To which Flesh is Heir

In the midst of this major depressive episode or existential crisis or whatever it is this time around, my son turned seven and I had to shift gears between living the life of a confused, senile vegetable, patiently standing all day long in a dimly lit kitchen, waiting to be peeled, to one of schmoozing, parental flesh pressing, small boy entertaining mover and shaker, getting things done. From lying in bed all day, sick to my very essence at the mere notion of dragging my barely animated corpse out into the real world, to organising taxis and buying birthday cakes. Coping made me feel that maybe all the rest of the time, I just needed to try harder. I’m doing this – so why can’t I do that? I must just not be trying hard enough. It was great to see my little human interacting with his peers. When he was about three, his mother and I took him to a party and he spent the whole time sweating in a lion costume stomping up to children and growling into their faces. He seems to have moved past that, and he socialises easily – maybe as well as I did at his age, certainly better than I manage these days. It’s strange to watch your son’s seventh birthday party from inside a mind that you imagine looks like a first World War battleground. Other parents – all what you might call ‘normal’ on the surface, but possibly all squinting out from the madness of their own square yard of trench. Small talk. You can’t explain to the other mums and dads, bellowing into each other’s ears amongst the monkey shrieks and the fug of children’s socks and frying chips, that you haven’t slept for 48 hours, that you sat up all night drinking endless cups of coffee and being the funniest man in the world on Facebook for seven seconds and pacing round the kitchen, ever wilder circles stalked beneath the incessant yellow light, trying to outpace insanity, popping someone else’s pills and rolling another spliff and tapping the fogged glass of the watch face, ears straining for the sound of tiny hammers and cogs, the certainty that time hasn’t snagged somewhere on the mechanism, rolling endlessly in both directions, always away from you. You can’t tell them that you haven’t eaten for days. You can’t tell them how you seem to have discovered some monstrous truth sitting like a smug stone toad in the centre of it all. You talk to small boys about Star Wars. You accompany them to the toilet and stand outside the door while they mess about throwing water at each other. You go home and are amazed that it’s over, that this theatre of suffering you’d conjured in your mind turned out to be quite a pain free affair. You see your golden haired boy, slouched on the sofa, the light from the TV dancing in his blue eyes as he tears someone to shreds with a submachine gun and you feel that maybe there’s a possibility that, after all, there could be some kind of hope. For the first time in days you have a twinge of appetite – and twenty minutes after that you’re sat down eating a pizza and chilling out and you wonder if the antidepressants have kicked in in record time or if possibly you’re just starting out on the road to some bonkers manic episode but either way – this is sudden, and unexpected, relief, and you savour it for a moment before standing up and moving into the hallway, realising as you do that you have just shat in your pants. Your scoured, empty, brutalised guts have dumped most of your first meal in three days into your jeans in a thin, stinking slurry. Welcome back to reality, sucker…

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