Brooke (no, that’s not him in the picture)

A long time ago, there was a guy named Brooke. He was young and fit – had plenty of friends. He’d failed the test to be accepted into the police force, so he was studying Political Science in the hopes of working as “private security”. I’m not really sure why I chose to hang out with him every day, other than the fact that I was depressed at the time and he was a big, sharp rock to hurl myself against.

Brooke claimed to love women. In fact, Brooke seemed to love women so much that he thought we were a different species. Every so often he would spout some delusional thought like “If women ran the world, there would be no wars”. I presumed he was gay and just in a lot of denial.

See, the trouble was that even though Brooke claimed that women were wonderful/beautiful/magical unicorns, he didn’t seem to like any of the actual women that he knew. If you listened to his stories, every real woman in his life was apparently crazy, or unstable, or stupid. I was in his life, and I was all three. He told me so. Many times.

The reasons that I stopped hanging out with Brooke every day are fairly complex. He invited me to a party at his flat one night, and then belittled me in front of his friends before ignoring me for the rest of the evening (despite the fact that I knew nobody else there). That was the night that I discovered that an uncomfortable number of his friends were openly racist. That was also the night that he dragged me into his bedroom to “show me something” and proceeded to take off his shirt and flex. I promptly left the party, thoroughly confused. The next time I saw him, we were discussing a previous agreement to help proofread one another’s project work. I’d helped him with his assignment and asked if I could arrange a time to drop my stuff round to him so he could reciprocate (because he’d kept fobbing me off and was never home when he told me to call him). He responded by saying that I needed to stop asking because his flatmates thought I was stalking him… And I literally turned on my heels mid-sentence and walked away across the university carpark. My thoughts ran something along the lines of “Fuck him. He’d be lucky to have me stalking him!”

A few days later, as I sat in a lecture theatre, he came in and sat down next to me – chatting away happily like nothing had happened. In front of the whole class, I got up and moved to another seat. I never spoke to him again. He was a complete asshole.

Now it would be nice to say that I’d learned my lesson early and never again deigned to spend time with a life-sucking narcissist. But life isn’t that simple, and apparently I’m not that smart. I haven’t thought of Brooke in many, many years though… until today when I was reading about Salman Rushdie and his ex-wife’s description of their relationship. Of course, being a life-sucking narcissist is not limited by sex, so it’s probably not fair to contend that Rushdie fits into a “type” of men. What the story describes is simply a type of person – the same type of person as Brooke and so many others. Egos and power are both dangerous things in the wrong hands.

We would all do well to just get up and move to another seat. Take it from me.

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