Sunday, January 31, 2010


"I've tried everything,” sighed the man, leaning back in his plump, blue armchair in exhaustion. Tired, brown eyes stared out from under a mop of disheveled black hair, gazing blank space as if trying to focus on a point in it which did not exist. His clothes were also a mess, one end of his shirt un-tucked while the other was stained with coffee. Both his socks matched, whether by chance or some actual remnant of orderliness. The two left boots, one brown and the other black however, suggested otherwise.

“I can’t sleep. I can’t eat. My stomach feels like ten thousand camels spontaneously decided to take a piss in it. Reading gives me a headache. Music hurts my teeth. Even sitting down to well…relax makes my body dance in seven different directions. I’ve gone to three doctors, four psychologists, a medium, a priest and a gynecologist. Yes, I know they’re for women only. That’s how bad it is.”

The other man simply regarded him with an odd expression, a cross between bemusement and utter exhaustion. The former because it was his current state of mind. The latter because it was his common state of health.

“And your…er, symptoms?” he ventured, making sweeping motions in the air with his pen.

The sick patient closed his eyes and spoke, as if performing some internal bodily scan;

“My head feels like it is about to explode. I cannot sit still. My sleep is filled with dreams that burn like hot flashes in the middle of the night, enough that I cannot rest. It’s like trying to breathe underwater. Incidentally, that’s how my lungs feel like. And my hands ache. I…they want to grab something…anything and…and…I don’t dare think what they want to do. Doing anything…relaxing…just living, feels like a bloody waste of time! I- I…”



“Yes. Ah. An expression of understanding and realization. I believe I have a cure. Here’s your prescription.”

The other man got up and exited the room. The patient, alone in the small, quiet office, picked up the piece of paper he had left behind.

It was blank.

He stared at it in confusion, trying to make sense of it all. Some sort of puzzle? Was he supposed to see something in the paper? Maybe this was a psychological test…or cure even. He didn’t know. He couldn’t know. The sick man placed the paper on the desk and stared at its white, empty surface in despair.

Images swam before his eyes.


He could feel it again! A relapse! The same burning sensation, the same anxiety, pressure, focus of thought! His hands twitched. His stomach lurched. All around his body parts of him felt both weak and strong at the same time. The desire welled up in him, a passion he could not control. It needed release. It needed an outlet. His gaze swiveled around the room, looking for a means to an end-

The pencil gleamed on the doctor’s desk, like a comet on a moonless sky.

The frenzy that took hold of him was frightening to behold. He grasped the pencil with all the strength and desperation of a starving man on a pair of worn but edible boots. The tip blazed across the paper like the fire blazing across his mind, the two arcs matching each other streak for streak, flame for flame as the man whirled and spun the innocent piece of wood across the table. It scored across the white, tainting the purity of the sheet with its dark, black marks. His wrists and arms hurt with the strain, yet the blade remained miraculously unbroken, faithfully serving its purpose like a hunting dog chasing down its master’s slaves.

For what seemed to be eternity, the only sounds were that of the pencil tearing across the surface of the paper, and the man’s deep, ragged pants.

When the other man came back in, the sick one was lying back in his armchair, a small smile on his face. He was fast asleep.

He picked up the prescription. Written across it were sketches and diagrams, notes and symbols whose meaning he could not comprehend. Not at this moment, at least. Designs, plot points, twists, conflicts, a beginning and an end.

The other man sighed. All those ideas, crammed into one head. Years and years they must have waited. How many times had he shoved aside a thought to tackle a matter at hand? For people like him, it must have been too much. Men can fast but even the most devout had to eat sometime.

He tucked the piece of paper into the man’s shirt pocket, then opened up a Notepad on his computer’s screen. A few typed lines, a notation or two...there. Safely preserved.

You had to let them out in moderation. Small thoughts, one at a time. It didn’t matter how and where you did it. But sooner or later, you had to let them out.

The other man sighed and looked over at the sleeping patient, a gaze that was both knowing and sympathetic, that showed a level of understanding achievable only by those who had walked the same path through hell together;

“Inspiration’s a bitch eh?”

Perhaps someday, they'll find a cure.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


I sit in front of the monitor watching the screen. Behind it various streams of wires and rubber snake around the table, forming bushes and foliage akin to that of a forest. The room is dark, all curtains and windows closed, the door barred shut with a lock and an old musty chair.

Inside the monitor I stand before a boardroom filled with men in smart, black business suits, striped ties ironed neatly upon their well-starched vests. A small projector shows a series of elaborately colored slides, each covered in archaic numbers and symbols, charts and diagrams. The men are nodding, some are smiling, while I dribble on, apparently more nerves and delight at their approval than actual confidence.


The screen fizzes and the readjusts. Wires hum with redirected power, stolen from the mains and the ‘faulty’ lamp-post across the street. With a few clicks and switches an image appears, stabilizes, fills with color and…there! It appears to be a park, one with many, many flowers and trees, each lush with life. A lake, with ducks or swans and a few odd reeds sticking along the side…

Adjust…zoom…there I am! The wide-brimmed sun hat and old grey shirt makes it difficult to differentiate me from the background, but I recognize that chin and stubble anywhere! The portable vacuum pack looks heavy, and for all the thriving of the plants around, there sure were a lot of dead leaves.

How depressing. Next.

Another jump. Readjust…focus…scanning, searching and…there!

A beautiful gallery greets me, paintings of nature and people, of lakes and sky and trees. Once more I wear the wide-brimmed hat, though the shirt is considerably newer and stained with paint, the vacuum nowhere in sight. A grin adorns my face as visitors flock into the queue, gasping at the vivid use of colors, at the soft palettes and powerful brush strokes. Better, much better;

Nex- oh…

A young girl is sitting on a bed with her child, both characters smiling happily despite the filthy state of their home. The gray walls are covered in cracks and cockroaches that skitter in and out of the fading wallpaper. A knock sounds on the termite eaten door, and in enters a familiar face. Weary, tired, wearing the same suit and tie as the man two jumps ago, but much less well-cared for. Yet there are laughter lines that weren’t there before, and though strands of gray dot his hair his eyes are filled with joy and warmth.

My eyes.

I remember how she had smiled back then, back when neither of us was aware of the consequences of our actions. We had been seeing each other for years. Known each other for even longer, long before we knew the meaning of the word ‘romance’. It seemed so natural that day. So…right.

And so the choice had been made and the consequences had been brought forth for us to face. And I-

I made my second choice.


I flick through the channels, jumping from life to life, from moment to moment, through every possibility and every trouser leg of time. If we never had met. If nothing had happened that very first time. If it had been someone else, not her…if I had focused on my work more…if I had not missed that bus…

Next! Next!

The machine is a result of all these. Of combined regrets from possibilities that did not exist, of yearnings for things not yet occurred...some of the wires fade off into thin air, but that does not bother me. I didn’t want to make choices anymore, not without knowing the consequences, and so here I am, watching and waiting, thinking and evaluating.


The screen is blurry again but it is no fault of the equipment. My cheeks feel wet. She’s called me three times so far yet I dare not answer in event I trigger a path yet seen. The other paths comfort me, telling me of things I could do, of the potential that exists to be tapped. Yet though I know the consequence, I know not which choice to make. Which path to the businessman? To the scholar? To the unmarried merchant, artist, poet? Or to the happy spouse?



No matter how many possibilities I flick past the screen always comes back to this. As if the machine itself was reminding me. Punishing (?) me. Of the consequences of unseen consequences, of choosing not to choose.


The two embrace, and I feel a brief pang of regret before flicking the channel once more;