Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Desirable Break From Reason

All of David’s friends at one time or another became completely unhinged. And so, understandably, David assumed all men at one time or another went completely unhinged, and waited, perhaps impatiently, for his own time. Lately there had been plenty of opportunities, as his job had become much more stressful after a change in the company’s corporate structure and a resulting series of layoffs. And yet David held onto his sanity with a tenacity that surprised him. He was hoping to schedule his breakdown so that it would come at the end of a long weekend, to extend his period of rest.

Certainly it would come soon. The madness had no one else left to touch. David thought of it like a cold that all his friends had caught, and so it was only a matter of time before it got him too. He was looking forward to it. He felt there was a whole side of life that he was not yet privy to, that his friends all shared some knowledge, and perhaps looked down on him as an outsider because of his lack of that knowledge. He felt excluded, and this made him all the more eager to go a little batty.

Was he imagining it, or at gatherings did they share furtive glances and slight nods of the head, conversing in some unspoken language that David was not the least bit fluent in? There were times when he nearly shouted out for them to stop, but more than wanting them to stop, he wanted to start himself. If he could only fake a little madness, perhaps they’d include him, glance at him, teach him this language. Maybe he should tell them on Monday that he had a crazy weekend, that he was committed for overnight observation. Would they check up on his story? He couldn’t imagine they’d actually call the hospital, but he could see – and feared – that they would simply look at him and know the truth, see the lack of madness in his eyes, notice his normal skin tone and texture, his regular posture, and just know that he was not at all like them. And while now they tolerated this difference in him, if he faked lunacy, they might – no, probably would – come to despise him, to no longer trust him, to no longer think of him as a friend. And where would that leave him? David couldn’t bear to think of it. No, faking it was out of the question. He couldn’t put on the guise of madness. He must simply go mad.

David began paying more attention to everyone around him, hoping they’d leave little hints as to what unhinged them, little clues on the path to madness and clarity, to understanding. He listened to their private conversations at work, in the break room, on the subway, outside their homes, and kept copious notes of everything that sounded like a clue, that is, anything he didn’t understand. And he began keeping records of facial expressions, along with those barely noticeable nods and glances. He drew their faces, though admittedly with a lack of artistic training, and he put these drawings on the walls of his home, creating a series for each friend, and studying them, knowing they held the key to his finding lunacy. He used some of his own blood to add color to the cheeks, certain this would help bring him closer to the answers. And after weeks, patterns began to emerge. It seemed that illumination was imminent, that everything would be revealed, that madness would finally come.

One day at work, when he was making perhaps his finest sketch yet, one that far surpassed his meager skills, a joy overcame him, for he knew he was close. He could feel it. But suddenly, as he was adding the blood, and before it all could come together, he was summoned by the head of human resources. This was unusual but not unheard of, and David was not alarmed heading into the office. But when he got in, he found the head of human resources was not alone. There were two armed security officers. David was told he was being let go, released.

No, not now. I’m so close. So close. He yelled, pleaded, cried, even tried to claw at their faces to make them understand that this was the wrong time. They must let him stay. He had to remain here, with his friends, at least until their secret was made known to him. But it was to no avail. They would not listen to reason. And David knew then he was forever tethered to his undesirable sanity. He would never learn how to go mad.

(Copyright 2015 by Michael Doherty)

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