My doctor, my executioner.
The Khan sits in front of me. His eyes are two portals across his face that reflected not the person sitting across from him, but the glaring computer screen beside him. He has knobby, stubby little fingers that dance across his keyboard every time I talk, like a symphony of mental disorders and behaviour.
I am arguing with him. He asks, “Do you really think I’m here for my own benefit? Or am I here for you?”
He doesn’t look at me when he says, “I do care about your recovery. Otherwise, why am I here?”
I imagine him waking up in the morning. He won’t kiss his wife before he leaves. He will probably cuddle his newborn baby goodbye, to gain reassurance about the why, to strengthen the how – how he’s going to keep paying the mortgage on his house, how he’s going to pay for his baby’s care, how he’s going to keep up his and his wife’s lifestyle.
Because once you get intertwined with the why, it gets ugly. It gets subjective. It gets to that feeling of pointlessness and hopelessness creeping in.
Because it’s the how that keeps his hands on his steering wheel, as he drives through the rush hour traffic, his morning coffee burning in his Pink Floyd mug, on his every day route to the mental hospital.
“You can justify it in your head any way you want,” he tells me, “but all people are, are their actions. Everything else is construction.”
“So,” I begin, a tirade of what dug deep into my heart: “how about this story – of a girl confined here last autumn. You gave her permission to spend the day with her family for her 26th birthday. She made reservations at a restaurant and told everyone in the ward about it and got everyone excited for her. Then, they told me — she had an argument with you the morning of her birthday. And as she was entering the elevator with her parents, you threw the form at her as the elevators were closing in.”
I pause for effect. He shows no emotion. Just flagrantly blank. Fingers forever composing that symphony on his keyboard.
An eyebrow raises. “And so?”
I fall for the trap – lured, bait and hooked. “You formed a patient on her 26th birthday. On her birthday! How is that anything but a blatant misuse of your authority? How is it that you allowed her to have day passes and as soon as she disobeyed you – you trapped her? In here?” I throw up my arms to show him the place we were in – his office, my prison.
“I am not at liberty to talk about other patients here. And you know better than to bring another person up when you’re supposed to be here for your recovery.” He stops typing and sits back, cocking his head a little to side to indicate that he is now observing me. “Nevertheless, I’ll satisfy your curiosity. I’ll satiate your need for a conclusion. I don’t do things without a reason – you’ll just have to trust me that she displayed such emotional fragility that made me believe she wouldn’t be safe outside of the hospital.”
What a professional answer.
“Did I answer your questions?” He asks, challenging me. “Have I reassured you of my good intentions?”
I will carry this conversation with me, long after my discharge date. Another patient, a 40 year old superwoman, would smile at me and tell me she recognized the Khan’s humanity after seeing his Pink Floyd mug. I will be sitting next to a manic-depressive woman, cowering under her covers as music plays from her laptop, and begs me to stop being friends with somebody she hated. I will be in bed, listening to a story about one drunken night, when she comes home trying to comfort him, and then tries to go to bed with him. I will be listening to promises of being helped when I’m down, of being loved when I needed it, all the while realizing that people’s actions, never reflected the things say.
But I won’t know this until a few years later. I won’t know this until I am in the centre of distress and disappointment. I won’t know this until the moment I have to force myself to open my eyes, to move my arms, to sit, straight up – and face another day, no matter how broken.
And so I say, “Yes,” because I don’t know any better. I say, “because it’s your actions that define you. Everything else is construction,” because I can only repeat what he had just told me, imitating in vain to compensate for the fact that I lack the luxury of experience.