I pass a mental health clinic on my way home from work. It’s on the corner of a busy intersection where I usually hit a red light. I see people walking in and people walking out and think it’s a shame they are not given more privacy for their dealings. If I had lost part of my mind and had to take pills to bring the sanity back I would want to do it in some remote place lacking cameras and onlookers and the general vindictiveness that comes with the modern man in the modern world.
I think they take the pills to escape the constant skin-shedding of this city. Billboards change daily. The roads are open and closed depending on construction, and a clear path taken one day can result in a hair-pulling, call the boss at work because this construction and traffic has me running late kind of morning. The cost of living is a morbid joke. The waves are too far west to wash away the daily grind. And things just pile up. Like this is the Napping House, Where Everyone is Sleeping…
I do not take pills for depression or insomnia or for apathetic attempts to cope with the guile world. I struggle like everyone else. My pen wants to scribble over all the grammar I learned in school and range onwards until I find whatever period will satisfy me. Throw out the commas and semi-colons and incomplete thoughts and find peace in broken experiences. The perfect beginning to an imperfect story.
Pessimism is a writer’s friend. There is difficulty in writing of the good. I cannot explain happiness but distinctly know what I do not want in life. I am not a negative person by any means. Only writing brings it out in me, like an alcoholic’s thunder-clap to the groin has me bent over, spewing out the things I loathe the most. Writing has become my one-on-one therapy session. It magnifies my imperfections and redeeming qualities in sentences used and sentences deleted. It is difficult, still, to write about the things I love the most. Because happy thoughts tend to come at inopportune times, when I am without a pen in drives to work or on concrete jogs down Santa Monica Blvd. And when I try to resurrect my inspiring thoughts the timing is off and I cannot replicate in words the emotions encapsulating the moment.
The car honking behind me brings me back from contemplation. I take one more look at the old man outside of the mental health center. Somewhere there has to be a spec of remembrance behind those glossy eyes, the man clutching a small white medical bag filled with phials of memories and injections of chemical motivation as I press on the gas and excel through the intersection, leaving him in my rear view mirror, his presence in my life already gone like the mind he is trying to recover.
And then the rain comes.
Grey downpours drench the world and I seek comfort in a local cafe where a Hemingway line comes to life in front of me, a girl in from the rain, stomping her feet on the rug near the entrance, swishing her way to a booth near a misty window overlooking the passing people and cars on Wilshire Blvd. The line is from A Moveable Feast:
“She was very pretty with a face fresh as a newly minted coin if they minted coins in smooth flesh with rain-freshened skin, and her hair was black as a crow’s wing and cut sharply and diagonally across her cheek.”
She is checking her phone and watching the door and her posture signals anything but approachable. So I admire her with one last look, and sip the rainy day coffee I rarely order, having purchased it for the warmth of the mug on my hands. It reminds me of hot chocolate in winter with Mom and Dad and skiing in Mammoth. Garth Brooks on the radio. Friends in Low Places. The Thunder Rolls. Babe and Molly. The water balloon that broke on the street and the baseball bat that fell from my hands and the tears in my eyes and on my shirt when I learned that Skeeter died and me real young, maybe twelve.
I pay for my drink and introduce the rain to my somber thoughts. Everything washes over me and I am thankful my memories are still my own and not hallucinogenic lulls and cadences from a pill imitating life in capsuled dosages. The poor man at the clinic needs those paregoric pills to keep him from leaking the good stuff. He is the ferret of medical goodies caught in the governmental harvesting of the insane and I am only twenty-five and cannot understand his heartache in a box.