Noble X — Episode 20: Contemplating Surrender
MINUTES LATER, JOHN TURNS THE SAME CORNER IN PURSUIT OF PAUL, taking care to navigate safely over the ice patches. He increases his speed as he notices Paul face-planted in the distance. Colin comes around the corner moments later, calling for John to wait up.
Gently supporting his guitar and his back, they roll Paul over. He comes to and begins shrieking in pain.
“Look what I fucking did to my tooth! Where’s my fucking tooth?!” Paul begs, scrambling around frantically on the icy sidewalk looking for a small piece of white in the meager street light.
John and Colin attempt to calm him but he is in incredible pain and beyond reason. Half of his front tooth is now gone and the nerve is visibly exposed. He is only bleeding a little but both John and Colin recognize that it’s pretty bad. They try with all their might to persuade Paul to let them help him the rest of the way home, but he refuses to leave until he can find the missing half of his tooth. In a bit of quick thinking, Colin takes his scarf off and ties it to the fence approximately where Paul had fallen, telling him they could come back when it’s daylight and have a much easier time of finding the missing half of his tooth. This finally gets them moving. Standing on either side of Paul, they steady him, assisting him the rest of the way.
Paul keeps shouting, “We have to call 911! Call 911!" And they keep telling him that he needs a dentist. John and Colin mainly just want to get him off the street so they can figure out what to do.
SAFELY BACK AT COLIN AND PAUL’S APARTMENT, they give him an ice pack and try to distract him from the pain. They give him ibuprofen and try to get him to drink water. Paul lies in the kitchen on the cold linoleum floor, writhing in pain while John and Colin sit at the table, now both riding Paul’s emotional rollercoaster.
John entertains himself, and Colin too, as they take turns monitoring their friend. Eventually Colin begins to fade, reluctantly heading off to his room to sleep, leaving John on his own with Paul.
Paul’s always had a dark side, this John has seen, but the things that are spilling out of Paul as pain consumes him are evident that his darkness is eating him alive. John assures Paul that he has figured out what dentist they will go to in the morning as soon as they open to get him all fixed up. He assures Paul that they will go back to the spot where the scarf is tied to the fence to look for the other half of his tooth on the way to the dentist’s office. Paul eventually quiets, with the occasional soft whimper of pain, at last ceasing to repeat his same line of questions, beginning finally to doze himself. John’s mind wanders, making selfie videos, contorting his face dramatically at random, painting a portrait of madness.
During the course of the last week, there has been a nearly direct correlation between John's declining mental health and his obsession with speech-to-text technology on his smartphone and the misunderstandings that often occur. To John, these misheard substitutions seem to transform each and every rant he spills into his device into exquisite Lewis Carroll-esque poems.
John Noble now considers himself all sorts of unusual things that when his mind was well (and is well again), he would (and will) chuckle at. A conscious rapper, a spoken word artist, humanity’s savior, and a scientist. And through this speech-to-text obsession, John has been making increasingly wild and cryptic social media posts and long group emails and text messages, sending out these transcribed diatribes free-associated in a spoken word slam-style, misinterpreted by the speech-to-text in places that amused him. He had become fixated on intentional incorrect homonym replacements and sound-alikes with his disorganized thoughts now willfully impacting his written and spoken language. And he finds it all so moving and important that he continues to tap the tiny microphone, wait for the tone, and share his collaboration with man and machine with increasing intensity, in real time.
Amid his reverie, John notices Paul get off the ground and go to the bathroom. John listens for any concerning sounds. Nothing. When Paul comes out, he leans against the wall staring until John looks up.
Paul’s holding a pill bottle slackly in his hand. "I don’t know if it’ll do the trick but I just took a whole bottle of melatonin.”
Flashes of anger and fear flood John’s body and mind. “What the fuck man?!”
"I don’t want to live,” Paul concedes.
"Jesus fuck, man," then trying to remain calm, John lets out a deep sigh, offers a feeble “It’s gonna be okay,” to himself just as much as to Paul, and immediately begins searching the internet. Paul doesn’t respond and returns to lying prone on the linoleum.
Having no idea what to do, his thoughts overlap and blare at maximum volume like feedback inside his head as he struggles to think straight. Make him puke? Call 911? Can someone even overdose using melatonin? What about when mixed with alcohol? What do I do!? One million questions thought in a single moment with no discernible be-all and end-all correct answer. This is not clear-cut. This is not black-and-white. The epitome of the gray area.
His internet searching helped him to rule out calling 911 at that moment. A suicide prevention lifeline popped up in the search. He considered it but didn’t feel comfortable calling it. Several searches confirmed that a person couldn’t die from a melatonin overdose but there was no denying Paul was suicidal. He couldn’t imagine feeling suicidal, but at the same time, he could. And John would get to ponder this through the long lonely night as he lay beside his passed out friend, paying careful attention to the weak beat of the heart underneath his shirt.
Stay tuned for Episode 21.
Links to previous episodes: