Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
And it goes on and on. Huddled together like sardines, on subways, in toilet cubicles, at grocery stores. In waiting rooms. The smell of stale soup and illness. The odd cough, occasionally interrupting the ticking clock.
I can’t stand these places. They make my skin crawl. Being in unavoidable proximity to people like this, it drives me mad. The outdoors is fine. I’m even okay with big crowds. I can handle babbling idiots or foolhardy cops; but being in a small room with someone breathing heavily? Hell no!
Like, imagine being stuck in an elevator with Tony Soprano.
They sent me to this doctor, see. After the bus incident. I have to talk to him about my day–to–day. Tell him how I feel. I tried explaining to them that I write a diary, and that many people read it regularly, and that they could read it, too. But to no avail. It’s this headshrinker or the jailhouse, they said. Okay.
This fucker’s got the suss. He even has a pipe at the ready, even though he clearly doesn’t smoke. The place smells too damn good. Not an ashtray in sight. But he has a pipe, because maybe, he thinks, it makes him appear more legitimate, more sophisticated. Old–school. He just wants to be “the guy with a pipe”.
Asks me this and that. About work. Habits. Family. Typical shit. More and more, I feel like I want to fight him.
Out in the street, I feel as relaxed and free as a village idiot. Everyone amuses me, and it’s all going on so fast that I can comprehend very little of it. In here, however, I am focused. It is just me and him, one on one, and I can take it all in. In here, I feel like a caged animal.
“What has me so tense?” he wonders.
“There’s too many of us, doc. Way too many. It’s not okay.”
“Please, elaborate” he demands, congenially.
“Well, see… If inequality and population both keep growing exponentially, I can’t see any way to prevent society consuming itself. Literally. The rich eating the poor. Or the poor eating the rich. Whatever way it goes. Until there’s just one fat motherfucker left on top of a pile of bones.”
He watches me for a while, not saying anything. I take this as a sign that he wants me to continue.
“It’s the same old thing, doc. Fatalism. Secretly we all seek death, but we’re in denial about it so we pretend to fear it. We try to avoid it with exercise and healthy eating and sun cream, but everything that we ever do in life is just a small part of our grandiose tango into its unavoidable grasp. All this work. And relationships. Eating, cooking, sleeping. Filling out fucking forms. Do you even know how many forms you fill out in a lifetime? I sure as hell don’t! And I don’t want to, either! I mean, I’ve overlooked so many terms and conditions that I probably have absolutely no liberties left at this stage. Men could knock on my door tomorrow and ask for my soul, quoting some imaginary piece of paper, and I really don’t think I could argue with them…”
He keeps piercing me with his cold, hard stare. Not moving a muscle. I can’t keep quiet when he looks at me like that. I can’t even think. I just talk. Instinctively.
“All this… AGONY! The torturous act of signing your name to the bottom of some page just to make the sales and marketing guy SHUT THE FUCK UP!!! I don’t care how many units you personally sold last year, you’re still a dick! That marketing jargon is the worst thing to listen to in the whole fucking world…”
It was at this point that I realised my shrink wasn’t breathing. Hadn’t been for some time. I know nothing about CPR, of course. Can’t even tell what’s wrong with him. Well, he’s dead, obviously. But was it a heart attack? Stroke? Is there even a difference, once you’re dead? For a moment, I wondered if I was still being charged by the hour. Then I remembered that I had been sent there by the state, and it was all blissfully free. I delighted in this a moment, before collecting my jacket, and strolling casually out of the office.