[The Market Sucks, 4,644 words, Genre: Realistic Fiction/Mental Health]
* Image courtesy of Dirk de Bruyn
Edward was in a bad spot. At twenty seven years old, he was still living with his father Darren, unemployed and a fascist government was just about to take away any form of financial independence that remained. His father, Darren, said he was going to help, but what Darren was in fact doing, was taking advantage of the situation. Darren would give a list of chores to Edward to make repairs around the decrepit house that they both lived in. All of which Edward was happy to help with, but they left no room that allowed Edward to better his situation. Whenever Edward attempted to look for a job, work on his own pursuits to build his professional skills; Darren would deliver an ultimadum to Darren in which, if Edward didn’t comply, Edward would be fucked. Having spent his last dollar on navigating through the bureaucracy of renewing his licence, Edward required food. He was apprehensive about asking his father for anything, given his attitude, but food was a fundamental to life. So he did ask, “Hey dad, can we go up to the supermarket to get some food?”
His father was watching television, some show that featured a court judge that would belittle those that came in with their disputes. Perhaps that’s what set the mood, the televised programming of people holding power over others, using it to humiliate those who had no power. His father, disrupted from his vegetated state on the couch, came out to the kitchen, “What do you want food for? We’ve got plenty of food.” Darren pointed to the meals in the freezer, the meals that he had cooked. He followed a recipe in which one throws a whole bunch of shit that’s about to go past it’s used by date and apply heat. It was an economical meal, but Edward had been eating those meals for some time now and his throat had started to gag every time he attempted to force one down.
“I would like something different, maybe something that I’ve cooked.” His father was slightly offended by the comment.
“Fine. We’ll go to the supermarket.” Slowly the wheels began to turn inside Darren’s head, how he could use this situation to further entrap his son.
In the supermarket, his father gave him one piece of advice. “We shop economically. We go for the best deals and try and save money.” Not that his father had any money problems, he had a well paid job and owned the house that they took residence. Nevertheless, it was good advice and Edward went around the supermarket attempting to find things that he could eat, but would also fit his father’s pre-conditioning towards shopping.
They separated and his father found him in one of the supermarket aisles looking at pasta sauce, “Well, I’ve done this for you, you will have to come to the market with me tomorrow.”
There were things that Edward needed to do, he had to try and find a job. He desperately needed a job. “I don’t want to…”
“Because I don’t think I would be any use there. I would just stand around, while you bought the things you need.” His father walked away, “Where are you going?”
“Getting away from you.”
Edward found Darren in another aisle. His father presented the situation that Edward was using him to buy food and now wouldn’t do anything in return. This situation would have to ignore the fact of the day’s events in which Edward had cleaned particles of shit from, and making, the toilet a pristine white. Had then gone to visit Darren’s mother and all the days previous in which Edward had to divert working on the improvement of his own situation to assist his fathers’. It wasn’t that Edward was unwilling to do these things, it was that the latest venture of going to the market would have been a fruitless endeavour. “So now that you’ve got what you want, you’re not going to do what I want.” It was Darren’s logic. The logic that seemed to ignore the fundamental fact that human beings require food in order to survive.
“Fine! You win.” Edward was agitated by the situation, “Don’t buy me any food, I’m just going to put this down right here.” Edward placed the shopping basket with the items he had selected on the ground. Edward then walked away. He was going to just walk home from the supermarket, but then he noticed his father grab the basket he had placed on the ground and approach the service counter.
Edward hung around the service counter, hoping to give his father some assistance with the hauling the groceries to the car. The young man behind the counter asked Darren how his day had been, the question he had been trained by the supermarket chain to ask. “Fuckin’ shit!” Darren responded.
The young man behind the service counter mentally took a step back and responded, “Fair enough.” Before scanning and bagging the items in silence. Edward waited for the transaction to be completed, then went to help his father with carrying the items.
His father responded to his son’s aid, “No, I’ve got them! You just go home.”
So Edward walked home. They drove there together, but the walk wasn’t that far and so Edward walked home. He had his mobile phone and knowing that the situation wasn’t going to end there, he called his older brother to seek advice about dealing with the situation. His older brother picked up the phone, “Hey Kane, I’m having some difficulties with dad again.”
“Well, I asked him to help me out and buy some food. He did that, but then he wants me to go to some market tomorrow and I’ve got other things that I would rather do. It’s just fuckin’ crazy, the whole situation is just insane.”
Kane attempted to help out where he could, “Look, just take a deep breath and remind him of the talk we all had a couple of days ago.” Previously to this situation, Kane had come to visit Edward. An argument had broken out. Darren had told Edward that he could no longer live with him. Kane acted as the mediator and the voice of reason. Darren had agreed to allow Edward more freedom to do the things he needed to do, in order for Edward to feel more comfortable at home. One of Edward’s problems was that he slept a lot, Darren hated this, believing that Edward was wasting his life. Edward didn’t feel this way, he had accomplished many things in his life and believed that sleeping was the way he chose to rest and relax. Edward didn’t watch television or partake in many other activities that one does to gain some R & R, sleep and concoctions from his dreams were what relaxed him. Darren had agreed to allow for this, the next day after the talk Darren came into his bedroom, waking him up and berating him about how he was wasting his life. They had been having these types of talks for the better part of Edward’s life, where a mediator would try to resolve the issues between Edward and his father. His father would show one face in these talks and then revert back to his previous behaviours the very next day. The talks would do nothing except allow for a way in which Darren could manipulate the mediator into believing that Darren was going to change his behaviour. He never did. He would show one face to third parties and revert to exerting his power over Edward, who had a certain level of dependence upon him, when nobody else was around.
Edward arrived home, he saw the car in the driveway. The boot had been left wide open, Edward believed his father had left it open in the rage that had entangled his mind. Edward decided to help out and close it. He walked to the front door, dreading what would happen next, he attempted to keep Kane’s advice in his mind. He approached the front door, it opened, Darren came steaming out. “Why did you close the boot for!?” His aggression was at a peak.
“Because I thought you had left it open.”
“There’s still stuff in the car, now I have to open it again.” He made it sound like the hardest task in the world. Once again, making Edward feel guilty for a mistake made in which he had been trying to help out.
Darren brought the groceries out of the car, left them in the kitchen. Edward remained silent and carefully proceeded to put the groceries in the fridge and various cupboards. Then he went to his room, to try and escape from the nightmare that was happening around him.
Darren came into the room, “You’re going to the market with me or the next time you want food, I won’t buy it for you.” Another ultimadum had been delivered. Edward attempted to process what had just occurred. If he didn’t go to the market, he wouldn’t be able to eat. His father had enslaved him to do whatever he wanted. Clean the shit from the toilet, do his father’s dishes… the list would go on and on. Edward felt the repercussions and knew that his father, every time that Edward wished to do something differing his father’s authoritarian governance that he had imposed upon him, Edward would be faced with a fate worse than death. No food. No shelter. What happens when you corner an animal in a cage?
“Fine, we’ll go to the market tomorrow.” Edward submitted. His father left him in victory. But the thoughts boiled in his brain of what exactly he had submitted himself to. No hope for improvement. Enslavement to another’s whim and will. Edward hit a point of desperation, the existence being offered to him was… worse than death. His mind clicked over and raced, adrenaline flowed freely, creating a hyperactive state. He ran to the kitchen screaming, “I’m going to fuckin’ kill myself!” His father was sitting in the kitchen, shocked by the madman who came running in.
“No, don’t kill yourself.” Edward ran to the kitchen drawer, pulled out a butcher knife. He wasn’t thinking clearly, a Berserker rage had swallowed him. In the space of seconds he saw all the different options. Stab his father to death, slit his own throat, leaving his father splattered with the blood of his own son, alone in the world… what he chose was different entirely. He started stabbing himself in the leg with the butcher knife, screaming in agony… the blade bent on the first two motions, then went through the muscle of his thigh. He was screaming, the pain didn’t feel like pain, all Edward could feel was rage and self-hatred at the fate that had been forced upon him.
“Stop! Stop!” His father called out.
And Edward stopped. He put the blade back in the kitchen drawer and ran to his room, throwing himself face down on his bed and bleeding onto the mattress. His father came in, Edward yelled at him, “You’re the problem! You’re the reason!”
“That’s right! I’m the arsehole!” His father would do this, every time something like this happened. He would go on a diatribe shifting blame on himself before anyone else could, it was a defence mechanism in which he would never have to take responsibility for his actions, at the same time disarming anyone else from expressing their feelings of malice towards him. “I’m the cunt! I’m the arsehole!”
“This isn’t about you!” Edward yelled out, not wanting to look at his father, “Your son just threatened to kill himself and this is how you act!”
“Well then, what’s it about?”
“It’s about my needs. What I need. Not everything is about you.” Darren walked away at that point, returning into the kitchen. Edward lay there for some time, bleeding into the mattress.
Darren came back in, “Look, I’m going to go away for the night. I think it would be better for both of us to get some space from each other.” Edward understood what he really meant, Darren was scared for his own safety, worried that Edward would turn the knife on him.
“Your son just threatened to kill himself. Then he just stabbed himself in the leg a dozen times and you think it would be good for him to be alone. So what, he can finish the job!?”
The adrenaline that had coursed through Edward was slowly fading, pain from his legs became apparent. He walked past his father and into the bathroom, he took his pants down and looked at his leg. There were two deep gashes there, a band-aid wouldn’t do, he would have to seek medical attention. Darren was now making an attempt to help, but it had past the point where Edward could look at his father and not have rage boil up inside of him, bringing up all those other feelings of anger and hate. He called his brother, Kane.
“Hey, the situation got out of control. I ended up stabbing myself in the leg. The cuts are deep.”
“You’ll have to go to the hospital. Can dad drive you?”
“I don’t want anything to do with him.”
“Okay, look, you’re going to have to ask him for money. Take a cab to Sandringham hospital and go to the emergency services. Once you’ve done that, I’ll call you back.”
Edward was on the verge of tears, he would once again have to ask Darren for help. He went over and found his father at the end of a phone call, most probably Kane. “Dad, I need money for a cab to the hospital.”
“Here’s thirty-five dollars.” He handed over the money aggressively. Edward avoided looking at him because of the feelings that would come over him. “Look, I’ll drive you to the hospital.” Edward couldn’t stand to be near him.
“I’ll just call a cab.”
“So what!? You can take my money, but you won’t let me drive you?”
“I’ll just call a cab.”
“No! I’ll drive you.”
Darren chased Edward, who was limping out the front door, with his insistent plea to offer assistance. Edward still had his mobile phone, he was still bleeding and had the cab company on the other line of the phone. He started walking to the train station, escaping his father and all the shit that came with looking at his face. He got the cab company and arranged to meet them at the train station. Bleeding quite profusely, he found it difficult to think straight and had some difficulty in talking to the phone operator. But he managed and continued on to the train station.
At the station Edward rolled himself a cigarette and waited for the cab. He got the text message that the cab was approaching and then his father pulled up on the other side of the street, yelling at him, “Get in the car!”
Edward ignored it, as difficult as it was, he could see the cab approaching. The cab pulled up and Edward got in. “Taxi for Edward?”
“Yes.” The taxi driver responded. Edward got in the taxi. Told him that he was going to Sandringham hospital. The taxi driver then asked why, to which Edward motioned to his leg. “Jesus Christ! What happened?” The taxi driver was shocked.
“I stabbed myself.” Edward responded. Nothing more was said between the two, except the mumbling of directions.
The taxi arrived at Sandringham hospital and pulled into the emergency entrance. Edward gave the driver a twenty and the driver short changed him by a dollar.
Kane then called him again and told him that he should probably admit himself into the psychiatric unit at the hospital. Told Edward that he should ask to get in touch with their CAT team. Edward agreed, completely unable to think for himself at that point in time.
Edward went into the hospital, there was a reception and there was a mother and her daughter talking to the receptionist. Edward waited patiently as he bled. The daughter looked over to him and her eyes widened at the patch of blood that has soaked through the material of his pants. The mother continued chatting with the receptionist making jokes, or talking about the latest celebrity gossip or some other shit. Edward felt he should do something. Should call out and make them realise he needed desperate medical attention. But he just stood there, waiting patiently, bleeding. After ten minutes he saw another receptionist had just come back from break and informed her of the situation. “I’ve just stabbed myself.” Following his brother’s instruction, “I need to see the CAT team.”
The receptionist apparently wasn’t a receptionist, “Look, you’ll just have to wait and give your details to the receptionist when she’s ready.”
Edward continued to wait behind the mother and daughter who were talking about something, he waited another five minutes. Then the mother and daughter finished up their conversation. Edward approached the receptionist, who had decided it was time for her break. She got pulled up by the woman Edward had just spoken to, “You can take your break after you see this man.”
Edward gave his details, unable to think straight as she asked him questions, he just pulled out a bunch of his identification and handed it to her, hoping all the information would be there. Edward had been born in this hospital some twenty seven and a bit years ago… his thoughts trailed off. The receptionist gave him back the ID, it had allowed her to fill out all the forms. A nurse then came in, it seemed his predicament did require urgent medical attention. She guided him to a room within the hospital, told him to undress and put on a hospital gown. He did this and then the nurse came back and had a look at the two stab wounds he had caused himself, “You’ll need stitches.” She then treated and cleaned the wound. “So what happened?”
“Well, I had an argument with my father and I got so angry that I felt as if I was going to kill him, but I ended up doing this to myself instead.”
“I get that,” the nurse said and left the subject alone.
The doctor came in next, started having a conversation with Edward. She asked him what he did for work. Edward responded that he didn’t really have any work at the moment, but he would occupy his time by writing books. The doctor wasn’t really that interested, she just had to find a topic of conversation that would keep his mind off the pain as she applied the anaesthetic and sewed up the wounds. He started explaining one of his books, making sure he wasn’t looking at the task that was being performed, Edward would feel queasy every time he saw blood coming from his body. Which, given the fact that he had just stabbed himself, was quite contradictory in character. Edward explained the plot from one of his books, his voice going high every time a degree of pain from the threading needle was felt. The anaesthetic worked for the most part, but still some pain was felt. Edward finished explaining the plot of his book and then went on a rant about the stupidity of people like him, how he felt like a piece of shit and the saints that doctors were, working in a world full of retarded behaviour like his. Then the stitching was complete. The doctor said that they were getting in touch with CAT, the psychiatric unit and getting someone to come down and assess him, upon his request.
They wheeled his bed to another area, gave him a sandwich and a cup of tea. They also told him that he could watch television if he liked. But Edward didn’t watch television, he preferred to sit there with a blank stare, dwelling on his problems, trying to find an answer to an impossible predicament. He looked at the time, it was nine p.m, he could go and stay with a friend for the night if he left now. But under the advice from his brother, he would wait for the CAT team to arrive, hopefully he would be able to make use of the mental health system, get in touch with a social worker who would be able to find him accommodation. Escape the nightmare that had been living with his father.
He sat there, in the bed. His socks were wet and he was stuck in a temperature, neither cold nor warm. Three hours passed and the person from the CAT team arrived. They introduced themselves, and began asking some background questions to assess Edward’s situation. Edward went over the questions that had been asked of him a million times before. His parents were divorced, he had just come back from overseas volunteering at an N.G.O, that situation hadn’t worked out as he had planned either. He had had relationships with women in the past, they were a head-fuck of the first rate order. Not all of them, but the latest had been. He had been sexually abused when he was younger. He remembered one Christmas, when his parents were still together, that his mother had attempted to commit suicide. When the person from the CAT team asked why she did this, Edward said, because of the relationship with his father, and that it now made perfect fucking sense. He went on describing how he had attempted to help out his father through the divorce, had felt sorry for him, but was rewarded with multiple scenarios just like the one that had occurred that evening. He described his high school years, smoking pot and caught up in a haze of substance abuse. These things were no longer problems. He had been diagnosed with schizophrenia some years ago and had already had several visits to the psychiatric ward. He talked about the books he had written and how hardly anyone would read them. The CAT representative asked him why, to which Edward responded that he hadn’t the insight into how others viewed him. He described his current situation. He couldn’t live with his brother, didn’t have the funds to make it on his own, was unemployed and largely lacked suitable skills for employment apart from his passion for writing. He had worked jobs before. But couldn’t find the personal motivation to excel in the roles. His passion was a storm trap, solely focussing on the written word. His friends were finding themselves in difficult situations, there was little aid that they could provide.
The CAT representative summed up his situation, “You’re at a catch-22.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you have to do what your father wants you to do.”
Edward, being largely educated in literature, understood Heller’s proposition, but determined this situation was not a catch-22. He voiced this, “That isn’t a catch 22.” There was a point of difference between a catch 22 and what Edward was experiencing now, although Edward could not pin point or express the difference there and then. Edward would later come to realise what the actual catch 22 was. It was the assessment that was being made in determining his evaluation for assistance from the mental health system. Edward was in a difficult situation, experiencing real problems. He wasn’t technically psychotic or mentally ill. He had stabbed himself in the leg several times, but even these actions were judged as sane given his situation. What he was doing in seeking assistance from the mental health system was a very sane course of action, therefore they couldn’t treat him. That was the real catch 22. Heller’s original catch 22 regarded soldiers who would fake insanity to try and escape the war they were fighting in, but faking insanity at a time of war was a very sane thing to do. The same logic could be applied to Edward’s situation. And the thing with a catch 22, the ultimate resolution of it, can be summed up in two words. You’re fucked.
The CAT representative told him that he wouldn’t admit him to a psychiatric ward, even as a voluntary patient. He said he could stay in hospital overnight, but would have to leave in the morning. Edward was frustrated, he understood those two words. ‘You’re’ and ‘fucked’. He felt the weight of them. They drilled at his mind. Well, fuck ‘em. He thought. The CAT representative had gone to consult the doctors and all the nursing staff weren’t around. Edward got dressed in his clothes that had been put aside. His blood stained pants. He then left the hospital without informing any of the staff. He was awash with emotion as those two words weighed in on him. He rolled himself a cigarette and toked on it, for all he was worth. He couldn’t go home. So he walked to the beach nearby. Sandringham beach, it had a series of cliffs that overlooked the bay. He would end it there. Throw himself off one of those cliffs, onto the rocks with the ocean rolling in and tell the world to go fuck itself. He got to the shrubs and sand paths atop the cliff faces, he looked out on the bay. He sent a message to his brother, ‘Do me a favour and piss all over dad’s grave for me. You can piss all over mine too.’ He received the response, ‘What does that mean?’ What did it mean? It meant that Edward wasn’t planning on being around long enough so that he could piss all over his father’s grave. His brother didn’t read into the subtext of the situation. He then thought about his brother, his brother who had tried to help him out tonight and so many other times before that. He hadn’t had it easy either. He thought about his friends. He remembered one of his friends telling him about the clairvoyant who had predicted that he would be alone in later life. If Edward threw himself off those cliffs, he very well could be. Edward rolled himself a cigarette and thought about it, listened to the waves roll in. If he did it, he would be letting down a lot of people. But that’s the thing with suicide that most people don’t get. It’s a resolution that people find in response to their personal pain. It’s kind of like euthanasia. If you saw a relative dying of cancer, where there was no hope for them, and by keeping them alive you were just further submitting them to more pain. You would want them to pass away peacefully. Same said for suicide. Edward’s situation was a catch 22, the resolution was that of being fucked. Why submit himself to further pain? He second guessed himself, ‘it does make good writing material.’ In the end, that’s what saved him. He would survive to tell the story.
But what was he going to do now. It had begun to rain. He couldn’t go home. So he walked up the pathway a bit more, into a circle of trees. He found some shelter from the rain, but it was winter. The grass was wet and he limped because of what had happened to his leg. He found himself a place to lay down on the wet grass. He brought his arms in and hugged his chest, attempting to retain warmth. His body shivered as he attempted to find sleep, the cold wouldn’t let him. Now Edward had to remember what people were always telling him, the nugget of gold insight that would fix all the world’s problems. What was it? Oh, that’s right, think positive.