Ticking Vacillation – Conor Doyle

4.03pm July 24th

marthahealy@catholiccolaitionagainstnarcotics
to me

Congratulations!

You’re one month free of *insert drug* Oscar, and so now you must write your ‘One month free of *insert drug* essay’. This is a special assignment to mark such a milestone (go you!), so crucial in your Recovery Adventure™ here at The Catholic Coalition Against Narcotics Ireland. Don’t forget to hit all the mastheads, either. Pour into these pages your wonderous feelings of emancipation from the shackles of addiction! Scribe here your refreshed feelings of personhood! Tell us, what ingratiating work have you done with your month? What is your philanthropic vice! Fundraising? Volunteering? Many of our clients join charities. You must have at least helped some people get clean, yeah? Our Client of the Month is hotly contested this time around, 23 referrals the best so far!

And of course, through the very writing of your essay your resolve will be fortified. Temptations to ever touch that toxic, pernicious, poison again will be abated. Nay, crushed. And don’t forget to submit by 5pm, July 24th in order to move to the next phase of your treatment.

4.04pm July 24th

Oscar closed his Gmail and opened up a Word document. Charity work? He thought. Charity, charity, charity he recited in his head, eyes wandering out the window while chewing the corner of a blister pack of Cetrine Allergy tablets. His eyes were killing him with that hay fever itch so potent in Ireland during the summer. It felt like there was something constantly tickling his eyeballs. Little pixies maybe, gently dancing on the inside of his eyelids. Ever so slightly their tiny pixie feet glancing off his tear ducts, to the beat of whatever music it is pixie’s listen to. Enya maybe or something? Regardless, the conglomeration of their dainty, tickling, dancing feet was creating a hot fire of itch so unbearable that he simply had no other choice but to stand up from the computer and check his eyes in the mirror. He pulled down on the skin at his cheekbones with each index finger, revealing the maze of red capillaries at the bottom of his eyeballs. No sign of pixie life. His eyes were exceptionally red from incessant scratching though, which clashed with the deep purple of the bags underneath them. Ah yes! Charity!

24th July 2020.

My one month free of cocaine essay.

Charity work. I did the ‘run 5 tag 5 donate 5 challenge’ this month. I was tagged by my best friend Dyl on Instagram, which meant I had to run 5 kilometres. Which was pretty fucking annoying to be honest because running is awful, but I wasn’t not gonna do it. Everyone would know if you didn’t. So I allotted myself one week – get a few runs in, build myself up that sort of thing. I did extensive research, too. I had a little look on that couch to 5k app, and there’s actually some amazing YouTube videos on running as well. Get your 5k time down fast! I think one was called. Something about re-wiring the way our foot hits the ground because our feet have been coddled from years of running in padded runners. Very interesting and something extremely overlooked I must say. Supposed to take your time down by 30 seconds a kilometre apparently. Anyway, I ran it in just under 25 minutes and put it on my instagram story. I got a fair few replies of that little ‘man running’ emoji with the little ‘gust of wind’ emoji coming behind him. Because I guess that’s a fast time? I was happy with it anyway. And I donated €5 to the cancer society and tagged five of the lads in my story too. nah fuck this this is stupid

4.18pm July 24th

Blink, Blink. Oscar tried to sync up his blinking with the cursor on the Word document. It was hard, he thought, because every time you close your eyes you can’t see the cursor anymore.

New Whatsapp message:

What’s up I think we’re going to Union early now you coming?

Union early. He shuddered. The very thought aroused in him a memory he’d worked hard to forget. The memory of an encounter with a humanoid koi fish. Union was a nightclub / venue on the northside of Dublin. It had a large smoking area which had been appropriated into a sort of beer garden. The outside area had a large glass veranda overhanging and heaters stuck onto the walls, insulating young Irish adults from the harsh unpredictability of the weather. It was kind of underground and was pretty ornate in a sort of pretentious, self-aware, shabby chic sort of way. With exposed brick on each of the three walls enclosing the smoking area and random flower pots, without any flowers, sitting on little make shift wooden shelves attached to these walls, the surface of which only barely big enough for the flower pot to sit on.

For Oscar, Union was where time, promises and resolve went to die. The promise he made on this occasion was that he wouldn’t do any coke. But he was getting bored. There were many triggers for Oscar’s cokeless resolve to falter. Boredom, anxiety, sadness, happiness, loneliness, coke, coke, coke, coke, coke. Right now his boredom had led him to staring into the space above the left shoulder of his friend Jack, trying to make it seem as though he was still present within his circle of friends. What he was actually doing, was eavesdropping on a conversation between two young professional types. From like KPMG or Deloitte maybe. One of whom seemed to be describing a bowel movement in great detail.

“My arse was like ground zero, man. And not ground zero today with like a beautiful memorial and tourists paying tribute and whatever, I mean on September 11th. With like debris and blood everywhere. And people in pain and screaming and stuff. Well, it was just me in pain and screaming but the analogy still works, I think”.

His eavesdropping was interrupted by Dylan walking into the smoking area, flanked by some lads Oscar hadn’t seen before.

“Ah! What’s up man?” Dylan said, with a false surprise.

“What’s up” Oscar replied, but his eyes were wandering towards the two unidentified men on either side.

“Oh, this is Cormac and this is Ross” he said. There was a pause. “From college”.

Oscar and the two now identified men went into a synchronised dance of bobbing head nods and fake smiles that built to a crescendo of “what’s the craic” in unison. They all knew the steps perfectly, having performed it countless times for live audiences. What came after the dance though, was less certain, and there was a silence as each of them seemed to grab at the corners of their minds for words that weren’t there.

“We’re gonna grab a drink” the two newly identified men said. Dylan and Oscar were now alone, but words didn’t come any easier.

“I saw your Ma on the road the other day” Dylan said. “She looked great. She’s not still…” he trailed off.

“Nah man! No, jesus she must be finished treatment like 2 or 3 months now I think. She’s doing really good yeah”

“That’s unreal”

“How’ve you been?”

“Eh, same old man honestly, college stuff, have my dissertation due in like a month now I think? A month yeah”

Oscar didn’t ask about Dylan’s dissertation. He couldn’t remember the topic of it, even though he knew he’d asked a million times. Even if he did remember he wouldn’t know what to say.

“I’ve a bit of coke here man if you wanna do it?” Dylan finally said. The awkwardness seemed to alleviate some.

“Aww I might have a bit” Oscar said, a mischievous smile breaking out on his face. The mischief was mirrored by Dylan, who raised his eyebrows into an expression which said ‘go on, be bold’ and in a second the two old friends were laughing, more than they should have been.

Doing ‘a bit’ meant getting his own bag. And getting a bag of coke was an entire commitment. It was like marrying a time period. It was as though him + (the night in Union + an after party) had vowed to be bound in unending love until daylight do them part. It was at the after party where he met the koi fish.

The setting of their meeting had been the sitting room of a student house in Phibsborough on the northside of Dublin. The room smelled like sour must, amber leaf and bacon fries. The smell of bacon fries was the strongest, and seemed to get stronger in the vicinity of the two couches in the room, leading Oscar to credibly surmise that someone had washed the couch covers with a bacon-fry-scented detergent. He felt he could almost smell the salt. From the sitting room, you could see through a window into a conservatory, which contained the only toilet of the house, using which would render you soaking wet on account of the leak in the ceiling. There was an unidentified beeping noise coming from the kitchen at regular intervals.

For Oscar, reality was beginning to behave a little erratically. He was reclining in an arm chair that appeared to have once been a deep forest green, but was now the colour of a black wine gum. As in, if the light hit it in a certain way it still had a green hue, but now, it was mainly black. And from the vantage point of his armchair, Oscar had seen a rotund, human sized, orange koi fish emerging from the kitchen, holding a can of Tyskie. Oscar was terrified and enchanted all at once. The large koi fish man loomed over him, engaging Oscar, with remarkable aplomb for a fish, on the topic of Incels, a topic on which Oscar actually had a little prior knowledge.

* Incels, Definition: a group of deprived and lonely men that congregate exclusively on the internet, for fear of the outside world.

In – as in, involuntary. Cel – as in, celibate. As in, through no volunteering of their own, nobody will fuck them.

“Incels are an interesting phenomenon” the fish was saying. “A marker of our times. A clash, it seems, between the emancipation of the modern woman and the rise of the internet”

Hmm? What did any of this mean? Who was this fish man? Had he been sent by someone, a deity? Buddha? Oscar had recently accepted Buddha as his saviour so that would make sense. Perhaps he had been sent to guide Oscar, this clairvoyant sea creature, sent to rid him of his vices! Oscar was enraptured now by this beautiful creature, and began agreeing exuberantly with everything he was saying. After all, this omniscient mongoloid merman and was about to tell him all the secrets to salvation.

The fish man turned out to be Kevin, Dyl’s friend from the scouts when they were kids. He was the owner of the bacon fry couches. It was unclear why he was pontificating about incels, but it was pretty clear he had no prophetic powers. Although there was a rumour that he’d flipped his first cross joint when he was 10, which is definitely prodigious, if not prophetic. Regardless, unbeknownst to Oscar, he had just five minutes ago taken a bump of ketamine, assuming it to be coke. And as a result, he was having lucid visions in which he was enmeshing reality with his weird affinity for Asian culture. The memory did spark in him something to write, though.

24th July, 2020.

My cocaine journey.

Catholic Coalition Against Drugs Ireland has helped me immensely in my ‘Recovery Adventure’. To be honest, before I found it, I didn’t like life very much. I would have been quite happy if it stopped at any particular point. You see, I tried giving up cocaine on my own once before. I even gave quitting a funny name, NoPat. It’s always easier to say serious things if you give them a funny name. I should explain NoPat. No as in, the word no, like negative, nix, never, no way buddy! And Pat as in cocaine, like patsy, bifter, ricky, beautiful fluffy cloud of goodness! In short, I wasn’t doing cocaine anymore.

The name template was robbed from a movement created by Incels. A group of lonely men on the internet. Their movement, NoFap (which I tried), is predicated on not wanking. For like, a really really long time. It purports to give you clarity of mind. Which any man who hasn’t ejaculated in three days knows to be a falsehood. Not wanking is like not taking out the bins of your bollocks. It’s like a building tension in your sack that begins to permeate through everything you do, sticking it’s head in where it’s neither wanted nor appropriate. Keeping you from studying, from sleeping, from anything –

4.29pm July 24th

Click, click. He was slumped off to the left hand side of his chair, looking down at his left hand, which clutched his lighter. He was rolling the rotating flint wheel under his thumb, being careful not to apply enough pressure on the flat, plastic fork underneath to make it ignite. Just rolling, back and forth. Click, click.

He jolted upright at the sight of the girl from next door coming into her back garden. His bedroom faced the back of both houses, and from his little lookout he could see perfectly into both his and next door’s garden. The two gardens were separated only by a low dividing wall, but the divide was fortified by trees and shrubs making it impossible to see from one garden into the other. Unless you were in his bedroom. His room was the best place to be if you were inclined to snoop on your neighbours, which he was. Who wouldn’t be when your neighbour was such a goddess? He lowered himself behind his laptop screen, but let his eyes peep over the top.

The goddess walked into her garden, carrying under one arm a basket of wet clothes and began to put them on the washing line to dry. How was it possible that someone could conduct themselves with such grace when putting fluffy socks on a washing line? She was wearing a pair those billowing, elephant imprinted pants that young women often buy on piss ups life changing trips to Thailand in their early 20s. On her torso, she was wearing an oversized grey hoodie, adorned with what appeared to be the name of an American ivy league university on the front. But what majesty! Her sandy brown hair flowed off her upper back like a waterfall, only barely reaching down to kiss the arch in her lower back. The way she held her shoulders exuded a self-assuredness so foreign to Oscar. Was she looking? Nah, he thought, she can’t see in anyway for the glare of the sun on the window. Her face was now turned in his direction though, allowing him to see her eyes. Though she was squinting he could still make out their deep brown, lightened ever so slightly by the way the relentless July sun reflected off them. What was she squinting at? He wondered. Perhaps she’d seen some rare bird in the cloudless sky and was straining her perfect eyes for a closer look. He marvelled at the combination of her beauty and intellect. She took a step towards the window now, washing basket still clasped under one arm, her mouth opening slightly, transforming her expression from the meditative apathy of one hanging clothes, into the disgust and incredulity of someone who had just discovered a man watching her from his bedroom window, thinking he was hidden behind a laptop. Oscar jumped away from the window.

4.34pm July 24th

Why was it so warm? The air in his room was thick. It was one of those rare Dublin summer days which are both hot and humid. He felt like it was difficult to move for the thickness of the air. He lifted his arm up off his desk and the great difficulty of doing so confirmed his theory. Moving through the air was like trying to move through butter. He took off his jumper and dropped it behind him onto the pile of clothes on the ground. It wasn’t as bad as his mother would have you believe, but yeah, his room wasn’t the cleanest. He had once refrained from opening his curtain for a number of weeks during a period of particular squalor, for the incoming light of the outside world would be the final component needed for photosynthesis to occur in his room. And he couldn’t be sure what might start growing. “Oscar!” his mother called up the stairs.

“I’m working on something, Mam!”

4.45pm July 24th

What’s so hard about it? It’s just putting your thoughts onto a page. You have thoughts in your head all the time, just put them on the page? Well, I mean someone is going to read it but don’t worry about it. Just worry about putting your fingers to the keyboard. He was sitting, bouncing now from one bumcheek to the other, like the writer version of boxer getting ready for the round to begin, bobbing side to side, visualising himself thrashing out words and sentences and paragraphs of deep introspective reflections. Instead of thrashing out paragraphs though, his fingers were drumming on his plywood desk on either side of his laptop. Drum, drum, drum. Drum, drum, drum. He had nice fingers, he thought. Mostly he despised himself, but his fingers he liked. They were long, but not so long as to become spindly. They had some meat on them, but not so much to be stubby sausage fingers. Yeah, they were nice. He put a €2 coin on the front side of his left index finger, and curled it up, like his finger was doing a bicep curl. He did it for a set of 10, watching with reverence as the muscles tensed and relaxed, tensed and relaxed. Yeah, he had nice fingers.

4.49pm July 24th

He moved forward in his chair now, a display of his deep earnest intentions. He was serious. And serious people sit up in their chair. Mr Kearns told him that in school. He leaned forward with both of his arms placed on the desk in front of his laptop. His arms were parallel to each other, one in front of the other, propping up his body which was now leaning far over his desk. So far in fact, that his head was past his laptop screen, and gazing out the window. His mouth half ajar, he stared in a trance at an sitka spruce tree, as if beckoning it to bring him some divine inspiration. The tree stood on its own in a little park that was just beyond the retaining wall of his back garden. There was a couple of other trees in the park but they weren’t anything like the spruce. It seemed strange and out of place in this urban metropolis. Seemed to belong in a vast forest. One of those forest’s that carpet the rolling hills of a valley, somewhere in the mid-west of America.

24th July 2020

I wrote a poem at the start of the month and I’d like to share it with you:

O wondrous new life,
Sans pressure and strife,
Hath the grass always been this green?
Glazed with such a beautiful glean,
The people this affable?
Beautiful, kind, loving, ineffable,
O wondrous new life,
Sans pressure and strife.

Pretty nice poem, I think. At the time of writing though, me and my new found sobriety were on a sort of new lovers honeymoon. We were on a beach in the Maldives, dipping our toes in shallow bodies of the beautiful clear blue waters of the Indian Ocean. At the very specific time of penning the poem, my newly birthed cokelessness was rubbing my feet, having just made love to me in the way that only new lovers do. I was reclining in a hammock, sipping on a pina colada and watching the peachy Asian sun setting, as the low hum of 1970s jazz-funk massaged my ears. We’ve hit some speedbumps since then. So I’d actually like an essay from you ‘Martha Healy from The Catholic Coalition Against Narcotics Ireland’. And could you hit these mastheads please?

1. Why don’t I get the respect I deserve?

Your organisation, Martha, along with social media owe me an apology. Where’s all my likes and retweets? My comments of unadulterated support? Both of you have perpetuated the idea that my quitting would gain me the adoration of my peers. What’s that Morrissey song, we hate it when our friends become successful? That’s what it’s actually like. So my question to you is, why do people take my choice to improve myself as an affront to their own imperfections? Why do my friends look at me like I think I’m better than them? Why did Julie ask me in front of everyone at Dan’s party why I was bothering, as I didn’t even have a problem? How selfish is the human condition that our eyes can see someone trying to improve, but all our brain perceives is our own disappointing reflection? As if all the humans in our lives are just mirrors by which we use to gauge our own self-worth.

2. Why amn’t I any better?

I stopped doing this thing to be better, but I’m not. You always tell me how much better I’ll become but I haven’t. Last week I was startled by a dog and spent the entire evening with violent fantasies of luring it into my garden and strangling it. Yesterday I got a panic attack because I became convinced my mother thinks I’m boring. I’m still failing college. I’ve no intention of volunteering. These never featured in any of the ‘Past Client Videos’ we watched.

I’ve had my blanky taken away from me. Doing cocaine is a very fluffy little white comfort blanket which insulated me from my failings. And I quite liked it. Who am I supposed to blame my failings on now? Cocaine is procrastination. It’s putting off your homework until the night before so you can say, of course I failed! I didn’t even try. It’s never making music so you can tell yourself you could have been Bob Dylan. Why am I still afraid of going outside? Why aren’t my panic attacks going away? Why amn’t I getting any better? I want my blanky back.

3. Why do I feel more lonely?

I didn’t think it was possible. I’ve made myself into a social pariah. Everyone does coke. It’s like everyone I know shares a common interest that I don’t. It’s like everyone I know watches The Sopranos and I don’t have HBO. Wait no – it’s like everyone I know watches Sopranos and I cancelled my subscription to HBO. Why would I cancel my subscription to HBO? It’s like everybody’s seen the new Tarantino film and I haven’t. Except I’m not going to. I’ve made a conscious choice not to.

I barely talk to Dylan anymore. It might be stupid to you Martha, but there’s comradery in cocaine you know. We don’t share any interests since I stopped playing football. Cocaine might be evil to you Martha but it bound me and him. Yeah it’s fake, but for one night a week until 10am the next day, it’s like primary school. It doesn’t matter that he went to UCD and I went to NCAD. Doesn’t matter that I don’t know who United signed in the transfer window anymore. It just mattered that we were there, together. Talking about whatever. Why is that I coul-

4.58pm July 24th

New Whatsapp message

We’re gonna be passing yours in a taxi in a minute
you coming?

Conor Doyle is a young writer from Dublin. He began writing for fun in his spare time following an existential crisis that arose from obtaining a law degree, with which he has no intention of doing anything law-ish. Though sometimes his premises’ and characters are ridiculous, he tries to deal with serious topics faced by young people through humour.

Image via Pixabay

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