Dreamed 1993/10/6 by Chris Wayan
My friend Lily drops me off at my new therapist's office. One appointment is all it takes--that's the claim. In one hour, you're cured forever.
There's a lanky, stubbly, bitter-looking white guy in the waiting room. He has the aura of a man who's known prison. Who expects to lose. I try not to stare. But I'm curious. What's wrong with his hands? No fingers! Well, maybe one or two out of ten. But he can't easily hold anything.
The office door opens. I look up, and so does the fingerless man. The therapist is another white man, but with the aura of a winner.
And no fingers.
They talk about it, comparing notes. The con is transfigured. He can barely believe it--someone who understands how helpless he is, how humiliated to ask for help from people who don't know which things are easy, which hard. They talk and talk... the therapist standing in the doorway, the man in his chair, me invisible in mine between them. They rattle on for half an hour. Half my prepaid session gone! I sit there and let them. It's too bizarre and seems too important to interrupt.
I remember the therapist said one detail that really struck the con, it was exactly how he'd always felt and never could explain. "Sweet things... I crave small candies, because they're so sweet yet so hard to grasp..." Other sweet things, like large fruit, are just not the same, because they're attainable...
They talk excitedly on and on... and I sit there and let them! I guess the shrink assumes I'm a nurse or driver for the handless man...
They go in a back room with test equipment, and draw a curtain shutting me out! I'm getting mad now, slowly... Stare at a photo exhibit on the wall, rather than break in and demand my time for me. Now I start to pace--can't just look at pictures.
The fingerless con wants perhaps to become a therapist himself someday. He wants to know "How'd you make it through school with no fingers?"
The therapist, blithely answers, not noticing what I, invisible, see, that the con is shocked by his answer: "Oh, I didn't. I had hands then of course. I lost them in an accident years later..." After he was practicing and fairly well off... he's been able to maintain a good life, but he had money and so on. Nothing like the con's challenge: building a life with no connections, no money, no job... and no fingers. Not such a role model after all.
I walk outside, mad at the therapist--and at myself.
Lily appears, in our shared car. She says "Did you meet a fingerless guy? He was supposed to meet me here while you had your session. He's bringing a package for me from the Peninsula."
So he wasn't here to meet the therapist at all! The shrink just assumed it because they share a visible disability, and treated me like a nonperson because MY disability, environmental illness, is invisible.
I just get in the car, ready to leave. I've given up on that guy. She says "Well, if you're skipping your appointment, I'll just get the package and we'll go." I say "Hold on, I'm going back in. I paid for that session and he locked me out. He owes me my money back." I get out and walk back in. And Lily can just wait till I settle this--after all, she set this up, in a way. Sending a fingerless man in there...
NOTES IN THE MORNING
I tell Lily the dream, and voice my worries that it's predictive. She promises again to be sure to return on time and call if she's held up, so I can start early on my bike and make it there on time.
THE DAY AFTER
Lily takes the car to Marin. At my departure time, she's not there. She hasn't called so I assume she's a couple of minutes late. Wait. And wait, in growing outrage. She never calls, and finally shows up ten minutes before my appointment. I rush across town, furious, and run up the stairs... but I miss half the session.
Feeling as helpless, in the face of her irresponsibility, as a fingerless man.
Twenty years later, missing fingers seems less symbolic. My environmental illness had subtler neurological effects I didn't know about, having grown up with them. When my illness flares up, I lose fine motor skills--suddenly can't type or play the piano well. Devastating for a singer-songwriter, but at least I improve when the attack fades--though it subtly degrades my playing at all times, holding my career back. Untreated syphilis causes such shakes; I test negative. Its close relative Lyme causes them too, but of course my doctors are sure it can't be Lyme. Because no one has Lyme, right?
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