Need a name? Something concrete? Something to hold on to? To hell with that. You’ve laughed enough already. You just want to plug me in somewhere and call it a day. That’s the problem with you. You’re categorical. You’re out of it. You’re rigid. And that makes you a fool. A lovable fool, but a fool. This is existentialism, `a la pharmacie. Like history and art, music and engine noise, birds and cats, right brain and left brain: never the twain shall meet.
Medicine can change the way the ol’ noggin feels. A disease can change everything. It can slow down the roller coaster, even switch me to a smoother track. Off the crazy adolescent ride, onto the kiddie ride. One day, maybe the adult track. But there’s no getting off.
Doc told me this in the hospital, and he’s telling me again now, in his office.
“You know,” he said. “You finished college. You held a few jobs, back, a few years ago. I see that you taught high school English.
“They taught me.”
He talked while he read typed reports, stuff about me. He was refreshing his memory. He leaned back and studied. I looked out the window. It would have been a nice view of treetops, up here on the fifth floor, but it was half blocked by the med school next to it.
“You’ve done well for yourself,” he said. “Considering what you’ve been dealing with. You should be proud of yourself, and consider this a new start. Have a different standard. Give yourself time.” Doc looked up, peered wide-eyed over his glasses at me. “You’ve been one way for a long time,” he said. He put the reports down on his desk. “Now you’re changing. Can’t do it all at once.”
So where is this going, anyway? Is this guy going to set me up with a job? I don’t think I want one. Is he going to give me some cash? Pay my debts? Purge my past of all embarrassing moments? Tell my story?
He leaned over his desk, squinted at the papers again, and looked back up.
“You need to drop by the lab and let them take some blood. Unless you hear from me, everything’s fine.”
He filled out a form, checked off some boxes.
I told him the same thing I told you. My moods are swinging! My life is still fucked up. I’m not completely cured!
“There is a normal level,” he said. “Life has its ups and downs. You wouldn’t want to be even all the time, would you?
“I guess not.”
He laughed again.
Don’t tell anybody, but I think this guy likes me. Then again, that’s his business. He’s got to work like everybody else.
“Wait twelve hours after your last dose. Go to the lab in the morning, before breakfast.”
He stood, smiled, shook my hand.
“I’ll see you in a month.”
How different, dot dot dot. How kind.
In England, a woman told me I needed to lie on a couch four times a week, for five years.
“No time for that now,” she said.
Twenty weeks! Why isn’t that enough time to use a couch? A little mini-analysis. Hell, I wanted to use the couch in another way too. This smart looking English woman turned me on, made me love woozy.
So we sat up in chairs and talked, glanced at the couch once and a while.
I gave her a run-down on the whole family. It took weeks. When I got to my brother, my tone or body language gave off something that grabbed her.
“Your brother,” she said. “Is the root of your problem. When he came along, he took your mother away from you. That was a traumatic experience, losing mommy’s love and tenderness.”
Oh, poor me! The couch, the couch! Believe me, I wouldn’t make a bit of noise. The receptionist (who was cooler, younger, and better looking than this woman, but certainly not as adept with couches) wouldn’t hear a thing. You, Doctor, could make it all better now. Ease the pain, now that I’m all grown up, and fucked up. What happened to all that unethical therapy you hear about? This was the perfect opportunity for therapist-client sex. I was young, handsome, charming, and confused. She was, she was, well, she was older, cerebral, she was hidden inside a lovely smock. She was blinking a lot, she was nice. She seemed wicked enough, those legs crossing around underneath there. She was there. She was sexy enough for me. Come on, Doc, let’s see that body come to life. You’re all brains, no fun.
Yet, I had not thought of this news about my brother. I told her my mother had done a pretty lousy job with me, but I didn’t accuse my brother of anything.
You, my friend, don’t know this brother. He’s younger. Don’t worry, no tragedy there. He’s alive, functioning quite well, thank you.
But the root of my problem? When I was in England, this brother mailed me dope wrapped in packages of new underwear. I missed him a lot. When I talked about him, I was probably thinking about getting high. This probably gave off some weird vibes – vibes that required some kind of psychological interpretation.
Still, the idea of seeing a real analyst, rather than a therapist, was enticing. You got to see them several times a week, rather than just once. After all, my life revolved around those weekly sessions, and not just with her. With all of my therapists. Each and every one. I loved them all.
For seventeen years, I enjoyed the soothing benefits of modern psychotherapy. But no therapist wanted to see me more than once a week. Maybe I was born a couple of decades late. (Or, given the new treatments for bipolar diseases – too early).
I could make a Chinese calendar of my therapists. I could chart my life by them. You know, like there’s the year of the rat, or the year of the tiger, or the year of the ox? For me, there’s the year of Dr. Gestault, the year of Dr. Pastoral, the year of Dr. Cognitive, the year of Dr. Client-Centered, the year of Dr. Behavior, the year of Dr. Personality, the year of Dr. Take My Money. And many more.
So much for the dot dot dots. Any one of those generous fuckers could have saved me a ton of grief by diagnosing what I had instead of listening so damn well.
Now, I was in the Year of the Scientist. Maybe Year of the Pill would be better. This one only wanted me to visit once a month.
“Think I should see somebody else too? Once a week?” I asked him. ‘You know,’ I thought. ‘A real therapist?’ I didn’t say it, didn’t want to offend the real scientist.
“Wouldn’t hurt,” he said. “Or you could take that money and put it in a savings account.”
The Year of the Pill.
I left his office with no big revelations, no intimate material swirling in my head. No big love-hate thing going on between my doctor and me.
I took the elevator to ground level and exited the stunning entrance to this grand high rise hospital. I liked these cold mornings. Maybe the medication does that. I used to like the warm weather; now I liked the cold. There was no one else at the bus stop except for this skinny black guy resting his feet. I gave him a cigarette. We talked for a minute. I’ll spare you that conversation. It was dull stuff, about the weather. In this part of the world, anyone waiting for a bus is a suspect.
Then I took the bus downtown and waited for 320, the slow, quiet, scenic trip to Templetown. People in cars racing by us. What a relief not having a driver’s license again.