This book is a work of fiction loosely based on George Orwell's 1984, but bears an uncomfortable resemblance to an abusive relationship I was in for eight years.
It is a story of Ernest, who never is. He lies with his words, actions, thoughts, and feelings and feels he needs to. He is married to Edith, who is named such because of her penchant for editing his past, their past, their individual futures, and their mutual future.
Edith is a model and a successful one. Her success has found her plastered on the walls of buildings, park benches, buses, television, everywhere. There are always eyes on Ernest. She is the cheeks, lips, nose and eyes of a line of makeup whose tagline is A Look You Can't Escape.
The following is an excerpt from Ministry of Love.
Ernest adhered to a notion he titled "Snapshot Guilt". Its credo was that at any point, one should not be doing anything that could be taken out of context and warrant punishment. Ernest thought of supermarket tabloids that painted elaborate stories of infidelity based on a single embellished photograph. Many who were often under public scrutiny required no proof aside from the frozen moment to be undeniably guilty of the claims strangers made.
He thought of Snapshot Guilt at the grocery when his receipt was handed to him. He thought of it when a woman at the gym inquired about an exercise he was doing and he felt compelled and prompted to demonstrate. He thought of Snapshot Guilt on the rare occasion he made a joke in the presence of a female and she was visibly amused.
Ernest knew Edith had countless acquaintances and friends in the sense that she would send them Christmas cards, but would need him to look up their addresses and the names of their spouses and children. These supplementary eyes could be anywhere, witnessing any fraction of any moment from a glance and that was all that was needed to establish just cause to squeal to Edith. He could hear them now.
"I saw Ernest at the newsstand," they would say.
"What was he doing?" Edith would inquire.
"I'm not sure. He was chatting with some woman over the gossip mags."
And that was all she needed to incite the onslaught of questions and accusations. His responses and explanations were never sincerely digested for the truth they were. Edith created her own truth, The Truth, and everything he offered was tainted by suspicion. If he said there was no such interaction, it would be taken as calling her friend a liar and be followed by the question of "Why would she make that up?" Ernest knew her friends were not truly good enough friends to be realistically offended if he called their integrity into question, but it did not matter. If Ernest defended himself by pointing out that he avoided the drivel that was the gossip mags and would never even be in that area of the store, it would bring further doubt into her mind whether his actions, when not in her presence, were of the same loyal fiber as when her watchful eye fell upon him directly.
So, Ernest watched himself through the eyes of a very partial observer for the snapshots that could be taken, then produced from a golden brown manilla envelope by a man in a trenchcoat. He saw it very clearly and avowed he would not let it become real. If he were to be captured on film, he would be wearing the countenance of begrudging tolerance.
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