Friday, November 24, 2017

Therapy by Abraham Myers

A disabled misfit must go to a psychiatrist to be "re-evaluated" for his social security benefits; by Abraham Myers.

I would have never gone to see the psychiatrist if I hadn't needed the money. I was twenty-five, had OCD, and no way to work or take care of myself. I lived in a dirtbag apartment in Troy Michigan, and never left, even for food - just ordered out, mostly Chinese. I was getting seven hundred bucks a month from the government and barely got by on it. Then they sent me this letter saying I needed to be "re-evaluated." So, I called the number, and the woman gave me an appointment with this Dr. Phillips and I had two weeks to sit around and worry about it.

When I arrived, there was a waiting room, with double glass doors leading into a foyer that I suspected led to his office. There were only two cars in the little parking lot, so I guessed he must be in there with someone. Impressionist paintings covered the walls of the waiting room: Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, typical "calming" artwork. It wasn't working. I paced around, stopping a few times to look closely at the brushstrokes on each painting.

Hearing the office door open, I heard a voice ask: "Who are you?"

I looked over from the Van Gogh. "Parkes. I got an appointment for two o'clock."

He looked me up and down, then said: "I'll come out and get you in a minute."

I nodded and went back to the painting. It was the Van Gogh of the crows in the cornfield. One of my favorites. Had such a confused quality. Of course, I think he killed himself right after he painted it. I knew what he felt like.

I looked at the other paintings. There was a sign on the glass doors that read:

Attention SSI patients, your disability is decided by the Department of SSI and not the psychiatrist on staff.

It was to detract people from trying to bribe the counselor, or convince him they needed benefits. Well, I wasn't going to have to do much convincing. Just looking at me would probably do the trick. I never combed my hair, because I could never get the comb clean enough. I mean, who the hell knows what the people that are packing those things up and sending them to the store do with them. And then they get touched by the people in the store - I've even seen people comb their hair right in the aisle. No way was I sharing a comb with them. So, every day for me was a bad hair day.

The doors opened, and a guy came out with the doctor. I was guessing it was the patient before me, but the doctor didn't say anything to him, so I couldn't be sure. The guy looked at me. He had huge watery eyes, a doughy face, and a nose that was red and stuffy as if he had sneezed at least a hundred times. He looked to be in his mid-twenties - another weary warrior in the trenches of mediocre minds and bad science.

"Follow me," Doctor Phillips said, and led me through the foyer and into his office.

Phillips' clothes were neat. Shirt tucked into brown dress pants. He looked like a father on a Fifties sitcom. His face was tight, and he looked and smelled as if he had just doused himself in shaving lotion. Kind of had this asshole expression on his face. Don't know how else to describe it.

I followed him into the room, and he stopped all of a sudden, whirled around, and I almost ran into him.

"Woah," he said, gesticulating with his hands. "I need at least two feet of personal space at all times."

His eyes were wide, and he looked crazy as hell.

I lifted my hands. "Sorry."

"Just give me some space," he said, and then walked over and sat down at his desk.

He stared at me with these freaky, Rasputin-like eyes. "Have a seat."

I looked around. There were a couple of chairs in front of the desk, and a couch pushed against the wall.

"Do you mind if I stand?" I asked. I hated sitting on anything I hadn't personally cleaned, and God knows what kind of freaky people had sat in these seats before me.

"I don't care what you do," he said, his voice loud and booming. He sounded pissed.

What the hell is up with this guy?

I would have walked out right then, should have walked out, but I really needed that monthly check.

He pulled up something on the computer. "What's two times two?"

I didn't say anything. I thought maybe he was screwing with me.

"Well?"

"Uh, four," I said.

He nodded and typed something.

"If you were in a movie theater and you were the first one to spot a fire, what would you do?"

"I guess I would scream fire."

He typed some more.

"Read back these five numbers: 7, 4, 2, 1, 5."

I repeated them back to him. Then he asked me to say them backward. I did.

"If you saw me on the street, would you think I was attractive?"

What the fuck?

"Uh, I guess, I don't know. What has that got to do -"

"I'm asking the questions here," he said. "Can you walk?"

I looked down at my feet. "I walked in here."

This seemed to piss him off, and he stood up, paced around in front of me (I backed up, making sure he had plenty of space) and then said: "Stay here."

He walked out of the room.

I wasn't sure what to do. This guy was definitely not like any psychiatrist I had ever dealt with. I scanned the walls. Not much going on there. Just his school degrees, and some wooden carvings of a family of elephants all holding each other's tails with their trunks. Looked African. On his desk, there was a picture of a woman with straight, dark hair; she was plain and not really attractive. There was also another door that looked like it might lead to a closet. It was partly open, and I noticed that something was sticking out of it a little ways, blocking the door. I stood there for a while, but when he didn't come back, curiosity got the better of me, and I walked over and opened it a little.

An arm fell out.

What the?

I opened it all the way, and there was a person slumped against the inside of the closet. There was blood all over his white, buttoned down shirt, and his face was pale, eyes open, staring at nothing.

I looked at the other door, the one Phillips had walked out of.

What should I do? What the hell is going on?

I pushed the arm back in the closet and shut the door. I reached for my cell phone to call the police when Phillips came back in.

"Sorry about that," he said, with a big smile. "Just had some personal business."

He looked at the phone in my hand. "You gonna call someone?"

I thought about screaming, about telling him there was a dead guy in the closet, but something told me he already knew that. And if he did know, chances were that old Dr. Phillips here was the one that killed him. Just a hunch, but I went with my gut.

"Uh, no. Just checking my messages."

"Good, then we can continue."

He sat back down behind the desk and pulled up the computer screen. I exhaled the breath I'd been holding. Noticing, he looked up at me. I smiled trying to look normal.

"Okay, next question: Can you bathe and dress yourself?"

"Uh." I glanced at the closet.

"Answer the fucking question. Can you dress yourself?"

"Yes."

"What about cooking, do you cook for yourself?"

"No, I order out."

"That's bad for you."

"I know," I said, taking a step toward the door to the waiting area.

He stood, came around the desk, and got between me and the door. I stepped back, blinking a couple of times. There was a pain in my chest, and I was afraid I was going to have a heart attack.

Great, I'll die of natural causes before he can kill me.

"So, you don't care about doing things that are bad for you?"

"I don't know," I said.

He put his face into mine, our noses inches apart.

"Well then, what the fuck do you know?"

I didn't say anything. I was trying to slow my breathing.

The guy in the closet is the real doctor. This guy is just some nutbag that killed him. Probably one of his patients.

"I could kill you right now," he said.

I thought about just hitting him in the side of the head with my fist and running like hell, but I didn't know if it would work. The guy in the closet looked like he'd been shot and this asshole probably still had the gun on him. What if he shot me when I tried to get out the door?

"What do you think about that?" he asked.

I didn't answer.

"Do you drive?"

"Yes," I said.

"A lot?"

"Uh... no, not that much."

What the hell does he want? Why doesn't he just kill me? And what about the stuffy nosed guy that came out before me. He didn't do anything to him. Maybe I should just play along? Maybe this guy is nuts, and he just wants to play doctor for a day.

I lifted my hands in mock surrender. "Look, I think we got off on the wrong foot here. I respect you as a psychiatrist, and I just want you to evaluate me so I can get my SSI."

He scanned my face for what felt like an entire minute; then he sat back down behind the desk.

"Okay, let's continue."

I think it worked. He looks calmer now.

"Do you have any friends?" he asked.

"I..."

Fuck, I'm stammering.

"You know, acquaintances, people you know, people that come over to your fucking house and talk to you."

"Yeah, no, I mean no."

"Well, which is it?"

"No. I don't like when people come over. It makes me nervous."

But not half as nervous as this conversation.

"So, no friends. That's a shame. A person should have friends."

I bet this guy's got a ton of friends. All dead.

"What if you found an envelope on the street, what would you do with it?" he asked.

"I don't know. What should I do with it?"

Fuck, that sounded sarcastic.

"It's got a stamp on it," he said. "And an address. What would you do with it?"

"Put it in the mail."

"See, now that's what I'm talking about," he said, and came around the desk again. He put a hand on my shoulder. "You're a good person. The world needs that right now. There are so many fucking assholes out there who would just open that envelope and see if there was any money in it."

"I try not to be an asshole," I said.

"That's good." His eyes flashed with that Rasputin look again. "That's really good."

"So, is that the end of the test?"

Please say that it is.

"Yes," he said. "I think so. I think I can clearly see that you have problems and that you're a good person."

I nodded. "Okay, so, I'm just going to go then. You don't have to see me out, I know the way." I walked toward the door, but then I felt the cold barrel of a gun on my neck.

"It's a shame that you found the doctor in the closet," he said, pulling back the hammer.

Shit.

"I would have let you go otherwise."

"You could still let me," I said. "I won't tell anyone. I'll just go back to my apartment, and I won't say a thing, I swear."

"Don't lie to me," he screamed and pushed the gun further into the back of my neck. "Don't you fucking lie. I know that you were trying to call someone one on your cell phone before I came back. Who was it? The cops?"

I turned around slowly and looked down the barrel of the gun. "Look, I didn't know what to do. I was going to call the cops, yeah. But what do you expect?"

"But, if I let you go, you wouldn't call them now?"

"No," I said. "I've gotten to know you. You seem like a nice person."

He dropped the gun a few inches. "You really mean that?"

"Oh yeah," I said. "I've been crazy all my life, I know how -"

"I'm not fucking crazy," he said, lifting the barrel to my forehead. "Don't you ever say that again. Don't you ever say I'm fucking crazy again."

"Not crazy," I said. "That's not what I meant. What I meant was that I'm crazy and I need someone like you to help me."

He dropped the gun again, and he was quiet for a moment, and I could tell he was thinking about it.

"A person like you could really help me a lot," I said. "You could help me to learn to go out and function like a regular human being. You have that quality."

"What quality?"

"Uh... you know, you're understanding and everything. I bet you could fix all my problems."

A buzzer went off on his desk, and I jumped thinking that he'd shot me.

"That's the front door," he said. "My three o'clock."

I nodded. "You could probably help him too."

Damn, that was too much.

He looked deeply into my eyes. Then he lifted the gun to my forehead again. "You're lying. I'm going to fucking shoot you."

"No, wait, just answer the door first. If you shoot me that guy is gonna run off and call the cops. Then you won't get to help anybody."

He lowered the gun again. "And you think I could really help you?"

"Oh yeah, definitely."

"Okay." He motioned me over to the chair. "You sit there, and I'll take care of this guy." He walked out of the room.

I jumped up and grabbed the biggest of the carved elephants off the wall. I felt its weight. It was heavy enough to do the job. That's when I heard the shot. I opened the door, and I saw Phillips struggling with his three o'clock. The guy was big, and he had blood running down one leg where it looked like Phillips had shot him. He had Phillip's gun hand pinned against the wall. I rushed through the double glass doors of the foyer and slammed the wooden elephant down hard on his head. Phillips went down, breaking the end table with a crash. I slammed the elephant into him again and again, feeling all the anger of the last five years, all the pain of living in that hell hole apartment, all the anguish of not being normal, coursing through me. Finally, the big guy touched my shoulder, and I stopped, holding the bloody, wooden elephant over my head.

"It's okay," he said. "He's dead."

I looked at him, then at Phillips. I dropped the elephant.

The big guy pulled out his cell phone. The cops arrived shortly after, and I explained everything to them. They had us both follow them to the station, and we filled out all the necessary forms. They told us we'd have to come to court later and testify. We said we would.

I went back to my apartment and took a shower and combed my hair with no fear. I stood smiling at myself in the mirror. Hell, maybe I'd go out for a pizza.

It seemed like this therapy thing was working after all.

8 comments:

  1. One way to get cured! A funny fiasco with interesting undertones. Thanks for an entertaining read,
    Ceinwen

    ReplyDelete
  2. fine story, good dry writing style, fear worked like a form of exorcism?
    As Ceinwen said, entertaining story
    Mike McC

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ha. A hard way to learn the maxim, "Don't sweat the little things." And an amusing delivery, amid the blood and death. And the patients may be *crazy*, but there's a therapist in my building who has never, ever said hello, smiled, or acknowledged our existence otherwise. So it was very amusing to me when the *doctor* whirled around and said, "Hey, I need my personal space!" Because I envision this therapist that way, you see. I enjoyed these characters and the protagonist's shift in perspective that ultimately ended up freeing him.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Excellent story! I couldn't wait to see how it was going to turn out. A real page-turner (without the pages).

    ReplyDelete
  5. Enveloping, angsty, and the uncertainty as to what is humor and what is horror gives just a little touch of Joe Orton's 'The Ruffian on the Stair' about.
    B r o o k e

    ReplyDelete
  6. A good satire of the absurdities of therapy, personality tests, interviews etc. Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  7. Good read Abe, didn't want to stop, wanted to find how it ended.

    ReplyDelete
  8. i agree, great pace throughout

    ReplyDelete