You know what happiness is? he said.
Contentment? I suggested.
Not even close, he said through the burnished orange of this late autumn afternoon.
Come on, he said. You know better that that.
Then what? I asked.
It’s not true what they say about cats, you know. That old proverb about curiosity killed the cat. It’s to stop you changing lanes.
You’re beginning to sound like a zen poet, I said. Like Li Po.
Become like a cat, he said. Go out into the world, cat-curious. You can never NOT be happy if you’re finding out things.
do you agree?
where is happiness found for you?
what is the chief impediment for happiness, do you think?
So where are you?
In a galaxy far far away.
No. Where are you really?
Isn’t that where …?
Yes, where Billy Pilgrim went.
That time traveller from ‘Slaughterhouse Five’?
Yes, he went there on his days off.
His days off? From where?
Reality. Reality bites, you know.
But what if you never came back?
Like Hugh Conway in ‘Lost Horizons’? Dorothy in Oz ?
Would it really matter? You’d be where you want to be. Would you even want to go back?
Have you a favourite fantasy place ? Which fantasy world would you live in if you could? What if you couldn’t come back?
You haven’t got your head up your arse
Or in the clouds any more, he said,
But firmly secured where it should be.
Atop my shoulders? I suggested.
But my big brother was right.
I was a dreamy kid but when the hormones kicked in— boy!!
My head was every which way but loose.
It was like a beach ball bobbing along
On choppy waves,
A dog chasing after every rabbit which crossed
I’m still a bit like that but the hormones
Are quieter now
& if I don’t watch it I still find myself
Head up the arse or in the clouds,
A head’s gotta go somewhere.
I like them too.
I thought I was a basket case
But there’s this thirteen year old
I read about
Who takes anti-depressants
Two drugs for attention deficit disorder
& she takes what I take too.
I know growing up is tough
But I didn’t know it could be
Tough as this.
I could take other drugs,
Ones that she takes
But the doc reckons I’ve got this far
I can go the rest of the way.
I just hope that little thirteen year old kid
Makes it out of the forest okay.
Once I was stuck in the moment.
It was like being stuck in a lift.
I was going nowhere.
Not even up and down.
There was no way out.
No alarm button to press.
I tried not to panic.
Tried smoking a cig.
Humming a tune
Studying a fly on the wall
Reciting my nine times tables
And then suddenly SNAP
I was out of it.
I don’t know how long I was in it.
It did have its moments
I must admit.
But you wondered if you’d ever
Get out and join
The flow of life again.
The rain has begun.
I park the car close as possible, then dodging the drops, duck into the library.
“Ahh,” says the librarian, “we’ve been wading through your requests and look what’s washed up.”
It is like Santa handing over a present.
“Ahh, ‘Waterlog’”, I say.”The perfect book to read in the bath,”
“Just don’t drop it,” he says.
I should have seen that coming but Steve is quick, very quick.
“Thanks,” I say and we have a brief chat on the merits of reading in strange places, like baths.
“Have to go”, I say. “The rain’s getting heavier.”
By the time I get to the car, the book and I are waterlogged.
Steve would have appreciated that pun.
Now I don’t have to worry about dropping it in the bath.