Like Water for Xanax
When I walk into his office, I notice there are three chairs but only two of us. One of the chairs is positioned in front of his desk. It’s made of leather and is the nicest of the three chairs. I know this is his chair. I don’t have to ask.
The remaining two chairs are a blend of cheap plastic and worn fabric. One of them is directly to the left of his desk. It’s close enough for us to hold hands if we wanted. The other chair is next to the window on the opposite side of his office.
“Is this a test?” I ask him.
“A test?” He says furrowing his brow as he sits down in his chair. He is a small man. He’s sitting in a standard-sized leather office chair but his slight frame makes it look like he’s sitting in the chair of a giant. His feet are barely touching the beige carpet.
“Yeah, like which chair I choose says something about me. Like if I choose the one closest to your desk it means I’m going to be cooperative. And if I choose the one by the window it means I’m going to be difficult.”
“Not at all. I like to give people the option to sit close or sit far away. It’s your call. You could sit on the floor if you want.” He laughs.
After thinking for a few seconds, I select the chair next to the window. Even though the view is just a brown apartment building with a faded black fire escape, I’d rather that than the eggshell colored walls.
Once I’ve settled into my seat, he starts asking questions. I’ve been asked these questions before and they always remind me of things I don’t want to be reminded of.
How are you feeling right now?
So last week was a difficult week?
What happens when you get really low and start feeling bad?
Do you have a plan?
What stops you from following through with your plan?
Are you taking medication?
What’s your diagnosis?
Besides Axis II diagnoses, do you have any other diagnoses?
How do you deal with the panic attacks if you don’t take medication?
The questions are intrusive, but that’s the point. I am used to the questions.
But when he asks how I deal with the panic attacks, I feel like I’m a magician and he’s an amazed member of the audience asking how I did one of my tricks. The only difference is, my trick doesn’t involve picking his card out of a deck or making something disappear into thin air.
My trick is my existence.
I want to tell him it’s not magic. It’s life. Excruciating, exhausting life.
But I don’t say that. I just say I’m getting along as best I can. I deal with it and try to keep going.
This is not a good explanation. At least, it would not be a good explanation if I was actually a magician and someone in the audience asked about one of my tricks.
The questions keep coming.
Would you like to try getting on medication?
You could stop whenever you want. Are you sure you don’t want medication?
Well, sure, it’s your choice, but do you understand there are options that may be able to help you?
I know the questions will stop eventually, but that doesn’t prevent me from digging my feet into the ground and refusing to budge.
It’s not my intention to be stubborn, but I see exasperation in the wrinkles that form around his eyes while I’m talking. I can be persuasive and lucid at the same time I’m being stubborn. I should have been a lawyer.
This dynamic is commonplace by now. Someone assures me I can be helped. And I tell them I don’t want to be helped in an informed and eloquent manner that leaves us at an impasse. I used to feel bad when this happened, but I don’t anymore. Because now I tell myself this is not what’s actually happening.
And then I ask myself: if we aren’t stubborn about our own body chemistry, would we be stubborn about anything at all?
I spent a summer upstate working on my uncle’s farm. It rains a lot upstate. Biblical rain. Sometimes it rained for days on end. I wondered how anyone could stand it.
Toward the end of the summer, I went into town for dinner and got caught in a downpour. Soaked and standing under an awning, I asked the old man next to me, “What do you do with all this rain?”
He admired the heavy sheets of water for a few seconds. “You get wet,” he finally said.
We’ve been talking for thirty minutes, and I feel like I just finished running a marathon even though I’ve only been sitting in my chair looking out the window while I answer his questions.
And after thirty minutes, it’s time to stop. I know he has many more questions to ask other people before his day is over.
Despite my stubbornness, he seems somewhat pleased as we part ways. I think it’s because he’s got plenty of information to transcribe on my chart.
Slightly dazed as I emerge from his office, I spend the rest of the day trying to figure out how I feel about our meeting.
I eventually realize that the only thing I feel is dismayed.
Because, after our meeting, I realize I’m that much closer to everything I was trying to get away from. And I’ve become aware that my existence appears like a magic trick to some people.
If that has to be the case, I wish I had a better explanation about how I execute the trick. But sometimes, “You get wet,” is the only answer we can give.
Charlie Scaturro was born and raised in Brooklyn and currently resides there today. His work was short-listed for The Best New Writing Anthology 2017 and has appeared on CBSSports.com, USAToday.com, LATimes and various publications on Medium.com, among others. Charlie is currently working on a collection of short stories in addition to a few other projects.