Yesterday, upon the stair…
I saw a man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today,
I wish… I wish he’d go away.
He felt ill; emotionally, and by extension physically.
Corrupted… by sentiment. What was this deceptive magic?
This was something he had (foolishly) felt was a sensation one simply grew out of with age; those dreaded experiences long ago, nothing more than a brief glimpse of what life could have been and soon fading away along with the people who belonged there. It always resulted in eventual disappointment and loneliness – that much, he should have known by now. Fairy tales, if they ever came true, did so for others but they would not for him.
But this… still, this felt somehow different. Better and thicker and yet inevitably set to expire like the rest of them. A brief tangible moment in space, sealed with wishful thinking and in the end, not lasting long enough to satisfy. This was the tragic irony of what would surely come to pass, and part of him realised exactly that. There was no escape… from the slow, sad, unforgiving passage of time. Though it heals all wounds, it does so only by dull necessity.
Emotion. Sentiment. It… hurt. And he didn’t know whether that was a good thing or not. He just did not know any more. This was not anticipated.
Q approached him silently from behind.
“Why do I get the feeling you are having second thoughts about our plans?”
Graeme opened his eyes. “What would give you that suspicion, friend?”
“Oh I don’t know. Your recent… changes in mood, perhaps. Up and then down. Spirited and, swiftly, downtrodden. If I didn’t know better I’d say you were…”
“You’d say I was… what?”
Graeme turned to face his shadow head on. For almost a year now there had been a plan in the works between them. All had been going as expected. But he had not taken a crucial element of this equation into account, that which has proven the downfall of many a skilled tactician: the fickle, human side of himself.
Something was different this time. He was different, with a few more years of experience and what one could call ‘baggage’ behind him. Along with those years, the shadow lurking around him had only gotten stronger. And he had befriended it, worked with it to gain a crucial psychological advantage.
But this new (though he knew it was not entirely new) feeling made the rest of it all seem… somehow weak. Immaterial. Whatever high ground Graeme felt he had gained, was now crumbling. And the scariest thing about it was… he kind of liked that. He sensed a chance to be one of the ‘normal’ people again, as if he had ever belonged in the first place. Was he really like everyone else? Could he live the life that each of them had? Or was this, like the rest, a brief period of self-deception setting him up for a harder fall?
“Well,” Graeme repeated, with a strange light behind his eyes, “you’d say I was what?”
Q paused. He sensed what had happened, and was not sure himself how to approach it. Here was the master of Disturbia, co-creator in all things emotional; the dark, disturbing side of the spectrum at least.
Because in the end that’s all there really was. All else was a way of distracting oneself against it. But… there was at least one emotion capable of matching it – albeit temporarily. And Q now suspected, quite strongly, that his friend had recently been infected by said emotion. This made the situation tricky. It went some way to compromising his reasoning abilities.
“Whatever you are feeling, I can promise you it is temporary. You know that yourself; you remember…”
Graeme did remember. Yet he was greatly resisting the urge to believe this time would be no different. Was it really inevitable that it would end the same way? With him coming back to Disturbia with open arms, ready to embrace a darker, lonelier reality…
Perhaps it already had. Wasn’t that why he was having this very conversation now?
“… Yes, you remember. The… incident was in fact what indirectly led to our very meeting. And while I don’t regret that, I should like to think you now know better. Look what a journey we’ve been on! The tough times have been necessary; they made you strong and will continue to improve you. This is what could make you better than the rest, who bother themselves with things like family and work/ life balance. You can be so much more – the legacy you could leave is up to you alone. Isn’t that what you truly want?”
“What I truly want?” Graeme almost feared the answer, if there even was an actual answer. He knew what he wanted right now, at this time, more than anything, and yet he dare not speak it – not in this setting. Perhaps he knew, deep down, that there was a stronger conflict inside of him. Q spoke for one side of it. As for the other…
He faced Q once again with a steely determination that he wasn’t certain would last long. “You speak only for one part of me, my friend. Our journey has had its dramatic moments, its funny moments and can definitely appear somewhat exciting on a surface level, but where will we eventually find ourselves?”
“That is a question to which no one really knows the answer,” Q replied. “Even on this other path you have hinted at… it has no more guarantee of an overall destination than I do. It just might give you hope. But even that only lasts until the next emotional hurdle arrives to be overcome, like some needy pet that always requires feeding.”
Graeme stopped. The answer had come to him in a moment of clarity that tells you, if only for an instant, everything will be worth it in the end. “What I really want… is to be happy,” he said.
“Ugh… you are corrupted by it after all. Would you listen to yourself?”
“Happiness is something I cannot find in your dark corner of the world.” About that at least, Graeme was right.
Q stared at him, squarely in the eyes, emotionless. “My dark corner is all you have. Has it not been the one constant for you through all of it? It’s the only thing that will still be here when these brief feelings of sentiment have drifted away and you’re left with no one, nothing but the haunting memory of me.”
Those words cut deep. Graeme knew, ultimately, that they rang true. Was running from this… all he would ever be able to do? ‘If you can’t beat them, join them’ a wise person once said. And he had joined Q; sought him out in fact. But in the end, he had no satisfying answers. There was to be no contentment on this particular path of self-deprecation.
“Disturbia…” Graeme muttered, “I need to know…”
Q finished his sentence for him, “what it is?”
“It is, as if you didn’t know, a metaphorical depiction of depression… Or any other form of mental illness, depending on what that means for each person in whatever situation they may be facing when they arrive at its gates. We get all sorts coming to visit, really. Though it can also produce other things; hopelessness, fear, creativity… all products of its core. I should confess even I don’t know where its boundaries lie. Or if it has any.”
“What I am suffering from right now is not depression.” Another thing about which Graeme was undeniably right.
“No… I’m afraid, in your case, you’ve fallen into a much more destructive category… one in which I can no longer be of assistance.” Q started backing away, fading… “but I can assure you, we will meet again. Maybe sooner than you’d like… I will never abandon you, my friend.”
Graeme’s head was bowed. He knew Q’s final words were all-too-accurate. It felt appropriate that tears should come, but they would not.
Today, he’d hold them back again.