Some things are decided for us.
I don’t want to travel unless she’s with me.
At the same time leaving them behind makes my heart heavy.
Therefore i am happy to stay put.
I have everything i need right here.
Some things are decided for us.
I don’t want to travel unless she’s with me.
At the same time leaving them behind makes my heart heavy.
Therefore i am happy to stay put.
I have everything i need right here.
It was a dry and hot afternoon as i set out for the restaurant, all the while consumed by a curious desire to drop my things and run till i was drenched and thirsty, mouth and tongue absolutely dry. I knew it was just my mind trying to take my attention away from what was to happen, which was somehow making me slightly nervous, and i thought it clever.
My workplace was not so far away and in less than a half hour i found myself at the entrance of The Soup Kitchen, our agreed-upon meeting spot. It was my suggestion and she’d happily agreed. I still don’t know why i made that phone call and i don’t regret it, but if you asked me to choose again, i’d say no. Not yet, at least.
This had been the place where we’d first officially dated five years ago, and it was an easy choice to make. Perhaps the familiarity of the venue would ease my growing nerves, and it didn’t hurt that their clam chowder was simply divine. It could also be that i didn’t get out much and this was clearly the only option on my mind.
To be honest this was perhaps the fourth time i was dining here, yet the place felt oddly familiar. It must have been the smells… yes, the aroma of the food served here has become inextricably linked with joy and good times. I’m big on smells, you see, and they really hammer in memories and feelings.
I gave my name and was shown to our table. What an interesting coincidence at that, for i found myself back at the exact same spot from five years ago. There was something reassuring yet slightly off-putting about being back in this seat. It was a good day, that day, but today is still uncertain.
Work had brought me to another country for a year, of which i had been back here a total of zero times. In that span we had grown first closer, then rapidly drifted apart. There was nothing of bad blood between us; things had simply taken their natural course and we followed along without protest. I guess eventually the waves stopped crashing, i washed up back to these shores, and we figured it made sense to pick up where we left off.
But something didn’t feel right.
And that’s when i saw her at the entrance of the restaurant. She did a quick scan and spotted me, her eyes going wide and a big smile breaking out instantly. She gave a cute little wave that somehow managed to convey the excitement and happiness she was feeling. I returned her smile, conscious that it wasn’t as automatic and sincere as i’d hoped it would be.
I have to admit she looked as good as i had imagined, though i remember she used to look better. Time, life, work and stress had started to take its toll on her, and in her short walk to the table i could see she no longer had that spring in her step. Her posture wasn’t one of strength and health, rather of practiced habit. But still her eyes had that unmistakable spark, her lips right at home in that sweet smile.
I stood up and we both embraced. Not as long as lovers do, but not as short as friends would.
‘Hey you remember this table, right!’ she asked excitedly.
Of course i did. And so we spoke, not forgetting to take some time off to scan through the menu.
The conversation flowed. I found her voice irritating, something i had never felt before.
She told me some exciting stories. Her actions were excessive and her style lacking.
Our food arrived, and as soon as i got that first mouth in, i knew the universe got at least some things right. So goo- why is she chewing with her mouth open?!
Obviously she was having a great time and was nothing less than thrilled to be able to see me again after so long. In fact she rapidly began so sink back into her comfort zone, to the way she used to be with me back then. She had that softness in her eyes again and she appeared to be at home, with me.
The conversation took us somewhere i can’t remember. I was losing focus, getting bored, doing my best to look as excited and into-it as her. Then i got an opening and just dropped the bomb.
‘Shall we get married?’
I couldn’t stop myself. I had no idea what i was doing but none of that showed on my face.
And she started crying.
She loved me so much and we were always so good together and yeah we fought but we stuck through it all. Then we drifted apart and gosh that was so strange but we were okay and where were we after that, i didn’t know, but it didn’t feel wrong. And then you came back and i couldn’t receive you and silence for a few days and then you called me and oh Jacob, this is all so much, oh Jacob… I’m… I’m ready. Yes. I’ve wanted this and i still do and i knew we still loved each other yes we should get married oh my God you just proposed to me oh baby did you just propose i’m sorry i can’t stop crying oh baby come here.
She was crying and smiling and holding me and i was smiling and not really holding on to her and screaming in my head.
I wanted to pick my things up and run, just get away, but then i saw there was still some delicious clam chowder in my bowl and my heart did a little jump for joy.
If i could turn back time, would i do it again?
Of course not.
It was an accident that was meant to happen. It’s true that i’ve learnt a great deal from my injury and it has made me become a much better person in so many ways. Whilst i accept how things happened and am grateful as well, i will definitely, absolutely refuse to break my back attempting that stunt once again.
Sometimes we need an absence of choice so we can move forward; that’s the only way we’ll swallow the bitter pills we need.
There was a time when i thought that having alone time was the best thing in the world. That rapidly changed as i approached 30; my circle of friends had dwindled considerably and for the first time ever, i began to feel lonely.
As if the universe took pity on me, i literally ran into the girl that i knew i had to marry. I don’t even know why she said yes but within a year we were hitched and happily living together.
For another two years the both of us conquered life with a little more zeal and zest than before we were married. There was something about having someone on your side, like a teammate, that made things just that much easier or bearable. Life seemed pretty awesome, until the old loneliness crept back in.
The two of us were one; that’s the only way i can put it. I’d come home to find her at computer, or napping, or reading, and though happy, we would feel this emptiness lingering. On the days that i was home and she went out to work, i couldn’t help but feel that something was missing from our household.
And then it hit me: we needed a child. We were a damn good couple and we were ready for the next ‘natural step’ in our lives.
I broached the topic with her and she took it up surprisingly quickly. Apparently she had been toying with the idea as well but didn’t really know if it was just a mood or a legit thing. After a bit of thinking and forecasting how life would be with a baby around, we decided once and for all that we would indeed try for a child.
And less than a year later she was brought to this world. I’ll tell you the truth, the moment i first saw her i couldn’t help but recoil a little at how ugly she looked, but they cleaned her up and there she was… my adorable little girl.
The first few days were exciting: everything was new to her and us, and we didn’t mind the sudden and extreme disruption in our schedule. One moment i thought she looked more like me, and then awhile later i was sure she took after her mom more.
In about two weeks the reality of having a child began to sink in, and it was not fun. Her constant crying, the lack of sleep, and how alarmingly quickly the novelty of having a newborn wore off… it started to take a toll on me.
I found myself dreading going to bed because i knew i’d have to wake up again not long after. No more impromptu dates as either one of us would be too tired. I hated it. Most of all, i hated that i hated it. I wasn’t prepared for it and i beat myself up over it.
Why didn’t we just get a dog or a cat instead?
And then one day, when my wife took the day off to go for a short spa retreat with her close friends, i was alone with the child. At first she slept quietly, but then the crying began.
It would not cease. Whatever i did, it never stopped. It kept crying. IT was inconsolable and starting to frustrate me greatly.
I picked IT up and cradled it, shushing and singing and rocking gently. No use.
So i did the only thing that came to my mind: i hugged IT close to me, tightly, its face pressed into my chest, till slowly but surely, it stopped moving. I kept hugging. I didn’t want to let go till i was sure.
I stood that way for about a half hour, then put it down in the crib and went to take a nap.
I had given us a chance to take a step back and try something else instead. A cat, probably.
And if that didn’t work, we’d just make another.
For the first time in a long while, i slept like a baby.
It’s funny how a person could once be a huge part and priority of your life, and very quickly mean nothing to you. Whether they lived or die, you wouldn’t bat an eyelid.
Sometimes we pour in a lot of resources and effort to make a stupid idea work just because the boss doesn’t have the cojones to go with a slightly riskier but better idea, or just can’t accept that someone else had a better way of doing things…
I make myself look happy because it keeps everyone from getting too sad.
Most of how good you look depends on your teeth.
He came right up to me, his face red and shiny, eyes bulging.
“Go on punk, take a swing, you useless thing. COME ON! HIT ME!”
I was raging, I heard nothing but his voice, and my hands felt light. My fists were clenched tightly, begging to be slammed into that annoying face.
And then I sighed, and all the anger flowed up as though a stopper was pulled.
“No, I won’t. I taught your daughter even before I knew who she was. She’s an absolute darling. It’d break her heart to see her father injured. So for her sake… No. You can take your fight elsewhere…”
There was nothing left for me there, so I simply turned and left. He stood there with his eyes wide open and although his lips were tight, you could see a lot of the anger had left him too.
It could’ve gotten real ugly real fast, but honestly I think neither of us regret not having taken it all the way.
Things became awkward for a bit, but he had to get used to the fact that I absolutely adored his little girl, even though I was now at loggerheads with her father.
And it took us some time, but here we are now, everything all cleared up. We can laugh about that day now, sure, and I don’t feel any more anger or resentment towards him; it’s just shame that’s left.
I might be getting used to it
Jumping from one hell to another
Leaving each before I reach
The point of no return
I’ve got no home
No friends, no love
Just the stress of having
To always leap
And one fine day
I’ll jump my last
Squarely into my grave
So perfectly cut, I’ll snugly fit
And finally fall asleep
Who do you
Think you are
Head so high
Just a punch
And you’ll come
Fats and all
Let me please
Hit your face
Please, I say
Let me just
Sink your goddamn corpse into the ground
A scientist invents something inanimate but it seems so life-like. He doesn’t realize his child somehow got trapped in it.
I find that a bald person makes me think of how fragile the head is. In actual fact, the whole human body is fragile.
Who is worse? The one who is oblivious to his surroundings and so misses a chance to do good, or the one who starts, hesitates, then abandons the good deed.
Is something still oppressive if you find out it actually benefits you? How do you weigh long term goodness against short-term discomfort.
Existence is three dimensional or more. Two and one dimensions are mental constructs and make sense as ideas, but are not a natural part of this world. For example, we can imagine superluminary speeds, time travel, aliens, cosmic beings and so on, but that does not make them real.
I think the entire story below is too long and unexciting; this looks like a better version: There was once a boy who was depressed but somehow was convinced he was schizophrenic. He had a very curious explanation about the absence of voices in his head. According to him, the people around him disliked him and bullied him, said negative things. His parents, however, were always loving and patient. He figured that his mind was playing tricks on him, causing him to not notice that it was actually his parents who were saying all the bad things. Their love and kindness was a façade, a product of his ‘schizophrenia’. So he killed them. Miraculously, the ‘voices’ went away; months after the murder, he claimed he never heard anyone say anything negative to him anymore. But then to an outsider it would make perfect sense that anyone in solitary confinement could say that (the exception being real schizophrenics).
The Psychiatrist’s Account
We will now look at the peculiar case of a patient who was convinced that he was wrongly diagnosed.
In late February of 2002, a Frederick Mitzberg was referred to my clinic for treatment of acute depression. Frederick was 21 years old at that time and was struggling in school, being at risk of repeating his second year of college, for the second time. He came from a lower-middle class family comprising his father who was a shop owner and his mother who worked at a bakery.
Our investigations into his past years and academic performance revealed that Frederick was usually one of the top performers in his class. He was active in track and field, but his sporting days saw an abrupt end when he hurt his back in an unfortunate road accident at age 17. A herniated disc partially fragmented his spinal cord, causing him to lose sensation in most of the left side of his body. It was apparent that his ‘disability’ affected him greatly. His grades plunged in the months after his injury, although he barely scraped through and succeeded in passing the grade. The next year didn’t seem to hold much hope for him and his grades continued to suffer. He decided to take a six month break from school. During that period he went through more intensive rehabilitation sessions in the hopes of reclaiming a normal life. There was evidence that he attempted yoga and meditation as well.
By the time he was ready to resume school, the academic year was drawing to a close. Out of goodwill the school allowed him to sit in his classes under the precondition that he understood and agreed that he would not sit for the promotional examinations, and that he would repeat that year of study.
Things seemed to brighten up for awhile. Despite the awkwardness in adjusting to fit in with his younger classmates, Frederick seemed to be coping at an acceptable level. His grades were not good but they were at least consistent. Despite the apparent progress, his father was not too satisfied with his performance. Business had been bad and the money spent on Frederick’s health had, and was still taking a toll. It might have gone unnoticed at that time, but interviews with Frederick’s schoolmates shed light on his father’s slow but gradually increasing impatience at his son’s lackluster performance. His closest friends recounted that Frederick had once voiced his, and his father’s worry, that he would not be able to complete his education and get himself a good job; his father’s shop was definitely suffering so their future seemed rather bleak.
Soon after his grades began picking up, his father’s worries being a probable motivation for him to do better. Unfortunately though, the increased effort he was putting into schoolwork slowly led him to feel stressed out. In the past he would go for a run or engage in a sport when he needed to clear his head. Although he could walk more normally now, an awkward limp was the closest he could get to running. He did start new hobbies as compensation, alas old habits die hard. He was spotted sitting by the tracks many afternoons, silently watching people train and run about freely.
His school counsellor was alerted to this development and was quick to intervene. She had counselled and monitored him since his return to school. In our interview, we learned that what Frederick missed most was the adrenaline rush from playing competitive sports as well as the ‘high’ he achieved when running long distances. It made sense then that Frederick had tried to shoplift to experience that rush, however rash that decision.
The shop owner did not call the police as he took pity on Frederick, given his condition. Unfortunately, some onlookers were not so sensitive and one reportedly mocked the boy as the rest laughed. It was very likely that incident which caused Frederick to spiral once more into sadness. For the next few weeks he displayed erratic behavior, getting angry at his parents for ‘pitying’ him because he was ‘handicapped’, then disappearing from classes only to be found sitting at the track sobbing. My hypothesis is that he was going through a delayed phase of denial. From my experience, observations and studies, I should remark that it is not uncommon for more intelligent patients to somewhat ‘skip’ the denial stage, or experience it briefly, once afflicted with a significant ailment or life-changing condition. This is probably due to their better ability at reasoning and coming to terms with reality, as well as the higher probability of better social and familial support.
In this case, a trigger event had unhinged the doors that were, up till that point, suppressing strong and violent emotions about his condition. It was at that point that his councilor and therapist thought it absolutely necessary to engage the aid of a psychiatrist.
In my first session with Frederick I noticed that there were dark circles under his eyes, probably an indicator of a lack of or poor quality sleep. His demeanor was of one who had adopted a negative, and fiery outlook towards the world. I was slightly shocked at the severity of his ‘degeneration’, so to speak, as his councillor’s written profile was a stark contrast to the person it supposedly described.
After an initial assessment and the expected refusal to share much, I gave a prescription of chemo stabilizers to regulate his mood as well as induce calmness. It was only a week later that his mother called, saying her son refused to take anything and had thrown the whole box out the window.
Having dealt with such cases before, I knew, more or less, how best to approach this patient. Slowly, we started seeing progress, and within 3 months, Frederick had started to share his feelings. He had become quiet and introverted, shunning almost all company. Feedback from the school told me that he had become disinterested in speaking to his friends and would sometimes anger them. My guess, at that point, was that he was subconsciously giving himself reassurance for distancing himself and for his lack of social interaction. By chasing people away, he had ‘evidence’ that people did not want to be with him anyway.
I started to worry a little when he told me, at our tenth session, that someone had called him ‘schizo’. I was confused as to why that person would say that, but I had my doubts. Frederick could have simply misheard a comment; unfortunately, it stuck to him and he revealed later that he thought he was schizophrenic.
I took pains to explain to him the medical condition of schizophrenia, common indicators and how his situation differed greatly. Somehow, he did not believe me and chose instead to further damage his reputation in school. By the end of the semester, teachers had given feedback that although his grades were improving remarkably, Frederick was becoming very hard to work with. He would argue with classmates and teachers alike, and it wasn’t long before the people around him took to hating him. Whatever pity and empathy they had for him previously was lost, and some had even started teasing him.
While I, as an outsider, could see the reason behind their behavior, Frederick chose instead to be further incensed. I had modified my prescription, and he did take his medications, but it was only later that I discovered how he would swallow a handful of pills at a time.
Through all this, he maintained that he was actually schizophrenic and that I had wrongly diagnosed him. He got angry at me a few times, accusing me of being ignorant and irresponsible. While I was not insulted by his words, I saw them as a sign of a worsening problem, so I started seeing him at school and at home. It was the examinations period, so I felt it absolutely essential that I increased my intervention as his stress level increased with the pressures of the exams.
It was at his school that I managed to observe him as well as speak to him right when he was feeling his strongest emotions. And it was at home that I saw the drastic change in environment; in school he was either left alone or spoken to harshly, but at home his parents were infinitely patient with him. His father, obviously sufficiently stressed about his business, chose to keep quiet more.
Then one day Frederick shared with me something truly disturbing. The conversation is still etched in my memory:
‘I really am schizophrenic.’
‘Why do you say that?’
‘I know I’m supposed to hear voices, but what if that’s not exactly what they meant?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I read that schizophrenic people hear voices telling them things they don’t want to hear, or giving them instructions. Right?’
‘That happens, sometimes, b-‘
‘EXACTLY. I’m always hearing bad things about me,’
‘Who says these bad things?’
‘…Usually people at school,’
‘That’s the thing. If I’m schizophrenic, then it doesn’t make sense. I have an explanation,’
‘Tell me, I’m listening,’
‘I’m always hearing negative things everywhere, but my mother is always telling me good things and my father usually keeps quiet. So I think they’re the ones who are actually saying all the bad things, but my mind is tricking me into thinking that my schoolmates are saying the bad things. For some reason it’s trying to convince me that my parents are as good to me as they have always been, when in reality they hate who I am now,’
‘Frederick, perhaps you should rethink this,’
‘I did, and the more I think, the more it makes sense,’
‘So what now?’
‘Since you’re not going to give me medication for my schizophrenia, I’ll cure it myself. I’ll make the bad things stop, somehow,’
My mind raced to think what could cause such behavior in an otherwise intelligent mind. Because of his habit to overdose, I had stopped giving him medication. Perhaps the lack of it was causing a chemical imbalance? Was there something I missed?
I decided to lie to him, to agree to give him ‘medicine for schizophrenia’. I had my pharmacist fill a bottle of Risperdal with B Vitamin pills, and warned him to take this medication seriously. He was to take one pill a day, not more not less, for one week. Then we would assess his situation.
To my great relief my little trick had worked. Frederick appeared more at ease, and even, I daresay, a little happy. This was the beginning of rapid improvements in his mood and behavior, and in the next 3 months he was back to his quiet mode, although this time he did not alienate himself. It was the school holidays, a few weeks shy of the release of the examination results. Frederick went out with his friends now and then. He told me he didn’t talk much, rather just listened and laughed.
Unfortunately, things did not stay good. On the 1st of March, a day before the release of his exam results, Frederick was arrested as suspect to the murder of his parents. As his doctor, I was allowed to speak to him. A sobbing Frederick told me that he was excited for his results, he knew he would do well. He was expecting a place in a good university and he didn’t want anything to ruin that. He had to make sure the voices would not come back, so as a precaution he mixed rat poison into his parents’ food. He had bought and kept the poison the day I gave him his ‘schizophrenia medicine’, as a failsafe.
The rest is irrelevant to this account.
The Account That Would Have Mattered
Blake McIntyre, Schoolmate
Orphan, has Type 1 diabetes, financially difficult
Frederick is throwing a tantrum in class. ‘You don’t understand! My life is difficult! Don’t just expect me to be nice to all you lucky normal people,’
Blake, offended and hurt, turns to his best friend, and says, ‘Lucky? Normal? What does he know…’
Why It Would Have Mattered
Frederick misheard ‘What does he know…’ as ‘What a schizo…’
“Jeremy, perhaps you should reconsider what you’ll say next,”
“No, you know what, I’m gonna say it anyway. And y’all listen to what I think. This man is a fraud. He talks some good stuff but then when you buy in to his message, he starts telling you to do weird things, little by little. I know I’m not a good person. Hell, I’m a bad person, but I know I believe in God, and God won’t make us do those things you said. And maybe God brought a person like me, who’s rude and shameless, to tell someone like you, to pack your bags and get the hell out of our town cos you’re a fake and a MORON. Wake up, all of y’all! What’s gone into you people?!”
A team is like a house: all the parts are of equal importance, but when assembled some must go up and so we down.
Without the roof the house is not protected from the elements.
No proper floor and even standing can be unpleasant.
Take away the walls and the structure collapses.
Therefore leadership and servitude are merely different tasks, independent of rank. Hierarchy aids in the function and does not mean someone is better than the other.
Respect, togetherness and humility are essential.