Tuesday, January 14, 2014
I got 17-Flight of the & 11 Birdhouse.
FLIGHT OF THE BIRDHOUSE
"If you don't want to talk about your problems," Dr. Brewer said, "then why are you here?"
I dug my nails into my thighs. Someone needed to tell this jackass that wire-rimmed glasses, a combover, and a tweed jacket with suede arm patches made him therapist cliché extraordinaire. "Floating isn't the problem. My wife cheating on me is the problem. I know what she told you, but she's distracting you from the real issue."
Dr. Brewer's expression was easy to read. You're a nut job, and she should run. "So, Jack," he said, "Keeping your pockets weighted down with fistfuls of nickels so you don't float away isn't a problem?"
"It is a problem," I said, "but it's not the problem." Douchewater.
I'd lived with weightlessness since I was kid. Back then, my pockets were so full they hung below my cutoffs. Shorts were way too short in the 70s. I wasn't nickle rich, so it was mostly nuts and bolts from the mason jars in the garage. 'Jack Richards,' my mom would say, 'You go empty your pockets right this minute. You are not going to float away. Keep eating ice cream the way you do, and it'll take a tornado to lift your big ass off the ground.'
Staring at me to get me to talk wasn't going to work. My last psychiatrist had worn that trick out. Dr. Brewer gave in to the silence. "What makes you think Gloria's cheating on you?"
Think? I knew. "All the sudden, her phone's locked. She's never had any after work meetings, ever. Now there are two or three a week?"
"Did you ask her about it?"
"She said she locked it because she'd been pocket dialing people."
Yeah, right. "She takes an Ambien every night around ten. I'm up 'til at least midnight. Passcode's only four digits. I had a solid hour-and-a-half to work on it while she slept. Started at 0000 and planed to work my way up to 9999. Hit it on night four. 2345. Original."
"Do you see that as violation of trust?"
Kiss my ass. Violation of trust. "His name is Pablo," I said. "What kind of romance-novel asshole has a name like Pablo."
"Has your … flying been stressful for Gloria."
"I didn't say I could fly. That would imply I have some kind of control over it. I don't. Being able to fly wouldn't fuck me up like all-of-the-sudden-floating-away does." The old me would've choked him. I took a slow deep breath. "I'm not a fucking bird zipping around from point to point."
He held his hands up. "Don't get angry."
"Angry? Last week I got tangled in an elm at the corner of Boylston and Twelfth. When it happens, it's like ... I'm frozen in space and things are moving around me. The ground, the floor, it leaves me. It's not the bird that's flying, it's the birdhouse."
He scribbled on his note pad, then flipped back to older pages. "You've been off your medication for how long?"
He hadn't believed anything I'd said. "A month. They make me sluggish. I only stayed on them for Gloria. What's the point now?"
"And when did the floating start?"
"I told you, It started when I was a kid. I had it under control for a while, until the last couple of weeks."
"Do you see a connection?"
"It's not the lack of medication. It's stress. You don't even believe it's happening, so why do I need medication?"
"OK, Prove me wrong. Empty the nickles from your pockets. I promise, you'll be fine. The ceilings are only nine feet. If you float up, I'll pull you back down."
I'd never had a psychiatrist be so confrontational. My second visit with Dr. Prick Brewer would be my last. "It won't happen if I'm nervous or consciously thinking about it."
"That's pretty convenient."
"No," I stood to leave. "It's most inconvenient. As soon as my mind wanders, it's up, up, and fucking away."
"I understand your frustration. I believe you believe it's real. And I get it — I'm just some new guy you don't trust. But please, If you'll just start back on your medications. It'll help. It certainly isn't going to hurt … Let's talk again Tuesday."
"Mmhhmm." Tuesday my ass. "We're done."
I pulled my hood up for the trek home, tucked my head, and walked into the rain. Gloria was waiting when I opened the door to our fourth-floor walk-up.
"Hey baby," she said, and kissed me as I took off my raincoat. "I'm almost ready, just need a sec in the bathroom."
We always went for Vietnamese noodle soup on Mondays — perfect for the cold drizzly night. Maybe it had been in my head. Everything seemed right, normal. She turned back, grabbed her phone from the table, and headed towards the bathroom.
"Why are you taking your phone to the bathroom?"
"I'm going to read my email on the toilet. Is that OK?"
Ten minutes later she emerged. 'Shit was hitting the fan at work. She needed to go back for a couple of hours. We'd do Vietnamese tomorrow.'
"I'll walk out with you," I said. "I'm going to the roof to smoke." I lit up in the stairwell and walked the flight up.
Perched on the roof's edge, I waited. Streetlights reflected off wet concrete. Phone to ear, Gloria emerged and started down the sidewalk. I unclenched my fist and let the nickels rain down. She was six steps from the entryway when the coins crashed into the sidewalk.
She jumped forward, then spun around as the second pocketful hit the ground. Hand to chest, she looked down at the nickels, some still in motion. Her head jerked skyward.
I closed my eyes, bone and muscle turned to balsa wood, blood became helium. I leaned into the wind, and floated away.