Thursday, May 17, 2012

Post 16

“John?” the pretty doctor was at his bedside. John opened his eyes. He must’ve fallen asleep, as the light coming through the window looked different. More afternoon and warm light. He sat up.

“You don’t seem too happy? I would’ve expected you to be packed and ready to go?” He looked at her. “I don’t think I’m better. I think I should stay some more.” Her eyes narrowed. “What are you talking about?” she asked. He stayed quiet for a while and then relayed the whole incident earlier with the psychologist.

After he had finished speaking she looked at him for a while. “You realise this makes no sense?” she offered. “What do you mean?” he ventured. “Well, in order for Paul to send emails to real people, in the real world, without you knowing, you would need to be having schizoid episodes, which honestly, you’re not. All your delusions have been conscious experiences. So…” John stared at her. “Are you telling me the psychologist was having me on, because I swear I’ll kill him. That’s not funny.” She shook her head. “Nah, that would be super stupid and silly.”

They both sat in silence for a while. “Paul certainly isn’t real. That I can tell you.” She looked at him. “When did you speak to the psychologist you said?” “Straight after our meeting. He pulled me aside and said he had a message for me.” She stared at him for a while.

“John, he left the office with me and walked with me to my office. He never spoke to you straight after the meeting.” He stared at her. “So, with other words, I was seeing things again?” She nodded. “It could be the stress of your release that has just been too much and this caused a bit of an episode…,but…” “I’d better stay another couple of days till we’re sure?” he finished the sentence for her. “Yes, I think so.” He looked down to the floor. He was still wearing his running shoes. “OK.”

She briefly touched his shoulder, walked out and closed the door. He sat staring at the floor for another couple of minutes, looked up, and came to a decision. “Ok, Paul. Let’s chat.” He reached over to the side of his bed where the tablet computer was sitting. He started typing an email address: paul@notsoreallifestory…. then,

Hi Paul

It seems you’re looking for me. How strange. Let me know if you’re available for a cheroot when I’m out.



He hit "send”, put the tablet down, and leaned back on the pillow. He fell asleep shortly after and while he was fitfully getting some rest, a reply was received in his inbox.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Post 15

The money from the little policy came through and was deposited in a brand spanking new savings account. John felt relieved. He was reaching the end of his stay in hospital and rehab and had only a couple of days left before he would be set loose on all man-kind. Using the internet, he had already secured a small 1 bedroom flat in town, its windows facing the back of other buildings on all sides, and thankfully, no old trees. He was able to check the street out with Google's Streetview and do a virtual tour of the apartment, using the tablet computer. Technology was really getting cool, he thought.

He was looking forward to getting back into society, although the nerves chewed him good and proper at the best of times. The pretty doctor visited every day and they've started chatting about other things than his recovery, and he found that she was prone to ironic jokes, dry remarks and generally easy to get along with. Her opinions on topics were well thought-through, but in no way pompous, self-righteous or condescending. She seemed to be comfortable with changing her opinion on things. This was quite remarkable to John. As a bit of a cynic, conceding points did not come naturally, but he could see how this way about her helped their friendship.

He had even started jogging around the hospital grounds, and was pleased to realise that he still hated jogging as much as he used to, and that he'd much rather try a round of tennis than running, but it felt good nonetheless to be physically fitter. His legs became stronger, his mind sharper and his general sense of well-being returned to levels he had last, years before his accident. Aah, new beginnings.

As part of his treatment, and to make sure he didn'tcompletely hatch a new head, he was kept on mild anti-depressants, while most of the other medications were stopped gradually. He was glad for that, as some of them made him tired and sleepy, others made his stomach cramp and gave him flatulance, and taking it together like he had, it turned him into a lazy middle-aged fart.  He was assured that the anti-depressants were not responsible for his sense of well-being, but rather his recovery. The pills were simply making it possible for him to feel good. He didn't care. He'd take laxatives if it made well-being possible.

At times he was still struck by nostalgia. When now and again he walked past the hospital kitchen and he smelt the coffee brewing he couldn't help but feel a pang of sadness for his little shop. He was listening to lots of classical music, but he really missed his obscure blues and rock albums. He also couldn't wait to sink his teeth into a good novel. He was getting a tad fed-up with the magazines and the literary mediocrity that so often goes along with it.

On the last day prior to his departure, he was called to a group into a meeting with the pretty doctor, the physiotherapist and a psychologist. The psychologist looked vaguely familiar, but John couldn't place him immediately. They conducted a rather brief interview with him to establish whether he was physically and mentally fit to re-enter society. The psychologist asked a couple of questions in a slightly disinterested manner, while the physiotherapist and the pretty doctor enthusiastically questioned him, commented on his progress and made encouraging noises most of the time. The psychologist kept staring at John in a rather unnerving manner when he wasn't asking seemingly inane questions like ' Do you miss your friends ?' Didn't this guy read his file? What friends? Then he'd ask if John was traumatised by this whole experience. Not being sarcastic was difficult, but John managed to politely answer that yes, indeed, it was rather traumatising to lose everything he owned, 9 years of consciousness and any sense of place he had acquired up to the incident 9 years ago.

After half-an-hour, everyone seemed satisfied that John was fit for consumption by the modern world, and he would be suited to be absorbed by everyday life in a manner befitting to any single, 42 year old male. As they were about to leave the room, the psychologist pulled John aside.

'I hope you don't mind a quick chat?' he asked, looking John straight in the eye. 'Sure, shoot', John answered, not sure what to expect of this sudden private moment. 'Paul sends his regards.'
John looked at the psychologist for a moment, not comprehending, nor recognising the name. 'Paul?' he asked. The psychologist's eye seemed to narrow. 'C'mon, yes, John. Paul? Paul hopes you're well, and he'd like to catch up once you're out and have found your feet. He says he's keen to have a couple of philosophical discussions over a coffee and a cheroot.'

Up until the mention of the cheroot John's mind was still playing catch-up, but at the mention of those foul smelling little cigars, his heart lept in his chest, knocking his breath of his lungs and making him gasp involuntarily. He barely got enough breath back into his lungs to speak.

'Who. The. Hell. Are. You.' he hissed through his teeth. Who was this? He took a step back. 'The psychologist looked at him quizzically, suddenly all innocense. 'I'm the ward psychologist, obviously. I just got a note in my email from a Paul, asking me to give you this message. Apparently he's heard through someone who works here who knows someone who's engaged to someone... you the grapevine, .... that you're here. What's wrong?'

John stared into the man's eyes, trying to see deception. There seemed to be none that's obvious. He looked down. 'Thanks', he managed. Then a thought struck him and he looked up: 'Could you possibly get me his email address? I'd like to catch up with him when I'm out?'

The psychologist smiled suddenly. 'Sure. In fact, I remember it, strangely enough. It is a bit of an odd one, so I guess it's why I remembered. It's Paul@notsoreallifestoryshop....' The world started fading and going black before the guy even finished the sentence. John closed his eyes, breathed deeply, and opened them again, managed a smile and said: 'Yes, indeed, strange that is. Thanks.' He turned around apbruptly, walked back to his room, got on his bed, closed his eyes and tried not to scream.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Post 14

Well, courtesy of moi, please enjoy the song (and download and share if you wish), while you read this edition. This song I recorded on a 4-track, quietly while everyone in the house were sleeping. At midnight. In the living room. It’s a meditative jam, played from the heart. No composition, just playing into my fingers.  - Ed.

During the next three weeks his muscles firmed up nicely, he felt less weak, and he really started looking forward to his daily exercise with the physiotherapist. He even enjoyed the sunshine, the feel of the breeze on his skin as he walked around outside and the smell of urban air. He started to like the little grey highlights in his hair, and went as far as to make peace with the slightly longer hair coming out of his ears and nose. He still couldn’t help but be surprised at how stiff his whole body was from a decade of lying down.

Slowly but surely he was also introduced back into modern society by the staff with a steady flow of magazines and books to keep him occupied, and he even braved a couple of other radio stations. As was the case 9 years ago, the pop music bored him to tears along with the frivolous banter of the DJ’s, so he opted for the classical station soon enough.

He was not entirely surprised to find that the world was still obsessed with the lives of the famous, although he was fairly certain that the celebrities were getting younger and younger, and more prone to misbehaviour than before. Late teens seemed to be the going age for complete moral melt-down now. He always felt that mid-twenties was more appropriate for that type of lifestyle, but hey, who’s to say teenagers can’t decide to screw up their lives for themselves?

Another interesting development was also a tablet computer, with surprisingly little computer power, features or obvious use, apart from surfing the net, sitting on social networks and wasting time. Oh, and making phone calls?! He was introduced to this by one of the nurses, who was reading all her books on the thing. He couldn’t help but think of the song “Video killed the radio star”. Well, as long as people were writing, it probably didn’t matter if it was read on papyrus, card-board, parchment, vellum or LED. He didn’t like the feel of the thing though. Books shouldn’t need batteries, right? It was pretty cool to be able to get online so quickly, though, and the quality of information available was greatly increased from nine years prior. Not to mention the connection speed and the amount of bad blogs.

John was slowly but surely regaining his mental limberness, and soon he found himself at various intervals making dry and embarrassingly cynical jokes, but at least his sense of irony was growing, and he found himself smiling at little situations every now and again. Of the Beatles there were no sign as of yet, at he was glad not to remember the Intentionally Bad and the Intellectually Ugly.

Ironically enough the orderly who came to clean his room every morning, was named Ringo. He was pretty sure Ringo was real, though, as Ringo was way too preoccupied with and knowledgeable about women and sex to have any root in John’s mind or history. He was a walking encyclopaedia of derogatory names for women, their body parts, lewd acts and all movies featuring any amount of nudity whatsoever. He was sweet though, in that he smuggled some Coca-Cola into John’s room every now and again, from the hospital cafeteria. He was vulgar, but in general male interactions, he must’ve meant well.

“Where will you go after the rehab is completed?” the pretty doctor asked one afternoon during tea in the recreation room. He looked troubled for a moment, then smiled, and said, “Not sure, but I reckon I’ll see if I can rent a room somewhere, and maybe just get a basic cash job, like waitering for a couple of months. Maybe then find something in administration again.” She looked pleased at that answer. He was glad she was pleased, but he didn’t have the energy to confront her with what he intended not to do. And that was waitering and working in administration. He was fairly certain he could get back into self-employment without the mind-numbing exercise of looking for work and explaining a lost decade in his CV.

“You must remember to come for your monthly meetings, as well. Those keep you in touch with progress you still need to make, and makes it possible for me to monitor it.” He smiled again, “Sure.” He intended to come for these meetings. She was about the only person he’d been having any real conversations with for, well, nine years. In fact, probably more like fifteen years. And he had a feeling people out there might not be so accepting of a mental institution out-patient as one would hope. How he was going to explain his lack of formal employment then was a problem for then. Right now he just wanted to get better. And he did. And in two separate spheres of consciousness, in two separate institutions, so did Paul, and so did George.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Post 13

Nothing changes much in a hospital bed. Shifting shadows, weird sounds down the hall and the ever diminishing quality of tea they bring him twice a day, are about the only variables. John was afraid of the sudden overflow of change he was going to face once he reached the outside world.

It had emerged since his conversation with the doctor, that he still had a dormant insurance policy buried in the recesses of his past. Disappearing of the grid like he did, losing his domicilium et citandi, his post office box due to non-payment and his consciousness, his policy just ended up sitting in drawer, filed as “awaiting action”. No kidding. He hadn’t made a payment in 9 years and it took them about 7 years to pick up on the fact that payments have stopped. It took them another 2 years to not do anything about it, except reverse pro rata the equivalent of 7 years of cover. It had occurred to the claims debtors clerk with the case that this person might’ve died or in another way become the beneficiary for some death or disability cover. But then again, not doing something about it seldom ended up with a dead person filing a complaint.

In this case, John, by a feat of sheer desperation, and a moment of panic, since he heard about his financial situation, started recalling any possible hidden treasures he might’ve had. He remembered anything from unclaimed laundry to a security deposit he put down on a video machine he rented once. Then he remembered the scrawny guy who came by his house, and by some miracle and persistence sold John a accident cover policy. John blessed his decidedly bad decision of buying a financial product from a guy wearing grey shoes and a ratty suit,  obviously being in worse financial shape than the unsuspecting citizens he was dishing out financial products and advice to.

He called for the doctor who agreed to sign off on the claim and sign the medical report as “accidental injury”. Well, if you ignore the suicide attempt, I suppose it could be ruled an injury. Anyways, that was nice of her, and she didn’t need to do that. He was grateful to her for that. As it turned out, he would be getting out enough money to set him up for about 3 months of frugal living. In the meantime, he had to make the best of bad tea and getting his body in shape to move around. And get through rehab.

The day after he had spoken to the pretty doctor and found out about his lost life, he felt most depressed. He felt quite frustrated with not actually shooting himself properly. Depression turned into the fruitful panic attack. Since then, he’s slowly but surely started piecing together scenarios for a possible new life, launched by just enough money to have 2 hours of fun in a casino. With things already going digital when he was still running a store, he had no idea how the literature and music retail business was doing 9 years later.

He spent the remaining part of that day pestering the nurses for bad tea, outside of normal tea-time, and trying to get his head around his bleakish future path. He knew there was a way into retirement eventually. He just didn’t hope it was by means of selling organs. Anyways, hope springs eternal.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Post 12

Happy to be Alive by DanieNel

(Ed – enjoy some music on me while you read. Download it, share it, go mad. From a collection of instrumentals I’m working on for a new album)

For the next few days John was kept in his bed, but not tied up anymore. He was not allowed to get up, and was kept on a catheter, since he would not be strong enough to walk yet. He was scheduled to begin rehab in a week or so, as soon as the doctors had decided that he was mentally up to walking. He spent most of his time staring up at the ceiling, trying to get to grips with the 9 years of nothing to remember. Thankfully the other two twats stayed put somewhere in the past. In fact, he felt very alone in himself. Almost lost.

The pretty doctor would check up on him twice a day, he’d get fed three times daily, the most awful food ever concocted, and generally be checked up on as you would on a sensitive science project.  He’d also get fed hands full of vitamins, anti-psychotics “just in case” and a cocktail of beta-phase medication, probably not even cleared by the medical board, just to see what it does. He felt like a chicken being stuffed with all sorts of delicacies by a zealous chef.  The pills left him feeling a bit weird, but he wasn’t sure what normal was anymore, so maybe being normal felt weird.

He asked for a radio, or something to listen to at least, and they obliged, bringing him an old wireless, mono-speakered, and tuned it into a classical music station. He was content with that, as he wasn’t sure if he was up to a pop-music station, just to find he’s so old now the music is too loud. The classical stuff kept him semi-calm anyways. The radio presenter seemed to have been at the station pre-9 years ago, as his voice sounded familiar.

After five days of doing nothing, except being, John decided to try and get up, and see if he can stand, or go for a walk, at least. He pushed himself up onto his elbows, amazed to find that it actually took serious effort to lift himself just that little. Thank goodness for physiotherapy while you’re in lala-land, otherwise everything would’ve atrophied and he would’ve been a limp lettuce leaf forever.  With some more effort he managed to get himself upright. The room started to spin, sway, swoop, dip, dive, dodge and duck. He closed his eyes for a couple of seconds, breathed deeply and opened them again. The room seemed to have shifted a couple of degrees, but certainly that was just his inner-ear fluids not used to actually doing their job.

With some more effort he swung his incredibly heavy legs over the side of the bed, just to lose his balance completely and topple over forward, face-planting on the ugliest plastic tile floor he has ever seen from close-up. “Fudge.” His ability to properly express himself had also diminished in the past decade. He pushed himself up onto his knees, felt the dizziness coming back, and decided to get back on his stomach, and maybe just rest for a while. This is how the pretty doctor found him a couple of hours later, fast asleep.

“John, wake up." She touched his shoulder gently. “Get up. What are you doing on the floor?” He opened his eyes wearily, turned his head toward the sound of her voice and mumbled something along the lines of “Went for a walk…”. She smiled, called for an orderly and they got him back on the bed soon afterwards.

Once he was back on his bed, he turned to her and asked: “I used to have a shop, a house, some things…, what’s happened to it?” She looked at him for a couple of seconds before answering: “Well, your shop was foreclosed on by the tax man, your landlord, and other odds-and-ends creditors, and your house was unfortunately also lost to that. Your personal belongings amount to a guitar, an old King James Version Bible and what seemed to have been some really old books, they found in your bedroom. All the rest was put to auction. At least all your debts were covered, and here you are a patient of the state, so at least you’re square.”  “A flat broke square.” She smiled. “I’ll be back tomorrow and we can start talking recovery and the road ahead. Get some sleep.” He simply nodded at her, turned his head away from her and tried to keep the tears from spilling down his cheeks before she left.

As the door closed behind her he let waterworks go its way. Nothing. He had nothing. He was no-one. He was a middle aged memory locked up in a hole and nothing to go back to. He was dreaming about his shop, the smell of coffee, the regulars, the musty smell of second-hand books, the sound of vinyls on his old hi-fi. He even missed his house with the stupid garden and that friggin’ tree.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Post 11

Again he woke up groggily, with a headache pounding the nerves behind his eyes. His mouth tasted like a handful of pennies and his chest burned as he breathed. As he was drifting into consciousness, and remembering the last frightful wake-up, he decided not to open his eyes, but rather test the environment with the four remaining senses.

Audibly he was stumped. There was nothing. The taste of copper and the pain of asthma didn’t make any sense either. He smelled his own sweat. Big help there. Cautiously he opened his eyes. He was looking at the same ceiling as before, the same bulb throwing a dreary yellow light.

He looked down to his feet. His hands were in leather straps, tied to the bed, and so was his feet. He was covered in an old sheet that was stained. The walls were a disgusting beige that could only be government issue. The panic started rising up in his throat again, making him breathe faster, but rather than call out the last time, he bit down on his tongue, closed his eyes and forced himself to calm down.

After a couple of minutes of controlled breathing, and battling a forceful panic attack, he felt brave enough to open his eyes again. He was still there. He turned his head as much as he could. High above him was a small barred window, there were no furniture in the room, or cell, other than his bed. As far as he could make out he was in a cell, possibly a hospital. He was wearing a white T-shirt. It felt like he was wearing a track-suit bottom, but he couldn’t be sure.

Weird recollections of a frightful encounter with a nurse that looked exactly like his dead grandmother started drifting through his mind. He had no recollection of arriving here either. He only remembered the Mexican stand-off between him, himself and he. His head was aching. He tried to remember even the smallest little detail, but couldn’t. In fact, it felt like it happened many years ago.

He decided  to try and get some attention back on him, hoping badly that his dead grandmother wasn’t going to show up and poke him in the arm with a needle again.

“Hello?” he ventured. “Hello?” he tried again. A little louder now: “Anyone?” “Helllooo?” After a couple of seconds he could hear the same rubber-soled footsteps coming to his door, put a key in the lock, turn it, and the door swung open.

A young woman, dressed in a doctor’s coat, with long blonde hair in a ponytail, a clipboard and a bunch of keys in here other hand entered. She was wearing thick-rimmed spectacles. She was pretty. She didn’t say anything, only walked up to the bedside briskly, put her hand on his wrist, felt his pulse for a couple of seconds, pulled out a little flashlight from somewhere, nearly jabbed him in the eye with it, and took a very interested peek deep into his eyes. One eye at a time.

“Hello?” he tried again, aware that his voice was very very creaky and scratchy. “Hello, John. I’m Doctor Radley, your attending psychiatrist. Do you know where you are?” He looked at her quizzically. “Psychiatrist?”

“Do you know where you are, John?” she asked, in a slow, even toned manner. “No.” “Do you remember coming here?” No, of course he didn’t. “Do you know who you are?” Good question. Till recently he could probably answer to the affirmative, but now he had to fill out his ID forms in triplicate, so he chose to answer: “Sort of?”

“John, you had a severe psychotic episode, which seemed to have lead you to try and commit suicide. Do you remember anything of this?” He looked at her, realising the gun and the last encounter with the evil twins were real in outcome. “Yeah. I think so.” “You were found in your front garden by a passer-by, who happened to notice you lying in your garden, with a gun in your hand, and blood pouring from your temple. Do you remember attempting to shoot yourself?”

He looked at her. “I didn’t …”, but instead of adding fuel to the fire, and admitting to the psychosis, he just said, “not much”. Then the word attempt came charging back into his mind. “What do you mean attempt to shoot myself? Didn’t I succeed? I thought there was blood running from my temple?” He could swear there was a grin forming in the corners of here mouth, but she kept here pose.

“No, you didn’t succeed.” “Did I miss?!” he asked, now completely embarrassed to think that he could miss his own head with the gun’s muzzle against his temple. “No, a roof tile slid from your roof, it seems, and fell on your head. Your house, by the way,  was damaged by a tree felled by a storm. The tile knocked you out, possibly, and on the way down, you fell with your head on the muzzle of the firearm, and it seemed to have given you severe head-trauma, augmenting the initial trauma of the knock to your head from the falling roof tile.”

“Ah.” Now he was embarrassed. “Why am I not in hospital? Why am I tied up in this bed in a mental asylum?”

She looked at him for what seemed like an inappropriately long amount of time, and answered slowly: “Because that happened almost 9 years ago.” He looked at her dumbfounded. She must be an in-patient, with access to the doctor’s wardrobe.”

John, you have been waking up to screaming ever since you were admitted to the hospital, on that day, and each time, you would be sedated to calm you down, only to have you wake up only screaming more blue murder.”

He stared at her long and hard. “How old am I?” he asked. “According to your records you’ll be turning 42 in August.” He breathed deeply. Tears formed in the corner of his eyes and started spilling down his cheeks. Just as suddenly his eyes seemed to dry up. He looked at her. “Don’t sedate me again.” She looked at him, studying him. “Ok, I won’t. Are you thirsty? You are kept on IV drip to keep you fed.”

He noticed the line running out his arm for the first time. “Yes.” She looked at him with a very interested expression on her face. “John, you’ve never asked not to be sedated. Every you wake up, you get a panic-attack and we sedate you. In nine years, this is the first time it’s not happened.” He realised she’s been completely, madly excited and ridiculously good at controlling her amazement at his near-resurrection. He just smiled and shrugged.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Post 10

Funny how when you wake up from a bad dream it takes you a while longer to realize that it was only a bad dream, and you still carry over that fright or anxiousness into the real world, whereas waking from a good dream, you immediately know it was a dream and you’re awake immediately, faced with the dreary reality of being. John was not afforded this luxury even. He awoke from a bad dream, just to find he was still in it.

The first thing he felt was an immense headache. The equivalent of tectonic plates not finding rest, but creating huge bursts of tsunami-like pain-waves through your consciousness. These waves of pain then pouncing the shore of wakefulness rather rudely, left John wondering if he had died, and was experiencing the wrath of God, or whether he had a rough night with illegally high proof beverages. Then he started remembering.

The strangeness of his confusing suicide situation that played out forced him to open his eyes and attempt a grasp at clarity. Not that it helped. He was in a room, 2 x 4, on a metal cot, hands strapped to the bedside with leather belts. He was covered with a sheet that had years ago gone yellow because of excessive starching and iron deposits in the municipal water. A weak incandescent bulb was fixed in the ceiling, adding it’s dreary tungsten glow to the weak daylight coming in through a little window high above his head.

Bile pushed up in his  throat, panic starting in his feet rushed up through his body, into his chest, sending his heart into mad pulpitations, sending blood rushing through his already painful head. Finally the panic rose through his throat and out into the room in a whimper, then a panic-filled shriek, and finally frantic screaming and flailing against the leather restraints.

“Help! Anyone! What the…? Where am… Heeeeelp!! God help me! HEEELP!!” he was screaming, wincing at the pain in his head, but screaming louder with every breath. Finally, after what seemed like months, but which was scarcely half a minute, he could hear a key turn in a lock, and a squeaky hinge waving a door open. Rubber padded footsteps rushed to his bed. His eyes was closed as he was screaming. A pinch in his arm made him stop flailing, open his eyes and wished he hadn’t.

The sedative worked quickly. Despite the panic he drifted into sleep within a second, the last image he saw burned into his consciousness, and as he fell asleep, its debris was left for the sub-conscious mind to reassemble in something more abstract, and even more terrifying.

And in the background of his dreams, he could swear he heard The Eagles play Hotel California.