“Well you know, Dave’s on depression meds now. I asked him where this sudden, unbearable sadness came from. He said the world was like a new kind of metal. Malleable but without any luster. Something else about putty in an absent playground bully’s hands, molded into crude sculptures and then flattened to make cheap copies of things. I believe the exact quote was…hold on, I stored it in my iPhone. Why don’t you just tell them, Dave? You can explain it better than I can.”
“Yeah, but tell them some of the key words from your doctor friend. (He sees some kind of therapist now weekly who isn’t even covered under our insurance plan. What kind of doctor’s visit isn’t covered by insurance?)”
+Not to question your credentials, but I was just perusing your paper plate plaque on the wall here for “World’s Best Friend.” Did you say you were a high school counselor?
-I frequent the local school systems a few times a week.
+Again, not questioning your credentials. Just remarking on the decor of the room. It’s a fun feng shui.
-Thank you. My wife is Korean. She handles the decor.
+Well that explains the shoes. I thought it might have been a “Jesus walking barefoot onto a sea of shag carpet” thing. I was afraid I’d have to explain to you that I wasn’t religious — not that I’m atheistic, necessarily. I just don’t claim a certain persuasion, and my mental jury’s still a little hung when it comes to the trials of God.
-What about spirituality… Do you consider yourself spiritual?
“Come on. What were those words you told me yesterday, the symptoms? Boredom. Apathy. Melancholy. On-wee.”
“Why can’t you talk about it openly it if it’s a disease? You take medication for it. More frequently than I take my acid reflux pills. More frequently than our Chris takes his acne medication.”
+I don’t believe so. Maybe I just attach the wrong connotations to spirituality. I associate it with yoga and hackysacks and organic food emporiums. College kids armed with magic markers and a piece of poster board. Makes me think of an anti-capitalist health regimen fabricated by capitalism. The original idea stolen from the East, and then grossly distorted. Kind of the converse of what They did to Western pop music.
-Any kind of regimen could prove helpful.
“I invited him to yoga class with me, you know, let a professional teach him how to relax his mind. Not to mention it would get him out of the upstairs recliner. But he declined. He thinks he can overcome all of this using his own form of meditation. All he does is sit in the recliner and stare at the flame on my Scentsy juniper sweet pea candle. For like minutes and minutes. Maybe even an hour sometimes. As if the flame will catch him on fire if he diverts his attention or gets distracted for even a second. Sometimes I wonder if he’s trying to asphyxiate himself with the fragrance.”
“Well they’re meant for special occasions, and you’re the only one of us who’s currently on permanent holiday.”
+I recycle crushed cans. Also, I take walks around the neighborhood. Sometimes — on the best days — the two activities intertwine. Good way to spend all this extra energy I have.
-How’s your sex life?
+What’s it called when you masturbate almost to climax right before having sex with your wife so you can get the whole process over with quicker? And then your wife cries afterward because she hasn’t come in two years?
“I have to tell the children that ‘Daddy’s practicing for a staring contest.’ Best I can come up with. Then, whenever I drag him out of the recliner and down into the living room, they challenge him, and it doesn’t even occur to him to let them win. Daddy’s undefeated. It could be excusable if Dave were engrossed in a television program or some other visual stimulant, but his attention remains fixed on the air in front of him. Like the air is smoke and he can actually see the individual particles. So the kids just look at his face until they get bored. It’s become our own version of Family Game Night.”
+Would you believe me if I told you all of this got worse, almost relapsed, after having children? My original psychiatrist increased my dose after marriage, and then bumped it up again after having kids. 80 milligrams. I’m standing on, like, the third and final tier of doses.
-Prepared to receive your gold medal?
+Hardly. Don’t think I can afford the extra weight around my neck. I didn’t even tell my wife of fifteen years I was taking the stuff until a few days ago. She always thought the capsules were vitamins.
-Prescribed from a pharmacy?
+How would she know what container adult vitamins come in? As long as they’re not stored in a box with Fred Flintstone’s endorsement on the cover.
-Checking the label?
+Eh, I consistently rubbed the pertinent information off with a nickel.
-Not quite the lottery ticket you were hoping for, I guess.
+Well if the ticket is personal privacy, then it actually is. Because I’ve achieved total insulation. But I think it might be a lot colder in here than in the outside world. Although it’s growing harder to tell. I’ve acquired the social equivalent of olfactory fatigue. I’ve even become estranged from strangers. They smile, I frown. They frown, I smile. I’ve spent so much time immersed in personal reflection, that I haven’t approached a mirror in weeks. Ketchup stains on my cheeks might have become scars. Do I look homeless?
-I wouldn’t say homeless. Maybe nomadic.
“It’s like he’s pitched a tent in his brain, so while his body’s living in the house, he actually resides in the tent, having his own little pow-wows, picking up and moving away on the most impulsive urges.”
+I could use a vacation from my mind. I’m beginning to think that too much self awareness can consume you, make you oblivious to the physical world. It becomes indulgent. Narcissistic even. You spend so much time thinking about yourself because you have an aversion to thinking about other people.
+I think I just dropped three puns in the last minute there. I wasn’t trying to demonstrate my linguistic prowess or anything. Or maybe I was.
-No judgment here.
+Well maybe judge a little bit. I wouldn’t mind a verdict. A lengthy sentence even.
-A verdict? You’re guilty of the need to control every facet of your life to the point of neurosis, where your brain is a jewel, and you see your reflection on every surface. A lengthy sentence? You can’t actually be in total control in the 21st century, nor in any other century, because we’ve always been dependent on various technologies to structure our lifestyles; for example, the chair determines your posture, and when you lean forward, its rigid position is still determining your rebellion; the air conditioner determines your body temperature, and if you exit outdoors, you’ll eventually have to come back inside — that’s where the conditioning part comes in; the amount of sleep you get before labor determines your energy, but if you sleep too much, you’ll only find yourself tired and unaccustomed to energy, needing legal stimulants like caffeine to maintain hourly focus; you enjoy cable TV service more than you enjoy a newspaper, yet ink blot profiles in the paper tell you that television is rotting your brain, and you’re unsure which medium has the more poisonous agenda; the drugs determine your mood, tweaking your brain as if turning a dial to the correct radio station that’s free of static, which is a great temporary distraction from the fact that the entire system needs rewiring; the Internet has replaced the original concept of experience, in that we no longer learn through empirical trial-and-error, but rather make a selection from a documented assortment of experiences related by faceless individuals who we are trusting more than ourselves; we’re self-sufficient only because we can depend on everything and everyone around us to function accordingly. Sorry, water. Or did you want me to tell you that life is inherently vacuous and you’re sentenced to feel this way for eternity?
+Did you really just say that?
“I just don’t understand the reasoning. Children in Africa eat an ant per day. Cancer patients head to strip malls only to browse the wig stores. Dave owns a time share at an Orange Beach condo, and he’s the unhappy one.
“I don’t know how you share time, Dave. But thank you for your first genuine contribution to the conversation this afternoon. (These are the kinds of things he says to me these days.)”
-Look. Relinquish control. React, without premeditation. There’s no peace to be found in premeditation. It’s a whole different time and space.
+React? You mean submit?
-Submission is what you’re doing. Reaction would be a kind of rebellion.
+But even if I rebel, isn’t the chair still determining my posture?
–How is the medication working?
+Well after receiving the extra pills, I assumed I was doing better, making minor improvements on the higher dosage. And then I bottomed out a couple of days ago at an Arby’s. My family was present.
-Why Arby’s and not KFC?
+KFC tends to be a little too greasy for my wife’s stomach. Plus, fewer monthly coupons folded into the newspaper.
-I’m sorry, I need to clarify. I meant to ask what it was about an Arby’s, specifically, that set you off? What was the trigger?
+Um. The script on my curly fries container said “Good Mood Food.’’ And my chicken finger box had a slogan: “Taste Happiness.” I was about two and a half fingers in, and I still wasn’t tasting it. The happiness, that is. Just that awful premature regret you feel eating American fast food. Needless to say I didn’t finish my meal. Had too much junk stored inside of me already. There wasn’t enough room. Like my body was nauseated with its own policies and passed a trade embargo where I had to let something of value out before I could take anything else of harm in. I spent the rest of the meal staring at my tears while my wife played entertainer to the kids.
-I’m sure Joplin would be proud.
+Why am I upset eating a substantial meal, when African kids eat fire ants and do nothing but flash white teeth in those National Geographic photos?
-I’ve seen plenty of photos in which those children aren’t smiling. Their faces masked with flies.
+Do you think that African kids ever get depressed? How do they avoid it when they live in complete poverty? They seem to have every other illness available. If you consider depression an illness. I feel like it’s almost a social affliction for latter 20th century America.
-Are you making a diagnosis?
+Maybe they let too much out and never take enough in to counterbalance it. Pure radiation that burns on fumes, from a lack of consumption. Or maybe that radiation is its own form of consumption. A substitute.
-I would venture to say that they don’t possess much control over any facet of their lives. Maybe you should try relinquishing control, as well.
+I don’t really have control. My brain controls me. On all the important stuff, anyway. Servants shouldn’t be allowed to be their own masters. The conflict of interest is inherent. My brain is a distorted antebellum South of gray matters. White authority mixed with Black servility. Please don’t analyze that as some kind of subconscious racism. I was just trying to make an analogy.
+Thanks. Sometimes I wish I was a character in a Miller Lite commercial. One of those guys at the sports bar that leaves the top button on his dress shirt unfastened and laughs at the feminine accessory of his fellow man. But the joke penultimately ends up being on those guys, defying their own standards of virility by drinking a light beer, and then ultimately on me, because I envy them as caricatures anyway. In every way.
-So you’re saying you watch a lot of TV?
+Well, it’s more like I was making commentary on pop culture or culture that gets voted the most popular and is thus, democratically, the most influential. I wonder if they have popular culture in Communist societies. Is it just uniform culture? Or even cultureless… In Soviet Russia, culture pop you.
-Feeling the sting of television’s fictional standards?
+Eh, television is mostly reality these days.
-Do you like movies, Dave?
+I prefer books, but yeah, I like a lot of films too.
-Have you ever seen the movie, The Karate Kid?
-Have you seen The Karate Kid?
“Sadness. For God’s sake, you’re a grown man Dave, not a kid karate kid karate kid karate kid You should be accustomed to issues like sadness and basic human socialization by now.”
+Uhhh I think maybe in early college when it first came out. Possibly while stoned. Wax on, wax off, etcetera. The waxing was all very poetic. Nothing that could really support a flame, though.
-I want you to go home and watch The Karate Kid and next time, tell me what you think. That’s it.
The Karate Kid?
The Karate Kid.
The Cure: Hot Tea, Kid!
–Do nothing else this week, Dave. Understand?
“Dave, are you listening? Are you with us here, now?”
Yeah, OK. I’ll rent it next week. See you as soon as I leave.