Robin sat in an uncomfortable plastic chair. Its shape was becoming familiar at this stage. It was his third time in this place. Although the uncomfortable chair remained just as uncomfortable, he felt considerably better than he did the first two times. Perhaps due to the medication, perhaps due to him actually doing something progressive. Rather than decaying at home, lost in all too familiar thought and worry. It had been much worse the first time and little better the second.
Dr. Silman sat across from him. Scribbling, as he had been both times Robin had seen him before this. And - as always - the window behind the good doctor was wide open. The sounds of traffic from the bypass on the other side of the horse-filled field behind the clinic drifted through.
The effect was calming. It was summer in the Irish countryside. Truly a wonderful time.
Why can’t I enjoy it like everyone else?
The first time Robin had paid a visit to the Whitestable doctors’ surgery had come about after a particularly nasty night. There were tears involved. A nervous breakdown, his mother had called it. An appointment had been scheduled immediately. It was three weeks later now. There had been improvements.
‘Well,’ began the doctor, ceasing his relentless scribbling. At the exact same time Robin’s phone buzzed in his pocket - on silent mode - a text message. His hand twitched. The doctor continued to speak but his words were lost to Robin. He needed to see the message; he knew who it was from.
Robin eyes stared straight into Dr. Silamn’s, but his mind was not there. His thoughts were miles away, in the city. The doctor’s monotonous voice was background noise, although the words ‘breathing space’ and ‘fluoxetine’ registered
He’s probably talking to himself anyway.
He thought of the rest of the day, of his plans and he was seized by an urgent need to leave.
Robin blinked. The drone of traffic returned to the room, although he knew it had never left.
‘The medication, is it having any effect?’ the doctor said, clearly repeating himself.
‘Yes,’ Robin replied, truthfully.
Breathing space was right
‘I can continue on it, can’t I?’
‘I think that would be for the best,’ said Dr. Silman, beginning to scribble again, this time a prescription, which he handed to Robin. ‘Goodbye now Robin take care.’ The doctor dismissed Robin in his usual dreary way, and looked at Robin as a shopkeeper looked at a customer they had never seen before.
‘Thank you,’ Robin replied, relieved. He stood to leave. He needed to leave; already his hand was wrapped around his phone in his pocket.
‘Oh and Robin,’ began the doctor. Robin halted. ‘I’ll see you again, in a months’ time, just to check up on things”, and with a sigh, Dr. Silman continued to scribble.
‘Goodbye.’ Robin replied, forcing a smile.
As soon as the door shut behind him Robin had his phone out. The message icon on the screen informed him it was indeed, from Jacky. He opened the message.
“I miss you babe xx”
Robin felt lighter; a feeling like relief, Jacky’s texts always had the same effect.
He typed a reply “miss you too, I’ll see you soon xxx”
I need you.
The sense of urgency became more pronounced, it was a need. Although his constant anxiety was dulled by the message.
He held the prescription tight in one fist and his phone in the other as he hurried past the lines of dull faces in the waiting room.
On the steps outside the clinic he found his mother, smoking as usual.
Smoking didn’t bother him, he was used to it. Besides, it calmed people, especially his mother. At least for a while.
‘Ready?’ she asked, as she turned on her heel, dropped her cigarette butt, and headed back towards the car. She didn’t look at him.
They sat in his mothers two door coupe, waiting. Robin looked out of the passenger side window at the horses lazing about in the sun, fully aware of her stare, burning into the back of his neck.
‘You’re not going to tell me what it is, are you?’ she asked as she turned to him, the same question she asked the last two times they had been to the clinic.
No, for the third time.
‘It’s to do with me, it’s personal’ he replied as monotonously as Dr. Silman, bracing himself mentally. He had had the reply prepared, although he highly doubted it would be any way effective in putting his mothers mind at ease. He didn’t take his eyes away from the horses.
‘And I’m your mother, Robin,’ she shouted, before Robin had even finished speaking. ‘ I don’t understand why you can’t tell me, I don’t know how you can expect me to watch you take those damn anti depressant happy pills every day, and not know why,’ She obviously had her reply prepared as well. She was different this time though, it wasn’t anger. It was desperation.
You would never understand.
‘I’m sorry,’ said Robin, just as tonelessly as before. His mother lit another cigarette, briskly turning from him. She fired up the car and sped out of the lot, muttering.
The truth was he didn’t even know what was wrong himself. All he knew was sometimes he felt so utterly desolate. Underneath everything was a constant sadness. Every sad thing in the papers, in the news, on the radio, had a profound effect. It was suffocating. He couldn’t explain. Who would take him seriously? Dr. Silman had put it down to depression, he didn’t understand. He had asked barely three questions and prescribed pills, an easy solution.
They did help, even if only a little. That much was undeniable. Robin was another member of a depressed nation, lost in a sea of pill-happy nobodies. Dr. Silman probably treated ten more like him.
The drive through their tiny town took less than five minutes. Robin barely breathed until he could leave the car which he did quickly to avoid any more front-seat interrogations.
He entered his house, greeted by the dull thumping of his older brother’s tasteless music coming from his room that he never ever left.
He was halfway up the stairs when he heard his mother slam the front door behind him as she walked in. She continued straight into the kitchen.
No doubt for another cigarette. Perhaps a phone conversation with a lucky member of the nosy brigade.
Robin shut his bedroom door behind him. His room was clean and quite bare compared to most people his age. “A difficult age,” according to Dr. Silman.
It was painted a light blue and contained nothing more than a bed, a bookshelf –full of large volumes and short story collections - a wardrobe, a mirror and a desk complete with swivel chair. No posters were plastered across his walls and he did not possess a television or any sort of gaming platform. This was something his peers found strange; he had never felt the attraction. There was another door in his room leading to an en-suite bathroom. On his desk sat a laptop, a lamp and two large speakers. Underneath was his schoolbag, no longer used for school as of yesterday.
Robin went to his desk and relaxed into the swivel chair. It was a world away from uncomfortable hard plastic. He turned on his own music to rival his brother’s. He let it wash over him and allowed himself a little while to relax, and to think of things other than doctors, pills and concerned mothers. He lay on his bed and he thought of Jacky. His mother, nor his doctor nor his brother knew of Jacky. He would prefer it stayed that way.
Some time later he woke. He couldn’t remember falling asleep. His music was off and his door was ajar. He looked at the digital time display on his phone and his heart skipped a beat. He hadn’t meant to fall asleep.
I can’t miss it.
Robin began to sweat. He upended his over-the-shoulder schoolbag onto the floor; he held no sentimentality for anything that fell out. He began to pack for the city. He ticked off an imaginary checklist in his mind: train ticket, keys, phone, money, clothes. He had everything.
He checked his phone again. He had a half hour.
Time to go.
He slung his bag over his shoulder and left his room, he made as far as the front door when he turned back.
‘I’m leaving,’ he shouted back into the kitchen, he heard his mother pause mid sentence.
‘Goodbye Robin,’ she shouted back, and then ‘I love you.’
I love you too.
‘Bye,’ he replied, and left.
The walk to the train station took barely twenty minutes, a little longer than usual. He had to collect his pills.
Across the village he saw only strangers, although he had lived here for more than a year he knew nobody. He went to school in a different town; there was no school here. They all seemed so unlike him, so different to him. Nobody said hello. He was foreign to them, “from the big city.” He appeared strange to them, with tight jeans, pierced lip and long hair. He was nothing like them, nothing at all like them. He shuddered to think what they would say if they knew about Jacky.
What they would do.
What could he do? He couldn’t open their minds for them, and for that he hated them. They were narrow minded, shallow in their own way. The fact they felt the exact same about him made him wonder. Who was right?
Me, they are shallow, prejudiced.
He arrived at the train station, anxiety faded a little when the train pulled in.
He found a seat in a compartment. Alone; a stroke of luck. He leaned back, sun spilled into the train through the window. It was hot and stuffy. Robin opened his bag, and took out the pills; he read the side of the box “20 mg fluoxetine, take once daily.”
Fluoxetine, the third most prescribed anti-depressant in the world according to the internet. No doubt effective.
It increases serotonin levels in the brain, Dr. Silman had told him.
Like having a good dream after a bad day.
Feeling different then you really should be feeling, but better. It was worth it; although sometimes he wondered if the medication would change him as a person, affect his judgment. Well, that was unavoidable. Different feelings meant different choices, the pills would change him.
Will Jacky notice?
He popped a pill into his mouth and swallowed it whole.
He remembered the first time, trying to swallow one had been a nightmare, it was a month later. Now he was a pill-swallowing pro.
He lay his head back, and let the sun shine on his face and neck. He just needed to wait now, soon he would be the happiest he had been since last time. His anxiety was replaced with nervous anticipation.
Robin spent the rest of the journey watching the Irish countryside fly by. He saw green fields with happy fat cows and fluffy white sheep. He thought of Jacky and how much he would love it. Each stop sent a shudder of anticipation through his mind. Each stop brought him closer to the city and he watched as green fields turned to housing estates and factories, thin country roads turned to dual carriageways and happily fat cows and white fluffy sheep were left behind for the bustle of the city.
It felt like hours.
His line of thought was interrupted when the door of his compartment slid open. He looked up. It was a ticket inspector, he smiled.
He presented his ticket to the smiling ticket inspector as the train screeched to a halt. The inspector punched it and returned it, heading back out of his compartment with a chuckle.
A nice man
He was familiar to Robin.
From the L.E.D. readout above his compartment Robin knew they were stopped at the stop right before his destination, the end of the line. His phone buzzed again.
“I’m here, can’t wait to see you xx,”
Robin couldn’t suppress a wide grin, his anticipation swelled inside him; he knew what was coming.
It was a sunny day; there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. He lifted his bag as the train began to move again and exited his compartment to stand at the exit door. He thought of the pills in the bag and wondered why he needed them so badly. It all seemed so silly.
It will come back, but not now. Not for a while.
Each weekend was like its own little dream. Separated from the rest of the week by more than days off work and mass on Sundays for the religious droves. For Robin it meant different people, different place, and different feelings. Like an escape.
It meant Jacky.
The train came to a slow, agonizing halt. Robin absent-mindedly shifted his balance from one foot to the other, he was animated and ready. Waiting.
The doors slid open with a hydraulic hiss, and Robin barely kept himself from jumping from the train.
There at the end of the platform - shoulder against the wall, ever so cool - was Jacky. The one true cure to all of Robin’s problems.
The feeling of looking into his green eyes was impossible to express. Robin often thought that that was what heroin must feel like.
Robin ran to him and they embraced. Truly happy, and he would be for the next day. Until he had to leave, but in exactly a week from this moment he would be right here again, doing this exact thing. And in exactly two weeks, and exactly three weeks, it would continue. The routine would continue. Just like taking the pills, going to the doctors, going to school, getting up every morning. For Robin, it all led up to this.
It’s what he lived for.
I love you