"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.