Stevie was breathing heavily in the front seat of the cop car. He expected this fiasco to cause some problems for anyone who got themselves involved, and in his attempt to ignore the whole matter completely, he had landed smack bang in the middle of it. The weeks leading up to the night’s television event had been sickening. Every time he turned on the television he had been repulsed by advertising and excitement mongering; the clichéd “I Want you” Uncle Sam poster pointing at those vegetable-ised humans staring at the millions of screens; the slogan twisted to “Will it be you?” He assumed anyone wanting to be found the happiest person in the world would automatically be ruled out because their character is already inherently weak and dependent upon others’ approval. He also felt anyone entertained by such cheap and immoral programming would lack the depth of thought to find truth. But most of all he felt an irrepressible desire that his psychologist background would not let go: He thought, without formation or articulation, without wanting or choosing, that he deserved to be the happiest man in the world. It was a self entitlement so visceral and repugnant that it would serve as the secret weapon that any Nietzsche enthusiast could use to argue down Buddha in a debate over human nature. He was no longer out of breath from the battle with the press mob but Stevie was still breathing heavily.
“Well, that was a little crazy wasn’t it?” Taylor and his never say cry exterior was drowning in the humidity of Stevie’s fumes. Stevie grunted but was glad to be fished out of his downward spiral. “You alright back there, handsome?” Taylor called back to their passenger. Stevie shook his head with embarrassment and dropped the window a few inches to cool the beads of sweat over his brow.
“I’m OK,” said Walter. He was being braver than he had ever needed to be, Stevie knew it, but the whole situation must be crashing down upon him with the weight of pure loneliness. How would this innocent person, supposedly the happiest in the world, survive the needy embrace of a billion souls? Their hopes and prayers and every desire to fall upon him like a tidal wave. But Stevie knew it was more than this. He knew that not everybody will embrace Walter as a Messiah. He knew it because he felt it himself - try as he might not to admit it; not to welcome it into his immediate conscious. So he continued to lay the blame upon the faceless masses. For as many people who will love Walter, there will be just as many, if not more, who resent him for what he has become. They will doubt him; hate him; their jealousy giving way to skepticism. Stevie knew this because he could feel it brewing inside.
It had seemed obvious as a high school graduate that Stevie would best serve himself and others as a student of the mind. The mechanics of emotions seemed simple to him and he had always felt an urge to help people. This led him to study psychology and he was regularly a top grade student throughout his tertiary education. However, the shock from the chasm that linked the theory of school to the real life trauma and disillusionment present in his patients quickly began to take its toll on him. He would delve through their past and present actions and explain to them the fallacy of each selfish emotion, unable to understand how they couldn’t learn from his knowledge and advice. But what took him more by surprise, like a kidney shot from an unknown assailant, was that he began to learn from them about his own inadequacies; the mistakes and weakness in his life that caused such self destructive patterns. He felt hatred where he used to feel love; anger where he had compassion and an ever increasing superiority complex that destroyed his marriage and cut all ties with his remaining friends and family.
“Umm, Stevie...” Taylor had a strong hint of hesitancy in his voice. Despite being physically more impressive than his partner, he still feared his wrath. “You feeling alright, partner?” Stevie remained still. He did not want to betray even a trace of his shame. He controlled his breathing and made an effort not to wipe his brow for fear that it would highlight his inner struggle. He couldn’t deal with this now. Talking about his problems would have to wait. The inner psychologist felt sick that he would dare bottle up this emotion at a time like this. If he shut the door on it now like a wild dog, it would take years of careful treatment to bait it back out and be free. Instead he switched the mood to a familiar outlet: Anger – his drug of choice.
“Didn’t I tell you! Didn’t I tell you this would be a mess!” He was glaring back at Walter who gave a start at the sudden attack. “You think this is going to get any better? You think it’s over now?!”
“This is going to be a shitstorm. I knew it from the start and I wanted no part of this bullshit. I-” Stevie cut himself short. He was about to go on a rant of how he purposely organised the drug busts to coincide with the show to avoid catching a glimpse of it. He had pulled Taylor away from the screen and into the cruiser to bust some loser addicts and then Walter had happened upon them. He dare not tell such a self pitying story, instead finishing, “I just hope you got enough in you to deal with this shit. Sure as hell doesn’t look like it.” To his credit, Walter hadn’t flinched. He didn’t respond and Stevie swung back around to face forward, before letting any emotion wash over his anger steeled face. ‘Fuck!’ he said internally before unknowingly regressing into his heavy breathing.
Escaping the world of psychology had been too little too late for Stevie. He had an impressive array of home brew emotions bottled up and stored in the cellar of his mind. He became a cop, which saved him from alcoholism, and turned over a new leaf like a heavily stained sofa cushion; laying a plastic cover of anger and cynicism to avoid any further spillages. At least he was still helping people which had always been his calling. Instead of dealing with the mental scum of the earth, he got to deal with the much simpler physical scumbags. He had felt at peace once more. He had freed himself from the bind that was suffocating him and set up a new life where the self doubt no longer plagued him. He shut out the inner psychologist for many years and managed to reach a level of tranquility that balanced precariously on the forgotten rubble of his past.
He had leveled out after his anger shot and the cruiser rounded a corner into a brightly lit and crowded street. The source of light came from the base of a dull gray building - Big vans with protruding satellites, portable floodlights, portable toilets, cameras and microphones pointing in every direction. The scene was a mess, highlighted by a mass of people lining the entrance to the building like a fanatic movie fans crowding outside a Hollywood premiere, waiting for the stars to show up.
The cruiser pulled up to the heightened excitement. “Ready for round two?” Stevie said coolly as he jumped out and skirted over to Walter’s door. Taylor was ushering the crowd back to make way and fortunately it was much more civilised than the last. Stevie still kept a firm, protective grip on Walter’s bicep as he escorted him down the gauntlet towards a smiling reporter who was clearly being fashioned into the next Tony Holdsworth. Suddenly he felt flush with a deep seeded sickness. He felt wrong in every inch of his body, with every step closer to the grinning reporter. He squeezed Walter’s arm tighter and almost made to pivot quickly and jump back in the cruiser. But he couldn’t do it. Whether it was for fear or duty he completed his task and delivered Walter to the beaming reporter. He felt every wrong turn and misdeed of his life flash before him and none of them compared in comparison to the action he had just taken. He stood rigid a moment before being squeezed back by the enclosing media. He seemed to float away like a parent farewelling a child as the bus to summer camp drives away. He felt weak at the knees. He knew he had made the biggest mistake of his life.
Notes to the text
Notes to the text