by: Allie Burke
“There is so much to do on this earth and our lives are so short. Just die now if you don’t leave an impact on your world. Life is about being remembered, not wasting time…”
He gets up from his seat and closes the door. We’re in a stark white conference room whose only color is me and him. The people are the art in this place. They say art is that which makes you feel something. That’s the problem with artists. They feel too much and have nowhere left to contain it all.
“Is today your last day?” he asks me as he takes his seat again.
“Yes,” I answer. “I’ll be out for three weeks.”
He slides the book to me—the one I got him for Christmas—and a pen. I open the front cover, click the pen, and his voice frantically blurts out “No, no. The back, the back.” I smile. He is so particular. There is not a crooked line in any of his Instagram photos.
“Are you okay?”
I can’t write and talk at the same time because I can’t just write whatever. It needs to be sincere and from the heart. I also can’t lie to him. He’ll know. He sees people. Things. When he doesn’t have his camera he snaps a photo with his eyes and uploads it to his brain. It’s what he does.
“No, I say, putting down the pen.”
He knows I have schizophrenia. Everybody knows. But he was one of the first.
“I already knew the answer,” he says. “I have to do what I can for you. What’s going on?”
“I can’t get my head right. I’ve got too much going on and I can’t think straight. I’m too fucking paranoid.”
“So what are they going to do? The doctors, on your medical leave, how is it going to help?”
“They are medicating me heavily for the next three weeks. I won’t be able to do much. Feed myself, hopefully. Watch TV. It’s going to be brutal.”
“You’re doing too much,” he says, “working twelve hours a day, going to school, writing—you need to slow down.”
“You should talk,” I scoff, and he laughs. Touché.
He works with me, but he’s also a photographer, a designer, an artist, a fiancée, and and a father. He lives off of three hours of sleep a night. I wouldn’t survive a day in his shoes.
I pick up the pen. I write—in the back, like he asked—about how the project this book highlights has reminded me of him since it got started. He loves New York. Los Angeles is too slow for him. I write that I don’t deserve him, and that he is the best. I tell him I love him, because we are the best of friends, and there are not many people in this world who understand me like he does.
I tell him I like his jacket, looking up from the book, and he starts to unzip it. “It’s cold today,” he says, “I could let you borrow it.”
“You won’t get it back if you do,” I say.
His hand pauses on the zipper. I smile and he zips it back up. He loves his clothes as much as he loves his camera and he knows I’m not joking.
“You should come visit me when I’m off,” I tell him. “I’m going to be bored out of my mind.”
He gets it. We don’t watch movies or play games on our phones. We don’t have time. There is so much to do on this earth and our lives are so short. Just die now if you don’t leave an impact on your world. Life is about being remembered, not wasting time.
“How can I help you?” he asks, bringing us back to schizophrenia.
“I don’t know.”
“Yes, you do.”
“I don’t,” I say. “I don’t ask for help; I don’t let people help me. Dee has never seen me have an episode.”
“How can that be? You live together.”
“Because I’ve learned to hide it. I don’t let anyone see me like that because it’s not me. If you ever saw it you would recoil. I’m a monster in that state, E. A wild animal.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“You don’t have a choice.”
It’s 10:30, and he’s out of time to fight me on the subject of taking on the world by myself.
“Take care,” he says as he hugs me and kisses me on the cheek. I’ll talk to you soon.
Allie Burke is the creator of the literary magazine and writers society Organic Coffee, Haphazardly. Her writings have been featured in Vice Magazine, Refinery 29, and in bestselling books sold nationwide. Allie lives in Long Beach, California.