By Zekria Ibrahimi
Key Themes: Novel, Mental Health, Schizophrenia
Gods and mortals, mortals and gods…
They are, all of them, perpetually engaged in, and cursed by, the problems that are love and war…
The Judgement of Paris…
A mortal, Paris, must choose between three goddesses, each of whom represents a different facet of womanhood- Aphrodite is the whore, Hera is the matron, Athena is the virgin. If Paris picks one, he must inevitably offend the other two. Thus, what is in effect a mere beauty contest will eventually spark off the Trojan War. Greek myth manages to link love with strife, the seeming gentleness of a kiss with the harsh stabbing thuggery of a sword.
For, in truth, love, however much it appears full of light, is never distant from the darkness of conflict.
And, in this uneasy play, even the gods, in addition to mortals, can grow mad with both love and war…
About the Author
Zekria Ibrahimi (born in 1959) is defined by his schizophrenia. It first hit him long ago, in his late teens. He is fifty two years old now, grey, sadly bed- ridden and frail, almost a pensioner, with all the aches and injuries of age, incontinent and impotent, and he does not always want to remember how, as an adolescent in the late 1970’s, he suddenly became afraid of everything surrounding him, and, worst of all, of himself. He would run around the countryside and knock at the doors of strangers because he feared the apocalypse was pursuing him … He would pick up rubbish outside in alleys and streets and hoard it in his not very palatial lodgings … He was always wandering away from home, searching for … what would never be found again … the straight route, the level way … He was a tramp, freezing during the nights in public toilets where he had various unsavoury insects as company on the cold concrete …
He hears his own heart- beat, the frightening pulse of it, and he is afraid…
There were years of pain when his schizophrenia became almost his only companion- albeit a sadistic one, punishing him even as he hugged it. Perhaps, to echo both R. D. Laing and Emily Dickinson, it is the entire globe, it is general society, that is truly insane. Schizophrenics simply burrow all too deeply under the surface. They reach the very core of the savage reality in us all. Most varnish over the anarchic truth within through the superficial sham paraded as ‘civilization’. Schizophrenics prefer to be uncomfortably honest barbarians.
Eventually, after much psychotic shouting on Hammersmith Broadway, the hapless Zekria was confined at the Charing Cross unit in the West London Mental Health Trust. Following the unsafe unstable freedom of his schizophrenia, came the restrictions of Section 3. He would not have survived without the multi- racial compassion of the individual doctors and nurses in Charing Cross. Yet the overall SYSTEM remains an ogre of rules and restraints, and the INSTITUTION of psychiatry can be as cold and vicious as in the days of lobotomy and insulin shock.
Now he is elderly, but still he muses about being locked up, drugged up, about how, with schizophrenia, the treatment can be worse than the disease…
You’re a married woman, Hera…
(venomously) And you’re an adulteress, Aphrodite…
(with a tart’s deadpan giggle) And you’re unkissable, Athena…
Girls! Please! You are undermining the peace and concord of Olympus!
Hera, you’re always moaning about the unsavoury meanderings of your husband, Zeus.
Athena has talked and talked and talked (a dismissive yawn) about virginity. But that bore,
marriage, which is really not much better than virginity, has not yet been illuminated… (sneers
again, then stares starkly at Hera) I would ask you to illuminate us, Hera…
(stepping towards the audience, with a sense of matronly suffering) Women must always be
tragically obedient. It is our duty to be directed by our men. We need to be commanded, as the
servant Moon must follow the all too dazzling Sun. It is as if we are eyeless, and grasp in our
helpless dependence the hand of the husband. He dictates our every step. Or else, we trip, we
(ruthlessly teasing) Zeus, your old man, he does tend to be…a tricky individual, hey, Hera? He
may boast that he is the chief of the Gods, with all his macho thunderings, but, dearie, he is no
symbol of fidelity…
(with a suppressed sob) Zeus, my husband… he wanders.
(to Hera) Wanders? ‘Wanders’ is really not strong enough a term. Rather, he totally rushes off,
far from your bed, into any alley, with any damned slut, any bloody weekend. (to Athena, with
an embittered sarcasm that belies her usually carefree pose) You think that I don’t understand
men. But you’re the one who is being stupid, Athena. Men will always prefer whores.