Friday, 1 July 2016

Where to Go?

© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2015


Dedicated to Michael Fitzpatrick, one of my cousins who has brought my Irish home so very much closer.


Which comes first, the mental illness or the abuse of illicit drugs? Michael Pearse, like everyone else, had no idea. But schizophrenic he was and he seemed to be happy in his fate. Mind you, if Michael could have his time over again, but with different choices available, he would have avoided pot like the plague, which had led to other drugs. These other drugs, speed in particular, were the sole reason why he was homeless and why his genetic schizophrenia had been triggered: the money he saved on the rent he spent on speed, perpetuating his mental illness. It was no way to live, but Michael seemed happy enough in his squats, grateful for every sparse blessing.
    Such a blessing, though disguised, had currently enveloped him: he was in the Missenden Unit, the psychiatric wing of Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, near the centre of Sydney. Michael had just been taken there, after some police on patrol saw him agitatedly talking to himself whilst walking nearby King Street, Newtown, in rags. When Michael appeared obviously delusional upon questioning they took him to the Missenden Unit.
    Michael hated Missenden, always had, because it was so small and cramped, unlike other psychiatric institutions he’d been to. He always escaped because he hated the unit so much, but this time the nurses were watching him a lot more closely. At least the food, for which he duly thanked the Lord, was excellent. Some consolation, and indeed a great blessing.
   In fact, the food was so good that Michael seriously considered not escaping this time back to his squat, which his searchers would never enter because it was deemed to be a safety hazard. He himself was surprised when he made a sudden dash for it, after his fifth excellent dinner there, knowing he’d catch the nurses by surprise. Which he did.
    Quickly back on the nearby road of Missenden he considered where to go. He had a feeling they would capture him back at his squat (having given his address) because the benefits of his searchers eventually entering his unsafe premises outweighed the risks. They were intent on finally catching him, to show him that a better life is available. But without speed.
    So he decided to go to sea, the opposite of where they’d probably be looking for him. He was full of hope.


*


It took him two weeks to get a job on a ship and then only as a cabin boy. He explained his twenty-five years of age, with no sailing experience, as the culmination of a bad life that he had just decided to flee abroad from, and forget everything. Which was, in a sense, true. Unusually, he did not miss speed when he was at sea. It just simply was not a problem. The addiction was washed away with the waves. And he had other things to worry about.
    By the time he got to New Zealande he abandoned ship, just left. He was so ill from a sea-sickness that just wouldn’t go away that he didn’t care if he lost his accrued pay as a result of deserting his post. Anything, anything, to stop the perpetual nausea.
    When he was finally recovered, in a park near the ocean, after almost two days wrapped in his warm sleeping bag only sipping water occasionally, he realised he was in a very, very serious fix. Should he stay here in New Zealande, where he was effectively an outcast, or return to the safeties of home? There were pros to each side. In New Zealande he could start completely afresh, and, if he worked hard and was honest, he could, if he so wished, possibly carve his name into the annals of history. Or he could return to Sydney and fall back into the old familiar groove. Eventually. At least it was familiar.
    Well, he really had no choice. The easiest thing to do was to stay here in New Zealande. Michael naturally thought that he was tossed up on the shore here in Wellington by the Fates, and the Fates had reasons. Naturally, very good reasons. So he rolled up his sleeping bag, repacked his swag, and set off, envisioning his new home, a snug centre from which to conquer the world.
    His first step to acquiring his own place was to apply for unemployment welfare. He expected minor difficulties in acquiring such, but nothing serious. After all, weren’t he and New Zealande ruled by the same English head of state? Of course. Therefore, there should be only minor issues in getting the dole.
    New Zealande however took a very dim view of his welfare application. A very dim view indeed. To be blunt, they viewed him as a criminal, a stupid criminal, obviously trying to swindle the good taxpayers of New Zealande. Not only was his application denied but the police were called. Michael could have, of course, ran, but that would really be compounding the problem. He announced to the welfare staff that he would calmly await the police, and was told in turn that he only faced deportation so there was no real problem if he remained co-operative. Jail would most likely result from any attempt to flee, and further evade the New Zealande authorities.
    While waiting for the police he thought of speed for the first time in what seemed to be months. Gz, a shot right now would be good. It would make everything clear, give him some meaning for his life.
    When the police finally arrived to deport him he had resolved that his first Aus dole payment would be spent equally on speed and pot. Man, was he really looking forward to that party!


*


The party proved to be the worst of his life. He ended up in Missenden again, voluntarily committing himself after taking far too much speed, but being only admitted if he swore that this would be his last admission if he escaped again. He swore upon his soul, promising to give up all illicit drugs, and with the nurses’ help finding meaning elsewhere. Not necessarily in a job, working for the Man, but something that gave his life meaning, something worthwhile, like volunteer work, or setting up a business. Maybe art?
    He left the Missenden Unit six weeks later, upon the path of a writer, and his future was clear and rosy before him.


~~~

If you have been enjoying Fitzpatrick's stories here you may also enjoy his short story collections, and other books, available online as both Kindle books and paperbacks (go to http://amzn.to/1NfodtN). Other ebook and paperback options are available at  http://bit.ly/1UsyvKD

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