12 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Lobster

In my younger and more vulnerable years a self-help huckster gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my head ever since. Whenever you feel like criticising anyone, he told me, tidy your room and fill your house with innumerable lobsters.

Some months ago I was neither fortunate nor unfortunate – for the universe is a cold, indifferent nightmare incubator – to spend some time with Dr. Peter B Jordanson at his remote Toronto lake house. The B, he would later inform me, stood for “BIG MOOD”. Reluctant to unveil the inner workings of his actual house – I suspect he hadn’t cleaned his room – Jordanson suggested we conduct the interview a little closer to the water. As my car emerged from the surrounding woodlands, and I came upon the Jordanson homestead, I scanned the scene before me. Panning from the dense woods to the left of the lake all the way across the water, I spotted Jordanson’s house sitting on the far right of the murky water. Upon my arrival, I was instructed to “parallel double park that motherfucker sideways” in Jordanson’s neatly maintained astroturf driveway, before following a stone pathway from the back of the house down to a strange, dimly lit building on the edge of the lake.

I knocked on the door, to no response, and finding it unlocked I tentatively crossed the threshold. It was dim inside. A huge L-shaped tank ran along the walls. Full of lobsters, the tank’s internal light provided the room’s only illumination, casting disconcerting shadows. It resembled a page from David Lynch’s 2006 autobiography Colouring in the Big Fish. I couldn’t see all that clearly in such low light, but it looked like Jordanson was hunched down with his face smushed against the glass. He was mumbling under his breath and I had to strain my ears to decipher the professor’s words, directed toward a lone female lobster – “How am I supposed to focus on my work when your shell is that shade of red? We both know what that colour means…”

I called out a hearty greeting and closed the door behind me with enough force to alert the professor to my presence. Startled, he stood up as straight as possible, shoulders pushed back and chin jutting out. It was the kind of stance you’d need to mercilessly cull an overgrown population of pronouns. Before turning to face me, Jordanson awkwardly shuffled further to his right, planting himself in one of those tacky egg-shaped chairs that’s supposed to look modern but is just wildly impractical. He spun around to face me, stroking a crudely crafted stuffed cat toy, “Ah, hello there.” He noticed me eyeing the cat. “Can’t stand the real things you see, far too needy and affectionate.”

“Hello Dr. Jordanson. Eh, yes, pets can be a lot of work. You’re a very busy man, I’d imagine.”

“Never too busy to stop and pet a cat, my friend! I passed this little darling on my way home from the university one evening and simply couldn’t leave her behind.”

As he nuzzled the tattered stuffed animal, I began to wonder if the glued-on fur was real.

“Isn’t that right, Elsa? Isn’t it? You little strumpet!”

Jordanson threw the cat to the floor and met me with an oddly aggressive handshake, his forearms tensing as he trapped me with a two-handed grip. “I suppose you’ll be mainly interested in discussing my fascinating lobster colony for your little article then, son?”



Peering into the immeasurably vast tank, I witnessed a large male lobster wildly asking surrounding female lobsters if they had watched deified HBO drama series The Wire. (Though the lobsters had yet to learn English – much to Jordanson’s disdain – he had trained them to use morse code, interpreted through taps of their pincers). An LED screen attached to the tank rolled up the lobster conversation for me – “Aw man, you HAVE to watch it. It’s SO good.” A nearby female tapped out a query on her pincers, asking the male to elaborate upon why it was “SO good”. The translation software, still working out the kinks, merely read – “Sex and the City [derisory patriarchal laughter]”.

Continuing to wax lyrical about his lobster community, Jordanson informed me that he called the large male “Pinchy”, as it had been his own high school nickname. I thought better of asking for the origins of that particular nickname. Pinchy was the only male. The female lobsters had not been named, but numbered according to their sexual viability. I considered querying the parameters and methodology for ranking a tank full of lobsters according to sexual desirability. Again, I thought better of it.



“So, which of these fine specimens do you desire to quell your innate bloodlust?”

“Excuse me?”

“You’re here to claim your bride, yes?

“It’s… What? I’m here to interview you, professor. For the student paper, The Varsity?”

Jordanson turned on me sharply, fire in his eyes. Perhaps even a hint of fury as well.

“Okay Mr. Journalist. Or is it Mrs. Journalist? Or is it neither?! I suppose you’ll want me to call you any damn thing you want. Well I won’t do it. I won’t!”

“Well, professor, I mean, you haven’t even asked me my name ye-”


He’d begun to sweat profusely. Tripping over his words, his skin glowed as red as the lobsters in the tank and his veins looked fit to burst – “Out. GET OUT!”. Jordanson lunged and ripped a fire extinguisher from the wall, flying toward me. I froze – terrified, fascinated, downright confused. He glanced me with a shoulder barge, knocking me to the floor and, with the butt of the fire extinguisher, landed a fierce blow to the side of the tank. A crack began to snake across the glass. I stumbled back to my feet. He charged again, shattering the glass completely this time. Water rushed out and lobsters piled up on the floor around my ankles. Jordanson dropped the fire extinguisher and pointed an accusatory finger at me, directing his colony – “FLY MY PRETTIES!”. The lobsters splashed around aimlessly, like a school of Magikarp on the Monday after Body & Soul.

Fleeing along the stone pathway toward my car, I glanced back toward Jordanson. He was scuttling side-to-side like a crab, hands wildly pincing the air around him. He was attempting to pursue me, but the necessity of moving side-to-side before any forward motion slowed him considerably and I made it to the car before he had reached the halfway mark of the sloping stones. As I slammed my car door shut, Jordanson looked to have abandoned the pursuit and was scuttling back toward the decimated lobster colony.

Pulling out of the driveway, I stopped the car and took one last look toward the dark building on the edge of the water. The lobsters were spilling out of the dim aquarium, and dozens of red blurs fled into the lake. When the last of the lobsters had dropped into the dark blue, Jordanson scuttled off the edge after them.

Driving through the winding woods, the sun had dropped low in the sky. I flicked on the radio to distract myself from the evening’s events. A song crackled into life and with my slow recognition of the track, the red mist descended. As the off-kilter stylings of the B52s filled my car with the strains of “Rock Lobster”, I frantically tried to silence the interminable 80s wailing. I violently yanked the radio from the dashboard, rolled down the window and fired it into the descending night. Breathing a deep sigh of relief, my eyes settled back on the road and… Sweet Jesus. It was Jordanson. Soaking wet, covered in algae, clutching a rusty bucket full of lobsters. I swerved and barely managed to stay on the road. The car spun sideways and I hammered on the brakes, screeching to a halt.

The esteemed psychologist, enemy of harmless pronouns, misinterpreter of Canadian civil law, one of the few with the guts to stand up to a children’s movie about princesses and magic snowmen, was advancing now. Picking up a jog, Jordanson began to wildly hurl lobsters. Hard red shells cracked my rear window, little white bits of lobster guts smearing the glass. Panicked, I repeatedly failed to start the car. He was growing ever closer, each successive lobster landing against the car with increasing force. I managed to start the engine and pull away toward my escape. One last lobster made contact and shattered my rear window completely, landing injured in the back seat. It was Pinchy, writhing in pain, but alive. Beyond Pinchy, through the shattered remnants of the rear window, I saw Jordanson growing smaller and smaller on the horizon. He was stood in the middle of the road, wildly swinging the bucket of lobsters in the air. The surrounding tarmac was smeared red and I heard the word “hierarchy” fading into the cold air as I rounded a corner and lost sight of one of the greatest minds of our generation.

With a safe distance between myself and Jordanson, the physical tension began to subside. I feared my mind would never shake the events of what was supposed to be a routine interview assignment, but the adrenaline of survival had settled at least. I looked to the other survivor. Wounded, but still moving, Pinchy was desperately clawing around the back seat.

“Don’t worry Pinchy, you’re gonna make it boy, I promise. We’re both gonna be okay.”

At the sound of my voice, Pinchy froze.

Jordanson had said Pinchy could understand English, and in turn I had promptly dismissed it as more pseudoscientific nonsense, but as I slowed the car to a crawl, Pinchy turned and met me with his fierce alpha-lobster eyes.

“C’mere man, have you seen The Wire?





The One Where Ross Controls The Narrative


“You know the way I’m always on about that missing episode of Friends I thought I saw?”

“Yeah, the one that obviously doesn’t exist? Your white whale?”

“Yeah, white whale, entirely white cast, whatever. Anyway, I finally remembered it! It came to me in a dream.”

“Oh, like ‘Yesterday’.”

“No, not yesterday, it was earlier today!”

“Yeah, I just mean it’s like when Paul McCartney came up with the melody for…”

“Paul McCartney was never in Friends?”

“He’s a straight, white man though. Could probably find a role for him handy enough.”

“Here, I knew you wouldn’t listen so I jotted down the synopsis as soon as I woke up. Just read this and I’ll get Schwimmer on the phone. Finally get that reunion up and running.”

Right, so Ross is obviously the only remotely interesting character in the entire show and the rest are just foil for Schwimmer so the episode primarily concerns him. The appeal of Ross is multi-faceted but essentially he’s the focal point of the action due to Schwimmer’s comedic timing and the fact that Ross, the brutally oppressive patriarch of the group, forces the viewer to empathise with a domineering individualistic representation of entitled consumer capitalism. This is the Nabokovian beauty of the show. In Lolita, Nabokov lures the reader in with beautiful prose. In Friends, it’s the unadulterated banality of the sitcom format that lulls the viewer into a false sense of security, dulling their awareness of the horrors unfolding on screen.

The plot concerns Ross and his relationship with Rachel. Obviously that’s the only plot line of note in the entire series and they probably could’ve concluded it within a season or two if they weren’t schwimming in money like the corporate leeches they are. So anyway, Ross treats Rachel poorly and flies into a fit of jealous rage when she resists his demands of uncompromising subservience. Let’s just say a co-worker tells her a joke and she politely laughs or something. Obviously Ross finds out about this, having planted the male co-worker two seasons previous, off-screen, to lure Rachel into making some sort of forced mistake eventually. Thus, in his eyes, asserting his position as the morally upstanding party in their on/off relationship. Of course, they’d have “broken up” over an actual, legitimate mistake committed by Ross at this point. Despite this, the surveillance would continue, because Ross, as a sort of surrogate for the viewer, has a meta-awareness of the sitcom environment. Owing to this awareness, Ross rests easy in the knowledge that he and Rachel, as the respective male and female leads with the most screen time, will obviously end up together when the cameras stop rolling.

So anyway all the other characters are off doing their own thing, attempting to force chemistry or stumbling down narrative cul-de-sacs full of catchphrases. Ross has the surveillance network in full-swing. Every single extra on the show is part of this network. Now here’s the twist – Gunther is a plant. That’s right, he’s the mole. It’s obvious really, if Ross found himself in close proximity with someone who fancied Rachel that much he’d obviously take them off screen and quietly shoot them in the back of the head.

Outside of the rent-controlled conveniently dead Grandmother apartment, Central Perk is the main location for all the action to play out. By placing Gunther in this key area, Ross has his Snape, a man who will protect his best interests in order to protect his own love, Rachel. Utilizing a method comprised of emotional blackmail and imagined violence, Ross installs Gunther as the kingpin of his shady surveillance network.

This forced understanding serves Ross almost immediately, with Gunther’s employment of Rachel early in the series, an ostensibly sympathetic action, actually serving as the first nail in her Schwimmer shaped coffin. With Ross a core member of the supposed “friends” and Gunther keeping the workplace on lock-down, Rachel’s early character development is forcibly Ross-centric. From this tightly-controlled world inhabited by the Rachel of earlier seasons, we witness the development of a kind of forced Stockholm Syndrome. Ross, aware of the sitcom structure, positions himself as the only fitting narrative resolution for Rachel when the curtain finally comes down, after ten harrowing years.

I’ll be there for you, when the rain starts to pour, for I control the weather. I’ll be there for you, at all times, because I’ve constructed your world as such. We were on a break, of my own design. Play upon the imagined drama my sweet, simple audience, because loutish Ross can never truly jeopardise the relationship, for jeopardy cannot exist in a sitcom world of his own construction. The other characters, locked in their linear narrative trajectories lack the awareness to save Rachel. Perhaps her only true hope was Gunther. Alas, he, like all before him, cowered in the shadow of the mighty Schwimmer.

“Are you finished reading it?”

“Eh, yeah. I mean, it’s not really an episode synopsis though. It’s just a demented, rambling analysis of…”

“Schwimmer wouldn’t pick up.”


“He didn’t answer the phone. None of them did. Well, apart from LeBlanc.”

“Matt LeBlanc actually answered the phone?”


“Not gonna bother with it then?”



The Beach Boys

Beach is the wrong word, but we’re on a stretch of sand bordered by a large body of salty water. In the grandiose fashion typical of this scenario, my opponent sits in stony silence, veiled and garbed in black from head to toe. The gameboard rests heavy between our crossed legs. My right hand trudges solemnly from piece to piece as I contemplate the next move. I’m trying quite hard to strike a thoughtful, statuesque pose, befitting the gravity of the situation, by resting my chin atop my left fist. In reality, I’m holding my head up to keep awake, wits failing and eyelids drooping.

The beach, as I’ll noun it for simplicity, is perpetual and void of landmarks. Upon its blank, greying canvas our little game constitutes the only blotch. The water ripples to the steady rhythm of the breeze song, gentle and interminable. I glance inland toward the barely discernible brushstroke of dull greenery where the sand reluctantly relents. The sounds and sights of people and things beyond the distant green are memories and daydreams now.

I always imagined that it’d be louder. Chaotic even. Blasting sirens and an overcrowded hospital, a flash of broken glass and dirty tarmac, maybe even a blaze of selfless heroism. Everyone always prays for the calm and the silence, neglecting the true nature of that silence – protracted and weary. The comfort of family and friends by the bedside is often underpinned with trauma and regret.

My trudging right hand halts and forms a pincer, clamping the chosen piece between my thumb and forefinger. I make my move and I don’t know if it’s a good one or a bad one or if it even matters a single iota. Across the gameboard, my opponent is blank and expressionless as the sand beneath his feet. Sitting this close, I finally begin to understand the fascination and impossibility of the looming shadow, after all these years.

He’s quick and methodical as ever, playing his next piece immediately. The lack of regard or consideration isn’t ruthless or cold, it’s just business. The cumulative experience of eternity behind a flick of the wrist. Direct and urgent without even the merest hint of reckless bravado. The tension crawls all the way up my torso from the pit of my stomach to the back of my throat and the talons sink, likely for the last time. He’s not fazed.

Everyone plays the game and, in turn, reaches their last move eventually. An oft-repeated, and not even remotely comforting, mantra for the masses. The wind is strong and silent, the man in the dark garb too. I am silent. As he continues to play his moves with dull, routine certainty I grow further racked with doubt and indecision, temporarily halting the inevitable conclusion.

Victory is an abstract concept, an unattainable delusion. The odds of survival higher than the number of grains of sand on this dreary beach. I rest my hand flat on the ground, letting the displaced sand rise up between my fingers. It’s coarse and cold and I feel no attachment to the world or nature or anything around me other than the game. A strange affinity grows for the man-shaped void sitting across from me.

I’ve been slow and deliberate in my movements all this time, the game remaining fairly stable since my opponent opened up proceedings all those decades ago. I see now that I’ve been on the defensive side of things since the very first move. He strikes clean and true, while I cling desperately by calloused fingertips and fading will. The infantilisation of death in the context of a game is comforting really, a cyclical collapse back into the happy daze of childhood when all the nonsense of adulthood is said and done. To fight for one’s life is scary, to play is simple. Morbidity and absurdity walking off into the sunset hand-in-hand.

There aren’t many possible moves left now. I lift the biggest and boldest piece available to me, bright and red and garish. It’s oddly light and it feels warm in my hand. I’ve been all the moves up to this point and this move is the punctuation of all the moves before. When I was young they seemed infinite and I used them recklessly. With the late blooming of hindsight I see that the moves were only ever finite and I squandered a great many. I dwell on those that I did not squander before playing the final piece.

All those climactic encounters between life and death bear the same aesthetic, sombre old battles between black and white. The game isn’t so serious really. Indeed, I’ve found it to be quite the opposite. Colourful and absurd and full of random moves, in spite of our best efforts. Bracing myself for the climax, I take one last look around. The water is placid, the breeze gone and the sun long since disappeared over the smudge of green on the horizon. Meeting my opponent’s gaze directly for the first time, I place my final piece upon the mule’s overloaded back and Buckaroo’s legs shoot wildly into the air, claiming another soul.



Pegsy pulls a splinter from his thumb. He’d been told to wear gloves on innumerable occasions but his subconscious entwinement of masculinity and pain tolerance has led to a standing belief that gnarled, dirty palms will contrast the soft femininity he desires in a potential mate and make him minutely more attractive. This splinter is tinged with a royal blue, born of a pallet crafted to carry fruit into the store. Pegsy despises fruit, with a particular contempt reserved for bananas. His own father had held an ill-fated dream of opening a local store dealing exclusively in the trade of bananas and, perhaps in time, the sale of other banana-related products and merchandise. Alas, it was not to be.

Little Pegsy, not that he was ever truly “little”, had wholeheartedly supported his father’s fructose-soaked dream, gorging himself with bananas on a daily basis to prove this support to Papa Pegsy. The man took little heed of his son’s support, considering it an insultingly juvenile act and lambasting his son for such a childish approach to the whole banana business. It may have been negative attention, but it was attention nonetheless and the young Pegsy must have internally correlated banana consumption and fatherly attention on some subconscious level because each critical comment would only drive his daily intake of bananas higher and higher. Undoubtedly, this gluttonous childhood indulgence, coupled with the implied daddy issues and internalised importance of food consumption have contributed to Pegsy’s considerable volume today, and all the health issues included therein.

Generally, Pegsy would dispose of his multiple banana peels each day by adding them to a crude compost heap he had unintentionally created in the small back garden behind the family’s semi-detached house. The pile grew higher by the day, as did a simmering resentment on the behalf of Mr. Pegsy Senior. Still, they let Pegsy off with it because the compost heap, the countless bananas and the desire for attention all bore the hallmarks of a potentially excellent child, in an entirely conventional sense. An inclination toward appeasing the patriarch of the three-piece family unit, a desire to eat ostensibly healthy foods and a conscious head with regards to environmental salvation. Realistically, the appeasement of Pegsy Senior should have flagged burgeoning psychological issues, the bananas alone didn’t constitute a balanced diet and the recycling basically amounted to a huge pile of rotting yellow shit in the back garden. The dire condition of the back garden drew the ire of many neighbours but the rectangular green space mattered little to any of the family, given that Pegsy displayed no tendency toward physical endeavours and had no siblings with whom to traverse the outdoors.

Eventually, the council had been contacted with regards to the unsanitary nature of Pegsy’s makeshift compost heap and Mr and Mrs P decided that it had to go. Young Pegsy was tasked with disposal and the parents turned a blind eye as he loaded plastic Tesco bags with foul, decaying bananas and promptly fucked them into the canal. After this point Pegsy had begun to develop a sense of awareness with regards to the effectiveness of his exponential banana intake and the attention extracted from his father. One week, in a fit of potassium induced madness, the considerably-bigger-than-little Pegsy switched out the bananas for apples in a fit of prepubescent rebellion. Again, Pegsy’s father reacted with a sort of dull weariness akin to that which greeted the excessive banana consumption. Despite the essentially unchanged reaction on his father’s behalf, Pegsy swore he saw a glint of anger behind his father’s loveless eyes and mournfully returned to the bananas within twenty-four hours.

The compost heap having been consigned to its own figurative compost heap, Pegsy reeled his consumption down to one banana per day. He resolved to diversify his approach by leaving his single stray banana peel on the arm of his father’s regular chair in front of the sitting room’s battered television. Alas, this approach yielded a response of complete ignorance on the behalf of Pegsy Senior, and so a more drastic approach was taken by the young Peg himself. Having indulged in his customary post-breakfast banana, Pegsy left the peel sitting pretty in the white tiled hallway, just before the front door, ensuring that his father would have to encounter the yellow symbol of paternal adoration before he left for work. Sitting in the shadows at the top of the stairwell, Pegsy watched on, silently willing his father to bend down, pick up the peel and finally grasp the extent of his son’s love.

As Pegsy the Elder strode toward the front door to carve out a path to his banana kingdom he never even glanced downward. His stride was long and fierce, covering two tiles in a single step. So careful was the placement of the little yellow trophy, growing browner by the minute, that Pegsy Senior, with such an immaculate stepping pattern, was destined to land heel atop peel in a moment of wondrous symmetry. And so it played out thusly, Pegsy watching through the vertical bars lining the staircase, his father slipped with such comedic verve that Pegsy still half-believes he heard a cheesy sitcom VWOOOOOMP, unlikely as that may seem. One sound effect agreed upon by Pegsy Jr and Mama Pegsy, in the adjacent kitchen at the time of the incident, is the sickening crack of Papa Pegsy’s skull upon the shiny white tile. Perhaps solace could be taken in the fact that Pegsy Senior died doing what he loved – rapidly losing consciousness.

The funeral passed in a haze of potassium-soaked guilt and in the wake of the incident, Pegsy, understandably, kicked his banana habit cold turkey. Futile attempts by Mama Pegsy to distract her son from the almost unfathomable recurring guilt that would characterise the course of his life were regular and ineffective in the weeks and months following his father’s burial. A particularly unfortunate attempt involved upgrading Pegsy’s battered old Super Nintendo Entertainment System to the three-dimensioned glory of its progeny, the Nintendo 64. Alas, the games bundled with the console, Mario Kart 64 and Donkey Kong 64, served only to remind Pegsy of the comical near-manslaughter of the man whose approval he would now never receive. He never managed to win many races on Mario Kart owing to his paralysed refusal to press Z and utilise the item whenever he received a banana, or bunch thereof, with which to thwart his opponents. He did, however, in some sort of sordid sadomasochistic penance, manage to 100% complete the notoriously collectible-saturated Donkey Kong 64, picking up every last banana, gold or otherwise, along the way.

The Starling

I was walking home today and a man in the passenger seat of a car rolled down his window and shouted something mean-spirited at me. In times past, when I was shackled with depression, I would have taken this very poorly indeed. Likely, I’d have gone home and fixated on it for hours, if not days, convinced that this ill sentiment toward me must be shared universally. The man who shouted at me has doubtlessly forgotten that I even exist, but had I been feeling a bit more vulnerable today, his seemingly inconsequential action could have had a detrimental effect on my mental well-being.

Now imagine if I’d been really, seriously suffering today and this man’s lack of compassion had tipped me over the edge. His actions could have had irreversible consequences. Worse again, imagine I’d been a lone woman, naked and vulnerable, in the throes of a mental breakdown and the man in question had been a member of the Gardai, and instead of merely shouting, he’d taken the footage of my terrible ordeal and shown it to all his friends. Then imagine that these friends, members of the public service ostensibly designed to protect and serve vulnerable members of society, had allowed these images to make their way online, doing untold damage to an already fragile mind. Except, you don’t have to imagine it, because it actually fucking happened and now a woman is dead.

Dara Quigley’s death is shocking and tragic, offering a bleak illumination of some oft-ignored societal ills. For all the supposed advocacy, the celebrity soundbites and the constant stream of discussion on mental health, the mentally ill in this country will continue to suffer because a basic, societal empathy is largely absent. The widespread understanding of mental illness refuses to develop beyond a narrow, diluted picture of relatively straightforward sadness. Compassion is employed up to a point, but when the behaviour of a mentally ill person becomes too striking, or even just inconvenient, we revert to the freak show mentality. We point and laugh. Obvious cries for help, serious manic episodes, are discarded as the behaviour of raving lunatics, beyond saving.

Worse yet is the sort of institutional boys club culture that will happily value a sick thrill above the health and safety of another human being, particularly one who is so clearly suffering. The man who shared the video initially may have been the instigator, but those in the WhatsApp group who allowed the footage to exist, and spread, without immediately acting to intervene, are culpable too. So too those who watched the video elsewhere and did nothing. It’s a damning insight into our collective lack of empathy and a worrying symptom of a desensitized society. Even as the story spreads online, our national media seems reluctant to highlight such a sickening case of Gardai malpractice.

It happens often, the mockery, we just don’t notice because the outcome isn’t so immediately tragic in the way that Dara Quigley’s death has been. When someone acts out, they are routinely dismissed as eccentric, attention-seeking or hysterical. The desire to understand isn’t present, instead there’s a shallow desire to appear understanding. This self-preserving image of compassion is cultivated, online and elsewhere, but genuine empathy is being corroded. I’ve seen people portray themselves as advocates when it suits them, then go on to viciously mock an obviously unwell Sinead O’Connor. The narrative surrounding mental illness in Ireland is dangerously narrow. We’re fine when someone just needs to talk and everyone loves it when some celebrity sells exercise as a panacea, but when the stakes are raised and things grow too uncomfortable for us, we shun the mentally ill. When an unwell woman walks naked down the streets of our capital city, she can expect ignorance at best and cruelty at worst.

Someday the man who amplified Dara Quigley’s suffering will come face-to-face with the mental anguish of someone close to him. A friend or family member, maybe even one of his own children, because mental illness is never far from any of our doors. When that day comes I hope it cuts him. I hope it cuts him deep, because he’ll look on back on the day he hurt Dara, instead of helping her, and maybe he’ll realise that his actions have contributed directly to an uncaring, borderline malicious society that doesn’t only ignore the mentally ill, but openly treats them with utter contempt.

“Our economy and society is modeled on the behaviour of pigeons, survival of the fittest, everybody out for themselves. The reality is more complex and beautiful than this regime can possibly imagine. In reality, we are more like a flock of starlings, producing intricate, amazing patterns all arising from one fundamental rule: no one bird is allowed to get lost. This is the type of society I want to see, where no one person is allowed to fall between the cracks, nobody gets lost and no person is homeless.” – Dara Quigley

Sun, Soccer and Screaming Parents

The sun was blistering. I’d never grown accustomed to its charms and I was fucked if I was going to develop an affinity for the big, ostentatious prick at this stage. The astro-turf football pitch showed no such disdain for the soaring temperature, remaining coolly unaffected as hordes of children stomped, scuffled and sprinted across its futuristic bastardisation of the earth. It was irritating enough that Ben’s sudden desire to play football forced me to spend hours each week standing shoulder-to-shoulder with all the overly-enthusiastic parents, but since the old groundsman died in that seven lawnmower pile-up, I didn’t even have the nostalgia of a real fucking grass football pitch to alleviate the mind-numbing experience of watching talentless children batter each other under the guise of ‘tackling’.

The other parents were comfortably the worst aspect of the whole charade. Some had the decency to look on in detached silence, or spend the duration of the match buried in their phones, and I was quietly grateful for their passionless lack of engagement. Unfortunately, most of the utter knobs were too selfish to let their failed aspirations smoulder within and resolved to spend those dreary evenings on the sidelines treating the under-age football matches as some sort of punching-bag/therapist hybrid. The illusion of ‘encouragement’ allowed for Mr. and Mrs. Existential Regret to shout and scream until they grew hoarse. Often the words were laced with near-genuine positive affirmations. Much more often, despite the supposed good intentions, negative connotations began to seep in and it became utterly clear, to me at least, that they were merely shouting at themselves. They weren’t pushing little Rudiger toward ‘his’ dream of becoming a professional, they were openly lamenting their own failure to reach those levels.

“I could’ve made it you know, had a trial with Liverpool and all, if it wasn’t for the gammy knee here letting me down week-in, week-out”, says John, the short-arse, bloated accountant with a rehearsed smile and the distant sound of his own, long-deceased parents screaming at him. “That’s a pity, John”, I offer as a meaningless consolation. I wonder if John’s utter lack of talent and the complete absence of the usual genetic attributes which constitute the modern superhuman footballer have played any part in his failure to reach the pinnacle of the game. John is screaming words of aggressive encouragement which will later contribute to his son’s decision to take up smoking.

– “You’re a fat, slovenly cunt John.”

– “What’s that?”

– “That referee, he’s a right prick, isn’t he?”

– “Oh. Aye, to be sure. Soft penalty there. Wasn’t like that in my day, a gust of wind would knock some of these lads down.”

Yes, John. Curse those six year olds and their inability to ride a tackle. They should stand up like real men and take whatever unnecessary, ill-timed violence befalls them. John returns to swearing at the children and I glance down toward my watch, one of the few remaining analog components of my existence. The strap has grown worried around the edges, straining against the pressure exerted by my exponentially chubbier wrist. Ten minutes, Christ. I’ve only been here watching this shite for ten minutes. A glob of fat, translucent liquid splats against the face of my timepiece and a heavy rain begins to assault the pitch. Resentfully, I yearn for the big, ugly sun.

The Doctor’s Office

I enter the doctor’s office with all the energy of a bag of paraplegic snails. I incline my decaying body forwards, approaching the sickeningly chipper receptionist at a forty-five degree angle. Leaning in close, I offer up my name, hushed and afraid. I’m told to sit in the waiting area. I’ll be called in due course. I spin around, proceed forwards and manage to lower myself, unscathed, into a dirty plastic chair. This takes a disgusting amount of time and just as my arse greets the plastic with a gentle kiss I am immediately called forth to the lands beyond reception.

Passing through multiple hallways, each decorated like a low-budget film set, I arrive at a second waiting area. This additional waiting area is a clinical hallway. Huge, foreboding and full of bloody sick people. I feel the eyes greet me with disdain as I enter and pirouette into the nearest seat with the casual grace of a swan driving an articulated lorry. None of my fellow hall dwellers are below the age of two hundred and I can see into their skulls, revealing dark thoughts.

“What’s he doing here? He’s far too young, white and male to be sick. He probably just wants to immigrate to my country, steal my pension and engage in terror attacks so he can afford to buy heroin and then sell the heroin to fund his gay marriage. Then him and his foreign partner can open that abortion clinic with the trans-friendly bathrooms and illegally claim the dole at the same time.”

I just know that every single person in the room is having these caustic, contradictory thoughts. Especially me. I’ve just thought them there, you’ve read them. Regardless of who the thoughts belong to, they’re irrelevant given my current predicament. These people may not see the signs of illness upon my visage, but I assure you that a dark plague is eating me from the inside out. Lifting a newspaper from the oaken table beside me, I note the headline – “Shocking Statistics: 100% Of Those Who Read This Headline Will Eventually Die”. Taking comfort in this heartfelt reassurance from the red top, I feel temporarily weightless.

Soon I realise that my weightlessness can be attributed to the fact that I’ve stood up and am entering the doctor’s actual office. She extends an arm and greets me with a threatening, cartoonish handshake, presumably to assert her dominance as a leading political figure in Western society. I consider this action somewhat unusual for a GP in a small Irish town, but I shrug it off and take a seat. She eyes me with utter contempt. I imagine she shares the feelings of her patients out in the hallway. The ones with the real illnesses. Not like me, I’m just cracked in the head, I reckon.

“So, you’ve not been feeling the best lately?”

I tell her that she’s correct, I’ve not been feeling the best. I proceed to tell the doctor, that far from feeling the best, I’ve been feeling possibly the worst I’ve ever felt. Beginning to explain my issue, I acknowledge that it often centres around alcohol and the reckless abandon of a night on the town. In particular, trips to the local nightclub seem to be key triggers, in my own unqualified opinion.

“You say the problem often rears its head during, and following, a night’s drinking? Maybe if you took me through the average night out, I could begin to develop a feeling for some of the underlying causes here.”

I concur and begin to lay out the usual sequence of events with regard to my nocturnal escapades.

“Let me see, what would I do? Well, usually I’d make a quick dart for the bar and commence intoxication, so as to build up a liquid tolerance for the events which are laid out in front of me. After procuring a beverage from the harassed bartender, I’d locate those contemporaries of mine, wherever they may place themselves within the dark walls of the club. Generally, I’d find them amidst smoke and chatter in the halfway area between the inside and the out. At this point I’d slobber and yammer relentlessly. Of course, in my own eyes, I’d be displaying urbane wit, not shouting obscenities at strangers and begging for rollies. After I’d baffled my contemporaries with a barrage of wholesome anecdotes, procuring a few more delicious pints along the way, I’d head to the dance-floor and see out the night in a sweaty haze of poor decisions and instant regret.”

The doctor leans back, eyeing me with a queer tilt of the head. Bearing the countenance of a person on the cusp of some minor revelation, I sense a diagnosis dancing on the outskirts of her mind, threatening to emerge. Intently, she leans forward and we lock eyes.

“So, let me surmise your standard night in the club and outline the behaviour involved. I see three core components at the root of your condition – Alcohol, dancing and nonsensical conversation.”

“Yes, that sounds about right.”

“You usually drink, usually dance, usually bubble?”

Suddenly, it’s happening. No longer confined to the nightclub, my illness has followed me into the daylight hours. I don’t know how it’s happening, but it is. I’m promising the world to a brand new girl I don’t even know yet.

I look to my wrist. Of course. She’s wearing my rolex. I’m a party guy and she knows it. NEXT THING SHE’S WEARING MY ROLEX. NEXT THING SHE’S WEARING MY ROLEX.

Chaos descends upon the small doctor’s office. Walls collapse to reveal that the office, as I’d suspected, is enclosed in a town-sized nightclub.The room is submerged in darkness. Lights begin to strobe. The ancient pensioners from the waiting room are merking each other left, right and centre. In vain, I try to retrieve my watch from the woman across the desk. I suspect that she may not be a licensed physician after all. I’ve been duped. It’s relentless. Will this nightmare ever end?