The man scratched his right temple– a psychological tell of his that preceded a rant. Always did. Of course, the psychiatrist, Dr. Newstead, couldn’t have known this. And if he had, he would have left without so much as a demand for payment. “Uh, excuse me… I’m terribly sorry, but it seems we’ve run out of time,” is what he would say. Or some other string of nonsense. And of course, the man would believe him, because of his soothing and delightful British accent– one that made Stephen Fry’s sound like rusty nails being dragged over an emphysemic, boisterous air conditioning unit. Unfortunately, he lacked the foreknowledge to prevent the oncoming litany.
The man began:
“I’m not a bad person. I don’t care what she says. I always kept the milk on the top shelf just as she asked and I never listened to The Beatles anymore because she said it reminded her of her childhood and I never brought up her childhood because she hated that and I always ate a banana every day because she watched out for my potassium and a bunch of other things while she, she has the nerve to move my medicine from the second cabinet” (here, he took a breath) “to the first cabinet in a haphazard fashion which makes me completely unaware of where anything is and she tells our kids that Santa didn’t eat the cookies because I got to them first and now they hate me and she gives me a list to repair the bathroom floor but rejects every sample of linoleum I choose and to replace the old ceiling fan but rejects those as well and makes me feel bad for eating fast food even though I know I’ve seen her do the same and she spilled coffee on the floor without cleaning it up and I slipped and cracked my head on the table and she barely apologized and…”
The man went on for several minutes.
Dr. Newstead sat there, watching the man’s lips move, but not really paying attention to the words they formed. Every so often, a “clandestine” or a “tree bark,” or some other meaningless word would work its way into his consciousness, but he paid them no mind. Instead, he reflected on his life’s decisions. Why did he become a psychiatrist? Every day, he came in and listened to the world’s drivel. Rarely was there a real problem. This guy on the couch in front of him, for example. What was his name again? All he was doing was reciting his laundry list of complaints about his ex-wife. He never suspected there was actually something wrong with him (which there must have been if his wife was the one that left, and not the other way around). Newstead didn’t really like people. There was no emotional connection to his patients. When he went home, he was tired, grumpy, and only wanted to paint. Usually he slept instead. But there, on that Thursday afternoon, he made up his mind that this patient would be his last. He would forgo years of schooling, never return to the Watson J. Feudrich Medical Building, and pursue his real passion: painting.
The man on the couch looked up.
“You’re not even listening to me, are you?”
There was no response.
The man laid back down and looked at the ceiling. What was he paying this guy for? Two and a half inches of plush and leather under his body? He could get that at home! And why wasn’t the guy even pretending to be interested? Was he really that boring? The man reflected on that. He was going on and on about problems with his ex-wife. What if she wasn’t crazy? What if she left him for a legitimate reason? What if there really was something wrong with him? But what? He did snore a lot… But that never bothered her before. That couldn’t be it. Maybe it was the new job. He took the new job without consulting her. She had seemed upset about that. The family had to make a big move to a new city. They had to give up a bathroom. But there was better pay, so surely she got over it. Or maybe it was the grumpiness in the mornings. He remembered when they first got together. Life was full of sunshine. But the new job had taken a toll on him and in response, he took a toll on everyone else. He was no longer the man his ex-wife met years ago. He had changed. He was selfish. And all the while he had no idea and rambled on about his ex-wife like she was the problem. The psychiatrist was not even paying attention. By being bored, he made the man think about his life and realize his problems. This was a good psychiatrist. The man resolved to thank him profusely and to recommend him to all his friends.
The two of them remained on their respective furniture for several minutes.