Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Procedure - 6

I pulled into a sad little strip mall on the edge of town for my first appointment with Dr. McNamara. She was my fifth psychiatrist since I began my desperate quest for a referral to Dr. Herkimer. I wasn't sure what my strategy would be this time. Come straight out and ask for it? Or seduce her with words of woe, engage her sympathies, gently lead her into a corner where the only solution might be the Procedure? I'd tried both approaches in the past and they seemed equally ineffective. As I closed my car door, beeped on the alarm and walked up to the sidewalk, I had no idea what I'd do.

There was a homeless man there, sitting up against the wall between a liquor store and the doctor's office. His legs were entangled in a filthy blanket and he clutched a pint of booze in a tattered paper bag. Beside him an open Styrofoam container held a pile of chicken bones.

"You!" he exclaimed, pointing his finger at me.

I gazed at him warily but did not stop.

"I betcher tryin' to get that Pro-cedure!" he continued with a grin.

I shrugged and smiled, trying to be good natured. As if to say, "You got me."

"DON'T do it!" he shouted raspily, his expression somber now.

I stopped at the door, startled by his emphatic command. I turned to him.

"Why not?"

He shook his head. "Trust me, brother! Trust me! DON'T do it. DON'T get no Procedure done, no way, no how!" He took a sip of whatever he was drinking.

My heart was pounding now. "Did you get it done?" I asked.

He just stared out at the parking lot for a while. Then he looked back at me.

"Don't do it," he repeated quietly. Then he dissolved into a mad, shoulder-shaking cackle, hooting and stomping his foot. He seemed to forget about me then, and I decided to judge his warning without merit.

I reached for the door.

Inside, I was disheartened to find several people on the couches in the waiting room. I went to the receptionist's window and she brusquely handed me a clipboard of paperwork to sign.

"Have a seat, sir."

"How long is the wait?"

"Not long, sir. Have a seat."

The patients ahead of me were called in and dispatched quickly. Sure enough, it was soon my turn. I entered the consultation room to find Dr. McNamara seated at her desk, pen in hand.

"Procedure?" she asked, barely glancing at me.

"Yes," I replied.

She scribbled on her prescription pad and tore off the sheet.

"Here you go. Best of luck to you," she said as she handed it to me.

I thanked her, a little bewildered, and turned around to leave. I now held the magic ticket I'd coveted so long in my trembling hand. Intoxicated with relief and joy, I sat at the wheel of my car for a minute before turning the key. I'm among the blessed ones, I thought. I'm standing in the light. I wept helplessly. Everything is going to be all right.

As I drove home, I took stock of my present emotional state: I was happy, that's for damn sure. More than ever before. And soon I would be much, much happier still; happier than I even thought was possible. And yet I felt another emotion, too. This one was hard to describe. But it was another emotion.