ESSAYS & SHORT FICTION
I recently filled out a questionnaire which asked me what my four worst fears were. In order to not sound like a complete and pathetic douche, I dropped being alone forever from number one to number four and replaced, one, two and three with death, being buried alive, and being wrongfully accused, consecutively.
When I returned the questionnaire to the assistant she glanced at my answers, and rolled her eyes before placing it back in my file. I wondered which one of my answers merited such a dismissive response. Was it the admittance of my fantastical fear of accidently falling into a coma then waking up alive locked inside a coffin and buried six feet underground in an unmarked grave? Or was it my futile attempt to underrate loneliness from one to four in what was supposed to be an honest questionnaire?
I hate being judged.
“I have a very fulfilling life,” I said to her before returning to my pink brocade waiting room chair. As expected, she didn’t look up.
Two hours (and 6 issues of Psychology Today) later, a balding, grey, elderly doctor called my name as he put his best effort into waddling down the hall. Cane in hand, he asked me THE question.
“How are you?” Doctor’s should not be allowed to ask this question, unless you are sitting on the cold wax paper of the examination table. Otherwise, in any other circumstance, it just seems wrong given the context.
“I’ve had better days,” was the only response I could think of that didn’t betray how I was really feeling inside. He motioned to have a seat and pulled out his stethoscope.
“So what can I do for you today?”
“I think I’m depressed.”
“And what makes you think you are depressed?”
“I can’t sleep, I can’t eat, I can’t stop crying, I stare into space for hours, I don’t feel like having sex, I feel hopeless and empty inside, I fantasize about dying, I wonder if anyone would miss me, I can’t bring myself to get out of bed in the morning.”
“That’s a long list.”
“It’s a long life.”
He looked at me disapprovingly. “How old are you?”
It was a weighted question coming from an old man. A lifetime existed between his now and mine. He was born at the end of a war. He lived through the splendour of the 1950’s, the sexual revolution of the 1960’s and the recession of the 1970’s and 1980’s. He existed through a time when touch screens were science fiction and libraries had index cards.
“You’re young. You’re beautiful. What’s there to be depressed about?” As if those were the only two things needed in life to secure happiness: Youth and Aesthetics.
“I was hoping that we might have some sort of exchange in which you would ask me a poignant question and I would then discover why I am feeling like this.”
He sighed and returned to his desk. “I’ll write you a prescription.”
“Really? That’s it?”
“Okay…Do you believe that you can communicate with aliens?”
“Ha! No.” I giggled immaturely then caught myself when I realized the humour was not reciprocated.
“Do you have schizophrenic episodes where you believe that you are Imelda Marcos, Socrates or Allen Ginsberg?”
“Umm. No?” I sensed the trajectory of this conversation.
“Do you have a good family?”
“Yes.” I responded, humbled.
“Do you have a job?”
“And you can put food on the table?”
“Well what more do you want then?” Well…what more did I want then?
“So you’re saying that you can’t impart any wisdom that might inspire a revelation in my thought pattern?”
“Like ‘live everyday as if it’s your last?”
“Do you really think that is appropriate for this scenario?”
“Look, do you want the prescription or not? I have twenty-five patients to see today, many of whom suffer from more serious problems than mere existential angst. If you’re bipolar or hallucinating, I can help, if you’re looking for inspirations watch the Oprah. Is she still on?”
“No it’s cancelled. You drive a hard bargain.”
“I’ve been doing this for fifty-five years. Do you want the prescription or not?”
For a second I contemplate indulging in the pink pill fantasy that would wrap my days in happiness. But I know better. Its minuscule size stood contradictory to its power. I didn’t want drugs. I just wanted to embrace a simple life, but one beyond his idea of the three-fold - food, shelter, love. My simple life was when I would seize my wildest dreams of success and wealth in order to live a free existence. Vanitas.
Dr.R didn’t understand this concept. It was too vain. I was too young. And my time was up.