Paul explained for the third time in as many weeks that his mother had been perfectly normal, “Doctor, as I’ve explained, my mother was fine. There were times, of course, when I hated her. That’s only natural. What boy grows up and never has a difference with his parents? I understand that you’re the doctor and I respect that but I don’t think any of this has anything to DO with my problem.”
“Tell me,” said the doctor, “why do you think that?”
Paul sighed heavily. “Look, you’re the third shrink I’ve been to…” The doctor raised an eyebrow. “Sorry, sorry, PSYCHIATRIST that I’ve been to and all any of you seem to want to do is to talk about my mother. I really don’t think she’s the problem. She’s been dead for four years. We got along very nicely after I wasn’t stuck under her roof any more and that’s that. I doubt very much that she has anything to do with my … dreams.”
“Ah, there you are again with that word. Dreams! Dreams you call them! Who has a dream at three in the afternoon in the middle of a subway terminal? I think the first thing we must establish, Mr. Thoth, is that what you’ve been experiencing is NOT a dream. At least not in the normal sense of the word. Tell me about these hallucinations you’ve been … oh. I’m sorry, I’m afraid I’ve quite lost track of the time. Please schedule an appointment for next week. I’ll see you then.”
“Okay, thanks, doctor.” Paul shook the doctor’s hand and left the office. He didn’t bother to schedule a follow-up as instructed. Clearly, this guy was going down the same well-beaten path as the others. He’d patiently listen to his stories and after a few weeks Paul would end up with a flupenthixol injection. It wasn’t a bad idea per se but it simply made the experiences even more real than they already were, if that were even possible. No, clearly, clinical pharmacology had failed him and it wasn’t worth going through that again. The last thing he needed was another stay at the sanatorium.
Finding himself on the street, Paul blinked at the sudden surge of brightness and turned to make his way home. Oddly, it always seemed that the walk home did him more good than the actual psychiatrist. Sometimes the quiet mind will find its own best answer that the actively thinking mind will miss entirely. Perhaps the real problem wasn’t the dreams so much as the approach. Everyone he’d dared to talk to about his dreams took it as a given that they were problems. Perhaps that assumption was wrong. Could it be that the dreams were not problems but gifts that he hadn’t quite figure out how to use yet? In the world of the insane isn’t the sane man…
His reverie was interrupted by a pair of brown eyes. He was only aware of them for a split second and then he was somewhere else.
An impatient man stood over him and said in a calm voice that hinted at growing impatience, “I’m sorry, we just don’t have money for that right now. I understand that you want to be like the other girls and have nice things but we have to make a choice right now. We can buy food or we can buy that dress. Which do you want? Eh? Christ, if you’re mother were only here…”
He looked around him, while dozen bystanders looked on, their faces unrecognizable through the miasma of tears in his eyes. “But daddy,” he choked in the voice of a child, “you said…” No more words would come, he simply hung his head and looked down at the old dirt-stained dress he was wearing. Tears rained from his brown eyes and plopped on the sidewalk between his tiny bare feet.
“Hey, come on. You want a ride home? Let’s see how fast we can get there!” Armed with this mock enthusiasm, the giant man swept up the tiny girl that was Paul and placed her on his shoulders. They raced pell-mell through the streets and after a couple blocks the old man was puffing and the traces of a grin had crept into the corners of the girl’s dirty face.
Paul snapped back to those brown eyes again. They belonged to a tall woman in a flowing skirt going the opposite direction with a puzzled look on her face. While she was accustomed to having attention paid to her, she was not used to that attention focusing so completely on her eye sockets. She reddened and looked away, pretending to find something in her purse, completely oblivious to the piece of herself that she’d left behind in the mind of a stranger.
The one thing he couldn’t get used to was the looks. He hated making people uncomfortable and while his ‘dreams’ only took a split second of real time it was obvious that it was long enough for his fixed gaze to be noticed. It wasn’t always eye contact that brought on the dreams though. Sometimes simply touching a doorknob, taking change from a cashier, or punching the keys at the ATM would bring him some piece of random history from outside himself. His life was like a novel that had had a problem at the printers and become comingled with 100 other books.