Malcolm Steadman will be homeless in 63 days.
Malcolm Steadman was drinking and he would never call his therapist for anything. Malcolm is having a second beer for breakfast. Cheap beer. The kind of cheap beer that only comes in tall cans and pairs well only with plastic nacho cheese.
The six-pack was the last of his money.
This was not a good decision, that he knew ahead of time, yet Malcolm was emboldened to make it after finally being hired for a job. Yes, it could take a few weeks before he was paid and was able to replenish his bank accounts, but after all he had been through he needed to celebrate. He had been unemployed for so long that the stress of finding a job really was driving him mad…or madder. It was hard to tell. The fact of the matter was that Malcolm needed to celebrate. This was no Champaign, but the effect it had on his psyche was the same. Malcolm Steadman finally had a job. His mood became more elated with each swig.
Well, that is until he started thinking about his therapy session, and before he had a panic attack.
The freezing chill of the cheap beer numbed both Malcolm’s throat and his senses as he took a long swig. Cheap beer is only tolerable when it is at its absolute coldest, the key word there being “tolerable”. The numbing effects were not just for his token celebration, no, they were also there to ease his nerves. Malcolm had been home from the psych ward for nearly a month, and had been unemployed for nearly two. His last rent check had bounced, and the imminent threat of losing his shelter had been weighing over his head relentlessly, and now he had a second rent check to make. If he was wise with his first paycheck, if he subsisted on rice and what he could beg for, Malcolm could pay for a month and a half of rent. It was not ideal, but he could do it. He could keep his apartment.
How strange his life had become, how bizarre his mundane Wednesdays had evolved to. Once he was a model citizen, filling his time between clocking out and clocking back in with irrelevant distractions. Now, he fretted about mortality and the consequences of consciousness and choice on a daily basis, missing rent and being a misfit. His philosophical ruminations could not be forgotten, he could not simply go back to his days of normalcy and averageness, at least not fully. As much as he pined for the life he had built his identity on, would it not be better to embrace what he had become? He had come to terms with it sure, but could he grow to love the weird, instead of fearing it? He did not know.
Malcolm took another deep pull off of his second beer.
Choosing to go to his therapist was surely a step in the other direction. If Malcolm could embrace who he was now, it certainly would not happen so long as he sought help to return to his place in society. The session with his therapist was a good one. He was surprised to feel as relieved as he did when the session was over and Dr. Queen had heard what he had to say without judgment. If Malcolm was being honest, it was far, far more relieving than unloading his baggage onto his internet provider’s under paid staff.
There was also the fact that Malcolm liked Dr. Queen. She was nowhere near as standoffish as he had feared, and was nothing like the overly sensitive Terry at the psych ward. Dr. Queen was personable. She was even willing to talk about herself a little, something that Malcolm had perceived as being a thing that therapists and councilors never did. Even now he found the antidote about why she chose her profession to be simultaneously funny and soberingly honest. Dr. Clarisa Queen admitted that she chose psychology as her PhD and subsequent profession because she just wanted to know what was wrong with her. This was a very common thing among those who studied the mind, before becoming a therapist, most were just curious to learn about their own minds. It had eased Malcolm’s nerves a bit to learn that he wasn’t the only crazy person in the room. It calmed him to learn that his therapist was likely as self-conscious about her own mental health, if not more so than himself.
Well, at least it calmed him then.
New job or not, today was another boring Wednesday with nothing but introspection for him to do. The conclusion here was written on the wall.
And so, it hit him.
Dr. Queen wanted to know what was wrong with herself. She got a PhD in exactly that: her curiosity in her own broken mind. A PhD, any PhD is not an easy thing to obtain. Dr. Queen’s own curiosity in her perceived unhygienic sanity was strong enough to drive her to years of hard work and academic achievement. Further, she wanted so badly to know what was wrong with her that she was not only willing to spend the time to achieve her degree, but also the astronomical cost in paying for such a degree. This begs the question: just how broken IS Dr. Queen.
Malcolm Steadman could feel the now familiar terror of an epiphany build inside of him. A small portion of his awareness knew that this was a path of paranoia, but it was one he had already started to trek down. There was no avoiding whatever existential angst would swallow him now, and he knew it. He downed the last bit of cheap beer in his tall can. He was resigned to his fate.
There was likely nothing wrong with Dr. Queen, save for maybe a large deficiency in self-esteem when it came to her own sanity and competence. Dr. Queen was very likely completely sane. If she wasn’t, wouldn’t a crazy therapist be like the blind leading the blind? Did it matter that she was not crazy? Was the simple fact that she believed herself to be broken enough to lead Malcolm’s own broken mind through waters that were not just choppy, but sideways and not navigable? Should the person unsure of their ability to drive be at the wheel? What if her plan for Malcolm’s mental hygiene made him worse, or a caricature of what she perceived to be perfect sanity? What if she was perfectly sane herself, but because she was totally unsure of her own stability she inadvertently helped shape Malcolm’s mind into something that was not healthy?
This of course, was not the worse of it. Malcolm took a deep breath, ready for the plunge.
The fact of the matter was that there is no perfect model for sanity. The ideal sane person existed only in the abstract. It did not matter if either Dr. Queen or Malcolm believed themselves to be sane. Neither of them would ever be “cured” of their ailments. They could only work on making themselves better, but never “fixed”. The definitions of what is sane, and what is normal are largely based off of societal expectations. A man who enjoyed watching the very real violence of gladiators slaying a wild lion in ancient Rome was akin to a man watching live baseball. Now, he would be viewed as callous and brutal, maybe even psychopathic. A woman who ate mushrooms or drank ayahuasca was considered a wise shaman, who just like Dr. Queen, could help you with what ailed your soul. Drugs of most kinds are now illegal, and hallucinogens are only for eccentrics, hippies, and frat boys. Neither of those three are held in the same high regard as a shaman. A sports fan then is a psychopath now. Sanity is at the fluid whims of history. History, is often wrong.
In the throes of his existential terror, paralyzed from panic, and unsure of his mental fate, Malcolm Steadman had a choice in front of him. A choice that was as real in consequence as it was heavy in symbolism. On his kitchen table was a bottle of his prescribed antidepressants, and next to that was the remainder of his six-pack of beer. One a consent to the plans and competence of his therapist and dour prospects of unachievable mental health. The other a consent to embrace his cravings for madness and philosophical eccentricities through alcoholic disease. Both had the promises of happiness. Both could ruin him. Both were him handing over the keys to a blind driver, feigning responsibility to a chemical, and hoping for the best.
Malcolm’s phone rang…
Be notified of the next installment and…
You will get a weekly horoscope written with irreverent and gloriously dark humor in your inbox with updates on Existential Terror and Breakfast! These horoscopes are available for members of the mailing list only.