“I dreamed of pink neon tubes, curly and fat, buzzing like a hive of happy bees. They lit my way through a maze of gumdrop trees and kitty cats….” My court-appointed shrink tapped his lips with the end of his pencil. He wasn’t buying it. “And I took a narrow, dusty path,” I continued. “Into a tight grove of dead trees, and there I saw my mother. She bent over a boulder and hiked up her skirt, exposing herself naked to me. In a husky voice, she demanded that I take her savagely like a –” He just sighed, stroked his beard. What can I say? My hour was about up and I was just padding. Besides, I’d seen out the window that the doctor’s pizza had arrived. Surely he was as keen to shuffle me out his side exit door as I was keen to be shuffled. He told me to start a little diary of my feelings and to read from it Thursday. Kind of a psychotherapist’s way of having you drop and give him ten. Fucking homework. I shrugged. Whatever got me out of there.
Out on the street I was pleased to see that the sun had finally broke from the clouds. The sidewalks were steamy as the rain puddles began to evaporate. I waited for a break in the traffic and ran across the street. I sat down on a bench at the main entrance of the shopping mall. This is where, on Saturday afternoons, the high school kids would be smoking their foreign cigarettes and slouching self-consciously in their ludicrously shapeless outfits. But they were in school right now. What ever became of truancy? This current crop of teens got no fight in them. It doesn’t seem so long ago that when someone said: “Man, I’m psychotic,” the response would be a chuckle, and a: “No doubt.” Now, it’s a chuckle, followed by: “So, what’ve they got you on? Me, I’m taking these little lavender triangles.” Everything’s anti-psychotic this, antidepressant that, and if you’re not somehow managing to pharmacologically inhibit your serotonin uptake, then I’m sorry to say that the parade has passed you by.
I don’t put much stock in medicine — though lord knows I’ve spent more years of my life than I care to admit engaged in various forms of self-medication. I also don’t hold with Dr. Freud’s “talking cure,” or whatever subgenera of quackery practiced by my new doctor. I certainly would never have darkened his lobby were it not for a misguided, though very well-meaning judge. All in all, I don’t feel there to be any damage to my psyche; leastwise, nothing that needs massaged, re-birthed, elevated, or actualized. Although, there was a time I had my doubts. About a year ago I started seeing shadows. Things moving just at the boundary of my peripheral vision. I’d turn, and — nothing. First I thought it was vermin around my apartment. You know, roaches or mice. Fast scurriers. But that didn’t explain the fleeting forms I’d see in my car or at the park. For a while I was convinced they were floaters, those dots and strings in the vitreous fluid of the eyeball, which are composed of condensed proteins or cells. I had to change theories when I noticed the phantoms were at times quite large, like a raccoon or even a small car. I settled on a diagnosis of optic neuritis, and decided I’d learn to live with it. It’s really not so bad. Like having a pet. Without the responsibilities.
I decided to go buy a spiral notebook and a pen to begin my homework. Ideally, I’d stop by the drug store near my place, but there was that slight matter of a restraining order. Instead, I stopped off at the 7-11 next to the Ethiopian restaurant. I found one of those steno pads with the spiral on the top, and you turn it over and there’s the alphabet in Gregg’s shorthand. People still use that shit? I had to wait my turn at the check out. A little boy — who I really think was too young to be out and about on his own — was pulling from his pockets little fistfuls of coins. I couldn’t help but smile at his ambitious assortment of candies mounded on the counter. Just like me at that age, when I’d…. But, wait. I hit a wall. What was just like me at that age? I couldn’t take my memory further back than, what? Fourth grade? It was nothing. Maybe shimmers of sunlight. Grassy fields. Bushes choked with honeysuckle vines…. Buzzing with happy bees? But that was just a guess.