REAL ART

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Love is a Mental Illness

Chapter 22: Love is a Mental Illness

Have you ever held some deep dark secret that no one would believe even if you told it to someone? Like the answers from God. What if you had all the answers and even when you told the truth, no one believed you? That’s how it felt dealing with Alice’s artistic journey. And she was everywhere: cars, billboard signs, even in books. But I think I entrusted too much faith in Alice and her journey and believed that everything would be all right. It was like I was on a train that never stopped, but I was still waiting for the stop. Alice was leading me, yes. But I wasn’t holding her hand and she wasn’t holding mine. She was more of a guide than someone I had to follow and for a few months I became her follower. And that was dangerous.

When I arrived home after Dr. Walsh’s encounter, my parents didn’t look pleased. The moment I was at the door, my dad opened it and gave me the death stare. “Art you cannot run away from people, especially people who are trying to help you.”

My mom was furious. “Art, do you have any idea how much money we’re paying for your Kelowna episode?! The hospital, Doctor Window, Doctor Walsh…it all adds up!”

“Dear, calm down,” coaxed my dad. “I’ll handle this.”

I wasn’t even inside the house, just in the doorway.

“Art,” my dad said sternly. “What you did was very stupid and nearly gave your mother a heart attack. I want you to go back to Doctor Walsh’s office and apologize for your actions.”

My dad was treating me like I was some child who had just been disobedient to his parents. I was twenty! These fucking people didn’t own my life anymore. I could make my own decisions. Hell, I could live alone. I could move out. And I was very close to deciding this.

“You’re not the boss of me,” I said like some rebellious teenager and stormed up the stairs still wearing my Chuck Taylors. When I was in my room, I slammed the door, raised the volume all the way on my iTunes, and pressed ►. “Feelin’ Way Too Damn Good” by Nickelback tried to break my eardrums and I immediately lowered the volume, regretting my last decision.

As the song played, I realized how ironic the tune was. I wasn’t feeling way too damn good. In fact I was pissed, so pissed that I was close to punching my wall, my door, my doorframe, anything that was close to me. As Chad Kroeger belted out his lyrics, I was trying to feel a little bit like the singer but I couldn’t. Was this a mistake? Had this song not been a sign? Maybe not everything was. Or maybe Alice was telling me that my life didn’t really suck and that I should go downstairs happy, excited even on the new gifts she had in store for me. Maybe I was supposed to go down and apologize to my parents for my outburst and actually go back to Dr. Walsh’s office and apologize for my behaviour.

But I didn’t want to do any of that. I was too angry and I decided to pause the song because it wasn’t helping. I walked to my window and then realized I was still wearing my red Chuck Taylors so I took them off and placed them on the carpet by my bed, which didn’t really help because they just stained my carpet a muddy brown. I had already noticed the muddy footprints in my room. It had been a mild February and everything seemed to be melting in Toronto. Basically everything was slush right now, but it seemed we were getting more snow this weekend.

I kept looking at the stain on my carpet and then turned back to the window. I needed to leave. Maybe just for an hour or two, but I needed to leave. This house was suffocating me and my family wasn’t helping. Maybe Dr. Walsh was right; maybe I did have a problem. But I didn’t want to admit it. And if anything I didn’t want pills stifling my brain. I needed my brain on full alert so I could focus. If I became drowsed out by some fucking Seroquel, I could miss Alice’s signs.

I stared up at the white ceiling. What am I supposed to do, Alice? But I knew that even she couldn’t read my thoughts. I was feeling helpless and lonelier than I had felt in Kelowna. Toronto was supposed to be my home, it always had been, but it was feeling like a jail cell and this house was feeling like a prison. And I knew I shouldn’t feel jailed in my own house, but I did. I didn’t know what to do and I didn’t know where to go, but I still had some money in my wallet and I knew I had to leave my house if for at least a few hours or a few days. I didn’t know how long I would be gone so I packed my burgundy backpack with two changes of clothes, put on my stained Chuck Taylors, ran downstairs, and out the door.

But when I got outside, there was no red car parked outside. In fact, there was a black car. A black Subaru. It sat there mockingly as if it was daring me to leave the house, but I ignored it and continued heading towards Yonge Street. But once I hit the main street, a red car drove by with a license plate that read NOART.

Noart? I thought. What the fuck does that mean?

But then I figured it out. If I spaced the two words I got, “NO ART”. That seemed to be Alice’s subtle way of telling me to go home. But I stood at the corner of Bowood Avenue and Yonge Street awaiting another sign, but it never came. Grudgingly, I headed home and opened the door to find my dad giving me the second death stare of the day. “Art, you cannot just run away from your problems,” he said sounding like some out-dated philosopher.

I just nodded, removed my shoes this time, and headed back to my room. I threw my backpack on top of my bed and lay my face in my hands. What was I going to do? I was a mess. That was clear. I was just about to run out of the house and go where? find a hotel in my own city? It was a bit ludicrous as I thought about it and I didn’t even have enough money to afford a room for one night. I knew that Alice wasn’t sending me away from my family. If anything, she was trying to get me closer to them, closer to her, closer to the world around me. You can’t escape the world you live in when the world is actually with you and not against you.

But I still needed to go outside so I needed to figure out a new soundtrack to listen to before walking out again. But as I opened up my MacBook, I realized that maybe what I really needed to do was talk to my parents. At least tell them why I had suddenly escaped Dr. Walsh’s office. Not the whole truth, but enough to make a case that was believable. Maybe a lawyer was a good field for me.

I headed downstairs to find my entire family sitting at the dinner table as if they had been awaiting my arrival. My sister was slowly slurping her soup and my parents looked at their bowls cautiously as if they were approaching a curve in the road. Every few seconds, they’d take extremely small spoonfuls. But everyone looked up at me as I sat down at the table. There was no bowl for me, but I wasn’t that hungry anyway.

“Look,” I began. I could tell everyone hated me right now. “I apologize for running out of Doctor Walsh’s office like some crazed lunatic, but he’s not helping my situation.”

“And what situation is that exactly?” My mom said the word with such venom that it felt like a snake was spitting at me.

“Um...” I felt in desperate need of a glass of water but knew the stupidest thing to do right then was to leave the table. “My mental breakdown.”

“So you admit it happened.”

“Yes.”

“So tell me, Art, why did Alice give you a restraining order?”

“I got too close.” My sister glared at me.

“And what does that mean?”

“Well, to be honest, I don’t actually know what I did wrong.”

My mom nodded as if this was the correct answer to her question. “What do you think you did wrong?”

“I guess kiss her.”

My sister slammed her spoon into her bowl so orange liquid sprayed up onto her pink sweater. “That’s not what you told me!”

I could feel my face growing red. “I lied to you.”

My sister was about to leave the table when my mom raised her right hand in front of her. “Kaylee, sit down. Art’s talking.” She said it as if it was some sudden unexpected phenomenon. “So what do you believe happened?”

“I think I was giving her too much unwanted attention.” Now I was using Dr. Walsh’s words. My mom nodded again. I guess this was going well.

“So what you’re saying is that you were wrong to fall in love with Alice?”

I could tell my mom didn’t believe that statement, but it seemed she was trying to level with me.

“Yes.” But that was a lie, because I was still in love with Alice and would continue to be no matter how this conversation ended.

“Art, why couldn’t you tell me that?” asked my sister. “Why did you have to say some lie that you almost tried to rape her?”

My dad nearly choked on his next spoonful of soup. After he was done coughing he said, “I’d prefer if we didn’t use words like that at the table.”

“What, rape?” my sister asked.

“Yes,” my dad scolded.

“Do you not believe in rape, father?”

“Kaylee...” I could tell he was also about to turn red.

“Sorry,” Kaylee quickly said, but I appreciated it. At least someone was trying to lighten up the mood. She was my Shakespeare’s comic relief.

“Is that all you have to say, Art?” asked my mom, directing the focus back on me. I knew she wanted me to still speak.

“No,” I said finally grasping all her clues. “I didn’t mean to lash out at Dr. Walsh’s, I just felt he wasn’t helping me. But I realize that was wrong.”

“So you’ll go back and apologize?”

“Yes. But next time I see him.”

My parents frowned, but then nodded. At least I was going to apologize.

“We want you to see him tomorrow—hey!” cried my dad when he noticed me getting up. “I know it’s not what you want but after your actions yesterday, I believe you need to make reparations.”

“Is this guy never busy? He must not be popular,” I almost chuckled but then my dad gave me another death stare.

“Art, don’t be cute. Dr. Walsh was willing to rearrange his schedule for you. I think that might give you more confidence and trust in the man.”

I grumbled as I got up from the table. I knew it was safe to get up now. I went to the stove and scooped up some soup into a blue bowl that matched the bowls already on the dinner table.

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