Another day off work, another day in bed, the thin curtains barely containing the glimmering nausea of the cold, spring sun. The first thoughts Frank managed to locate in the vacancy of his brain was the same one as before: ‘I’m trying’.
He’d spent a lifetime trying. Trying to be happy, trying to find love, trying to make marriage work, trying not to get divorced, trying to get a job, trying not to get fired. He was awful at trying.
A week ago, Frank had managed to secure a much sought after morning appointment at the GP surgery.
The young locum with nice legs but a brash manner, looked him up and down. ‘Good morning,’ she checked and double-checked her computer, ‘Mr. Canda. What can I do for you?’
‘I’m not feeling very well.’
‘In what way?’
‘I just feel like things are a struggle.’
‘In what way?’
‘I’m struggling to get up in the mornings.’
‘Are you getting to sleep early enough?’
‘Yes. It’s not just that. I’ve lost interest in things.’ He was going to confess about his love life, his failed marriage, the lack of sex, the lack of drive. ‘Just everything,’ he sighed.
‘How long have you been feeling like this?’
Frank tried to think, but he couldn’t remember. Thinking had become a hazy activity, fraught with the danger of remembering things he didn’t want to, and fighting himself to recall to the things he did; like his credit card pin number while a formidable queue was gearing up their tutting muscles behind him; or where he parked his car in a multi-storey, so he had to walk through all levels which looked the same as every other level, except one of them had a black Mondeo, that was how he could tell he was on the right level, until he realised each level had at least five black Mondeos as far as he could see; eating too had become a tasteless pastime.
‘It sounds like you may be experiencing depression. Have you had any problems like this before? Any history of mental illness in the family?’
Frank tried to think. There it was again. That grey, nebulous haze he used to call memory. His Uncle Dan had been caught walking the streets in a woman’s nightie and after that he wasn’t quite right again; and his old man, cranky, shouty and susceptible to wild mood swings would often lock him and his sister in a cupboard. Was that mental illness, or was that struggling to cope with life? ‘I don’t think so,’ Frank shook his head.
‘Well, congratulations,’ said the locum with the nice legs, ‘it looks like you may be the first then. I’ll write you up some anti-depressants. Do you need anything to help you sleep?’ Frank shook his head. ‘These should help you with your general mood. Take one once a day. And come back and see me in two weeks and we’ll review how you’re doing. Then we can discuss any further treatment such as counselling.’
Counselling, thought Frank. That was a scary thought, that meant exposing himself, opening up, swapping that deceit for honesty again, or making the deceit more honest. It meant being frank. Either way it wasn’t something he was looking forward to.
A week of swallowing the little green and blue capsules religiously every morning with a glass of tap water followed by a slice of toast and wild strawberry jam had done little so far to alleviate the worse of the torpor. The nebulous haze was still there, Mary was still leaving him, he still couldn’t remember the things he wanted to, and the things he wanted to forget kept bugging him like a crazy fly buzzing against his cranium at night.
Another hour had gone. How exactly was that possible. He hadn’t done anything, no reading, thinking, moping, growing, or diminishing; he had somehow wasted an hour just existing without knowing it. He showered and got dressed into jogging pants and a loose t-shirt, he would save his better clothes — his chinos and blue Oxford shirt — for when Mary was here. He’ll pretend it’ll be one of those dining programmes where guests arrive at each other’s houses. She’ll come in a little black dress, present him with a bottle of supermarket Chardonnay, a European kiss on both cheeks, mwah! mwah! Hello darling. Please come in. The table arranged with napkins stuffed into flutes, artisan placemats, some Miles Davis on the stereo, the weather will be nicer then too – the grey skies gone. A cool breeze drifting from an open window. He was looking forward to it. Things were going to change. He was going to sort his life out. He would dig out some dignity, crawl on the floor and beg Mary to stay.
An extract from my current work in progress, entitled Flat 21.