Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)
We didn’t have a lot in common, like in terms of interests or whatever. And on the political side of things we probably wouldn’t have had the same views. But in school, stuff like that didn’t really matter as much. We were just in the same group so we were friends, you know.
I understand that, says Yvonne.
And he did do some stuff that I wasn’t a big fan of. With girls his behaviour was kind of poor at times. You know, we were eighteen or whatever, we all acted like idiots. But I guess I found that stuff a bit alienating.
Connell bites on his thumbnail and then drops his hand back into his lap.
I probably thought if I moved here I would fit in better, he says. You know, I thought I might find more like-minded people or whatever. But honestly, the people here are a lot worse than the people I knew in school. I mean everyone here just goes around comparing how much money their parents make. Like I’m being literal with that, I’ve seen that happen.
He breathes in now, feeling that he has been talking too quickly and at too great a length, but unwilling to stop.
I just feel like I left Carricklea thinking I could have a different life, he says. But I hate it here, and now I can never go back there again. I mean, those friendships are gone. Rob is gone, I can never see him again. I can never get that life back.
Yvonne pushes the box of tissues on the table towards him. He looks at the box, patterned with green palm leaves, and then at Yvonne. He touches his own face, only to discover that he has started crying. Wordlessly he removes a tissue from the box and wipes his face.
Sorry, he says.
Yvonne is making eye contact now, but he can’t tell anymore whether she’s been listening to him, whether she’s understood or tried to understand what he’s said.
What we can do here in counselling is try to work on your feelings, and your thoughts and behaviours, she says. We can’t change your circumstances, but we can change how you respond to your circumstances. Do you see what I mean?
At this point in the session Yvonne starts to hand him worksheets, illustrated with large cartoon arrows pointing to various text boxes. He takes them and pretends that he’s intending to fill them out later. She also hands him some photocopied pages about dealing with anxiety, which he pretends he will read. She prints a note for him to take to the college health service advising them about his depression, and he says he’ll come back for another session in two weeks. Then he leaves the office.
A couple of weeks ago Connell attended a reading by a writer who was visiting the college. He sat at the back of the lecture hall on his own, self-conscious because the reading was sparsely attended and everyone else was sitting in groups. It was one of the big windowless halls in the Arts Block, with fold-out tables attached to the seats. One of his lecturers gave a short and sycophantic overview of the writer’s work, and then the man himself, a youngish guy around thirty, stood at the lectern and thanked the college for the invitation. By then Connell regretted his decision to attend. Everything about the event was staid and formulaic, sapped of energy. He didn’t know why he had come. He had read the writer’s collection and found it uneven, but sensitive in places, perceptive. Now, he thought, even that effect was spoiled by seeing the writer in this environment, hemmed off from anything spontaneous, reciting aloud from his own book to an audience who’d already read it. The stiffness of this performance made the observations in the book seem false, separating the writer from the people he wrote about, as if he’d observed them only for the benefit of talking about them to Trinity students. Connell couldn’t think of any reason why these literary events took place, what they contributed to anything, what they meant. They were attended only by people who wanted to be the kind of people who attended them.