The phone rang an inordinate number of times. Three women (some how always women) are stationed at any desk and it seemed peculiar that any one could be away for so long without another picking up the handset. It rang. Finally a warm voice answered the other line. The man relayed what was happening in a strange flurry that was filled with too much information and was probably due to the lack of human interaction he needed and she nodded over the phone in condolences and said that she would leave a note.

Notes: something left for someone to get around to at their earliest convenience. The key is earliest convenience – this term has no meaning.

He said thank you politely for her doing her job and hung up the phone. There he was, stuck in bed. It wasn’t so much as stuck as tied to it with the knowledge that he shouldn’t leave it. So he waited. It was early in the morning. The hope of calling earlier is to find and intrepid young man eager to make phone calls while noshing on the sandwich from home and leaving his soup to cool on the desk. Then he would call, food slightly masticated in the back of his mouth causing him to mumble a little and every so often an ejaculation from it falling on his lap. It could also be a she. There are many more shes than hes it seems.

He remained calm for four hours. Not calm in the normal sense of calm, where you can sit and enjoy a tv show or even calm in the sense that comes with chain smoking three cigarettes is calm. It’s an enforced calm, marshaled is the right word for it. One where he can sit in one place and maybe attempt to do something. He often attempts, but it’s not really anything pretty. There was one time that he tried writing, spellcheck couldn’t keep up.

After five hours of waiting the tension builds as to what is said. Thoughts of castigations and pleas floated around with neither gaining traction but all influencing the final product. Castigation would amount to nothing but momentary senses of superiority that would create a high of anxiety riddled with euphoria. Pleas would be self debasing. But they could tug at the heartstrings of people designed and trained to ignore their hearts. Which avenue was to be taken was entirely up to the doctor and his attitude.

The phone rang. It didn’t ring a second time as it slid out of the man’s pocket and up to his ear knowing that salvation was awaiting on the other side.


The first hello is the oddest mixture of all. Everything leading up to the answer was mixed into a witches brew where nothing added up and amounted to confusion. Nothing can be told by a hello. The man on the line replied while finishing his pastrami. Tomato basil soup could almost be smelled through the phone with little bits of bread floating in it from sandwich dipping.

Pain was the subject of the conversation. Not real pain, or imaginary pain, but head pain, the kind that only exists in the mind of a few. A litany of symptoms were recited in fast order as the rosary of the mind flipped from bead to bead. The hope being that an accurate assessment of the situation would lead the man on the line to issue the right kind of help. Push harder. The thoughts in the man’s mind went. Just keep talking. So the conversation continued. As the tomato basil soup started to cool, the conversation was taking too long. The man on the line issued a passive threat: incarceration.

The shock at the tone and the threat flipped the switches from passive and groveling to incendiary. Incarceration. It floated in the air for a split second and then it came down to the file the man on the line was reading. It was hidden from view and hidden throughout the man’s life, so what was on it? The man had many questions. They were lies after briefly inquiring. But how to undo those lies? How does one undo lies over the phone? More to the point, how can one ever undo the lies in real life. The lies said the man would never get what he wanted, but if no one ever trusted him to get what he wanted then how could he prove to be trust worthy?


The man blew up. He had only yelled at one other person before in his life. A tirade came down and a passive threat. Happy holidays where the parting words. Neither meant it. The man fumed, then dwelled, he became paranoid. He didn’t know what they were looking at, what magical scripture they held. It had to be extracted with force from the man on the line before it was fumbled out as though it was a disgusting secret. The paranoia acted as a new voice of reason.

“What else are they hiding?”

If everything was built up on trust, and that trust was undermined by a few words that were hidden, then other lies might be hidden. What else was false in that file that was never offered up. He couldn’t get to that file either, not without paying a large sum of money, money he didn’t have. Pressure built in his head and rippled through his body. Transcendent anger filled his thoughts as he dwelled on what everyone else seemed to know, everyone else in authority, everyone else he trusted, could see. It was all there, but not for him.

With the great panacea of cigarettes he calmed himself from pacing to sitting inside and only talking about what was happening. It wouldn’t leave his head. After a while he tired of thinking of it but the notes on the paper still dwelled. At night he struggled to sleep for fear that he might have done something else to anger the gods that had soup together and exchanged notes. The group of mortals given powers of the immortals over whoever asked for their help.

By morning the man was castigated. There was nothing left to do but feel distraught and worthless. It spiraled down. What he needed would have stopped the spiral down if it had happened naturally, but the accusation and threat made it all the worse. Cigarette after cigarette passed by without a buzz or a high but simply as a means to pass time. Each hour, on the hour, a break to go into the bitter cold winter that was unseasonably cold and shake and numb from a cigarette that seemed only a ritual.

Two days passed and everything started to break loose. The man once again felt the abyss open beneath his feet. It was while in a restaurant. He was eating a hamburger when it all went to hell. The restaurant receded and nothing mattered. Life held little meaning. He made another call. Made a friend over the phone who didn’t threaten him, but had the unknown note. What was on the note was different, it changed. They changed some things in his life. It made him ill.

A day later the changes made him worse.

It made him feel like hell was closing in around him. Thoughts spiraled around him. He called another new friend, a new new friend, over the phone. She gave some advice and a different note to listen to. Though, in his apartment he had was he was looking for, saved for a bad day. It made him feel better, made everything line up. It made him feel calm and normal, even though things seemed to be out of control. The new new friend’s suggestion was put in place that night. He couldn’t sleep from it. He tossed and turned and swore vengeance on the gods of mayhem for keeping him awake.




It was as though someone had started a IV caffeine drip through the night without his permission. The world screamed at him and he wanted to scream back. He took what he could and called again. Nothing was working. He called at his job and patiently waited. Lunchtime came. They said he should incarcerate himself. The note changed again.

It was always a different reason for why they wouldn’t help but they never believed him at any turn. Their only answer was incarceration. Expensive incarceration that he would have to pay for himself, incarceration that would break him. And there, there too they would have the note. The note that would be passed from doctor to doctor at a click of the mouse. One that would always say a lie that he could not undo or disprove.

The man got worse. Without what he needed he would always get worse. There was nothing else to do.

Then he woke up one morning. Energy burned in his veins and he felt like he was on fire. He tried to take on the world that held lies about him. The one that reduced him to a degenerate with their lies. One that made him beg for something that would help him but they didn’t listen. They incarcerated him. He struggled against two men who did not have the power to sedate him. He kicked and screamed at the men and women who would not listen, whose job was to listen, who exiled him to the recesses of his mind that fulfilled whated they seemed to want since he first talked to them.

And then he was found sitting in a room with no electrical outlets, or books, or tv, or computer. He just sat there, staring out the window. There was always a second option, always. But it was non-existence, just thoughtless contemplation of a half snowed landscape.


This is a once through, non-edited, drivel piece. I just needed to write as my mind was being held hostage. And the writing did help me.


One response to “Kafkaesque

  1. Pingback: The World Is Material | jameswilliaml·

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