Tarzan Boy by Ian McDowell
Setting: DOWN MARKET APARTMENT IN PADDINGTON 13.30 PM 31st December 2009
A 40-something man lays motionless and face down on a sofa surrounded
by empty cans, bottles, overflowing ashtrays and confectionary
wrappers. Suddenly the doorbell rings and receiving no answer the
visitor begins to bang on the door and shout through the letterbox
KAREN: Sebastian? Are you there?
Receiving no answer, she tries again
Sebastian? Its me Karen, are you in there?
Sebastian slowly drags himself from the sofa holding his head as he
wakes from a deep slumber
SEBASTIAN: What's that, uh hang on?
The anxious banging continues
SEBASTIAN: Who the fuck's this?... I'm coming
SEBASTIAN: I said I'm coming hang on!
Sebastian opens the door and his irritation subsides as this rare
visitor proves to be his counsellor
KAREN: Hi Sebastian.
Sebastian Shields his eyes from the sunlight
SEBASTIAN: Karen, what are you doing here?
KAREN: Oh, I was just in the neighbourhood and I thought I would drop
round and see how you are? It's not inconvenient, is it?
SEBASTIAN: Well, I suppose not, but I am just surprised to see you. Is
there a problem?
Karen is slightly embarrassed by Sebastian's abrupt tone
KAREN: Gosh no, like I say, I was just passing and I thought I might
call in and see how you are coping during the festive season. I know
it can be a difficult timeforwell. for lots of people?
SEBASTIAN: Is there not some rule about unwarranted counsellor and
KAREN: Officially, yes, were not supposed to socialise with clients
but they can't expect us not to cross pathseven in a City as large
SEBASTIAN: And I suppose knocking on my door does somewhat increase
the chances of crossed paths. Well you're here now so you might as
well come in.
Karen steps through the door
KAREN: Thanks. My god its cold out there.
SEBASTIAN: It's not much warmer in here. I haven't had time to
clear up so it's a case of sit anywhere you can find space.
Karen moves some of the clutter and perches on the edge of the tatty
sofa and surveys the bottles that litter the lounge area
KAREN: Wow, Did you have a party?
SEBASTIAN: Yes, Yes it was great. All my friends came! Jack Daniels,
Jim Beam the whole gang!
KAREN: Sebastian I know it's the holidays and all that but you do
realise you're not supposed to be drinking at all.
SEBASTIAN: And you really think that it's going to make a difference
after all these years! Anyway its Christmas, how can anyone be
expected to face that sober!
KAREN: It's just that at our meetings, you always give the
impression that things are going well and you are getting better.
SEBASTIAN: And has it ever crossed your mind that people may just tell
you what you want to hear at those meetings?
KAREN: Deception is always a possibility, yes, but that does not stop
me from offering encouragement to those concerned.
SEBASTIAN: Anyway, what's with the shoptalk; I thought this was a
KAREN: Yes you are right, sorry. This is quite a nice place you have
SEBASTIAN: It's a shithole and I am 14 months behind with the rent.
Sebastian pulls back the curtain
SEBASTIAN: My next abode, alfresco London. I'm just waiting for a
KAREN: Well hopefully we can get something sorted out before that
SEBASTIAN: Yes, that should be easy; there are no end of safety nets
for middle-aged white males who fall on hard times. We are a popular
cause you know?
KAREN: To be truthful, you have not fallen on hard times by sheer bad
luck. Besides, I thought you were working at the moment.
SEBASTIAN: They sacked me the week before Christmas; not the worst
present I ever had.
KAREN: Why did you not say something at our last meeting?
SEBASTIAN: Because the positive spin that you would no doubt have
placed upon the situation would have hindered my enjoyment at
wallowing in my own self-pity. Look, I went a bit over the top at the
Christmas night out and said a few home truths to the bosses that did
not go down too well. Apparently by the time I returned to work
two days later my position with the company had become
KAREN: So basically you are telling me that alcohol was the catalyst
for yet another self-imposed disaster?
SEBASTIAN: Oh whatever. I fucking hate those Christmas parties anyway.
Lots of one night out a year merchants so determined to 'have a
laugh' they render any genuine enjoyment impossible. The only
highlight of the evening was some silly tart from accounts bursting
into tears because her husband won't shag her anymore. Can you
believe she actually asked him if he still fancied her, I mean what is
it with some women, the fact she had to ask the question means
there's only one answer!
KAREN: Well I have to say that I am disappointed that you are
unemployed again; having a career goal can really help people in
recovery to focus on something positive.
SEBASTIAN: I would hardly call Health and Safety administrator at my
age a career. Just why people started to use such a grandiose
expression as 'career' for mundane tasks I'll never know.
Songwriters have careers; artists have careers. People like me have
jobs ...not careers. As for my 'recovery', its taking Christmas
KAREN: Well, you really do need to make an effort before you can be
helped and insulting your employers is not exactly the way forward.
But lets not dwell on that now. How are you in general?
SEBASTIAN: Spiffing, positively spiffing! Would you like a drink? I
have most things, Tea, coffee, or something more festive?
KAREN: I'll have a coffee if you will join me.
SEBASTIAN: Of course, nothing like a hit of caffeine to kick start
another adventurous day of inactivity. It's one of my major food
groups you know, along with cholesterol and nicotine! How do you take
Sebastian retreats to the kitchenette area and lights a cigarette as
he prepares the coffee
KAREN: White no sugar please and I hardly think you should joke about
having such a terrible lifestyle, it's killing you; you know that
Sebastian turns towards Karen
SEBASTIAN: 44 years old, never had a broken bone, never had an
Sebastian gestures with two open hands towards his groin
SEBASTIAN: the old hydraulics are in perfect working order.
KAREN: I'll take your word on that one. I notice you chose to ignore
that you are on medication for several conditions; most of which could
be reversed with healthier lifestyle choices.
SEBASTIAN: Yes they are lifestyle 'choices' so I can 'choose'
not to indulge in them. Have you ever seen a happy vegetarian? Most of
them look like they have had their blood drained!
KAREN: I happen to be a vegetarian.
SEBASTIAN: My condolences!
KAREN: So I am wasting my time trying to help you get better, is that
SEBASTIAN: You are wasting your time full stop.
KAREN: Thanks for your honesty.
SEBASTIAN: I drink because I like drinking; just as I smoke because I
like smoking. I am never going to be an orange juice and muesli man; I
happen to want to live life not preserve it!
KAREN: I am not expecting you to turn Mormon; I just think that you
should consider your health a bit more. Maybe get out in the fresh
air; take some exercise, you would feel better for it. That's not
the counsellor talking but a friend.
SEBASTIAN: I do enough sports thank you very much. I am first reserve
on the Darts and the Pool team at the Crown and Anchor.
KAREN: I was thinking maybe sports that require more physical
movement, walking even?
SEBASTIAN: Walking is boring! As is running and cycling and the people
that do it! Out in all weathers some of them. What are they trying to
prove? There must be easier ways to demonstrate having a total lack of
KAREN: What I am saying is that exercise can lift people's mood; we
have already discussed how alcohol is a depressant.
SEBASTIAN: Here we go.
KAREN:I am not asking you to give up the things that you enjoy; just
get more of a balance. The trouble with heavy drinking is that it's
a downward spiral with psychological consequences. Remember how we
spoke about negative cognitions?
SEBASTIAN: Yes, I needed a drink after that little lecture.
KAREN: Sebastian, drinking alone indoors is not healthy and it's
often symptomatic of an underlying condition.
SEBASTIAN: So, I have had a lot of stress lately. I had to spend
Christmas with my family, do you know how gut-wrenchingly awful that
was. One positive is that I doubt I'll be invited back next year.
KAREN: It sounds to me like you feel strained even in basic social
situations. That can be worked on; it's not as daunting as it may
SEBASTIAN: I have no problems socialising; I go down the Crown at
least four times a week and meet up with friends.
KAREN: Sebastian, those people are not friends; they are like-minded
acquaintances who most likely have their own problems. Choosing to
imbibe in the same vicinity as other addicts is not interacting
socially; it's an attempt to normalise extreme behaviour. For
instance, you could find another pub tomorrow and build up the same
level of relationship with the regulars in a matter of days.
SEBASTIAN: Well it's the only place I like going and if I stay in
here I feel trapped and agitated and then I will end up drinking
KAREN: That's anxiety. As you know, I treat people with all manner
of conditions not just alcohol dependency. There are many facets to
depression and anxiety is also one of them.
SEBASTIAN: For the last time, I do not have depression.
KAREN: I am afraid you do. I know you don't like the word but if you
don't face up to the fact, you will never recover to have a full a
purposeful life. That is what you want isn't it?
SEBASTIAN: What I want is for you and that useless twat of a doctor to
stop telling me that I that I'm depressed. It seems you both like
thinking the whole world is mentally ill; good for business is it? For
your information, I don't sit around feeling sorry for myself or
lying in bed all day and I certainly don't inflict my troubles on
others. How the fuck can I be depressed, I came to you originally
suffering from work rel.
KAREN: Look Sebas
SEBASTIAN: No.. No I was sent to you suffering from work related
stress and now you are trying to twist things round. Does a depressed
person have the ability to get animated and angry like me now; does
this look like a depressed person to you?
KAREN: As a matter of fact yes, it does.
Irritability; inability to make a decision; fluctuations in appetite;
erratic sleeping patterns and self medicating daily with alcohol, in
fact your almost text book. Depressed people do not just mope around
all day in a trance unable to function; it's a complicated and
serious condition. It's also nothing to be ashamed of, it can affect
us all. So if, as you believe, you're not alleviating mental stress,
why do you drink so much?
Sebastian begins to laugh
SEBASTIAN: Because I enjoy drinking. Booze has always been there for
me unlike people it asks no questions, it doesn't judge and it
provides a degree of consistency that can be offered by precious
little else in this ridiculous life. Now if you are to stay, can we
please change the subject!
Sebastian returns with the coffee, places it on the coffee table and
seats himself in the armchair opposite Karen. He pulls out a bottle
from his dressing gown pocket and promptly laces his coffee with a
large slug of Brandy and then gestures to Karen with the bottle
KAREN: No thank you, it's a bit early for me.
SEBASTIAN: Suit yourself.
KAREN: I know it's the holidays and the pressures do drink are
greater but I hope in the New Year you will try to get back on track.
That's all I am going to say on the subject, this is not a
counselling session after all.
SEBASTIAN: Well it sure was starting to sound like one.
KAREN: OK; let's talk about something more light-hearted, it is New
Years Eve and a time to look forward I guess.
There is a pause while both parties contemplate how this meet up got
off to such a fiery beginning
SEBASTIAN: Funny, we decide to talk about something positive and
cheery and immediately run out of conversation.
KAREN: So, have you any plans to celebrate tonight?
SEBASTIAN: Oh yes, I love New Years Eve it's the best night out of
the year. I thought I might pay a ten pounds for entrance to a shit
pub where its four deep at the bar all night. Then spend the whole
evening shouting over dire music to disinterested friends about how
next year is going to be a 'big one for me'. Then following the
anti-climax of Auld-Langs-Aine, I'll pay a smelly cab driver triple
rate to run me back home. I wouldn't want to be accused of being
boring now would I? What about yourself, are you doing anything