by M. Parks
Madness is a gradual process. Talking to myself, wandering aimlessly around the house, or just sitting and spacing out for unknown amounts of time. That was how it began. It was like a drip by drip deterioration of my giving-a-shit. Maybe it was that she was never coming back or that I lost my job or the argument that has kept my sister from talking to me all year. Or maybe, it was the apparitions that had begun to walk around my house…. but honestly, it began before all of that. Those were more like the results. The results of my mind slowly going blank.
Loneliness. It will force the mind to find something to relate to. I began talking to the stray cats that hung around my house–having full conversations with them. We were getting into heated debates about the origins of consciousness and the creation of the universe. I had begun yelling at them angrily about their ignorant philosophies and eventually they stopped coming around and I stopped leaving my room.
I never even would have walked outside that day but it just happened to be that bug up my ass kinda day and I decided to take out the trash. I grabbed the putrid, month old, plastic bag from under the sink and walked outside. Shirtless. Shoe-less. In my boxers. Then I saw him. Sitting on the ground, digging with his bare hands and screaming into the hole. It was Old man Willy. I used to listen to him rant about his politics and his constant losing battle between him and the squirrels over his pecan tree. They were hardly discernible, one-sided conversations that would begin to shoot back and forth between completely unrelated subjects but it always ended with the unforgivable sins of the squirrels. Willy had been alone in his house for longer than I’ve been alive. He had begun the madness process long ago but I had never seen him like this before. He looked like a child playing in a sand box. Digging and pilling the dirt but screaming.
“Am I a coward?! Is it all for nothing?!” he said as he continued to dig.
Something between him and I resonated inside me. I could hear the desperation in his voice as he was catching his breath and wiping tears from his face. I couldn’t even remember the last time I thought of something as beautiful. It takes strength to dive that far into insanity. I’m not sure how long I stood there watching him. Time seemed to be standing still and no one else even noticed the scene. Eventually, I was back inside and found myself turning on music and cleaning my house. A week later, I had a job. I was doing things. I was exercising, I was going out in public, I was having conversations with strangers. Somehow, I had hardly even thought about that day afterwards and Willy had seemed to go back to regular crazy Ol’ Willy but that scene had changed me.
Two months later, I finished cooking dinner, cleaned the dishes and took the trash out. As I came around the corner, I saw Willy. An eerie chill ran up my spine at the sight of a familiar scene. This time it was much more grotesque. Willy was knelt in his drive way. He looked as if he was in a trance.
He was sitting in the middle of a hand drawn circle of blood and holding a dead squirrel up towards the setting sun. It wasn’t that what he was doing was so odd to me, and some might say that that truly makes me more insane than Willy, but again, there was a resonance between him and I. I realized how, just two months ago, I was sitting on the edge of that same cliff that old man Willy seemed to have jumped off of. He had mirrored my insanity and brought me back to my senses. I felt bad for the innocent squirrel he was sacrificing to the pecan god that resided in his head, but it was his insanity that brought me out of my own darkness somehow. He only does it twice a year now and I observe through my window as not to disturb him.