ONCE UPON A TIME, there was a man who lived in a small pocket-sized English city, and his name was Peter. Due to the prevailing socio-economic political climate and circumstances beyond his control, he had a total lifestyle failure and was left cowering and gibbering in the corner of his living room; when he wasn’t doing that, he routinely hid behind the settee. He realised one day that he’d accidentally failed to exit the front door for a fortnight, and considered this was not a good thing. So he decided to crawl out from his safe place to try to face the world bit by bit.
Unsure of how to do this, he went to the doctor, and was given some tablets or another which turned him into a legal junkie, and he spent an indeterminate period of time wandering around aimlessly, stoned out of his skull and usually with his flies open. Missing doorways by quite a large margin became the norm, no matter how much he allowed for the bloody things to expand and contract, he never seemed to get through them first time. Their casual sideways oscillation may also have been a factor.
He tried going out with friends, but it didn’t work. They simply failed to understand where he was at, even John – who’d been with him every step of the way during the previous failure. “Yes, it’s very upsetting, I’m sure,” John had said, “but it’s all you can talk about. Get over it, eh?”
Ah, well. Going back to the doctor, Peter mumbled something about the pills and the doctor printed out a new prescription for Patented Bottled Forgetfulness. In fact, what he was trying to tell her was that he wanted to remember, not forget, because when the anguish was taken away, so was everything else and he felt lost – even to himself. Especially to himself.
However, she didn’t listen; almost as if he weren’t there, and he began to wonder about being a figment of somebody else’s imagination, and it worried him. A lot.
One long dark midnight of the soul, he glanced briefly into a diminishing pit of remembrance and decided impulsively over several hours to flush the damn pills away. He went cold turkey, and it hurt. There were days when he couldn’t see straight, think straight or walk straight, but the sense of re-connection was worth the agony. Slowly, he began to feel less… polluted… by the Happy Doctor Anguish Reliever, and he claimed it all back. All the hurt, the disappointment, the puzzlement and the heartache. He’d worked very hard, very long hours and for not enough money to get where he was today, and he considered he was entitled to it. He thought, “I need to be with people like me, people who KNOW.” So he took himself off to the doctor who told him about a self-help fellowship and suddenly stopped.
“The pills are working well,” she commented. “Bugger off,” Peter scoffed at her. “I stopped taking them a month ago – that’s why.” The doctor nodded sagely and decided not to offer him Something Else. Although she wanted to. Desperately.
A few nights later, in an empty dingy tavern, Peter plucked up enough courage to ask at the bar about, “the group that meets here..?”
“Oh THEM” sneered the barman. “Unhappy bunch.” Looking into the air, he recited what must have been their regular order. “Four halves of a coke, a lemonade and a couple of orange juices. All they’d do is buy that one round and sit in the corner not talking to each other. They stopped coming – no great loss. Brought the whole tone of the place down,” he finished and spat into the glass he was polishing with a filthy rag. Peter didn’t bother with the rest of his beverage, and left. On the way home, he popped into the late night shop and saw a card in the window saying Depressives Anonymous had relocated to the cellar of a disused local government office building undergoing refurbishment. Off he went, Hollywood visions dancing in his mind: shaggable, intelligent – but tortured – sensitive people unburdening themselves. When he got there, he found a sign on tattered two-year-old paper informing him that the group had been taken over by Agoraphobics’ Assistance. He gave up and went home.
As he lay in bed, a radical idea occurred to him. Maybe he should address his… spirituality. “Yes!” he thought. “Go to church. Feed the soul!” So that’s what he did – the very next day, as it happened.
After the service, drinking awful coffee in the vestibule, it seemed everyone was too busy smiling for Jesus (can you say alleluia?), half his age or slightly randy little old ladies smelling of charity shop clothes and sidling up close for a surreptitious grope of the ‘nice young man’… even worse, people his age were all married with kids, obsessed with the joys of family life and comparing experiences of ordering three-piece suites from furniture-r-us. His skin crawling, he wondered who was more freakish – he or they – and surely a kind and loving god would put them out of their misery. He put them out of his, and miserably trudged home through the Easter-time drizzle.
To a mini-roast. For one.
© Jeremiah Savant – used by permission
Jeremiah is ashamed to be British and has fallen through almost every safety net. Finally finding a voice, read his explosive memoirs...
Jeremiah Savant’s Adventures in Mental Health