strangers, see intieme vreemden (2022).