Ice-Induced Psychotic Episode: A (More or Less) True Story

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1.

“Hi mate, what’s up?” I said as I answered my mobile, tracing a finger along the fresh dust that sat upon the dashboard.

“You know exactly what’s going on,” Minh hissed down the line.

He was correct; I knew exactly what was wrong. And he couldn’t have chosen a worse day for it. The knee brace made it even more difficult to get out of the car when I got home. I actually had to lift my leg out of the foot-well. Not only did the knee hurt, but there seemed to be some aggravation of the hip, as well.

My arms were full of papers and my sunglasses were balanced on my head, so I had my eyes on the stairs as I climbed them. Minh stood on the landing in nothing but shorts, glaring at me with red-rimmed eyes and parchment-white cheeks.

“Shit!” I said, almost dropping everything onto the staircase. He looked like Klaus Kinski in Nosferatu. “You scared the hell out of me.” Minh glowered and went inside, leaving the screen door open behind him.

I went inside and put my stuff on the table under the window. When Kat left, she took half the furnishings and left me with the entire mortgage in return. I advertised for a flat-mate to help with the cost and got Minh. I wasn’t keen on a gay man at first; I didn’t want any sexual tension of any kind.

Once he moved in, though, he was fantastic. Super-neat and clean. He did a little tasteful rearranging of things, adding some of his own stuff where Kat had taken things away.

In the same way that if you put a clenched fist inside a bell, it won’t stop the ringing but it does change the character of the sound. Sometimes, enough to make it tolerable.

“What’s going on, mate?” I asked. He sat on the parquetry floor outside his room, fiddling with his smart-phone. “I’m just going to get a glass of water, okay? Do you want one?”

I went to the kitchen, listening for footsteps so he wouldn’t surprise me with my back to the door. I opened the top drawer; all the carving knives were where they should have been. I took a plastic mug from the cupboard over the stove and poured a glass of water from the fridge.

Both the windows at the front and back of the apartment were filled with midday sunlight. It stretched along the polished floor of the hallway between them like a slick of water.

The blinds were drawn in Minh’s room and it was filled with darkness. The smell of stale sleep hung in the doorway like a ghost.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“Look!” he demanded, fury boiling in his voice. He thrust the phone toward me. It was a profile on Scruff, or Grinder, or one of the gay cruising sites. Something about a policeman named ‘R’ who was looking for a flat-mate.

“That’s not me,” I said. The denial seemed to make him angrier. He leapt off the floor and stormed into the dining room. I followed. He flipped open my lap-top and pointed a finger at the screen.

“LOOK!” he said. It was open at my email account.

“At what?”

“Here… what’s this?” He shifted the cursor arrow to point at the folder marked ‘Health Insurance’. He was looking very Robinson Crusoe in nothing but cutoff denim shorts and bare feet.

“I know what you’re doing,” he said. “You act like you don’t understand the technology, but you do! It’s all an elaborate scheme!”

“How?” I asked, putting my cup on the mantle-piece over the fireplace.

“You’re controlling my phone and my laptop, using sophisticated software, through the wireless internet!”

“Mate, that’s just my health insurance,” I said gently. He started to scroll to present other crucial evidence and the whole intrigue began to dissipate in front of his eyes.

His shoulders fell and he went back to the hallway, dropping into a heap outside his room with his head in his hands.

“Minh?” I asked.

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