Five o’clock follies

5th October 1974 |

It was just the time of day when my hallucinations came to try me out. They were of the crassest kind possible. Usually they began with nothing more original than a cold bottle of beer. When my appetite was sufficiently inflamed I would go on to lobster, roast beef and real coffee, followed by an accidental meeting with a perfect and most loving woman in a large, clean bed. Sometimes I would conjure up the settings for these indulgences but it was hardly worth bothering. They were always roughly similar, and involved clean table linen, polished glassware, bathrooms with towels and an abundance of friendly hospitality and admiration.

“As the afternoons turned to evenings and I began to wonder where I would eat and sleep that night, this television set turned on in my head and subjected me to trial by advertisement, hitting me inexorably with every one of my known cravings in turn. It was not my appetite for cold beer or perfect loving women that shamed and appalled me at those times, it was the fact that I allowed these images to oppress me when they were clearly unattainable, and to make what was there and real and within my grasp seem undesirable. Under the influence of these lobster and champagne ravings I became the perfect sucker, vulnerable to the shoddiest substitutes.

“For lack of cold beer I would waste money on warm Coke, and hate it. I would fall prey to any hotel sign, knowing full well that far from enjoying a clean bed and loving women I would be shut up in a dirty, fetid box with a hundred mosquitoes. It is said that at three or four in the morning the body is physically at its lowest ebb, but it was at five in the afternoon, at the cocktail hour, that my morale slumped, and the temptations came to me in the wilderness.”