I forgot to knock. Damn, this is already going wrong. My mother always knocks, but I never saw the point of it. If Dr. Meira wasn’t seeing a patient, she would leave the door open. If the door is closed, it means she’s seeing someone, and we shouldn’t interrupt. What could be simpler than that?
Traveling across town by myself is still a challenge. I’m nineteen years old, but my behavior rarely matches the number of candles on my birthday cake. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Right now, it isn’t. I never learned how to drive and don’t want to spend money on a cab. I’m afraid to have a depersonalization attack in the middle of the street, not knowing where I am or who to call for help. It’s been happening quite often. Cars passing, people walking, everything is its right place. But it’s like I’m not really there. It’s like the world is playing in a TV with bad reception, and what I see and hear doesn’t quite convince me. There’s no sensation in the world like it.
So here I am, sitting on the very comfortable chair of her waiting room, all alone and unhappy in the white, fake leather cushions. Wish I could go to the window, point at some random guy down there and blame him for me being who I am. It would be so much easier to believe I could be on the right track if it wasn’t for that little asshole down there who messed my life up. But he can’t take that responsibility– and who could, actually? Not me. The doctors say its genetics, so all the fingers are pointed to those glandules in my brain who aren’t doing their job right.
Being depressive is like wearing shades all the time. Everything under the sun seems less bright and less colorful, and the nights are so dark you want to die. The clearest memories I have from my childhood are of things that went wrong. I have a vivid memory of the book they gave me to read in elementary school, and how it ended up thrown the roof because of the ludicrous cover art– the concept of an angel wearing sneakers was too hard for me to swallow. And many other times, the idea of jumping from the roof or a window seemed simpler and more romantic than a blonde angel coming to Earth to teach moral values to small children. At age seven I came up this amazing concept of jumping from the third floor into the school yard, screaming the name of the girl I had a crush on, declaring myself without having to suffer (or enjoy) the consequences.
The window isn’t my favorite anymore. The door seems like a more reasonable option, but Dr. Meira has what I need. That piece of blue paper has brought me here, and I won’t go away without it. Wish I could say there was some higher reason for this meeting, but there isn’t. I make no progress by looking at her face and talking about my life, as it’s supposed to be. It’s all about the prescriptions.
This waiting room is hideous, and it’s worse there inside. I told to my mother I’d go see the doctor by myself. Take the bus downtown, then another bus to her office. Two other buses to get back. It’s a long travel in many ways. An appointment with my dentist means fifteen minutes of walk, but it would take me about half a year to go to Dr. Meira on foot, and the rest of the year to walk back. This might give the idea that she’s great at what she does. She isn’t.
We’ve been seeing each other for three or four years. Dr. Meira was the one who got me into medication. She got the pills right, but that doesn’t mean I have to like her.
Being there makes me feel small.
She complains about the way I dress, the way I talk and how my shaved head makes me look like a reformatory kid. “Reformatory kid.” Those are her words, not mine. Now I have to confront her, and God knows I don’t want to. She usually leaves the prescriptions on the lobby so we can pick them up without actually having to make an appointment. But from time to time we do have to meet. She has to have my name on her registration book, and I have to talk to my psychiatrist and try to look as happy as possible.
Damn, should I knock at that door? I shouldn’t right? She would open it and tell me to be quiet, say she’s with a patient and that I was too stupid to figure that out. She’d say the world didn’t revolve around me, and that I should learn to wait because other people needed help too. I decide to wait.
Time passes slowly. Too slowly. She opens the door.
– How long have you been here? – she asks.
– Not much. – I lie.
– You should have knocked. – she says. – I’ve been waiting for you.
– I’m sorry.
– Come inside.
That office is designed by a professional decorator, and for some reason that pisses me off. There’s a horrendous abstract painting on the wall, vases everywhere and a divan she never asks me to lay on. Instead, we sit by a table with frosted glass top, that the decorator probably assured her that tied the room together. At least it prevents her from seeing my feet shaking.
– So, what are you messing around with this time? – she asks me, making it clear that her interest is limited. – You are always messing around with something different every time you come here, aren’t you?
– I… I got a job on a bookstore… but somebody stole from my bag and I…
– You can’t leave money in your bag! Everybody knows that!
– I know it now. Everybody has been telling me that.
– So, what did you do?
– I’m not working there anymore.
There’s amusement in her face or am I imagining things? That face is rarely allowed to show any emotions. Her skin is so soaked in beauty creams that it comes off as a cracker that was left in a glass of milk for too long, so sluggish! And that goddamn nose! I swear, it’s pointing directly at me, and it’s going to shoot something on my face right now. She makes her sermon on how I never finish anything I start. Several different thoughts go through my mind while she speaks, some of them very random, others a little more practical, like how I’m going to get back home. Should I take the first bus that went to the Praça da Liberdade, and go to the bus stop down Bahia Street? Or would it be better to go down to the Central Market area, which seemed to be closer, though less familiar?
– Are you listening?
– I’m sorry?
– You can’t deal with frustration, you know that? You never go through with things. If everything doesn’t go as planned, you just run away.
“Sometimes running is the best option” I almost say it loud.
– What else are you up to?
I finally have something good to say.
– I’m taking Italian lessons.
– Italian? I’m studying Spanish. Are you going to try for a certificate?
– I don’t…
– I’m going to take my Spanish certificate, even though I don’t want to use it for professional reasons. You see, the thing about Spanish is that people think it’s easy when you already speak Portuguese, but…
I try to interrupt her at some point, since I’m the one paying two-hundred reais to talk about my problems. She seems to be outraged because I’m not letting her talk. So she does a gesture with her hand and keeps going:
– Last year I made a trip to Europe, and there I could use all my French and all my Spanish…
I don’t care. I so do not care. I want my prescriptions. All I want is my prescriptions and my bus and my way out of that office. And I specially don’t want to cry in here. I really, really don’t want to cry in here. Because crying in this room means crying outside, and there’s nobody out there to help me. She is the only person I can cry with, and that’s bad. That’s bad, bad, bad.
– What about girls? – she asks. – Do you have a girlfriend?
– Not even fooling around?
– Not really, no.
– Jesus Christ, Matheus, are you going to let that thing get in your way forever?
That “thing” was a simple affair that my dramatic vein turned into an unbelievable mess. Just a high school crush that went wrong and took more tears than it needed to. It’s something I’d like to talk about, but not in this room. Not with her. So I say that I like to be alone, without friends or affairs. It isn’t the truth, but it’s better than to telling her what really was happening. That sometimes I cry. That sometimes I feel really lonely. That sometimes I’m afraid of what I might do next. You know, all those things you were supposed to tell your psychiatrist.
Should I tell her something? Should I try to make contact, or whatever you call it? Should I try to communicate, or would it be better to imagine myself in the elevator, pushing the button to the lobby? Oh, that elevator! It has so many buttons that I catch myself trying to figure out why would anyone push the one I did. I could be in any of those other floors, talking to a thousand other people. There are so many possibilities, how did I end up where I am? What that charade had to offer me? Prescriptions. My comfort lies in those prescriptions. I need them. I could be anywhere. But this is the one place where I can get them. And the only way to get them is by sitting in this expensive chair and talk to this expensive woman about cheap things that hurt me.
– You’re such a weirdo! – she says, and let me enjoy that word for a moment. – What about college?
She surely remembers that I quit college almost a year ago. She writes things down and right now those notes are in front of her. She just wants me to say it again. And I do. God, I wish I knew how to say something that pleases her. It doesn’t have to be the truth, but I just can’t hear the word “weirdo” again!
She finally picks her bloc and gives me what I want. Those scrabbles in awful doctor’s calligraphy mean twenty eight pills of five milligrams of Spazadrine, each one beautifully trapped into shiny grey blisters. I must take one every night before going to sleep. My organism is now so addicted to them that if I miss one dose, I’ll be back to that old world where every person in the streets is a killer and schizophrenia is waiting just around the corner.
Going away is tough. Usually the person who comes with me engages into a conversation with Dr. Meira until we get to the hallway. It’s better that way. It means that, once as I get out of that office, the appointment is finished, and the rest is chitchat between her and whoever’s with me. Now it’s just the two of us, and I need to say something while she opens the door for me to go away. I get up from the chair and wait for her to come around the table and open the door. My shoulders are low and I try to fix that. Soon I realize she never actually saw me walking. I walk weird, without moving my arms. Everybody makes fun of it, so why wouldn’t she?
I can’t remember what we talked about. All I know is that I got out of there, went down the elevator and crossed the avenue to get my bus. It’s rush hour and all the seats are taken, so I have to stand up in the bus while it travels through the heavy traffic. The smell of human sweat is all around me, but I don’t mind. I get off the bus in the Central Market area and take another one. All the seats are taken there too, but I don’t mind. It isn’t that office. It’s out there. Now I have to deal with these people who don’t want to know a thing about me, and thanks to the prescriptions they don’t want to put their hands around my throat anymore. Our relationship doesn’t go further than the five reais bill that I pay for the ride and the change I’m given back. We don’t know each other, we don’t care. I have my prescriptions in my pocket, and that’s relief, not happiness.
I’m on my second bus, down the freeway, and I catch myself thinking about a broken leg, a broken arm, a broken rib and a broken mind. And I imagine if I had to hide my pain from all sort of doctors, because I was afraid of what they might say.
This is a sick relationship what we have. It doesn’t matter if we are sick, but the bond between us is fragile and rotten. There’s no point in trying to save it: it was never good to begin with.
I had a collection of doctors, not as big as my collection of hobbies, but still pretty impressive. My childhood shrink, from those times that should’ve been simple. I quit her. The optimistic and kind psychiatrist who I saw in my early teens. I quit her as well. The group therapy I never actually attended to. The shrink who asked me too soon about how often I pleased myself, and that I quit without telling anyone. And now, her.
The cars go by at the bus window and I rest my head on the glass, thinking about things that are worth going through with. And things that are not.
Matheus Ferraz is a Brazilian writer and movie critic. His struggle with depression has a great influence in his stories, most of which deal with the feelings of sadness, emotional pain and social misfitness. Matheus’ first novel, Teorema de Mabel (Mabel’s Theorem) tells the story of a young girl trying to launch herself as a writer while fighting her inner demons. Future projects include a collection of short stories and a full-length novel about prescription drug addiction.