"Do you sometimes believe that you are a dog?"
I remember that it was a neat little office. The type of office you'd expect to be frequented by a gang of people with an unfortunate affliction of OCD. Each pen, each clock, each book looked as if it had been drawn with a straightedge or placed in the same exact mold, at the same exact distance. You had to wear out tape measurers in order to get an office like that.
It was a very dark office. Most everything was painted a deep red color, everything from the walls to the various objects that lay scattered in the room. If one had a worse eyesight than I did, they might have assumed they were standing in an empty room.
I could hear the tick tick of the various clocks on the wall. I counted about five, although sometimes I suspected one had escaped my vision by blending neatly into the wall. Each was set at exactly the same time, ticking at exactly the same rate, so that instead of hearing a multitude of ticks from different clocks, you only heard one single, giant tock. If you closed your eyes, you could almost imagine that you were trapped inside a single, giant clock, continuously ticking away.
I lay on the lounge, which was the same deep red color as everything else in the room. Beside me sat a man, my therapist, shrink if you will. He fit the room well. Everything about him was exacting. His face was perfectly symmetrical, his spectacles lay perfectly straight on his nose. He even wore a deep red jacket, so that he almost disappeared into the chair in which he sat. In his hand was a pencil, sharpened to a perfect point, busily rushing across a huge notebook which lay on his lap. It seems as if the only thing that moved was his hand, or perhaps the occasional movement of his head.
"Excuse me?" I asked.
"Do you sometimes think of yourself as a... canine?" he asked.
I stared at him. He stared back. No emotion was betrayed in his face. He looked almost bored, staring at me lying on the lounge.
"What does that have to do with anything?" I asked.
"It's important." he said. "Perhaps not a dog? A cat? A fish? Anything that is... inhuman."
"Well..." I thought, leaning back into the chaise. "Sometimes... when I'm drunk... I think I'm a bird. I once tried to fly out the window, thankfully I didn't know it wasn't open."
I could hear the scratching of his pencil. I took the chance to glance slightly at the notebook. I couldn't make out the writing.
"Do you have flying dreams?" he asked.
"Oh, plenty of times." I said. "But hey, lots of people do. Lots of people get crazy when they're drunk, I don't see what this has to do..."
"Do you have a perchance for seeds?" asked the shrink.
"Look." I said, leaning on one elbow "I don't think I'm a bird, alright? That's not my problem. I'm only here for my strange mood swings, got that?"
He stared at me. He then looked at his watch.
Of course. I pay him by the hour. He was stalling.
"Very well." he said. "Do you often have sudden sexual or gambling urges? Any addictions?"
I thought. "Well, I do find I get addicted to things easily. Not drugs" I said quickly, waving my hand about "Haven't gone near them. But things like... certain types of food or drink. It's not just like having a favorite, really. If I don't have a packet of cheese whiz every night, I'll go completely bonkers."
"These... mood swings you speak of." said the doctor. "Have they interfered with your life in any major way?"
"Of course. Why else would I be here? My wife keeps talking about divorce, my kids don't know what to do with me. Even my dog's frightened of me."
"Mmmhmm..." said the doctor. "When you are on a happy mood swing, which I assume you do have, could you describe how that feels?"
"Ah man, it feels like heaven." I grinned and leaned back. "I feel like I'm the king, I'm on top of the world, I could do anything, I could... fly." I stopped smiling. "Sometimes I get real angry. I'm afraid I'm going to hurt my wife, my kids. I may have already done that."
"Do you need much sleep when you are happy?"
"No. I have a lot of energy. Sometimes I feel real eager to please my wife, if you know what I mean."
The shrink nodded.
"When you are low, how do you feel?"
I sighed. "Not very good."
"Could you elaborate?"
"I was going to before you interrupted." I said, glaring at him, anger boiling up inside of me.
The man did not look up from his notebook. He did, however, move a rather heavy drinking cup a little further away from me.
"Well." I said, pretending I had not noticed "I feel tired. I can't focus. I get angry. I get scared for no reason, can't talk to people, can't see anything good in the world. You know, that sort of emo bullshit."
I grinned, trying to see if the shrink would break his mask and laugh. He did not.
"Have you have thoughts of death or suicide?"
Ho boy. I was waiting for that question since the beginning.
"Yes." I said.
"Could you elaborate?"
"Okay then." he wrote down some more notes. "That is all for today."
"Good." I said, lifting myself out of the chaise. I held out my hand, but the shrink didn't notice. He was too busy with a small piece of dust on his sleeve.
"How much do I pay you?" I asked, withdrawing my hand.
"He said WHAT?"
Home home again. Here was I, standing right next to a pile of laundry that had fallen off the dining table that no one ever dined on anymore. In the next room, I could hear my children throwing legos at each other. My wife was sorting clothes, walking between the washroom and the dining room, each time carrying a mountain of fresh socks and shirts and similar. Or at least, she had been until I had told her exactly how much the shrink had asked for. Gregory, my dog, sat by the door. He took this momentary distraction as an opportunity to lift his leg over a box full of dishes.
"NO!" screamed my wife, rushing over to the rather sad looking dog. Before she was within five feet of him, he scampered off, leaving behind a soaked box of now ruined cutlery. She walked into the kitchen and got out a spray bottle and a paper towel, and began to clean the floor around the box, all the while staring at me.
"$800. Look, he's supposedly the best in the business..."
"Oh, the best in the business." said my wife mockingly. "They're all kooks, you know that. Crazier than their customers. There's not a single damn sane shrink in existence. If they were, they wouldn't even be shrinks, they'd be real doctors."
"Look, it's all worth it, right? If he can find out what's wrong with me..."
She stood up and walked over to me until she was so close I could feel the anger seething off her.
"What wrong with you, Caleb Marthis, is that you're a jerk, a moron, and a drunkard. Why I married you, I still can't figure out."
"We loved each other, remember?"
"Loved is the operative word." she said. She then turned away, throwing the paper towel on the floor. "You clean it up. He's your damn dog."
As I watched her walk down the hall, the door to the kids' room burst open. My son, Jacob, rushed out holding his bleeding forehead.
"Jamie hit me." he said, crying.
"HE STARTED IT." yelled my daughter, running out of the room.
I groaned. I could feel a headache coming on already.
"YOU THREW A LEGO BRICK AT ME!" screamed my son.
"YOU WERE TOO!" screamed my daughter back.
They continued this argument of "no, you did" over and over. Their piercing screams echoed throughout my head. Finally, I could take it no more.
"BOTH OF YOU, SHUT THE HELL UP." I roared, clutching my head. They stopped and stared at me with wide eyes. I could feel myself breaking down as I held my temple. I rushed out of the room.
I dropped into the bathroom, shutting the door with my foot. I fell to my knees, my head leaning on the rusty old tub no one wanted to bath in anymore. I felt bits of it crumble onto my arms.
Hitting again and again against the wall, my head throbbing more and more, and yet the pain felt so good, so fucking good.
"Caleb, are you in there?" came the voice of my wife from outside the door.
"Open this door. Now." she said, jingling at the knob. My leg was pushed against the door, preventing it from opening.
"CALEB!" she screamed.
I lost consciousness.
A million bright lights greeted me. I was floating in a white washed room. I could hear the murmurs of people around me, the sound almost alien. My blurry vision made out shadows leaning over me, ghosts to my mind.
And then everything became clear.
I was surrounded by white sheets and soft, white pillows. Everything here was strikingly white, with lights turned on everywhere. The effect nearly blinded me. I could hear curtains being drawn back. People talked in the distance. Shoes clicked against the hard, linoleum floor. One word floated into my mind.
I heard a beeping sound, and looked to my right to see my heartbeat on a screen, represented by a series of green lines jumping up and down. I turned over to see another bed, empty, and a door leading to the rest of the ward. A chair, also white, also empty, sat close to my bed.
I looked up at the ceiling. Overhead were a multitude of lights. If I stared at them long enough, it looked as if they were spinning slowly. I tried not to stare too long, for fear I might go mad.
I looked over at the heart monitor again. Just beyond it was a window. It was raining. Now I could hear the rumble of the thunder.
How long had I been out? When I had last see the sky, it had been blue, the sun burning down on my back. The weather here could change fast, yes, but it still disconcerted me greatly.
I heard the clip clopping of shoes coming closer, and I turned over to see a nurse coming my way, bearing a breakfast tray. Well, at least I knew what time it was, vaguely. She sat the tray down on my lap.
"Eat up." she said, no smile on her face. I could tell she wasn't exactly in a cheerful mood this morning, so I didn't protest, even though I really did hate oatmeal.
The food was good. I was surprised.
A while later, a different nurse came in.
"You have a visitor." he said, opening the door to allow my wife and children in.
My wife looked awful. Underneath her eyes were deep circles. Her hair was matted, and fading. Clutching her arms were my children, Jacob and Jamie, quietly looking at me with wide eyes, as they had on that fateful day.
My wife softly sat in the chair. She moved so stiffly and awkwardly that one could imagine she was in a small room, where the walls were of broken glass, and if she moved too much she would get cut.
"Caleb..." she said, looking at me.
"Hi." I said, not really knowing what else to say.
"I don't think I can take it much longer." she said quietly. "Us, the children... none of us can stand it."
"What do you mean?" I asked, bolting up in bed. "Look, I'm getting help, alright?" My voice was slowly rising, and my hands started rushing through the air. "Just give me some damn time, alright?"
"Oh, time, time, TIME." said my wife, standing up suddenly. She stared down at me like a hawk stares down a stubborn mouse. "That's all you want. Time and space. Well, you're going to get PLENTY of time and space, Caleb. With us out of the way, you can have all the damn time in the world."
It seemed as if a bubble had burst. My wife now stood over me, slowly growing redder in the face. My children had let go of her arms, and were slowly walking away, keeping their eyes on us."
"HERE'S YOUR DAMN TIME!" she screamed finally, and she flung down a series of papers onto my lap.
I stared at them. I then looked at her.
"Look, maybe we could talk about this after I'm out of the hospital?" I said.
"No Caleb." she said, her arms folded.
I read the statement.
"Total custody?" I asked. I looked up at her, pleading. She stood her ground.
I took the pen. I glanced over at my kids, standing, shivering in the corner. One stroke of a pen and I would never see them again. Half my stuff would be gone before I even got home.
And they were gone. My wife took the papers and my kids. I assume she went back home, going to get the stuff that was her's now.
It grew later and later. I stared out the window as the sky became darker. The rain fell and fell. The sky became a sudden, brilliant painting of orange and red and yellow, then faded into pure darkness.
The lights in the hospital slowly flickered off, and I was left only with the whirring of machines, the occasional squeaking of a patient being wheeled somewhere. I could not sleep, for I could hear the beeping of my heartbeat, plastered onto a screen. It grew later, and I begged for sleep, but my heart could not stop, that screen could not stop.
To my ears, I began to hear the ticking of the many clocks in my shrink's room, all a single tick, echoing loudly through my head. When I closed my eyes, I could see nothing but the dark red color of the office. The shrink's face swam before my vision. Even when I opened my eyes, I could still hear his voice.
"Do you have flying dreams?"
My head dropped to one side, and I saw the window again. I only noticed now that it was slightly open.
"Do you have flying dreams?"
I sat up, placing my bare feet on the cold floor. I walked forward. The heart monitor followed me on wheels, the beeping still in my ears. I had to stop the beeping. I had to stop the damn beeping.
"Do you have flying dreams?"
I pushed the window up. The cold night air rustled through my hair. I looked down. I was several stories up. The parking lot below was empty of most cars.
"Do you have flying dreams?"
I placed my foot on the window, then another foot. I sat crouched on the sill, staring down below. The wind now blew through my hospital gown. I clutched the sides of the sill.
"The window's open now." I said.
I let go.