I first heard about the Clinic when I was in Soho. I was alone in one of those generic bars that cling to the area like limpets on an industrial liner. Awash on an ocean of poisonous drivel distilled from privilege and prejudice, I could feel myself sinking. I wasn’t really listening to anything anyone was actually saying, I didn’t need to. I’d be surprised if the people talking were even listening to the foul pollutant spewing from their mouths. Their beady eyes were all too concerned with hunting down a chink in their colleagues designer armour, like a shark scouring the ocean floor for a hidden octopus amid the golden sand.
As I sat, my fingers clenched tightly round a bottle of larger, I could feel my anger starting to build. What annoyed me the most was that I couldn’t absolve myself from the thundering waves of pay cheque comparisons and personality overcompensation. It wasn’t that I was one of those hollow shells of human beings, but I certainly was envious of them. I wore a suit like they did, I worked long hours like they did, and I certainly drew enough blood out of the city to compete in their financial boxing arena, but I took no satisfaction from it. I hated myself for it. Why couldn’t I be just like them and take pleasure from such an existence? Sure, I loved the things my life could provide; a luxury car, riverside pent house suite, and a wife with more looks than sense. Yet, when I wasn’t working, speeding or fucking, my mind would drift towards what was missing.
When I had been a kid there was this tree in our back garden, an elderly oak coated in thick green moss with twisted branches. I used to climb it, like any youngster would and, at its upmost peak, I could see across the whole of the neighbouring countryside. The rolling fields of patchwork crops, the crisscross pattern of ancient hedges and, the thing that really inflamed my imagination, a ruined castle atop of the closest hill. From that vantage point, at the top of my tree, I felt like a baron looking down upon his land. I was the noble man who must have once lived in that castle, surveying his subjects and their handy work in shaping God’s Earth.
I had a true feeling of power, the feeling that comforts and assures the body, the feeling that relaxes every muscle and slows your mind down to a pleasant hum. It wasn’t power over anyone, this was power within oneself. It wasn’t exhilarating, but comforting. It didn’t cause hunger but satisfied it. It was that feeling that I longed for. A feeling I hadn’t felt for such a long time that I couldn’t remember how it actually felt. All I could feel was the emptiness it had left behind and no amount of money, cars, or carnal pleasures could fill the hole.
I think I must have been sitting in that bar, without saying a word, for about half an hour. My sullen face barely looking up from the forest of Armani covered legs as I tried to think of nothing at all. It must have been my glum demeanour that had made me stand out to him, for in all other respects I looked identical to the surrounding shoal of tossers. I was just sat there, one hand gripping my beer, the other resting morosely on the table top when he approached. He looked the same as everyone else.
At first I didn’t want to listen to his pitch. He started going on about how he used to be like me and my mood dropped as I pegged him as a self-help guru or life coach. Yet, as he spoke I became intrigued, he told me of the feeling he used to miss, a feeling of being at one with himself and fully in control. A feeling of power over his own universe, not that of other people’s and I knew, as surely as if I could see my own future, that this man should be listened too.
He gave me a card, after his long speech, a card for the clinic. It was incredible, I’m no longer weighed down by phantom expectations and ideals. I’ve been set free. Now I can breathe underwater and swim freely with the others, hunting and playing. No longer drowned by what I thought life should be, but propelled by what I can take from life.