The Tragedy of Perception

 

FRIDAY 10 JULY 1986

 

Sally Softly

In which Sally Softly discovers a connection between doughnuts and tracksuits.

Sally Softly had an unusually large collection of tracksuits. The whole thing started two months ago when she suddenly noticed that Peter, her husband, was behaving strangely. He was not paying enough attention to her, so she (and she was quite within her rights to do this) she complained to him, saying, “You’re a selfish pig; you never think of anyone but yourself.”

For the next few days he watched her out of the corner of his eye, and when she had finally had enough of this, she told him, “Stop looking at me; I know what you’re thinking; don’t think I don’t.”

From then onwards he did not say another word but merely kept looking at her with his face contorted, as if in agony. From this, she deduced he was now trying to trick her into thinking she was ugly. But she was determined to not let him get the better of her, so whenever “doughnut” appeared on her shopping list, she would immediately scribble this out, write a further entry below it, drag herself out of her easy chair and stagger to the nearest sports shop to buy a tracksuit (which was the added item on her shopping list), so that she could use the tracksuit to counteract the side effects of eating doughnuts.

At 17 Misconception Boulevard, Sally was now standing in her living room, wearing one of these tracksuits. She watched her usual exercise‑spot on the carpet, when she recalled Peter looking at her that morning with that look on his face. She reflected (—I’ll teach him to try to trick me into thinking I’m ugly—I’ll do some more exercise. Not that there is any excess weight on me, mind—because there isn’t—but—just in case. Then I’ll be so attractive—even more than I am now, because I’m already quite attractive—I’ll be so attractive, men will flock to me. And when Peter sees all these other men wanting me, he’ll then want me too but I’ll reject him—ha!).

She lay on that spot on the floor and endured ten minutes of absolute agony—throughout which she attempted to pluck up the courage to begin using the tracksuit. She then raised her legs into the air—with much groaning and shuddering—and her feet kicked about wildly above her, like delirious hatchets massacring a roomful of imaginary people. She did this for fifteen whole seconds, then her legs dropped to the floor and she gasped alarmingly.

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