Monday, November 30, 2009

The Procedure - 2

I found myself returning to the back of Herkimer's house when I had the time. On my way to or from work sometimes, I'd park my car in a dead end in the woods, creep across the backyard, sit under the window and listen. Men, women, young and old. They paraded through the doctor's practice at one-hour intervals and appeared to all undergo the same extreme catharsis and transformation.

After a few days of eavesdropping I discerned a pattern: Patient enters. Pleasantries exchanged. Doctor invites patient to recite his or her litany of woes: relationship troubles, phobias, lack of self-esteem. All these the doctor acknowledges with a grunt. Finally he asks the patient, Are you ready? Yes is the invariable reply. He murmurs soothing words: Relax. Take a deep breath. You're going to be just fine. Then there follows an eighteen-minute gap of total silence. Always eighteen minutes. Always total silence. It ends with the patient's exclamation of unconstrained exhilaration: a sharp cry or tremulous moan, a stuttering gasp. Then comes the flood of tears. Helpless, quaking sobs as of some primeval bereavement. A total letting go. Eventually the punctuating sighs grow longer and the patient returns to the world of words: The doctor is thanked and praised effusively. Semi-coherent avowals of extreme happiness are made. God is often invoked, both in vain and in earnest, and sometimes in blasphemy: My God! My God! Good God. Oh God! God, oh God. I see God. I feel like God. Am I God?