by Don Quixote
A daughter searches for her insane father. Inspired by Don Quixote by Cervantes.
|Delusions of Grandeur
Delusion takes it toll on those who have not been accustomed to it. For as the sun beat heavily on a summer day, a man so dehydrated and weary broke into madness. While people were off to work their jobs, attend to affairs that only concerned themselves, and keep cool in the dreary heat, this man traveled the streets in search of danger that he could stop. The self proclaimed bringer of justice, reaching well into old age had taken a persona that he was super heroic. And while he lost sight of reality, his only family - his daughter Iris, was forced to look on in absolute horror.
"Where is my father?" she would think to herself. She would waste no time trying to find him. Tracking anyone down is not an easy task, but her concern and love for her father kept her motivated for days on end. Her compassion filled her with the necessary vigor that one needs to have in such a search. She was all her father had left of family. She was all he had that could bring him back from the brink of madness. She was his only hope, and knowing this gave her hope that she could in fact find her father.
As days turned into weeks and as weeks turned into months the search was taking its toll on Iris. She often wondered how she could find her father with such limited resources. It wasn't as though the cops had a delusional old man as one of their top priorities. The search for her father was an isolated one. While she cursed the inaction of the police she was forced to search alone, and in the months that ensued she was left to contemplate endlessly on why this had to happen.
Iris always knew her father romanticized being a hero in a world full of despair, but she didn't think he could go insane. Even when he refused to go to a retirement home Iris had full confidence that he would be alright. But as he brooded in his house simply gazing out the windows at the swaying trees listening to birds and child's play, Iris thought that maybe the seclusion was getting to him. But then what made him break? She asked herself this question over and over, for there wasn't any stress in his life. But maybe it wasn't stress, and rather despair that drove him mad. Whatever the case, in what looked like an endless search, Iris began to lose hope. Until, finally, on the longest day of the year Iris got a lead on to his location.
The delusional man had begun to wear a superman costume. This meant two things to Iris. One, it made clear that he had delved deeper into insanity. Two, it meant that she could now track him down quicker due to the reports of a man walking around the city in a cape. Now, her best way of finding him was by simple word of mouth. "Ah, yes, I saw him running about wearing a red cape. It was very odd…" was the response she would usually get.
As Iris kept contemplating her father's madness, which in turn was starting to make her a little mad, she made her way through the city streets. Finally she came upon a man with a curious look. She felt oddly compelled to take a chance and ask him if he knew where her father was. She couldn't explain why. She made her way up to him and quietly, if not politely, asked "Have you seen the man in this photo?"
"Can't say I have, considering I can't quite see." The stranger responded.
Realizing he had a cane and sunglasses she said in a very apologetic tone "I'm so sorry. I didn't realize you were blind. I mean…I'm sorry, it's been a long day and the sun is beating down. It's hot and I'm just so tired." She paused as she was feeling foolish, and quickly wrapped up what she was saying. "I'm just in such a rush to find my father, sorry to have bothered you."
"Well now wait" said the stranger "I'm not completely useless, I might have run into him. What's he like?"
How the stranger could possibly know where her father was made Iris a bit cynical as to whether or not he could actually have run into him. But again, the odd feeling of being compelled to this stranger kept her there to find out if he really knew anything. "You're going to think he's a madman, but he's dressed up as superman. I suppose you would recognize him by his deep voice, and his strange acts of pretending to save people." Iris responded.
"Ah, but I have run into him! He helped me across the busy street not too long ago. I was trying to cross, but the traffic was too busy and the crosswalk button was broke. Then, who I suppose is your father, stopped the traffic and helped me cross. I guess now that you mentioned that he's dressed up as superman it makes sense the cars would stop. A man dressed up as superman running out into the road is probably a good way to stop traffic. He sounded a bit off beat, he told me not to worry and that I was out of danger".
"Are you serious? Do you know where he went?" She asked.
"He told me he was going to scope out the danger on top of the Greco apartment building two blocks from here." The stranger replied.
"Oh, thank you! I'm sorry you had to put up with his madness" Iris was sure to say as an apology for her father.
"Madness?" The stranger replied. "He did me a great service. Mad or not, he goes to great lengths to help people. A bit quixotic, yes, but the world needs people like him"
She had now decided that being compelled to this stranger couldn't have been a coincidence. But she had no time to reflect on this matter, so she quickly left and thanked the stranger once again.
She made her way quickly to the Greco apartment building nearby. To her shock and horror, she saw people looking up at what appeared to be a man standing on the ledge. People began to ask "Is he going to jump?" "Is this just a stunt for attention?" "What's with the superman outfit?" She couldn't believe what was happening. She pushed through the crowd of people just staring up at him. Why weren't they trying to get to the top of the building in order to stop him? She questioned to herself. As her heart was pounding she made her way quickly to the flight of stairs.
Iris ran up the stairs, as all calmness and sanity was starting to vanish in her rattled soul. This was it. Her destination was reached and she had found her father, but now a new task was at hand. Only one thought went through her head – 'Please don't jump father, I'm here now.' Now standing behind him, she cried out "Father! What are you doing?! Please stop!"
Her father, in his insanity, replied "Iris, I'm so glad you're here! You're about to witness me save the world! Ha ha! It is a marvelous venture!"
"Dad, I want you to listen to me. You are very sick, ok? You've been gone for months." Iris's voice started to crack, and she couldn't help the tears that started to drop down her cheeks. "Please dad, come with me off the top of this building and let's go home. Please stop this madness; I don't want you to get hurt!" Her tone was pleading.
Her father, stepping down from the ledge, went over to Iris and hugged her. He wiped off her tears and said in a confused voice "What do you mean 'madness' and what do you mean 'get hurt'? I am the great superman! I can't get hurt!"
Very cautiously she replied "Dad, I want you to look around ok? You are a normal person. You need to calm down and come with me."
"But I have been looking around! All I see is inaction! The world is deprived of people who help one another. Why are people blind to what needs to be done?" It was a demanding voice that echoed a demanding presence by her father.
"Dad, please, you are not a super hero!" She replied. She kept thinking to herself that there was still hope that her father could return from madness, that her father's delusions would be no more.
At that moment, precisely as she was thinking of her hope for her father, the smell of smoke filled the air. A fire had begun to ignite in a building a few blocks over. As smoke filled the sky, blocking the sun's pounding heat. Iris's father spoke "Not a super hero? My dear Iris, I am too a super hero! I've just been keeping it a secret all these years." Her father paused, smelling the smoke. "Wait…do you see that? Ah! A fire over in the distance, spreading out of control! I must go to help!"
"Oh my God, what are you doing?" Iris said, making what would be her last words to her father. The delusional man, a man so full of pride in his delusion, had made his way back to the ledge and leapt off of it thinking he could fly. He fell towards the ground thinking he could go and put out the raging fire.
What had just happened? How could this have just happened? Despair had taken over for Iris. The stressful months that had ensued in the search for her father had all been leading up to when she would finally be reunited with him, but all it had truly lead to was despair. Her father had died.
As she cried then and there, she cursed humanity's inaction, the cause of her father's insanity. She cursed to the people below. She couldn't understand why they had not tried to make their way to the top of the building, the site that was now her father's passing. They all just stood and stared.
Iris would deeply mourn her father's death in the days that would turn into weeks, and in the weeks that would turn into months. She was tired. In the years to come she would spend a lot of her time sitting and staring out the window. She would watch the swaying trees and listen to simple pleasures – birds or children playing. But above all, she would begin to cry, and it would not just be tears shed for her father, but also for the delusional state of humanity that drove her father insane. The only consolation that Iris could feel from this tragedy was to find some meaning and nobility in who her father was.
She thought that many words could be used to describe her father. Quixotic, prideful, compassionate, but delusional was not one of them. The blind man was right, Iris thought. The world needed her father, something not seen due to the spectacle of his death being plastered over the news. The world may not have cared about a delusional old man, but the blind stranger benefited from his actions, and who knows who else did. Just as she was compelled to the blind man, she was also compelled to the ideals that murdered her father, even if he was just a delusional old man. She would be so until the despair drove her insane. Insanity that asks humanity "What madness is this?!"