5. Mefloquine Dispatches: NAB, 20th March 2019 (Final)
by Shane Granger
The ground is dirty. It is covered by cigarette butts and bottle tops. It is the remotest place in a very tidy hospital. Workers gather here to catch a few moments of peace. The patients have their own area. It is in another corner. Far enough from this place that no one must cross pollinate or feel uncomfortable as they take a few moments for themselves. If staffer or patient still smokes these are the last places they can go. It has been banned everywhere else.
I gather what little I have. There isn’t much left. On Sunday I tell my former partner I’m glad I know. I tell her I’m ready to travel to Switzerland. A nice dinner and a pill sound wonderful. I don’t know the sheer scale of it. At this stage I know just enough that it has finally tipped me over. I’m laughing a lot again. She talks me down. I agree to get some help.
My psychiatrist is moving heaven and earth to get me a hospital bed. He doesn’t believe me yet. In time he will. He just see’s someone who needs help. The DVA has introduced a white card. Apparently, it’s for guys like me. Even though I’m not a veteran. How the world has moved on from 1999. It is Monday. The next bed is available on a Wednesday. I just need to lay-up for two days. The DVA white card is a life saver.
I go back to my cabin. It has its own nickname. The Kaczynski Cabin. There is no hot running water. My hot shower and toilet are a walk away. It is messy inside which is unlike me. The year previously I was practising minimalism and people free days (PFDs). I love it here. It is so quiet.
I am trying get my administration in order. I know how sick I am. Might be gone for months. I make calls, I visit only who I absolutely must. I use the last $500 in my bank account to pay for three weeks rent. It is Tuesday now. Just two more calls tomorrow before admission. The DVA have organised me a car in the morning. I can finally get some kip after that.
As I stare at the cigarette butts and the bottle tops the Centrelink call comes in. I explain the situation. I am very heightened. They step me through the process. My voice rises and collapses but the girl who takes my call has had some training, might even have taken a call like mine before. I apologise at the end of it. She wishes me luck and hopes I get better.
My last call is to NAB. It might be my first call. Time has fragmented but I’m still staring at those cigarette butts as I make the call. I think it would have been the last call because it should have been so easy. All I need to do is postpone my payments on a small personal loan. I’m always paying ahead of time. In fact, I’m a couple of weeks ahead of my payments so the call is a ‘just-in-case’ to take some pressure off.
I start to explain my story but when he hears what needs to be done, he reverts to process. Questions must be asked and must be asked in an order. ZERO compassion. The calm I had when I hung up from Centrelink is gone now. The questions are just so fucking irrelevant, and I have an excellent banking record. I ask for another person. He declines. I’m screaming down the phone until he adds a disclaimer. Something along the lines of postponing payments will hurt my credit score. I’m laughing now. For all the talk by the Bankers they don’t have any training in this. They are still worried about their Royal Commission.
“Like I could give a fucking shit”. I might be screaming this, I might just be laughing.
I still get it done. I get a three-month breather. There is nothing left to do now. As I walk back to the hospital still angry at my bank for being a complete pack of bastards, I tell myself that NAB was the worst call I had to make all that week. It really should have been easy.
It is around 10am on a Wednesday morning on the 20th of March 2019 when I finally admit myself to hospital for the first time.
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