DISCLAIMER: Only the family Seaborn rightfully belongs to both me and
my co-partner, Liz—and then, only Sabrina, Pauline, and Alexander.
All the other characters and sitcheeations belong to ABS and WBros.

RATING: R for language and adult situations, specifically charges of
domestic abuse. Though the character in question has made false
allegations, we will be treating the subject itself with all due
respect.

SUMMARY: A startling phone call, a panic attack, and a confrontation
with Sabrina's roommate all force Sam to re-evaluate.

THANKS: As always to Liz, my fellow TYRant, Ya-Ya sister, and
partic'lar SPQ, and above all, my friend, for your infinite patience
these past few months. I could not, and would not, have done it
without your kindness, your generosity, your unfailing help, and your
unswerving sweetness. All I can say is you have the patience of a
saint. I don't deserve it, but I am forever grateful for it!

Also, to each and every person who has sent us such wonderful
requests and demands for more MitCirc; especially the two most
persistent and faithful--Abby and Dani. Every email put a grin on our
little faces and spurred me onward. Hope this has been worth the
wait! :)

WHEN WE LAST LEFT OFF (Since it's been quite a while, I thought a bit
of a refresher was in order!): After Sam agreed to be interviewed by
influential reporter Leslie Roth, Sabrina approached him to offer her
support, whereupon Sam, who had been dangling ever further over the
edge, proceeded to let loose a vicious tirade of accusations. Among
other things, he blamed her for manipulating his life. Sabrina left
his home and didn't see him again until his successful interview with
Leslie, after which she decided to leave her brother alone for good,
and headed out of DC.

NOTE: 11th in the 'Mitigating Circumstances' series

<><><>

Chapter 11: Fools in Their Madness

We were born with our eyes wide open
so alive with wild hope
Now can you tell me why
time after time
they drag you down--
down in the darkness deep
Fools in their madness all around
know that the light don't sleep

--Silver Lining, by David Gray—

* * *

Insomnia, in all its various and sundry shapes and forms, can
encompass everything from delirium to acute migraines to paranoia to
erratic heartbeats. The term itself does not refer to the number of
hours a person has slept, but rather a disorder of initiating and
maintaining sleep. It's most common in females, especially after
menopause occurs, but it's spread throughout both sexes and all age
groups.

There are three types of insomnia: Transient, Short-term, and Long-
term. I'm pretty sure I have short-term; it's usually associated with
stress related to family, work, or a serious illness. It can last up
to three weeks. So that's something to look forward to.

I know all this because I spent two hours on the Internet the other
day looking up the possible side effects of not sleeping for seven
consecutive nights. Okay, well, 'not sleeping' implies I've had no
sleep whatsoever for 168 hours, which is far from the case. No, no,
I've had sleep. I've had, on average, about two hours of sleep each
night. Sporadically. Ten minutes here, a half-hour there...It still
adds up, right?

Anyway, I needed to find out what could happen if I kept this up, if
my body continued to refuse the demands of sleep and exhaustion. I
was already feeling this strange, uncomfortable sort of creepy-crawly
sensation all over my skin. No matter how hard I scrubbed with soap
and scalding hot water, that eerie feeling was still there, on the
back of my neck, under my fingernails, on my scalp even. It's not
pleasant.

The life I've led since joining the Bartlet Administration has never
exactly provided optimal time for sleeping. The schedule is erratic,
the hours are long, half the time your brain is too keyed-up to allow
you to sink into blissful slumber, even after pulling a fifteen-hour
day. But still, I always managed to catch at least five or six hours
most nights. Sometimes I even got as much as eight, and I would wake
up feeling like a new man.

But this? Two hours a night if I'm lucky? This is new. So I got on
the Internet and I did some searching.

Which is where I found out I can pretty much directly link my
insomnia to not only the prickling sensation and the blurred vision,
but also the dry mouth, the headaches, and the paranoia.

Yeah, the paranoia.

I should be a stool pigeon for the Mafia, or...or...something to
justify this overwhelming feeling of paranoia.

I was going to say something else like 'Mafia stool pigeon', but the
thought escaped me. My brain isn't working too well these days. I'll
have a thought or an idea, and it will be a good one, and then it's
gone seconds later, leaving only the faintest, lingering sensation to
indicate that it was ever there to begin with.

I really hate that feeling. Almost as much as the crawling sensation.

It started the night after Leslie Roth approached me about doing the
interview. At first she said it would be print only, but once she saw
that I was beginning to yield, she started dropping hints about doing
the Q & A live on her show. Then she pulled out the big guns and
offered me carte blanche.

"Name the time, the place," she'd said to me, as Josh frantically
shook his head and mouthed 'don't do it' behind her. "Live or taped,
it's up to you. Final approval on all questions asked. You can bring
anyone you like--your attorney, your sister, your high school band
instructor; I don't care, Sam. I want you to do this interview."

With every word, delivered in her oh so persuasive journalist's tone,
my resolve slowly weakened--and let's face it, we all know my resolve
hasn't been much to write home about these days. So I said I'd do it.

As soon as I said the words--"All right, Leslie; I'll do the
interview"--it was like a weight was lifted from my shoulders. The
clouds melted away, the heavens opened up, and the sun shone down. It
felt damn good. I walked out of that restaurant feeling ten feet
tall, despite Josh nagging at my heels like a little yapping dog. To
say he didn't want me to do the interview would be quite the
understatement.

And so I countered his points when he reasoned and rationalized. I
laughed at him when he demanded. I ignored him when he resorted to
begging. Finally he gave up and I thought that was the end of it. I
was going to do this interview and I didn't care what anybody said
about it.

And then the next day, he and Sabrina came over to talk me out of it.

I was so angry--angrier than I've ever been in my life, and lately
that should tell you something. At first, when they showed up on my
doorstep with their matching frowns and serious eyes, I was just
confused. But confusion quickly turned to stunned disbelief and sharp
stabs of annoyance.

I argued with them at first, told them why I was doing this
interview, how I was finally feeling as if I was back in control of
my life and what that meant to me. I tried to explain to them that
just the *opportunity* to tell my side of the story had me feeling
years younger, and happier than I'd been in weeks--maybe even months.
I gave them monologues on the utter helplessness I'd felt lately and
how I suddenly thought I saw light at the end of the tunnel, because
after weeks of keeping my mouth shut and not getting anywhere, I was
finally going to have my say, dammit.

I told them all this, and more--about the nightmares and the self-
doubt and self-loathing, about starting to believe I really am as
monstrous as the American people seem to think I am, about
alternating between missing Lisa and wanting to hurt her the way she
hurt me; the way she's telling the world I've already done.

I told them all this, but they didn't listen to me. They nodded in
all the right places and they even acknowledged that they saw my
point occasionally. But they weren't really listening. No, what they
were really doing was biding their time while I spoke, preparing
their rebuttals, looking for the flaws in my logic--and that, my
friends, is not listening.

"You can't do this, Sam," they'd told me, "think of what it could do
to your image."

"My *image*?" I'd echoed incredulously. "Are you serious?" Taking a
deep breath to calm myself, I'd looked first at Josh, then Sabrina,
and said slowly, dangerously, "CNN's run a poll showing that 65% of
the American people think I should no longer hold my position in the
administration--and of those 65%, 22% of *them* think I should resign
and the other 78% think I should be *fired*! And you think an
interview with Leslie Roth on a public television program is going to
*hurt* my *image*?"

They hadn't said much after that, just paltry words of comfort,
mostly designed to calm me down, to make it seem as if they were 'on
my side'. But I knew better. I knew what they were really thinking.
They were thinking they had to humor me. They were thinking that they
knew best and that poor little Sam didn't know what he was getting
into. I knew that when they left they would turn to each other--
they're so smug together now, my sister and my best friend--and they
would shake their heads, and cluck reproachfully, and say things
like, "Poor Sam. He really doesn't know which way is up anymore."

I was annoyed when they left, but afterward, as I sat alone in my
darkened house, replaying the conversation over and over in my head,
I went beyond annoyance. I worked my way through resentful and angry
and sped right on past fury and ire, till a rage unlike any I'd ever
known began to fill me from head to toe. I kept picturing the
conspiratorial looks they'd exchanged in front of me, the
condescending way my sister had patted my hand and called me 'Sammy',
and suddenly my hands were shaking and I could feel the blood
pounding in my head. I was so sick--so goddamn *sick* of it all--
everything. Everyone. Every goddamn last one of them.

I didn't sleep that night, either, I just kept thinking of Josh and
Lisa and Sabrina, each of them hell-bent on controlling any aspect of
my life they could get their hands on. I thought of the lies Lisa had
told, the torture she was putting me through, and then I thought
further back, to moments in our marriage that I had brushed off as
inconsequential, but which now seemed to take on such startling
importance.

You know, I could *never* do anything right. And I don't mean that in
your cliched, she-done-me-wrong sense; I mean, I could never do
*anything* right: She hated Gage Whitney, but she was pissed when I
left to join the Bartlet campaign. She wanted a diamond engagement
ring, but for God's sake, not marquis-cut, princess-cut! She didn't
like my hair, she didn't like my friends, I was getting too fat, I
was working too late, I wasn't nice enough to her parents, I was
*too* nice to her sister...

My face suddenly felt hot with shame and I realized how weak I had
truly been. I felt sick to my stomach. I had never thought of myself
as weak. I have principles, I have self-worth, I have self-assurance.
I don't bow down to politicians or lawyers or Toby Ziegler, so why
the hell did I bow down to my wife? Why the hell did I forego the
spirit of compromise which is the very foundation of a marriage, and
let her dictate my life? And why the hell didn't I realize what I was
doing?

I thought of Sabrina, always pretending to look up to me, while
secretly looking down because she knew her brother was weak. I
thought of her lately, always helping, always pushing, always
offering to take care of everything, to take care of me. Because she
knew I couldn't handle it. She knew I was too weak. And I suddenly
hated her for understanding something about myself that I never had.

Truthfully, I spent so much time beating myself up mentally that
night, berating myself for years and years of unwitting frailty, that
I knew the next person I saw was going to bear the brunt of all that
I was holding in. It could have been Josh, it could have been my
mother, it could have been the postman for all I cared. But it
happened to be Sabrina.

And I yelled at her. I screamed horrible things and it felt good.
Every single syllable was like a release, like another tiny weight
lifted from my shoulders. I shouted every ugly thought I'd dredged up
from the night before. I shouted my fears to her, my black, ugly
fears, because saying them aloud was like putting up a protective
layer around me; if I said them, if I acknowledged that they were
true, they lost their power to hurt me.

My sister has contempt for me. My little sister, who has often been
the only good thing in my life, who has always been my friend, has
contempt for me. She doesn't idolize me the way I've flattered myself
all these years. She idolizes Josh, because he's strong and forceful
and doesn't allow his self-worth to be dictated by anyone. She wants
to protect me, not because she loves me, but because she pities me.

And yet I wasn't really angry with her. How could I be? I couldn't
blame her for being smart enough to realize I was weak. I couldn't
blame her for admiring Josh; hell, *I* admired Josh. But I couldn't
help hating her, either. So I hurt her back and it felt good. But
only for a moment. The good feeling lasted until she had gone, and
then I crumpled into a heap in the nearest chair and hung my head,
not moving for hours. I felt deflated. All that fight and rage and
energy had taken everything out of me, and the fury was gone. I was
left with a feeling of sharp and overwhelming loss.

What had I done?

<><><>

The interview was two days ago, and as of today, public opinion polls
on my place in the Bartlet Administration have jumped a notch. Josh
phones me in the morning to tell me and he's positively ecstatic.

"Five points!" he crows. "This is good stuff. I mean, I'm not a big
fan of admitting when I'm wrong, but the interview is turning out to
not be such a bad thing."

At this point I don't even really care. The interview was what I
needed: The chance to finally get the truth out to the public. The
fact that Leslie Roth was hospitable and the interview was relatively
comfortable is irrelevant. I'm just glad it's over. "Good," I reply,
non-committal.

"We should celebrate."

"Yeah, because me going out drinking would be good PR right now." The
anger isn't what worries me these days, it's the caustic tone that
creeps into my voice when I least expect it.

"We can celebrate at your place," Josh says as if he hasn't even
heard me. "I'll tell CJ and Bri."

"Bri?" I ask hopefully.

"Yeah..." he pauses, and I know that Sensitive Josh is struggling to
the surface. "Sam, whatever went on between you and your sister--and
I'm not asking, because it's none of my business--it should really
end."

"She told you all about it, did she?" I ask miserably.

"She didn't tell me a thing," he says, "But you know, it was obvious
the second you walked up to us at the studio. You two barely even
looked at each other."

"We had...words."

"You had *words*?" he repeats disbelievingly. "What, is this
Masterpiece Theatre? Are you saying you had a fight, Sam? 'Cause that
was pretty obvious."

I think back to that afternoon in my apartment, the color draining
from my sister's face, the expression of utter shock on her features,
and I shudder. "You know, a 'fight' would imply that both of us got
some punches in. This was more of a--" I search for the word for a
moment and come up with nothing "--you know, I really don't have a
word for it."

"Did you yell at her or something?"

I snort derisively. "Yeah. 'Or something' is about right."

"Was it bad?" I can picture him wincing as he asks.

"It was..." Again I search for the right word. Terrible?
Catastrophic? Is there an appropriate word for shattering your
sister's spirit? "It was bad," I agree with a sigh.

I hear him suck his breath in sharply. "Shit," he murmurs. "I mean, I
know how you've been lately, but..."

The subtle rebuke in his voice is all it takes. 'Like petrol to the
fires of Hell', as my British economics professor used to say. Anger
races through my body. "You know," I practically spit, "I really
don't feel I deserve to stand in judgment before the great Josh
Lyman."

"Sam--"

"Just don't, Josh. Why don't you quit while you're ahead, for once?"
I warn him.

"What the hell is your problem, Sam? You're fucking Jekyll and Hyde
these days! We're working our *asses* off for you, and all you can do
is sit around your house and *mope*!"

"Mope?" I'm too stunned to say more than that. Mope? Is he kidding
me?

"You're not the only man whose wife has left him, Sam. You're not
even the only man whose wife has set out to destroy him, even though
I know that's what you like to think." I'm getting the full dose of
the Lyman fury now. "Do you *get* that everyone around you is working
twenty-four-seven, juggling their own *lives* and this damn *case*,
while you get to sit around your house and feel *sorry* for
yourself?"

"Careful, Josh," I say through clenched teeth.

"No, I will *not* be careful." He's not yelling, but he's speaking so
forcefully I'm still tempted to hold the phone away from my ear. "I'm
going to say something Sabrina should have said to you long ago, Sam:
You're taking us for granted. You're forgetting that there is a world
beyond your problems. I'm not *judging* you--I'm not some
sanctimonious hypocrite--but what I *am* saying--"

I hang up on him. Just like that. I don't even think about it; one
minute the phone is in my hand and the next it's back in the cradle,
silencing a Lyman tirade. I stare down at it for several minutes,
thoughts swirling in my head.

Lately I find myself doing things I ordinarily would never consider
doing. Like yelling at my sister, for instance. Or hanging up on
Josh. I would never have cut him off before; I would have hung in
there and argued with my last breath. When it was over we would have
both grinned or shrugged--maybe both--and called it even. Sometimes
arguing with Josh can actually be downright entertaining.

But I'm not in the mood today. I'm not even angry, I just don't care.
Apathy should frighten me, but it doesn't. I really don't care.

My moods ebb and flow like the tide, but with no rhyme or reason, no
regularity, no predictability. Lately I'm unable to sustain any
emotion for longer than a few minutes. I get angry, but just as
quickly it's over with, and I'm left feeling drained and tired and
utterly, utterly indifferent.

The phone rings again. Again without thinking, I pick it up. I know
it's Josh before I even hear his voice.

"I'm not in the mood for another discussion," I say, instead
of 'hello', "we'll talk about this later."

"Well now," says a familiar, drawling voice, "is that any way to talk
to your wife, Samuel?"

<><><>

tbc...

 

 

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