So I’m sitting at my desk, once again feeling in control of the day. The hectic morning filled with patients and diagnoses finally gave way to the calm of a Friday afternoon. Peering out my window and feeling dwarfed by the skyscrapers I began to think of what I might accomplish in the two days before work began again.
Then this man stormed through the door. At first I thought it was my secretary. But as I spun my chair towards the door and saw this man I instinctively grabbed my desk ledger, possibly in defense, but also to check if has an appointment. Of course he doesn’t – I hate people who don’t make appointment – and he isn’t even a client of mine, never even seen the man before. I tell him this but he sits right down in my padded leather chair, the one I sit in when speaking with patients.
“Can I help you?” I asked, but he didn’t say a word. He just sat there staring with eyes that ran the coldest shade of blue. I stayed fixed on him and those eyes pierced through me. Neither of us said a word, and for what seemed like five minutes we just looked at each other. Finally, I had enough.
“Listen, sir, uh I don’t know if you are aware of this, but I’m very busy today,” I said, hoping the prompt would spur the man to action. ”I’d be happy to schedule an appointment at a time that would be convenient for both of us.” He did nothing. The man just stared.
I wasn’t frightened and this surprised me. Normally when someone charges into the office it’s enough to give me a shock of heart-arresting proportions. Add to the situation the heat.
“You know I could charge you $50 for the time you spent here so far,” I said as I picked up the phone to call my secretary.
“Don’t bother,” the man said. “I sent her home.”
“What? Sent who home?”
“Your secretary,” he said. “I asked her if she deserved a day off and she thought she did. I told her to go home.”
It’s been hot out lately, I mean blast furnace hot, and I don’t know if the heat has something to do with it, but there has been a more wackos frequenting the office. And not just your run-of-the-mill anxiety attacks and mid-life depressives either. I mean these people have been downright looney. One guy – swear this is true – tried to convince me he was the Antichrist, and asked me to lock him up before he did any harm. When I expressed doubts his regal position, he told me he had the marks to prove it. He held out his arms, and I swear to this, he had track marks up and down both arms, the veins a dark black from infection. I told him he should probably go to a hospital and called him a cab. Now there’s this guy with who knows what delusions wracking his mind.
“Well,” I said. “What can I help you with?”
“It’s my father.”
“What is it about your father?”
“Well, it’s a long story,” the man said, his unblinking eyes still focused on me. “I don’t want to burden you with it.”
“Honestly it’s a bit late for that,” I said. “You’re here now for some reason. I don’t have long so let’s get down to business.”
The man ran his fingers through his beard. The curly hairs clung close to his skin and sprung back giving me the impression of a lamb ready to be shorn for the first time.
“He refuses to compromise his expectations of me,” the man said. “While I am capable of understanding his motivation, I feel unable to live up to his demands.”
“Go on, continue.”
“That’s all,” the man said. “One doesn’t need to speak volumes when concerns can be succinctly stated.”
I locked onto his eyes once again but could not find the words. Perhaps I needed more information.
“Is it your wish to understand his motivation?” I asked.
“Is it your wish that I understand his motivation?” he asked.
“No - not at all. I’m simply here to help you, which I can only do if you tell me what I need to know. First off, what does your father do?”
The question brought a smile to his face, and as he unlocked his eyes from me, I noticed him glance at my bookshelf, his neck straining for a look at what was on the top shelf. Whatever he saw erased the smile and brought a look of scorn across his face.
“Tyrants will always befriend tyrants in order to further the tyranny of their self,” the man said. “It is in their nature to know the weakness of their competitor.”
“What? Are you telling me your father is overbearing?”
“If only to prevent his will from being questioned does the wise-man pretend to be the converse, to be a fool,” he said.
I had neither the time for this man’s chicanery, nor the patience to diagnose the shroud of malaise he wore across his face, that covered his words. Yet his words drew me, filled with pain and regret, messages masked and filtered through the various devices he has at his disposal to block and emotional harm that might come his way. The intrigue ran deep until I had to ask the inevitable question in cases such as this, cases in which trauma caused by a loved one might have caused an extreme sense of detachment from the reality of the world.
“Have you suffered abuse from the hands of your father?” I asked. “I mean sexual or physical abuse?”
He thought for a moment before speaking. “Your question gives more of a clue to the nature of your being than any answer I could give would say about me,” the man said. “What about your background would allow you to think such a question would be pertinent?”
Now I’ve dealt with defensive patients before, and from that experience I’ve realized that most likely my question struck a nerve that runs through some portion of truth. My gut told me there were strong feelings to be unearthed here.
“My question stems from years of schooling in the field of psychiatry, the cost of which by the way amounts to the gross national product of a small country,” I said. “I don’t claim to have answers, but merely techniques used to find a path to solutions.”
The man again stared above my head, looking past me, his faced tightened into a scowl. The behavior unnerved me so; I flipped the lever on my chair so that it lowered, hoping to draw his attention back to me. As I cleared my throat, I realized he had withdrawn.
“What are you looking at?” I asked.
“Without lifelong encouragement, the oppressor falls to his knees,” he said.
“He who professes to carry solutions purchased from other men outside himself, in effect, professes ignorance of himself,” the man said.
“Rejoice in those who realize the extent to which they can help others is only as deep as the extent to which others can help them, for it is this man who is wise,” the man announced.
The man did something that to this day I still don’t understand. After his vague comment the man winked at me. I’m sure it wasn’t a normal blink because he held it for a moment, held to allow his act to sink in. To the brim with anger towards this man’s audacity, I leaped out of my chair. Spinning around I faced my bookcase and looked it up and down.
Finding my rosary dangling around a plaster bust of Augustus Caesar I removed it and thrust at this man.
“May the Lord our savior help you sir!” I shouted. “For if you do not know that my intentions are to help you through your problems, only God can help you sir, only God!”
“My father is the problem. He is why I am here,” the man said as he rose and walked out the door.
The pressure subsided and I breathed slowly, deeply, relieved that such a strange situation ended, without the conflict that only moments ago appeared unavoidable. I opened my desk drawer and grabbed my tape recorder to make a notation.
“Saw a new patient today. Subject suffers from an extreme detachment from society, probably as the result of some sort of abuse from his father. Seeks a quasi-persecution from those he encounters as a means to avoid forming new connections.”
I put the tape recorder down and reached further into the drawer. Grabbing a pint of scotch, I twisted off the top and downed a slug before I locked up for the evening.
|August 10, 2013
|August 10, 2013