“I am getting a half -Van Gogh,” I say over the phone.
“A half -Van Gogh? What is that?”
“You know how Van Gogh lopped off his left ear after a fit of madness, or so it’s claimed?”
“Well, I’m getting half my left ear, the lobe lopped off.”
“Why? Why would you do that?”
“You said you would love me even if I had half my face missing.”
“I know but …”
What seems to be the trouble , he asks .
I cough and splutter all over the place .
He gets the message .
Sits down to write the certificate .
There , he says , handing the form to me . This should do the trick .
I peruse it quickly .
There’s something missing, I say, why I had time off .
That’s right . If you had Alzheimers or a social disease would you want
people to know ?
Certainly not .
My point exactly .
But I thought you had to put something down .
No , he says . And if they ask , tell them to take a running jump . Better still , tell them to phone me and I’ll tell them to take a running jump . Only in stronger terms .
He stands up . Shakes my hand .
The next day at work I hand in the certificate .
He’s right .
They see the blank space but no one says a word .
I push it a bit further .
On the official form , the one you fill out yourself , where it says Illness I put down ‘See Certificate’ .
It feels good . It really does .
I’ve found a new way to treat with the world .
“What are you staring at?”
“We are watching you unravelling.”
“There’s a word for that, a German word like watching people in road accidents”.
“Please don’t get distracted. Continue unravelling.”
“What if I don’t want to?”
“We’ve been watching you. You won’t be able to prevent it.”
They were right. I was like one of those wall-mounted paper towel dispensers.
Once the roll starts unravelling there’s no stopping it and I wasn’t done yet. There was still a metre or more of me to go.
Someone once said to me, Expect the Unexpected.
It seemed daring at the time so I took it on board.
The only problem was because I expected the Unexpected all the time I wasn’t really surprised when it happened.
It was expected, right?
Life was losing its surprise factor.
I felt heavy as a watermelon.
My counsellor suggested — wait for it — Expect only the Expected.
So I do,
When the Unexpected happens I light up like a lantern
twinkle like a star.
It wasn’t expected, right?
I am reading a book of very strange stories.
One of them is called ‘Falling Awake’.
It is only six sentences long.
Here it is in its entirety:
I have no trouble falling asleep.
I have a lot of trouble falling awake.
Sometimes I sleep ten to twelve hours a day before snailing towards the light.
One day I will fall asleep and not fall awake or fall awake and not fall asleep.
Neither prospect daunts me.
I like adventures; no matter how short.
No one saw it coming. Least of all me. I was happily ensconced in a book when it EXPLODED. Such was its force that it blew the toupee off the man in front of me and propelled the stationary bus in which we were sitting two metres forward. The sneezer himself, a dread locked man in a canary yellow suit, whooshed around the aisle of the bus startling passengers until suitably deflated he flopped beside me flatulent as a whoopee cushion.
I am outside late at night
About the poems
I have not written
The ones I’ve turned away from
Because of embarrassment
Or fear of shedding my jovial persona
and find somewhat alarmingly
that the poems I have not written
far outnumber the ones I have.