Friday, August 22, 2008

Zerostrata Excerpts

The Amazing Dr. Blast

The following morning I went to see Dr. Blast. I was not impressed. It seemed dehumanizing to drag myself from the beautiful day that had risen over Grayson to come and sit in this drab office. The office was very sterile and clean in its various shades of cream and light brown. Sitting on Dr. Blast’s couch, I felt like a stain.

I had plenty of time to look around because Dr. Blast didn’t say anything to me at all when I first came into his office. I sat on his beige armless couch and stared around. First, up at the acoustic-tiled ceiling. To the right, at the bookshelf taking up the entire wall, filled with books that were all the same brown color and uniform in size and thickness. They couldn’t be real, I told myself. Nobody could have reading tastes that singularly focused. All of this was to avoid making eye contact with the doctor himself. But eventually I had to. I stared forward at his blonde oak desk and tried desperately to look past him at the cream blinds hanging over the large picture window.

For the first time since returning home, I desperately wanted a cigarette. It didn’t help matters that Dr. Blast was enjoying a cigarette himself. I glanced at him. My fear of eye contact was totally irrelevant. He wasn’t paying the slightest bit of attention to me.

He leaned back in his chair, holding his cigarette in his right hand and occasionally scratching his woolly gray beard with his left. After scratching his beard, he pushed his round glasses up on his nose.

I didn’t like this man at all. What kind of therapy was this? I didn’t even feel like I was getting my mother’s money’s worth.

I tried to find other things to stare at, wondering why he wasn’t saying anything. The more time that passed, the more paralyzed I became. At that point, even saying a simple ‘Hello’ would have been impossible.

So when I finally started to stare at Dr. Blast it was more out of anger than anything. I was determined to make him say something first.

Casually, slowly, he crushed his cigarette out on his empty desk. What a functionless desk this was, without a single pen or piece of paper or computer on it. There wasn’t an ashtray there either and the fact that he was crushing his cigarette out on a very expensive piece of furniture also angered me. Once the cigarette was snuffed, Dr. Blast inserted it carefully into his left ear. Then he swiveled around in his chair, rested his arms on the desk and looked at me. We stared at each other for several minutes, neither of us looking away or speaking.

He sighed and pushed his chair back from the desk. Then he stood up and came around to the front of the desk. Astonished, I noticed he wasn’t wearing any pants. Only a pair of very skimpy black underwear. He crossed to the front of the desk, turned around and put his hands on it, bending slightly and pushing his buttocks toward me. Then he started flexing his buttocks, the underwear lodging in the crack of his hairy ass as he did so. I wanted to laugh but was too angered by his flagrant disregard for doctoral conduct. But I knew he wasn’t a doctor to begin with.

“Okay, that’s just stupid,” I said.

“I win,” he said, immediately ceasing his vulgar display and retreating back behind his desk.

“What did you win?”

“The talking game. We were both going to see how long it took before the other one said something and you said something first so... I win.”

“Fine, you win. That’s great.”

I think so. I never hardly win. You were a worthy opponent. When I first saw you come in here, I didn’t think you had it in you.”

“Didn’t have what in me?”

“I don’t know… the stamina, I guess. Why are you here anyway? Do you have an appointment or are you selling something?”

“I had an appointment.”

“What’s your name?”

“Hansel Nothing.”

“Stupid name.”

“Thanks, Dr. Blast.”

“Well, we can’t all be winners, I guess. And some of us are sore losers.”

“Is there a point to any of this?”

“Sure. There’s a point to everything, isn’t there?”

“Wow, that’s philosophical.”

“I’m not a philosopher. I’m a therapist. Now are we going to talk about your stupid problems or not?”

“I could just leave.”

“Or you could stay. I don’t really care anymore. I’m just here so people can listen to themselves talk. There’s not really much of a point to it. No one actually listens to me anyway. I just tell them what they want to hear and then send them on their merry way.”

“That doesn’t seem like a very good attitude. Besides, you just said there’s a point to everything.”

“No I didn’t.”

“Yes you did.”

“Your mother tells me you don’t have a very good attitude.”

“You know my mother?”

“Of course I know your mother. She’s good friends with a colleague of mine.”

“The one who gives her all the pills?”

“That’s what she wants. That’s what he gives her. If she didn’t want pills, she would still be my patient.”

“Well, I don’t want you to tell me what I want to hear.”

“Fine then. Go home and kill yourself. There’s no point in living. I’m sorry, that’s just the way it is.”

“I think I already tried that once.”

“You don’t remember?”

“I don’t remember much of anything.”

“Is that why you’re here?”

“I’m here because my mother wanted me to come. I guess she thinks there’s something wrong with me.”

“You know, in every suicidalist, there is a murderer. Here, you don’t even need to go home. Take this. We’ll have a duel.”

Dr. Blast opened up one of the drawers in his desk and pulled out a pistol, tossing it haphazardly across the room at me. He pulled out another for himself.

I caught the gun so it didn’t hit me on the shoulder, but then I put it down on the floor. I had always hated guns.

“I can’t use that,” I said.

“So you are afraid of dying?”

“I don’t want to die right now.”

“There must be a reason you don’t want to die right now. I mean, is there a point to living?”

“I think there has to be a point to living.”

“Oh, so now who’s the philosopher?”

“I was just making a statement.”

“And what do you think this point to living is?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, I hope you’re not counting on me to give you any of the answers.”

“No, I stopped looking for answers.”

“So why do you want to keep living?”

“Because, well, right now, living feels good.”

“Really, why is that?”

“Well, last night, I saw this girl.”

“Really? So you think you’re living for love?”

“No. I don’t love her. I just saw her. She was running in the neighborhood but I have, ever since seeing her, been filled with the desire to know her. To sit down and talk to her. To touch her. Ever since seeing her, I haven’t been able to think of anything else.”

“Sounds like you’re smitten.”

“Maybe so.”

“Is this girl of legal age?”

“I don’t know.”

“You might want to find out before touching her too much… Otherwise…”

“No, I know that… I doubt I’ll ever get to touch her…”

“No, you won’t get to touch her if things continue the way they have been.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Well, brace yourself, here’s the part where the real therapy comes in: Over the past ten years, you have done nothing but try to escape from the reality of the world, a reality you were already tired of before trying to escape. You came back home because you were hoping to catch some faint glimmer of your shredded boyhood because that was the last time your brain would allow you to think of anything magical or fantastical. Again, this is because you are tired of the real world, blah blah blah. So now you see this girl and she certainly seems fantastic and you have this desire to simply come into contact with her but she is, at this point, just as much of a nonreality as your castles and dragons of childhood. You have to stop thinking like yourself, Hansel. You might even have to stop being yourself. Things have to change. Things have to change in your brain before you can come out of whatever shell it is you’ve wrapped around yourself. You left to see the world, the real world, and what have you come away with?”


“That’s right.”

“But I want to change.”

“Well, if you want to change I have a choice for you to make.” Dr. Blast stood up again. Amazingly, he now wore pants. “If you want to go back to your reality, the same grim sad reality that infects your entire family, you will walk out that door and turn your back on this office. Now, understand that I can’t promise you all of the fantasies of your childhood, but if you want to change, if you want to see things how you have never seen them before, if you want to see things that you have never seen before, you will jump out this window behind me.”

“But I don’t even know what’s back there.”

“Maybe it’s just another room. Maybe it’s a pretty good fall. I’m certainly not asking you to trust me. I, for one, do not see anything wrong with a little pain. I’m just asking you to make a choice. The door or the window.”

“Will she be out there?”

“I can’t possibly answer that.”

I sat there for a second and thought about it. But thinking wasn’t the answer. Standing up from the couch, I charged at the window, all at the advice of a man who had thrown a loaded gun at me and asked me to use it on him. When I drew a step away from the window, Dr. Blast threw open the blinds and I screamed through the glass.