written by David Garber
I was sitting across from a vaguely familiar looking man with a heavy European accent. Have you noticed these days how all the doctors at the hospitals seem to be foreigners? “Kyle, how do you feel about debt?
“Debt?” What a curious question for a doctor to be asking me.
“No. Not debt. Debt. It’s my accent. How do you feel about debt, like dying? Za big sleep. Bite ze dust. Playing harp duets with Jimmy Hoffa.
“Oh, you mean Death. Other than how permanent it tends to be, I guess it’s okay,” I shot back at my psycho-neurologist.
About four weeks ago, I had a ‘near death’ experience. I was hit by an explosive line drive while playing softball, the victim of poor reflexes and a general lack of physical agility. I’m just a normal guy and the behemoth who blasted that torpedo into the side of my head was really humongous. I say was because he got the short end of the stick. I got knocked out and awoke in the hospital. He was hit by a car coming out of Starbucks a few hours later and sadly he’s never coming home. His double shot, half-caf venti caramel macchiato flowed until Ventura Boulevard was awash in it. Along with the rest of his body fluids.
“Do you feel guilty in any vay?” the good doctor responsible for my discharge, inquired.
“In what way? The coffee wasn’t for me. I feel sorry, but maybe he’s…”
The doctor finished my sentence for me, “… in za better place?”
I shared that any place other than Van Nuys was a better place. That’s where he lived — the guy who put me here in Cedars. But now, two weeks later, I was going to be okay. According to all of my tests and consults, I’m out of the woods – and back into society.
My diagnosis was a concussion leading to temporary PSD — Paranoic Schizophrenic Disorder. In simple English, it means I was seeing and hearing things that weren’t real. But, according to my doctor, it’s over. I’m better.
I have to admit that the first few days were rather exciting. I got to play poker with JFK, Thomas Edison and Napoleon who spoke fluent English but was terrible at Texas hold’em. His “tell” was he reached inside his shirt and scratched himself. I asked him about that famous picture of his with his hand tucked into his shirt – “Wool,” he told me. “Itchy as merd.”
I’m gonna miss those guys. Unfortunately, now that I’m better, I’ll never get that chance to ask J. Edgar Hoover, who sat in on the game one evening, about those secret files he kept. I’m dying to know what he had on Marilyn Monroe and John Lennon.
The good doctor found it all very interesting. After this brief interview with the psycho-neurologist, I was going home. And I was going to be able to drive, do all things I used to do and deep down inside, I was hoping maybe the conk on the head might have even made me better, somehow. I don’t know — Speak a foreign language? Play the piano? Maybe I’d be a great lover – but then I surreptitiously played a little ‘pocket pool’ and felt no miracle down there. I was still ‘mini’ me.
My doctor assured me that other than perhaps an occasional headache or tingling sensation in my extremities, I’d have all the skills and dexterity I had before. I then tested out my very special talent, to make sure I still had it. I generated a small bubble on the tip of my tongue, which I proceeded to blow in the air, then catch it on the tip of my nose until it popped.
“Pretty impressive,” indicated the good doctor. “Do you do zis often?”
“Mostly when I’m bored, or at parties,” I beamed. “Where do you think the little dent on the tip of my nose came from?”
I wasn’t perceiving an abundant sense of humor from this guy as we segued from my parlor tricks to my dreams — who was in them, what took place, were they sexual in nature? Hell, I’m a single, 26 year old guy. I wouldn’t be normal if they weren’t sexual in nature. But of course in those dreams, I was Kyle the Conqueror, seducer of lusting, usually large breasted, scantily clad women.
I started to feel a bit self-conscious of discussing that theme and tried to change the subject… Somehow I mentioned to the doctor that the softball accident happened on my birthday.
“Really?” posed the medicine man with a raised eyebrow. Actually, he might have raised both but they ran together forming one so it was hard to tell.
“Vat a coincidence. I vas just reading da article dat says statistically zere’s a greater chance of dying on your birthday zen on any other day?” He turned his laptop and showed me a HuffPo article that indeed bore this out. And it even indicated 11 AM as the most common time of death.
“If that’s true, shouldn’t the Last Supper actually be breakfast or brunch?” I suggested.
He nodded, “Perhaps.”
“11 AM,” I ruminated as I turned his laptop back around. “Now I know why that’s the checkout time at most hotels. Oh, and what about Daylight saving’s time? You get an extra hour, I guess.”
“Do you think about debt very much?” pondered my physician.
“Not at all. You’re the one who seems fixated on it,” I defended.
The medico continued on, “Do you zink subconsciously zis fellow who caused your injury vas a victim because of vat he did to you?”
“No. He’s dead because he stepped in front of a speeding car.”
“It vouldn’t be zo much stretching for you to feel some of ze blame or zome deep seated responsibility, you think?”
“Are you trying to blame me?” I was getting a little anxious now and I wanted to have him just sign off and set me free. Instead he was doing, what do they call it, blame transference? Next thing you know, he’ll want to know if this guy’s death had anything to do with his mother not loving him or his dad beating him as a kid.
“You don’t zink his parental upbringing haz anyzing to do vith it, do you?” this quack curiously probed.
See! I knew it! “So how about signing my release forms and we’ll call it a day?”
He cautioned me to stay calm, take some deep breaths and relax. “Zoon. First I vant to try ze little game of free azzociation. I give you a word and you tell me ze first zing to come to your mind.”
That didn’t stop him. “Zoftball.”
“Dick.” I went on to explain, that’s what I think the guy’s name was that hit the line drive that put me here.
“Pregnant.” I didn’t want to go into it but I did pay for one abortion. Don’t ask. Rest assured I no longer drink and screw.
He went on with a few more words and somehow, when I played them all back in my mind, I bet this guy assessed me as some kind of pervert. My replies were “Head first… balls… snatch… high riser… double-play… hard and fast… dinger… and peanuts. P-E-A-N-U-T-S. I spelled it out for him so with his accent he didn’t think I said something else. I had the softball game my mind. Cut me some slack.
Fortunately, Dr. Nutcake felt I was okay by him and I was released. I bolted out of his office quicker than a 13 year old Kentucky girl with older six brothers.
But, wouldn’t you know it? I left my cellphone on his desk when I turned it off to talk to him. I reluctantly retreated to his office and for the first time noticed his name on the door – Dr. Sigmund Freud.
I popped my head in to grab the cell. He looked up and tossed me the phone. “You forgot zis, yes?”
I caught the phone and stared at him briefly. He did look familiar. I started to say something when he continued on, “I’ll be sure to ask Hoover about dose secret files ven I zee him at tonight’s poker game.”
Oh boy. And here I thought I was supposed to be cured. I paused out in the hallway and looked back at the door. It no longer had Freud’s name on it. It was now Waldstein. I popped my head back in. It was a totally different guy.
“Did you forget something else, Kyle,” the new doctor asked?
I just closed the door, much confused but a lot relieved… I tiptoed away, curious and a bit apprehensive of who I might run into when the elevator doors opened to take me down to my car.