Existential Terror and Breakfast: 19 - revfitz.com

Existential Terror and Breakfast: 19

Epiphanies taste better with toast.

Malcolm Steadman will be homeless in 90 days.

Malcolm Steadman honestly did not know which was more awkward: the ride in the ambulance to the hospital, or the ride in the beat up van to the psychiatric ward for involuntary holding. Though terrifying, at least Malcolm was drunk on the ambulance. There was no going back, there was no more denying, Malcolm Steadman is not normal. This felt nice.

Normal people do not suffer from an anxiety so intense that the slightest of thing sets them off on an existential crisis that is paralyzing. Normal people do not suffer from existential episodes so terrifying it makes their knuckles white from pressure and their sweat cold from adrenaline. Normal people DO NOT call up customer service hotlines as a surrogate therapist and they certainly do not substitute said hotlines with the suicide prevention hotline when customer service no longer gives them their “fix”. Normal people do not use drug vernacular to describe calling a customer service hotline.

Malcolm Steadman did all of the above, and he did it without blinking.

Now, Mr. Steadman is waiting in the communal space of the psychiatric ward, and he is eating Cocoa Puffs. There is nothing normal about that sentence. There was freedom in not being normal, at least he did not have to hide that here. Cocoa Puffs was not his favorite cereal, he would have preferred something bland like Cheerios or Corn Flakes. All of the cereal in the psychiatric ward was colorful and loaded with enough sugar to make a dentist panic. All of the spoons were plastic. There was no such thing as a knife here.

Malcolm is here because he dialed a suicide prevention hotline, drunk, and expressed all of the existential dread that had been taking his psyche hostage. He had no intentions of killing himself. He was depressed, sure, and he vehemently believed that life had no meaning, but honestly, suicide was the furthest thing from his mind. The operator he talked to though believed that Malcolm was an imminent danger to himself, and contacted the authorities the moment the call was over. The operator was just doing their job. It was ultimately Malcolm’s fault that he was here.

The milk in his bowl slowly started to turn brown as the excess sugar and dye in the chocolate cereal blended with its dairy surroundings. Was sugary cereal the wards attempt at cheering up the patients? It was a sad attempt if it was.

Calling the communal space sordid was doing an injustice to just how many years of neglect it had faced. Was it tidy? Yes, everything was put in its place, but everyplace had its own layer of dirt that at this point was closer to having the permanence of paint than grime. No mater what color an object had been when it was first brought in to this space, it was now a soft urine yellow. The tables smelled both sterile and like sadness.

There were games here, a complete library of everything Milton Bradley had ever put on the market, but none of them had all of their pieces. Just like the players. There was a television here too, one that was wall mounted on a steel arm that swiveled. It was an old CRT television, and its channel, whatever it was, only played shows from the 1980’s on only the highest of volumes. Today it was Airwolf. Tomorrow it would be Airwolf as well. The corner nearest to the window with off urine yellow drapes held an old payphone; the most sought after and coveted thing in the room. Malcolm had no one to call.

This specific wing was for a kind of person that had only one thing in common: suicide. There was never any socializing.

Malcolm’s cereal was getting soggy.

This was Malcolm’s first full day here, he was transferred to it the afternoon before. Sleep was not something he felt like doing that night. He was not alone in this struggle, most of the “residents” did not sleep their first night.

Malcolm had not gone through his usual nightmarish epiphanies since he dialed the hotline. Usually he would have a flash of thought that revealed to him the true absurdities of nature and he would be paralyzed from the stark truths. The past couple of days though: nothing. Well, maybe that was not exactly true. After thinking about it, Malcolm realized that the past couple of days had been an existential crisis, just not the intense kind he was used to. He was dealing with the true nature of his identity. Malcolm Steadman was not an average everyman like he vehemently took pride in being. No, at best Malcolm was a malcontent philosopher, at worst he was a depressant that was madder than a haberdashery flooded with mercury. Malcolm was a weirdo, and this dreary place was the exact kind of thing that was built for people like him.

Malcolm left his half eaten cereal on the table. He watched an hour of Airwolf.


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Rev. Fitz
M.P. Fitzgerald (Rev. Fitz) is an author, illustrator, and amateur Mad Scientist who lives in Seattle.

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