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The Endless Pause

A novel by

Alex Mendoza

2013 [J. A. M] e d i a

::-I-:: Cade Tendu

I always make an effort to remind myself to disconnect the phone before I start to read. Problem is I actually never manage to accomplish doing so. The pages start turning, my mind starts wandering, and in a few paragraphs, Im not even myself. Im the literary figment of my own imagination. Until the noisy confines of reality corrupt the opportunity to embark on this fantasy through the means of an exceedingly foul ringtone. The slightest disruption in this chain of subconscious thought disorients the mental groove so to speak, because its hard as hell to imagine what a dragon roar sounds like when all you can hear is that deafening ring. Its distinct and piercing sound resonates with such intensity that even you would find yourself questioning the purpose of human eardrums at that point in time. Cause when youre old, or in some cases a lonely decrepit dinosaur biding their time by working at Wal Mart by day and collecting vintage bottle caps at night, the eardrum membrane is a flimsy shade of its former self; a detuned membrane of failing skin and decaying genetic code. Its poetic, really, because once I turn deaf I wont have to deal with the racket screwing up my internal rhythm. Not like lucid dreaming, which I guess is a topic that allows one to analyze the concept of what the imagination is: daydreaming 2

without all the sleep paralysis nonsense to keep you from having some terrifying episode where you imagine dark silhouettes positioned about your room the same way your franchise-based action figures lined your bedroom shelves as a kid. The phones bellowing roar completely removes me from my own scenario. Even more frustrating is the fact that I was observing an attractive ninja in glistening armor (yes, ninjas dont wear armor, but this is my fantasy, so fuck off) before the ring heard round the world knocked me out of dreamland. Instances such as these impose key questions, such as Why am I staring directly at the object demanding my attention like a needy child and not my sparkly, shimmering ninja? or my personal favorite: Who calls their friends land line these days if they know they own a cell phone? I would much rather explain the phenomenal details of my literary adventures opposed to depressing stories of my past, but the miracles of technology have yet again ousted the magic of the written word in exchange for a quick and easy fix of mediocre Pop Culture centric information. All infuriating subject matter when you really think about it, but not nearly as frustrating as the dull coat of black that shelters the phones surface. The type of paint you wouldnt dare use for a high-profile art project, because that overrated and impossibly dull-witted art professor is going to insist sub-par supplies leads to sub-par work. Years later, this is the same guiding principle you use to explain the failures that will populate much of your life on this mortal coil.

I grab the phone and reluctantly press the call button. It feels unusually plush under my thumb, but at this point, synthetic and chemical substances amplify my senses; to the extent where you might confuse it with having a drug-induced out of body experience. Sadly, not even all the LSD in the world is able to shake me out of my clichd existentialist funk. Lord knows I cant hope to design something with style and substance, so I opt to explore the realms confined within the syllables and syntax of books instead. My creativity and my writing are the only things I am somewhat capable of undertaking; curious abilities that allow me to paint gorgeous, fictional portraits guided by the meticulous framework of historys brightest literary architects. Normal people call these individuals authors, and just as a normal person would do on the other end of a phone line, I finally muster the courage to speak. Its more like preparing myself enough time to attempt to change my manner of speaking so I avoid offending the other person. You could blame this on the fact that I did forget to unplug the phone, as I do so many times like the absent-minded fool I am, but that isnt the point here. I wear my heart on my sleeve. Call it a critical flaw if you will, but I have a real hard time accepting the pitfalls of technology paired with the sheer ignorance of the human race at large. When one, or both, of these elements interfere with the time Ive set aside for myself, the results are less than favorable.

It might appear slightly unhealthy that I give my personal time so much emotional weight, but when this fucking phone keeps ringing during my carefully planned segment of the space/time continuum (hypothetically speaking), its Lifes own way of saying: Wow, look at all these wonderful plans you got going here. This is incredibly significant when you reflect on everything you ever worked, hoped and dreamed of; all of it here directly in front of you, real as anything youve ever touched with your bare hands. Trouble is, (insert poor souls name here), that stops now because Im about to straight up shit in your cereal today. Then Life unexpectedly abandons you. It doesnt even bother to cuddle with you after the psychological fuckfest, and like a true gentleman, it conveniently neglects to leave its number. So to avoid this potential pre mid-life crisis, I answer the phone and attempt to give myself a personal evaluation on the tone of my voice, which youll recall me detailing earlier before I started going on this tangent. And Im sorry for that. I swear to Christ this actually goes somewhere, you know, if I actually believed in God in the first place. I just figure people are immediately trustworthy around religious folk, you know with the whole God and religion shtick and such. Then I am quick to remember that this is the modern world were living in, and the only faith society prescribes to is the faith that validates its misanthropy. Nevertheless, there is no justifiable catalyst for how a collective group acts during these dreary days. The negative lot of 5

them find themselves scorned and mocked by the others, labeled as fools for clinging to decaying traditions practiced by the same people who put us here in the first place. Somehow convinced theyre obligated to worship the forsaken bastards that fabricated the machine that delivered the condemnation of humanity in a neatly wrapped bow. Since then everyone has stopped pretending to care, except for the select few that chooses to maintain the pointless ruse. Take Adriana for example. I received her package today in the mail, and she always means well, but I am concerned that whatever she packed and decided to call a gift will depress me more than anything, which is why I havent bothered to take it out of its box. I already have a decent guess about whats inside. The usual wares: some cheesy card with twenty-bucks. Then its all topped off with that sentimental reminder of all the chances you promised yourself you would take, but you were too much of a chicken shit to do so, in the form of a picture you took during your fleeting years of youth. At a glance it reads something like an engaging therapy conversation worthy of exploiting, but its also part of the humdrum routine that is my life; this reoccurring impression that in spite of my world continuously falling apart, and not by my own hand mind you, that society expects you to adopt nothing other than a positive attitude. Even if its forced. People are quick to label this type of viewpoint as pessimism. Maybe even nihilism on some days if Im lucky, but it is something I 6

attempt to explain to Adriana on several occasions, and as usual, the conversation steers into some unnecessary direction due to ego, pride or whatever you want to call it. Everyone has a point of view, and currently, everyones point of view seems to be more relevant than the rest. Me? I stay quiet. Its easier that way. People like Adriana, though - they never let off the pressure; a ceaseless nagging voice that troubles more than just your thought process. Were talking deeper issues here. Issues people cannot and will not understand. Which is exactly why trying to talk to anyone about whats really bothering me these days is so pointless, because unless youre there in the thick of it, I could have all the fanciest words in the dictionary and they wont mean shit to anyone. Naturally, theres the assumption that I am being selfish, or that Im copping out, or trying to make some bullshit excuse by refusing to talk about it. Though it blows my mind that people in this world are wholly convinced that the mentally afflicted openly choose to feel terrible, or they lie about having a particular condition that doesnt show itself like AIDS, or cancer. As if the concept of serotonin is like the brains version of a unicorn, but Ive learned that its a pointless debate. My hairs not falling out from treatment like someones dearly departed family member, and my reproductive organs remain intact, so there goes my chance to earn the beloved empathy of society. This struggle my struggle - is silent, internal and unpredictable. And most troubling: belittled and rejected. Yet, here we 7

are revisiting familiar cycles once again. Still unaware of where theyre going to take us next. Feeling better today? You had me a little concerned after we talked last night, Adriana asks casually. She knows in the back of her head how much this question pisses me off, but she insists in asking it anyway, because people especially family and friends - know that small talk is an unavoidable, but necessary, evil in social interaction. Not as much as youd hope, unless you take a survey of all the empty wine bottles lying around the apartment, I reply, surveying the wake of my alcoholic destruction; the beams of sunlight dancing on the polished surface of each bottle, creating a mesmerizing prism of pure, kaleidoscopic light. Now you owe me five bucks, she says. Your celebration of mediocrity is one of constant awe, I respond. Before you state the obvious, I know that this is an incredibly bitchy thing to say, but heres the thing with Adriana: shes the type of person that would keep count of how many times you breathe if there was a bet based around it. And today shes on a roll yet again, except this time the bet was that I couldnt hold off on drinking before my birthday. What can I say? I should know better, but hell if Im going to give her the satisfaction of making me cough up my hard earned cash on a day I should be free to enjoy without her delivering me some uninvited form of guilt. Thats simply the kind of life you lead as adults. Theres no more playtime; no imagination land to travel to as a team during 8

recess. Youre separated and bound together all at once, enduring the joys and sorrows the post high school/college life has to offer. Some of those things keep you together, while others keep you apart. And in some cases they make you indifferent, or in my case, they make you impatient. Dont change the subject, Adriana commands. Look, I barely enjoy discussing this with certified doctors, so you might want to consider the fact that regular people have this tradition of confusing my phobias and my anxiety attacks once I start yammering about them, I remind her, severely annoyed with her persistence, and on the verge of screaming at the top of my THCafflicted lungs. Im pretty sure theyre one and the same. Right on cue, Adriana delivers the verbal return of fire, selfrighteous tone and all. Its the type of gesture that shows shes still having a hard time grasping the difference between a friend being a friend, and a therapist being a therapist, and I really dont need her grocery store psychology bullshit hurled in my direction. I kindly respond, but with the Kill-Them-With-Kindness type of tone, Good Night, and I drop the phone. The impact ricochets inside the room for nearly five seconds before it withers away. My head keeps pounding after the fact, until my bloodshot eyes land their focus on a wine bottle that contains seventy-five percent of inebriated potential lurking within its glass prison. The temptation to demolish my liver is unbearable, but highly ill-advised considering I have made many a trip to the hospital lately for stomach pumping, and apparently theres some type of clause that

after a certain amount of visits, they have to commit you, and Im just not ready to go through that entire scene all over again. Wasnt exactly my cup of tea. But then again, neither was the conversation with my friend ol pal, Adriana, so lets fast-forward a few hours later. Here youll find me sitting in the middle of the living room floor, constantly switching between sitting up straight in a way that would make Honest Abe totally envious of my stature, or slumping forward with more emotional baggage than Eeyore and Quasimodo combined. Its not a pretty sight; something I come to realize as I glare at my reflection in the bathroom mirror, rinsing off the discolored stains on my wrists following my blasphemous offering to the porcelain god some odd hours later. That probably means I vomited myself stupid and wasted a shit ton of money on alcohol I couldnt even retain (or afford), though Im certain thats just the cynical and pretentious side of me speaking aloud. After I dry my face I notice something a little, well, not sure how else to put it, aside from noticing that something was definitely off. Because normally when I stare at a mirror, Im looking right back at my own reflection. This time around, my face remains concealed by the towel; not my real face per se, but the reflections face, and leaves me questioning if I am still tripping from some unknown drug that might have been mixed with the intolerably potent wine, or if this is a legitimate scenario that requires me to freak the fuck out.


Clearly, this is some next-level-flipping-pentagram-bullshit, involving my reflection displaying an uncommon style of motion accompanied by far-reaching silence. As if its entire bone structure was made of an elastic material, suddenly interchanging between heavy sobbing gestures and violent tremors. One might imagine this situation as surreal and unbelievably fucking creepy, but thats before the mirror sparks to life, directing curious threads of energy from the pool of luminosity, systematically converging at various points with mathematical precision. This alluring light show serves as a means to keep me distracted from the coils of brilliance wrapping around my ankles. An epiphany that only arises the instant after I sense a hasty veil of warmth coursing through my veins. Its pure, ignorant bliss, seizing me within a wave of euphoria and anxiety all at once. My body relaxed to such a point that in spite of my brains plea to run in the opposite direction, my muscles refuse to comply. Everything goes deaf in an instant, and all I can hear is an ominous burst of static gurgling over a menacing bass tone - dark, full-bodied and devouring all other frequencies present. My spirit submits to the impulsive surge of panic, and my breath rushes to find some escape from my impassive body; compelled by the brilliant, soothing aura that consumes my vision entirely. Feeling my feet lift off the ground, traveling directly above my house and high into the boundless horizon, pondering exactly how Ill manage to clean up after the blood-red firestorm that licks its way across the dead grass in my backyard, and leaps onto the roof of my house. 11

Normally, Id be awfully upset. But underneath the cascade of warm colors suspended in the summer sky, the pillars of Hell never looked so beautiful.


::-II-:: Catherine Meadows

The door opens after three evenly spaced attacks to its unsightly exterior. The faded paint is enough to influence a slight sense of concern; especially when everything these days is about appearances. If youre one of those people who believes that its whats on the inside that counts, I imagine youve had at least two nervous breakdowns between now and every other ex-significant other thats left you for someone they believed to be far more qualified; and it sure as hell wasnt for their spirit. These kind of observations off-handed as they might sound - make it virtually impossible to entrust the fragility of my mental state to an individual who earns more than enough money to hire janitors capable of maintaining the integrity of their door. This one cracks and flakes with the slightest touch, and Im left to think that this is the Universes not-so-subtle way of reminding me that I need to avoid trusting my friends suggestions. One of which will be a friend no longer now that Im aware of his complacency in associating with negligent individuals. Not that theres really anyone else to talk to. Instead, youre expected to share your traumas and your troubles with this untried outsider that has somehow earned the faith of the world at large to remedy the formless terror that skillfully deflects every attempt to rid of its presence.


Regardless of the constant string of defeats, people expect you to stick with the program. They recite the same fragmented line of syllables the moment you realize the futility of such expectations, and in return, you attempt to defend your right to make the decision to stick with the treatment, or abandon it altogether. Obviously, they never listen. The sheep foolishly place their faith on the stuff theyve digested from a newsstand magazine, with these random people sharing their so-called miracles consisting of 250 words or less. Unable to grasp that with this type of battle, the enemies are never identical. The only things we share are the feelings of desperation and helplessness. Im not the same as the others, nor are they some distant carbon copy of my own suffering. And unless youve known those feelings for yourself -whether youre medicated, in therapy, or none of the above hoping for the same miraculous results by taking the same prescription as Patient 8703, or visiting the same doctor as Patient 1219, is a ruse Im not willing to accept. Why therapists avoid talking about such things is beyond me, since they enjoy treating their dialogues as if they are lesson plans. Its already bad enough I have to place my sordid past in the hands of a person that looks at me in one of two ways: Are they paying by cash or credit? Perhaps Im the only person on this planet that thinks this way, and Im almost reluctant to say it aloud, but its the truth, and because of this damning certainty Im unable to believe that there is any suggestion of authenticity within the actions of these therapists, 14

let alone their words of encouragement, or irritating get well soon mantras. Their sage advice is nothing more than a collection of selfindulgent phrases that these degree-toting assholes use on their patients as an effective way to prevent them from actually making a difference. Excuse my French, but fuck that. Seriously: What are the odds Im going to find that one person who truly empathizes with my plight? Without regurgitating the same strain of hurtful banter that arises from the tongues of every person I thought I could trust. Insights such as these teach me that everyone is eager to partake in the great big lie (if they havent already), or theyre already living the perfect scenario, deeply rooted within the self-fabricated deception theyve acknowledged as their reality. Maybe by some miracle this person breaks the chain, though judging by the blank stare my therapist is providing, I cant imagine this session being any different than the last, and I cant remember her opening the door in the first place. Are you going to come in? she asks. Youve been staring at my door as if youre about to vomit all over my carpet. The words transfer me back into awareness, and I realize its only another ill-timed case of Oh-Look-You-Were-Staring-At-TheDoor-Too-Long-Again. Deepest apologies, I respond. The embarrassment wears off after the twentieth time, and right now were much closer to the sixty-to-seventieth time this kind 15

of thing has happened between you and I, in case you forgot that Ive been keeping score, which wouldnt surprise me, because you always forget, cause people like me enjoy keeping tabs on absurd things. Your door and your memory being some of those things, of course. Enter painfully awkward silence, exchange confused glances, and stand there with an aloof gaze etched onto my face. This real-time mental checklist cripples my every thought, and as a result I am unable to function, seconds away from unleashing todays lunch across her terribly-clich beige carpet, which isnt as a rude as one might imagine seeing as shes already anticipating a plot twist. Id be doing her a favor. Lord knows this place could use a decent upgrade, and a good sweep or two. Please come in, she says with a smile. The woman gently ushers me into her office and manages to place her soft hands on what might very well be the filthiest doorknob in the name of all that is humane and just. I cringe at the sight of her cuticles caressing the chipped gold plating -grasping the doorknob almost too tightly turning it in an uneven manner moving at an irregular pace and driving me bat shit fucking crazy. Well isnt that strange, she comments while lingering over her desk. I cant seem to find your case file. Surprise, surprise I mutter.


Another stretch of uncomfortable silence, followed by an expression that indicates the session is over before it begins. What makes it worse is she never looks directly into my eyes. Her vantage point is at an odd angle. The sight reminds me of an aquariums viewing tanks, where the attendants bodies are exaggerated in comical places, and her irises dont seem to be focused on any one point in the room. Meanwhile, her hands toss velvet-red pillows across the room with a sort of reckless abandon. Here we are, she says. Finally, I comment. You seem to have a serious issue with my organizational skills, she adds. I just figured a tablet would be well worth the investment, I respond flatly. The therapists combative scowl is falsely-menacing at best, yet a clear-cut indicator that weve reached the point of our delicate relationship where Im supposed to reach a personal milestone. Providing some type of evidence that casts the illusion of me moving beyond the throes of my personal anguish, so I lay the groundwork for the familiar beats. The rhythm and meter of my words locking onto those essential memories that Im expected to share with the type of candid honesty that would make most adolescents cringe with insufferable anxiety. You and I both know that whatever I said last week hardly counts as a logical viewpoint, I cautiously explain. It was a harmless outburst. Nothing more. 17

My side note says threatening, she observes. Are you expecting me to thank you? I respond mockingly, almost laughing in a sort of what-the-fuck disbelief. Its a critical detail, isnt it? she asks curiously. Someone like you normally appreciates such efforts. Your adjectives complicate things, I add. I stand on my feet and pace towards the faux Van Gogh painting located in the back portion of the room. Something about the warm color palette irritates me, though I cant determine if its because of the lack of red hues in comparison to the orange ones, but thats neither here or now. Weve discussed this before. These notes are my way of keeping track of your progress. Theyre not some type of set-in-stone judgment Im translating from thought to paper. You already have your list of declarations ready to add to my patient history, I step forward and point directly at the manila folders stacked directly on her table. What difference does it make if I tell you what I think about myself, or my problems, or anything for that matter? You have the list of all the notable and world renown doctors right there in front of you, and not even they could change a damn thing, with all their academic might and zeal supposedly justifying the cause. You remember, right? Not a word, just that blank stare. You do shit like this every goddamn time, and by some Godgiven miracle your parlor trick is working on the masses, but they dont even know that youre too goddamn cheap to hire someone


willing to keep your door clean when you make enough money off their gullibility. My efficiency as a psychiatrist isnt linked to the maintenance of my office door. Its measured on the well-being of my patients. Everythings in the details, I grumble. Im not here to think for you. Thats your job. Im simply here to listen and help you make sense of things you might not see yourself. Strategies to help you overcome these debilitating thoughts, and to find some sense of meaningful purpose. You want to help? I ask, impossibly offended. Alright, well how about we stop wasting our time and realize that youre not gonna be my savior either, because Im not worth saving. People have made that quite clear across the years. People Ive loved. People Ive trusted. People Ive cared for with every goddamn ounce of my entire being. Yourself included. But its never enough, because whatever I have inside here, I point to my head, is never going to let me forget the scars, the words, the failures, or the past. And it sure as hell isnt going to let you save me either. The world doesnt owe you an apology, she immediately responds. Youre right. It doesnt, I stop for a brief moment and reflect on what Im about to share. Normally I would stop myself, but Im too angry to inhibit my thoughts any further. Which is why Im not obligated to tell anyone about me, or my past, or the people Ive lost, or the people whove abandoned me,


or why I think the way I do, or feel the way I do. Im entitled to do whatever I feel free to do, with and without consequence. But I know for someone like you thats not enough, so Ill try to make it as simple as possible. Though someone like you could never possibly understand. Youre cut from a different cloth. You dont know what its like to plan your entire life path on the guidelines of these abstract concepts, whether its unconsciously abiding by the ten commandments of an invisible deity from eons ago, or clinging to the words your Mom told you when you were six years old. Its a self-mandated requirement people carry on their shoulders so they can devise meaningless anecdotes to survive and cope with reality. I turn away from the painting and catch a glimpse of light against the edge of a nearly empty glass of scotch. Eyes fixed: The truth is there are no angels or demons around us, under the bed, or anywhere else. Theyre right in front of you each and every day, breathing your air, taking up your space, pretending to be your friend, and breaking your trust. I edge towards the glass, intrigued by its contents, only to retract my movement towards the painting. You spend your entire life trying to protect yourself from the ill conventions of the world, but theyre constantly in front of you, waiting for the precise moment to break you down. Then youre sitting in a room by yourself, pondering where it all went wrong after spending years building your hopes and dreams,


and you cant help but wonder if anything on this planet is worth the emotional investment, I say. I slowly close my eyes and feeling the rush of memories spill out into the air with neither purpose nor direction. And if that isnt enough on your plate of shit n sunshine, society views your illness as a disgrace, and your family conveniently decides that your disorder is nothing more than a lie fabricated by people who apparently try to devise every excuse possible to prevent themselves from moving forward. I cant help but laugh at this point. According to them, we enjoy basking in our misery, to which I say kiss my ass. This isnt something that you can take a pill for, like the cold, or your seasonal allergies. Its something more, I say, voice trembling. No matter how hard I try, or how good of a person I am, its all beyond my control. I have to commend my therapists patience to remain silent throughout the duration of my rant, but I realize now she simply digests whatever it is I have to say so that she can retort with her own set of psychological principles that shes memorized to a T. That informative string of scientific jargon designated to place me in that neat little label the DSM-IV holds within its bloated pages of 10-pt. sized font. Society pretends to know about the books existence and its purpose, except no one is stupid enough to believe the findings. Its just science, right? Catherine, I know you dont believe it, but Im trying to help you improve the quality of your mental health, she calmly responds. 21

Nonetheless, if youre constantly going to be on the defensive, or speculating in your head what strategies to employ in order to counter whatever you think Im going to say, or do, then theres no point in us continuing any further. So my recent attempts to explain my woeful experiences are just a waste of time now? Not at all, she says, still unusually calm. What is a waste of time are your assertions that you can predict my methods, the same way you seem to assume that you know the intent behind the actions of all those that have wronged you in the past. Coming from you thats a laugh, I say, clearly agitated with her thoughtless answer. This whole thing was your idea in the first place. To which you were more than happy to agree to after everyone else said you were too much to deal with, she sternly responds, swift to remind me of the countless failures Ive had with previous therapists and psychologists; a legion of prestigious peers that were incapable of handling someone they deemed as impossible to cure. You think that gives you the right to force me to sit here and listen to you asking questions that you already know the answers to? Because in all sincerity, what I want from these bullshit sessions is a realistic solution, not another prescription that shuts down my brain, opposed to actually letting me think for myself, and actually curing whatever the fuck is in my head! Theres a slight pause before I excuse myself from the room, my body charged with resentment, and my eyes well aware of the 22

microscopic bacteria scurrying about the flawed, chipped surface of the doorknob. Her response splits the silence. Im not the enemy, Catherine. Im the only one still on your side. I avoid making eye contact with her, establishing my focus on that charming little painting in the back of the room instead. Then, a defensive remark escapes me: Youd much rather play the family card while I play the role of your patient, opposed to resolving these issues with me like a goddamn adult. I open the door and the knob breaks from its base. Ignoring my typical response of revulsion and nausea, I balance the smutty device on the edge of my fingers, somehow sensing every mournful touch that has scarred its surface. This unexpected collision echoes through the abyss, and within the purifying vibrations, I detect simplicity, if only for an instant. That short-lived gasp of history youd be willing to spend your life searching for again, and again, and again, because the experience provides am immediate sense of clarity. Then again, you always dedicated yourself to being a bitch over being a mother. Slam the door. End scene.