Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Procedure - 3

As more patients exited Dr. Herkimer's door and returned, aglow, to their homes and workplaces, his reputation grew. They seemed happy. There was no doubt about that. Standing in line at the post office or supermarket, riding in elevators, sitting at the diner counter – everywhere I went in public I overheard others inquire of them: You look great. What's up with you? Did you lose weight? Did you get a tan? The patients would smile coyly and say No, no. I got the Procedure.

"The what?"

"The Procedure."

At first, eyebrows rose in curiosity. But then these revelations came to be greeted by knowing smiles. Soon the conversations went something like this:

"You look great! Don't tell me – the Procedure?"


"I knew it!"

Little more was ever said, as far as I could tell. It seemed that no one who hadn't had the Procedure wanted to admit to anyone who had that they didn't know what it was. And the patients never said what it was. So it was just the Procedure. It was a given, omnipresent and invisible; a new element abundant in the atmosphere.

One Saturday afternoon in the park, I finally summoned the audacity to follow up myself. Within earshot of my bench, a woman with a baby stroller revealed to another mother that she'd had it. I caught up with her after they parted ways.

"Excuse me," I began. "I'm sorry to bother you, but did I hear you say you've had the Procedure?"

"Yes, that's right," she answered cheerily.

"Well, I'm curious about it. Would you mind telling me what happens?"

"What happens when?"

"What happens during the Procedure."

She smiled serenely, slowing to a languid pace. "I'm sorry, but I'm not at liberty to divulge that."

I felt another pang of loneliness. And of intensified longing.

"I see. I understand," I continued. "Um, is there... what is there you can tell me about it?"

"I can confirm that I've had it," she declared. "I can tell you that Dr. Herkimer is the exclusive practitioner of the Procedure. I can tell you that the Procedure is called the Procedure..." She looked up to a corner of the sky, trying to remember. "What else, what else... Oh yeah, Dr. Herkimer only accepts new patients by referral from other doctors. From mental health, um, doctors. Professionals."

She looked at me, satisfied.

"That's all you can say?"

She closed her eyes in momentary concentration. "Yes... No, I can also say that what I've told you is all that I can say. That's it!"

I reiterated, counting with the fingers of my right hand. "You've had the Procedure, it's called the Procedure, Dr. Herkimer is the only one who does it, the referrals. That's it?"

"And the fact that I can not tell you anything further."

"You can not tell me more."

"Not at liberty to divulge is the terminology."

I thanked her, she nodded graciously, and we said goodbye.
Among the non-patients, whispered rumors soon abounded. Were the patients brainwashed, mesmerized? Were they made to experience a dissociative disorder or other breakdown so that their troubled psyches might better be rebuilt? Were drugs involved? Not just everyday psychotropics but wild drugs; hard, strange drugs synthesized from African root bark, primordial wisdom teachers of humanity?

Many, of course, imagined a sexual component. The revelation of a superorgasm perhaps, some terminal state of libidinous bliss. For what else was there to make anyone so happy?

I found I could recognize them, especially in a crowd of ordinary people. They stood out in contrast. They smiled, of course, but there was more to it than that. They were radiant, as though a fire burned inside them. We started calling them the Procs. Or maybe that's what they started calling themselves. Anyway, now there were two kinds of people in town. The Procs and the non-Procs. The Nocs. Us.