“Gilly,” Samantha asks me at the ticket checkout, “do you still play the guitar?” I’ve known Sam since primary school,
“no,” I reply numbly.
Sam sighs as if feeling defeated, her cleavage resting on the edge of the countertop, “Aww,” she moans, “I was hoping…” She stops short and looks at me; her eyebrows raised, “Wait, why did you stop playing the guitar?”
I shrug my shoulders
She tilts her head, “But why?” She’s nothing if not insistent.
“Because…” I let the word roll on my tongue as I move the mouse tiredly on the mat and click another cell in a spreadsheet, “reasons.”
“Should I be worried?” She bites her bottom lip.
“Are you okay Gilly?”
I yawn from boredom at the spreadsheet glaring at me, “Yea.”
“Tired?” she giggles.
Some customers make their way over to the confectionary counter, and Sam runs across to be of assistance.
The Beatles were right you know. We’re all living in a yellow submarine, well the majority of people are. I look over to Sam and imagine us swimming away from the submarine holding hands. I’m already out of the submarine; I fell out. Sometimes I look through the little round windows, and sometimes you look back at us from inside and some of you sneer some of you smile that sympathetic, pity smile, but most people just look through us. Sometimes I think maybe you’re all sad too, confined and claustrophobic in there. It seems everyone drowns in the end. After the customers have got their chocolate, popcorn and fizzy drinks they saunter on over to me, the tickets guy. I’m the guy that changes their life with a ticket to a new perspective for a couple of hours. The fact we’ve only had these five customers is why I take the evening shift.
A ribbon of steam curls under his nose, the froth from his cappuccino staining his upper lip. Plates and cups clatter behind us with the gush of the coffee machines. The lights above our heads have a monotonous hum, and one strip of fluorescence light near the entrance keeps flickering. My social worker pours another sugar into his cappuccino. “How are you doing?”
I shrug my shoulders, my staple response. I watch as a woman walks in with an empty pram, pushing it with one hand while holding the baby in the other, the baby’s head is on her shoulder, and he or she flails her arms about and wails loudly.
“How is it going at the cinemas?”
“I’m changing lives evening by evening!”
“Sorry, I can’t hear you?” He leans over the table to hear me better.
”I’m changing lives evening by evening,” I repeat trying to raise my voice over all the noise.
”Oh,” I’m unsure if he’s heard me. His NHS Identification badge that tells you he’s a social worker with ‘Shademore NHS services’ with his name ‘Gregory Davies’ dangles down a ribbon around his neck, with a picture of him looking a bit young with a bit more hair.
“How’s the guitar going?”
“I dunno,” I gulp down some of my orange juice.
“Are you keeping to your practising schedule?”
I shake my head
“Is there any particular reason why?”
“Don’t have my guitar anymore.”
He looks at me questioningly, “Sorry,” he winces a little at the sound of the baby crying right behind him now.
”I don’t have my guitar anymore,” I repeat.
“why? what did you do with it?”
He takes a sip of his cappuccino, “Why did you sell it?” He asks, his voice rising with surprise.
“Just felt like it.”
He puts the cup down gently on the saucer, “I’ve known you long enough to know you don’t do things on a whim.” He looks at me sceptically, “you usually have reasons, a plan.”
“My plan was to make money from it.”
“I see. For anything in particular? A new guitar perhaps?”
“Hmm,” He wipes the froth from his upper lip, “It seems odd if you ask me.”
“What can I say, I’m a weird guy.”
We sit in silence amongst all the noise; the baby has since stopped crying.
“Any negative thoughts and feelings?”
“Since I last saw you?” I ask, as a way to be evasive. “Isn’t that like asking if I’ve taken a breath since?”
A little smile creeps his face, “Any I should know about?”
“Not any out of the ordinary, for me anyway.”
“So yes you’ve had the usual negative thoughts, but anything more serious?” He looks at me, expecting an answer like the previous one he quickly utters, “You know what type of thoughts I’m speaking of.” He gives me a pointed look.
I consider how to answer this one because If I appear too confident, he’d know I’m lying, but I can’t tell him the whole truth either. “I’ve had, you know, thoughts.”
He knows what I mean. “And have you wanted to act on them?”
“I’ve wanted to..”
“Do you have any plans?”
“No. It’s just a passing thought and feeling.” I lie.
“So no plans?” He asks again as if not quite hearing me.
“No, no plans. Just thoughts and feelings.” I lie again.
“What stops you acting on those thoughts and feelings?”
“Fear.” There is some truth to that, “The idea of those it’d hurt.” I lie.
I don’t believe in the long run the particular actions in question would hurt anyone. To the contrary, it would bring relief to a lot of people. But I learnt that this is the response they want. “You know what people like me lack?” I ask him.
“What?” he peers over his cup curiously.
“We lack a fundamental part of the functioning human’s psyche,”
“And what is that?”
“Delusion. Illusion. Whatever you wanna call it.”
“How so?” he puts his empty cup down with a little clink.
“See to function a human needs delusion. It’s like what that writer Albert Camus said about suicide being the most rational answer.”
“I see.” He tilts his head, the light flickering behind him at the entrance.
“If you go too high on the scale with delusion you get the mental illness label, if you never even get on the scale you also get diagnosed with mental illness! My problem is, I see that life is meaningless and I have no illusions to put a veil over it. It’s just there, bleak as it is staring at me.”
“What if your delusion is thinking you’re not deluded?” He chuckles, “A common delusion,” he winks, “I find.”
“But objectively speaking there is no purpose. I’m rational in an irrational world. It’s perfectly rational to be depressed in this world, to see that life is meaningless.”
“But if life itself is so irrational, then why bother spending time being so rational?”
“Rationality or lack of it isn’t a choice.” I gulp down the last drops of my orange juice, “Plus, without any rationality, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
My social worker tilts his head to one side, “But according to your theory rationality is, in fact, an illness.”
“No. Too much rationality without delusion is an illness. You need an illusion to drive the rationality you do have into something that can be used to thrive. You take away a delusion that propels that rationality then you have no wheels to spin the thriving.”
“So delusion is like the wind to a windmill?” He picks up his empty cup and looks down at the emptiness then puts it down again.
“Yes. Or water to a watermill.” I squish the bottle in my fist.
“Interesting.” He rests his chin on his hand.
“And that’s the problem with trying to treat people like me.”
“I gather you’re feeling hopeless.”
“I guess,” I shrug my shoulders, “I mean I suppose I feel that way but I also know that feeling is bullshit because hopelessness necessitates that hope exists somewhere or did exist at some point.”
“You’re a very deep thinker, I think to your own detriment.”
“Detriment to what?”
“Objectively to your survival, to your own thriving.”
“What happens once a person has seen how an illusion works? You can no longer see past the fact it’s an illusion! So any treatment is simply about installing illusions and some mild delusions of worthiness, meaningfulness. But what if you can’t unsee the truth that it’s all just lies we have built into our psyche purely for survival?”