The stars twinkled in the night sky. Matthew sat on the roof’s parapet gazing dreamily up at them. It was close to 3 am, but Matthew dared not sleep. His hallucinations were getting worse. He was scared that if he fell asleep he would have to wonder if he was trapped in a dream or worse, if he was enclosed in reality.
He took a sip of water and popped another pill. He could still vaguely remember the time the disease had first taken ahold of him, the first time he had accepted that he indeed did have it.
It had started with the whispers and the mild hallucinations. He would often hear people talking in a room, but when he went there he found no one. He would see things, a cat on the sidewalk perhaps but when he blinked it would disappear. Matthew would always tell himself that it was just his mind playing tricks on him. But that day had been different.
It had been bright and sunny. Matthew had just finished his homework when he looked outside and smiled. It was raining! Immediately Matthew ran outside. He wanted to feel the cool water on his skin, soak in the heavenly scent.
But when Matthew went outside, he sensed that something was terribly wrong. He could see the raindrops but he could not feel them. The heavens shed their tears all around him, but he could not feel a thing. This sent a wave a fear through him and he began to scream out, “Mom, why can’t I feel the raindrops? Why can’t I feel them?”
His mother rushed out of the house immediately. Matthew stopped screaming when he saw the look on her face. She seemed to be more frightened than he was, if that were possible. The reason for her fear was clear enough — it was not raining. The sun was still high up in the sky.
After that came the endless doctors and appointments, prescriptions and suggestions. The doctors told him the worst — he had schizophrenia. There were lots of discussions, but in the end it was decided that Matthew could stay with his parents instead of having to go to a mental hospital. That was the only good news.
The dark tidings were far worse, especially the paranoia. Matthew was in constant anxiety, wondering if what he was seeing was real or not. He heard voices in his head at all times of the day — some telling him to laugh, some telling him to cry and others telling him to scream. He saw the sun up in the sky at night, saw black clouds on blistering hot days. He felt that there was someone in his head, but that it was not him.
He felt as if he was mental, a nut case. He felt dirty, ashamed. He distanced himself from his friends, his family. He was slowly, brick by brick putting up a mental wall around himself. He spoke little, firmly told everyone that he was okay, even though he was not. He desperately wanted to tell someone how he felt, to have someone tell him that everything was alright.
But he couldn’t. No one could possibly know what he was going through. How could they? How could they know how it felt to constantly hear those voices in his head? How could they know how it felt for him to gaze at something and then realize, later on that it had never been there at all? How could they understand the constant struggle his mind went through choosing between what was real and what was non-existent? They couldn’t.
So, Matthew stumbled along alone, sticking to his room, hiding behind his art. That was the only thing that kept him going. Canvasses and paint managed to give him some comfort. Still, Matthew felt that soon even art would no longer be able to solace him. He felt like a ticking bomb, just waiting to explode.
“Hey there, I’ve been looking for you,” a voice said behind him. Matthew turned around to see his friend Sarah walking towards him. He felt a little guilty. Sarah had been a close friend once, but Matthew had distanced himself from her after his diagnosis.
“So, what are you doing up?” she asked him.
He muttered something about not being able to fall asleep. She joined him on the parapet and began to look at the pretty stars up in the vast sky.
Suddenly Sarah faced him and said, “You know you can tell me anything, right?”
Matthew was desperate for someone to understand him, but instead he said, “You wouldn’t be able to understand how this feels, no one can.”
Matthew gazed into her dreamy blue eyes, stared at her radiant smile. And suddenly it happened. Maybe it was the night sky, maybe it was the pressure of holding back everything for so long, but Matthew found himself blurting out everything.
He told her everything — the paranoia, the delusions, everything. He spoke for what seemed like hours. Sarah listened on in silence occasionally offering a word or two of comfort.
At the end of it all, Matthew felt much better. It had been a relief to get it all out of his system. He looked up at Sarah and managed to give her a smile. She smiled back.
It was close to dawn when Matthew’s mother went up to the roof. She gazed at Matthew and saw her son talking to someone that only he could see.