Theme Parks and Obstacle Courses – a Novel



“Where was I?”

“You just told me you’re an alcoholic.”

“Yes. I am. But that’s not the real reason I’m here to see you.”

“Oh?” Helen asked, recrossing her legs.

“The way I ended up here – back in Australia – was that I had a full freakout. I underwent an alcohol-induced psychotic episode.”

“Wow,” said Helen, as if she were impressed. “How much of that do you remember?”

“Bits and pieces. I remember a lot of afterwards, pretty much as soon as I got to the hospital. See, I was living in London for a year or so, and then I had the breakdown, and I pretty much immediately came home afterwards. And here I am.” Pat shifted in his seat.

“I guess I’m here with you for two reasons,” he continued. “The first one is that I want to make sure I don’t start drinking again. The psychotic break scared the hell out of me, that’s for sure, but I’m an alcoholic, which doesn’t just mean I drink a lot.

“It means that I have all these issues and problems and I use alcohol to medicate myself against them. Only problem with that is, alcohol drives me crazy. Literally.”

“And the second reason?” Helen asked.

“The second reason is probably going to sound a bit weird.”

“I’m a psychiatrist,” said Helen. “You have no idea.”

“Maybe it’s not weird to you, and that’s good – it means I picked the right shrink – but it’s weird to me. The cure seems to be a lot of talk. Talking in A.A., that’s alright. I don’t mind that so much, because I don’t know any of the people.

“Like when you’re travelling, you can be whoever you like and make yourself up as you go along. But when you come home, you have to be yourself. And the problem is…” Pat paused. “I don’t like myself.”

“Are you comfortable to tell me what it is you don’t like?”

“Jesus,” said Pat, lifting his hands and dropping them hopelessly into his lap. “I’ll give you an example. I was working on the door of the pub the other night…”

“You work in a pub?” asked Dr Helen, looking over her glasses at him.

“It’s a long story, but I’ll get to it. I was working on the door the other night, as a bouncer. I haven’t done it for years, but two good friends of mine offered me the job. I’ve only been back for a week or so, and the job landed in my lap. It came with accommodation…”

“You’re living in a pub?”

“I’m living in the backpackers’ hostel, next door. My friends own that as well.”

“I’ll let you finish,” said Helen.

“I was working on the door the other night, and these three well-heeled guys turn up to the door. Probably my age. Anyway, we refused them entry, because they were wearing suits. It’s the usual bullshit; they call you names, you try to ignore them and hope they’ll go away.

“Then, this particular one, he starts asking how much I get paid, whether I have a degree, and all those sorts of questions. He had me clocked as some kind of shiftless loser who can’t do any better than standing on a door in the middle of the night.

“He was just scratching the surface. In actuality, I exceed his prejudices. I’m thirty, and I don’t have anything to my name except a toothbrush and a couple of paperbacks. I am a fucking loser.”

“Did you finish high school?”

“I did. I even went to university.”

“What did you study?”

“Arts degree with a major in ancient history.”

“You do have qualifications. Perhaps you don’t fully appreciate the things you do have.”

“All I can manage is standing on a door. And sitting here, talking to you. I really need you to convince me otherwise, doc,” said Pat, leaning forward in his chair. “That’s what I need you to do.”

Helen’s glasses were like a sheet of shatterproof glass over a pond. No matter what you thought you saw in the water, either reflected or moving under the surface, you couldn’t get in there. You’d never be getting wet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: