The Session

by Richard Baldasty

As the interview begins, the patient, 34, breaks all beautiful things in the office because she fears "they might move me." There are days when sadness remains the one thing consistent, familiar, not to be exposed to unnecessary risk. Prompted to explain further, she says "impending doom" and "haven't slept in weeks."

She wears the tattoo of a bell on her left forearm. She boasts she put it there herself when she was thirteen to prove to her parents it could be done: she was able, she is artistic. When her attention gets drawn to the shift in tenses—does she consider herself still artistic but no longer able—she replies, "Tell yourself whatever you want—I don't play your game."

The patient manifests problems with all authority: medical, legal, clerical (a refusal to fill out forms surfaced as early as third grade), spiritual, logical. Otherwise mental functioning seems normal, perhaps borderline genius. She is able, for instance, to immediately recite backwards anything read to her, no matter how complicated, in half the time; when the examiner quotes Spinoza (We have now perceived that all the explanations commonly given of nature are mere modes of imagining, and do not indicate the true nature of anything, but only the constitution of the imagination; and, although they have names, as though they were entities, existing externally to the imagination, I call them entities imaginary rather than real; and, therefore, all arguments against us drawn from such abstractions are easily rebutted.) in just under 40 seconds, the patient repeats in reverse word order, flawlessly, within 18 seconds. She also provides translation into Icelandic despite having had no formal study of the language, merely a personal "hobby" interest.

No prior issues prompted the appointment. Indeed, the patient insists that she did not make an appointment but "suddenly appeared, spinning like a top" upon the examiner's desk without any knowledge of how or when or even if she entered the building. And she denies, vehemently so, demanding to take a lie detector test, that drugs are involved. "I do not fake, I self-medicate solely with Diet Pepsi. I am not deceitful. And never am I deceived."

At this riposte, the examiner gets up, puts some books and papers into a faux leather briefcase, smiles—first instance—at the patient, saying "Goodbye. Lay down your sweet head. Know what you know, leave the rest, let it be."

Richard Baldasty's poetry appears in the current print and online editions of Feile-Festa. His literary collages are forthcoming in Third Wednesday. Short prose archived online includes "Pentacle" in Issue 29 of Café Irreal, and in AntipodeanSF and The Prose Poem Project.