Not That I Care (Flash Fiction)

Have you ever been in an absolutely quiet, serene place, void of any distraction at all?  Didn’t it feel weird?

Consider this: If you abuse your body, it creates problems and organs stop doing what they are supposed to do.  So, if you drink too much, your kidneys and liver will fail to filter toxins properly, or if you smoke, you damage your lungs and have difficulty oxygenating blood.  What about your brain?

Inane television shows, sound-bites, self-important celebrities, radio chatter, internet memes, Facebook status updates, tweets, and the general, incessant noise we surround ourselves with every day – subjecting a brain to such a relentless input of low-grade, sensational information, year after year, it’s not unreasonable to think that something had to give and it did.

They think Personality Seizure Disorder occurs because we are excessively overstimulated.  With every waking minute of every hour of every day, we are taking in information.  The TV or radio is on.  Interaction via email, phone, mail or in person.  Reading. Video games.  The Internet.  We are constantly handling processed input, nonstop.

Personality Seizure Disorder is a short circuit in the brain for processing emotions.  A person with PSD stops feeling.  They stop caring.  Once empathic, loving people get PSD, they become cold and distant.

The day I woke up and didn’t care anymore was New Year’s Eve.   It takes getting used to – not caring.  I noticed it, sure.  Everything seemed subdued.  Things disinterested me.  People disinterested me.  I mentioned it to no one.  Why would I?

That night, out with my wife and friends, we drank champagne and danced.  Well, they danced.  I drank.  I could feel the effect of the alcohol on my body, making me speak slowly and slur my words; making me stagger when I walked, but I didn’t feel the buzz – that warm feeling and lowering of inhibitions.  The way problems receded and enjoyment of the moment was amplified – that didn’t happen.

So I kept drinking, all night long.  When they checked me in at the hospital, I had .44 blood alcohol concentration.  They tell me I could have died.

Life does not stop when you get PSD, but it changes.  Everything is muffled and the colors are washed out.  Relationships become purely functional.  If someone asked a question like, “How is your family?”  Or worse, they started telling me about their family, I would walk away or turn my attention to another task, ignoring them.

In some ways, life becomes streamlined when you have PSD.  There are things I do and things I don’t do, and that’s all.   There is no preference of one over another; there are no favorites.  Reactions that were once impulsive are extinct.  There is no passion.  I don’t hate anything nor do I love anything.  Or anyone.

Of course, the relationship with my wife and son was most impacted by my PSD.  Jessica hung in there as long as she could but staying with a man who didn’t love her back was hard.  When you have PSD, sex is a strange, disengaged experience, like watching someone else doing it.  Moving in and out until I felt the spasms deep in my groin but I didn’t feel the orgasm or release of tension.  It was more like doing push-ups.

In an angry, frustrated fit, Jessica once asked me why I didn’t kill myself.

I thought about it for a moment and said, “I suppose it is because people who commit suicide are overcome by grief, depression, or sadness.”  I paused, thinking that was enough but when she just stood there, looking at me, I said what I thought was obvious.  “I do not feel grief, depression or sadness.”  Or anything.

Jessica couldn’t even fight with me because I didn’t get upset or angry.  She would yell with tears streaming down her face and I would sit there, saying nothing.  It must have been like trying to bounce a ball off of a wall to play catch, and the ball hits the wall and drops straight down every time.  She deserves better.  We divorced earlier this year, but I still have visitation rights with our son.

Stevie is twelve years old and he detached from me without much effort.  I suspect he is hurt deeply by my inability to love him but when around me, he would mimic my disconnected attitude.

One time, he asked if I remember the movie, 2001 a Space Odyssey.

“Yes,” I said.  I watched it with Stevie the year before I got PSD and he knew that.

“You are like the HAL 9000 computer,” he said.

“Because I do not feel emotion?”

“No.  Because you have locked me out.”

“Yes,” I said.

Just like Dave was locked outside of the spaceship by the HAL 9000 computer, Stevie is locked out of my life.  I interact, but I do not engage.  And like Dave, Stevie is always probing, looking for an airlock leading back inside to me.

There is no airlock.  I live in a vacuum.

Because of his biological relation to me, Stevie is predisposed to getting PSD.  For that reason, he spends three hours a day in a sensory deprivation chamber where he cannot hear, see or feel anything.  They think this will help prevent him from getting the disease.

Maybe they are right but they are simulating what it is like to have PSD by putting him in a deprivation chamber.  If he comes out of it and can still feel and care, then it’s fine.  The doctors are guessing. They don’t really know if this will help or not.

One thing I have kept is my memories.  I remember the time when I cared.  Like everything else, those memories are overexposed and washed out, but I remember when I was different.

Not that I care.

 

© 2013, 2018, Mitch Lavender

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