Nathan Lyons

There’s no pill for this

He’s pacing, eyes darting, fingers playing tiny imaginary pianos. He’s military age. Heaven only knows where he’s been

The security guard at the mall tells me he saw the rockets from Gaza, right in front of his eyes. In the blue sky, in the middle of the day.

“This is not a country. It’s a jungle.”

“In Russia, would they mess around?” He shakes his head. “They would wipe it out.”

He gestures with his hands, rapid circles in the air, one clockwise, one counterclockwise, the fallout from imaginary bombs.

“But not us. We have good hearts, so it’s like this.” The bomb hands stop, his palms turn outwards, a rabbinical shrug. “There’s no way forward.”

I nod and pull a pained face, as if to say ‘you’re right’. He pretends to check my bag as I wait by the walk-through metal detector.

“There is a way forward,” I offer, trying to be understanding. “It’s just – not straightforward.”

He gazes into the middle distance.

Inside the mall I take the escalator down to the psychiatrist. I did an ADHD test the morning after the 2am Iranian attack. Since I woke up late and in a bit of a funk, they let me take the test from home, so long as I kept my camera on, I suppose so the nice admin lady could check I wasn’t wandering off aimlessly or jumping up and down or eating a four-course meal during my test.

I got a crappy score – poor attention, poor emotional regulation – so here I am, in the shrink’s office. “I get a little anxious,” I tell her, “it’s hard to focus, especially after lunch.” She’s very understanding. She doesn’t know what I have and prescribes me a box of pills that, when I check online later on, ‘may have the side effects’ of causing hallucinations, severe constipation and suicidal thoughts. Maybe all three together.

Walking out of the psychiatrist’s office I notice a young man, visibly anxious, waiting his turn.

He’s pacing up and down, eyes darting, fingers playing tiny imaginary pianos. He’s military age. Heaven only knows where he’s been, what he’s seen, what he’s still seeing, what’s making him so jumpy. Why he’s turned himself over to the cotton claws of the medical system. I give him a wide berth and head back up the escalator.

You’d think during wartime people would pull together. But they don’t. They’re still assholes.

Some dude pushes in front of me at the coffee shop, passing his credit card right over my nose to secure an iced latte.

Someone else cuts me up on the highway, lurching full speed in a bumped-up Peugeot right past my bumper. I watch them – who am I kidding? it has to be a ‘him’ – weaving back and forth across all four lanes, overtaking, undertaking, passing barely inches from other people’s fragile lives at 160 kilometres per hour.

But maybe he just got out of Gaza – poor kid. Maybe he’s rushing to a comrade’s funeral – what a mensch. Maybe he’s from the elite 551 driver unit and this is his training – hats off.

Or maybe, just maybe, he’s a real asshole.

About the Author
Fascinated by the chaos and glory of life in Israel