Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Procedure - 1

I myself never underwent the Procedure. I tried and I tried. That is, I continually sought out doctors who might give me the necessary referral. None did. For a long time this drove me mad with frustration and chagrin. How could I know how lucky I was?

My original psychiatrist, Dr. Blanchard, was the first to say no.

"What are your symptoms?" he asked. "How do you feel?"

"I feel empty. I feel sad. Purposeless. Depressed," I stated.

The doctor nodded pensively, taking notes. Finally, I summoned the courage to ask.

"Do you think... I could get that, that, you know, that Procedure?"

I felt a pang of shame, asking for what I wanted. As though I were begging for some addictive medication. But is it wrong to ask for what you think you need?

Dr. Blanchard made a wry smile and began tapping the nib of his pen on his pad.

"I'll be honest. I don't think the Procedure is right for you," he said.

I never felt more alone.

"Why not?" I pleaded.

"Because..." He paused and sighed with some exasperation. "Because, Adam – and I know you're not going to want to hear this – because I think you're fabricating symptoms in order to get me to write you a referral to undergo the Procedure. Plain as that."

I was thoroughly embarrassed now. With nothing to lose, I continued to protest.

"But doctor. I know I need it. I know I need the Procedure. I can feel it in my bones. I know my life's not right and it won't be until I get it." I began whimpering now, half in grief and half in humiliation.

"I understand what you're feeling. I understand what you're experiencing," Blanchard continued softly. "But desire for the Procedure does not, in and of itself, constitute a symptom for which the Procedure is indicated. Am I making myself clear?"

I covered my face with my hands and nodded.

"Now, there are plenty of other things we can do for you. I'm thinking Zoloft. Maybe Librium too." He began scrawling on a prescription pad.

"OK," I said, defeated.

"Here, take these and we're going to see how you do. Try to forget about the Procedure. Focus on you for a while. You don't need the Procedure. You just need to stop thinking that you need it. Good?"

I glumly accepted the 'scripts, said goodbye and left.


My obsession had begun one day when I was walking home from town and decided to try a shortcut through the woods. Old paths crisscrossed there; I knew it wouldn't be hard to find my way. I stuck close to the roads for the most part, close to the edges of backyards. This is the anti-street, I thought, glimpsing mirror images of familiar houses through the trees. As I walked by one I heard an arresting sound: a human cry, a wail.

Concerned (and curious), I entered the yard and hid behind a tree. I could hear words now, the voice distinctly female. It seemed to be coming out of the open window to a den or study.

"Oh God, oh God, oh God, oh God, oh God!" she moaned. "Yes! Yes! Yes! That's it! That's it, please! Oh my God... oh my God... oh my God!" She then burst into a prolonged fit of crying, her sobs punctuated by sighs of deep elation.

I knew she wasn't in danger. She didn't need my help. There was no reason to be there save for voyeurism. Yet she didn't seem to be having a sexual experience, either. It was greater than that somehow; an all-encompassing ecstasy. I was transfixed. I wanted to hear more. I crouched down and scurried to the wall of the house, just below the window.

When her tears abated she began to speak again, still breathless.

"Doctor, my God, doctor, my God, that's so good, that's so good, that's so good!" she said.

"Good," a man replied in a calm voice.

"I... I... I... have never felt this good... I never imagined it was possible to feel this good!"

The doctor chuckled warmly.

"Oh my God, honestly, when you did it, I felt like... like..."

"Yes?"

"Like I was giving birth to God. I don't know. That sounds stupid."

He laughed again. "People have all different ways of describing how it feels. That's a wonderful description."

She squealed, she yelped, she emitted strange, staccato sighs. She remained unable to contain her enormous pleasure.

"Honest to God, doctor. Everything I ever thought was wrong with me has disappeared."

He made a sound of affirmation.

"Everything, I just..." She began to cry again. "I'm sorry!" she gasped.

"It's OK, it's OK."

"It's just that I... I... I'm so, so, so happy, doctor!"

"I see that, Judy."

"You must get this every time. But I can't stop telling you how great I feel. How thankful I am."

"That's quite all right. It never gets old seeing people react positively to my treatment, believe me."

"Will this feeling go away?"

"I have never heard from any patients that it does. In fact, many have reported a deeper, richer experience over time."

She laughed an airy, delightful laugh. The laugh of someone utterly unburdened and joyful. The ultimate laugh.

"Thank you, doctor! Thank you for everything."

I decided I'd better leave before she did and so escaped quickly to the driveway and to the road. I looked back at the doctor's yellow house, a house I'd seen a thousand times without once giving it a thought. I noticed a sign hanging from a post by the flagstone steps to the porch. It read:

Douglas R. Herkimer
           Therapy

Haunted and bewildered, I walked the rest of the way back home.

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