Nothing has ever been as it should, or maybe it has and I've never been as I should. The world seems to revolve around conflict, sure, but even more so than that, conflicts seem to revolve around me. The paranoia I feel seems more deeply rooted in reality than these Red Maples outside my window, their leaves so tender and precious, so fragile that a strong enough gust of wind will blink them from the consciousness of the world. My so-called delusions however, those bastards are resilient, able to withstand the highest doses of anti-psychotics and electroshock therapy. The leaves of anxiety are stapled to the insides of my brain, and no amount of prying can rid me of them. Nothing short of death will end this, and I know whose fault it is.
You wouldn't believe me if I told you. Or maybe you would. I'm sure you've always had the same suspicions yourself. The feelings of being watched, of the world conspiring against you and bringing you out of the really deep shit just in time to give you hope. Giving up the game-winning basket at the championship in 10th grade and being the scapegoat for the entire 2000-student population of school balanced by your first kiss two and a half weeks later, or your dog Sparky, your best friend for 15 years, being euthanized balanced by landing the biggest contract your firm has ever seen... life is nothing but ups and downs. It's not a roller coaster; it's a cardiogram and there's far more flat-lining than heartbeats.
You think I'm making this up? This trend is just as evident in self-perception. Look at yourself in a mirror. Go ahead, I'll wait. Got one? Good. How often do you look at those sunken eyes and think, "Damn, I look good today!" Once or twice a month? A year? Never? Now how often do you look at those eyes and think, "Jesus Christ, I'm ugly..." Exactly. Is it right for you to feel that way? No. Should you feel that way? Absolutely not. So why do you? Sure there are the cliche answers of the media causing perceptive dysmorphia or the government wanting to lower your self esteem, but the real answer? It's because--what, did you think I'd actually tell them? Jesus, no. I can't be responsible for that...
Anyways, I really noticed things were off when my brother Johnny died. Nothing unusual about his death, per se, save for extremely bad luck, but the events that followed were just weird. The accident was totally unexpected, and seemed to happen just when everything started going right for me. I had just gotten a promotion, my girlfriend and I moved in together, and my favorite baseball team was kicking ass in the playoffs. Then suddenly one Sunday afternoon, I get a call from my mom, in tears. Johnny was t-boned on his motorcycle by one of those big MACK trucks carrying gravel from the local quarry. Died on impact, at least. The funeral was just surreal. These things happen to other people, but him? Me? That whole week was just a fucking blur.
I remember finally really coming to in my old therapist's office, who I apparently sought out in my half-conscious state. "You said something happened...what happened, Jim?"
"My brother...he died. Motorcycle accident," I spoke like I was talking to a stranger, despite knowing my therapist for four years now.
"Christ, I'm so sorry." Silence for a moment. "Is there anything I can do for you?" This is something a friend says, not a therapist.
"I don't know... Everything just seemed to me on the right track. I was due for another promotion, Susan and I just moved in together and I was going to ask her to marry me, my team looked like they were going to clinch a spot in the World Series..." I know that last one may seem a bit shallow in the wake of my brother's death, but you gotta find the little things in life that keep you going.
Within two weeks of that appointment, I was promoted twice, spontaneously proposed to by my girlfriend not seconds before I was going to pop the question to her, and we won the World Series in 4 consecutive shut-out games. It's as if the universe was apologizing to me for constantly shitting on my life, like it finally realized how fucked up everything was. I should have said I felt like I was going to win the lottery. There's a lot you can do with $253 million.
The trend of tragedy/conflict and universal apologies continued for months, varying in intensity, as if the universe would tune in every once in a while to my life and muddle with the status quo, then try to fix it. Every time using the same formula: conflict then a deus ex machina style resolution. Do you understand what this did to me? Do you understand to have your perceptions of autonomy and self-sufficiency pulled from under you like a rug and tossed in the garbage? I am not in control of my life. I am not the author of my own destiny. The strings of fate pull on my limbs like those of a Marionette puppet.
One day I had enough. I waited for the status quo to resume. My favorite show had just gotten renewed after my basement flooded. Perfect timing as usual. As an aside, the predictability of it all was just getting pathetic. The universe seemed to check out for a bit. I seized my window of opportunity and literally threw myself out of my 6th floor apartment window to the cold, gray, dirty, pavement below. I survived with minimal injuries. The psychiatric ward of the city's hospital was my home for a few months. I think the world forgot about me during that time. My fiancee would visit less and less every week, the other patients lost personality as time wore on. My prison cell changed from my hospital room to my the resting place of my consciousness. Nothing could be trusted. Tragedy could strike at any moment.
Finally out after convincing the doctors of my resumed sanity, my normal life returned. Work took me back no problem. My fiancee treated me identically. The baseball season was over, but other sports and shows filled the gaps. Everything was right. Everything was good. The world forgot about me and I forgot about it. The conspiracy was over. The turbulent obscurity of my own existence had finally fucking subsided. I thought.
As if the universe was making up for lost time, my fiancee cheated on me, I was fired, everything that had previously given me joy in the media turned to shit. The things I went through would break any ordinary man, but I knew the secret to all of this. I waited. I waited and waited and waited. That serenity that months of experience promised me was coming never came. Spiraling towards rock bottom at supersonic speeds, I had very few options. The fight or flight instinct that I was given finally kicked in again. Flight was no longer an option, it's time to fucking fight.
Fighting him started with acknowledging his existence first. The motherfucker who brought me into this world would soon know my wrath. The bastard who gave me form would suffer at my whim. He thought he was in control of me, but he was oh so wrong. I climbed back up through the ink in the pen and into his body and into his soul. I scaled the mountains of consciousness and reached the shores of subconscious. The vast turbulence of rocky waves and stormy winds was worrying. For a brief moment I felt sympathy for him. Then I remembered what he did to me...
I sailed those seas singing songs of influence, hoping the winds would bring them to the surface of substance. After what felt like an eternity I had no other options. Crossing deserts of repression and forests of fear, I reached a stairwell that led to a door. Climbing down each step brought me closer and closer to a mental state only describable as divine consciousness, the experience exponentially more intense with each passing second. Crossing the threshold of the doorway, I was met with not some snobby, pretentious, douchebag, but myself. Not a mirror of myself, but my actual living, breathing self. No words were exchanged. They didn't need to be.
The lost expression I could see on my face, the expression I so longed to see on my tormentor...I could only respond with a reassuring smile. It was met with a smile of his own.