Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)
Okay, she says. Why don’t we talk about how you’re feeling?
Yeah. Not great.
I’m sorry to hear that. When did you start feeling this way?
Uh, he says. A couple of months ago. January, I suppose.
She clicks a pen and writes something down. January, she says. Okay. Did something happen then, or it just came on out of nowhere?
A few days into the new year, Connell got a text message from Rachel Moran. It was two o’clock in the morning then, and he and Helen were coming back from a night out. Angling his phone away, he opened the text: it was a group message that went out to all their school friends, asking if anyone had seen or been in contact with Rob Hegarty. It said he hadn’t been seen for a few hours. Helen asked him what the text said and for some reason Connell replied: Oh, nothing, just a group message. Happy New Year. The next day Rob’s body was recovered from the River Corrib.
Connell later heard from friends that Rob had been drinking a lot in the preceding weeks and seemed out of sorts. Connell hadn’t known anything about it, he hadn’t been home much last term, he hadn’t really been seeing people. He checked his Facebook to find the last time Rob had sent him a message, and it was from early 2012: a photograph from a night out, Connell pictured with his arm around the waist of Marianne’s friend Teresa. In the message Rob had written: are u riding her?? NICE haha. Connell had never replied. He hadn’t seen Rob at Christmas, he couldn’t remember for certain whether he’d even seen him last summer or not. Trying to summon an exact mental picture of Rob’s face, Connell found that he couldn’t: an image would appear at first, whole and recognisable, but on any closer inspection the features would float away from one another, blur, become confused.
In the following days, people from school posted status updates about suicide awareness. Since then Connell’s mental state has steadily, week after week, continued to deteriorate. His anxiety, which was previously chronic and low-level, serving as a kind of all-purpose inhibiting impulse, has become severe. His hands start tingling when he has to perform minor interactions like ordering coffee or answering a question in class. Once or twice he’s had major panic attacks: hyperventilation, chest pain, pins and needles all over his body. A feeling of dissociation from his senses, an inability to think straight or interpret what he sees and hears. Things begin to look and sound different, slower, artificial, unreal. The first time it happened he thought he was losing his mind, that the whole cognitive framework by which he made sense of the world had disintegrated for good, and everything from then on would just be undifferentiated sound and colour. Then within a couple of minutes it passed, and left him lying on his mattress coated in sweat.
Now he looks up at Yvonne, the person assigned by the university to listen to his problems for money.