The birds refused to cease their happy chirping. It made it difficult to be sad. Difficult, but not impossible, and our friend was determined to do just that. Sitting alone at home on a sunny morning, the windows open and a fresh breeze pleasantly cooling his tired head, Johnathan was absolutely not going to feel happy.
Reaching back, Johnathan grasped his head down beneath the ears, and gently pushed it to the left. Like old wood creaking, the muscles down the right side of his neck regretfully let go of some of their pent up tension. Painful relief flowed like water up and down the right side of his body. He held this pose for a moment, and then pushed his head the other way. A series of audible pop's rang out in rapid succession, as his neck cracked all the way from the base of his skull to the top of his shoulders. The physical relief was exquisite, the mixture of pain and pleasure addictive. He reveled in it for a moment, and then pulled himself up from his seat.
His head swimming, he staggered across the minimalist living room and opened his desk drawer. With is eyes elsewhere, he fished around for a small bottle of pain killers and removed it from the drawer. He turned the nondescript bottle over and squinted at the label, 'Celexa'. No, that wasn't it. He opened the drawer wide and bent down, fishing around in the pile of forgotten papers, dried up pens, and near empty prescription bottles. Celexa, Zoloft, Paxil and finally Advil. This pill he would take, the others were no longer part of his life.
For too long he had swam through each day, emotionally detached. Seeing people, hearing their words but feeling very little connection, like he was plugging in but not getting any power. For a long time this worked, it enabled Johnathan to get through his day. The stress melted into obscurity, the panic stopped squeezing at his heart. His ulcer hurt less often, after a while he could even enjoy more exotic foods then he was used to.
When the software development studio he worked at ran into financial problems, he was even able to calmly call employee after employee to his office, look them all in the eyes and inform them that their services were no longer needed at the company. Colleagues he had respected, friends he had admired, all terrific people with great skills and each and every one of them with a sad story about how difficult this was going to make their lives, and he was able to dismiss them mercilessly one right behind the next. Earlier in his life this would have crippled him, but he was relaxed and professional now, with a little help from a small bottle twice a day.
Months later when the accident occurred he was so shocked, so thoroughly shaken to have something so unexpected and violent to happen in his life, that the medications completely failed him. It was a death in the family, an automobile accident that could have happened to anyone, and now his older brother who had always been an example of strength to Johnathan, was gone. When he received this news, Johnathan broke down. he broke down in a way that he hadn't for years, the power of his feelings flooding over the feeble defenses that drugs and detachment had formed. It was horrifying to face the sharp cutting edge of his emotions in the face of undeniable reality, especially after being so blissfully deadened inside for so long, it nearly drove him mad.
Johnathan felt like he was on a never ending emotional roller coaster, while being simultaneously beaten repeatedly and unceasingly in the gut. In a final effort to restore some chemical balance to his system, he was prescribed a new medication in the strongest dose yet.
It worked. Not even a week later Johnathan had the only dry eyes at his brothers funeral. As if he was seeing it all through a haze of fogged up mirrors, Johnathan stood there and watched his brother being lowered into the ground, and felt nothing.
And now some ten years later, with a completely new job and a completely new life, with new challenges and an entire new opportunity for stress and pain, Johnathan stood by his desk with a bottle of advil in his hand and a tall glass of water on the table in front of him. He had been up most of the night crying. He was dehydrated and emotionally spent, and had to be at work in fourty five minutes, where he was expected to be on a conference call at nine sharp. His head was aching and Johnathan rolled it back on his neck and closed his eyes for a moment. He closed his eyes and just focused on the pain. This was good, this was what he needed.
Johnathan put down the Advil and drank deeply of the cold clear water, which felt like icicles going down his throat. He walked to the door, put on his shoes and jacket, and walked outside to a lovely spring day. The birds continued to chirp happily and Johnathan shielded his eyes from the glaring sun. It was going to be a shit day, and he would not have it any other way.