A Rest for Dr. Julius
Dr. Julius’ patients drove him crazy. Day after day they parked themselves in his green leather easy chair and whined about their stupid little problems, stupid little worries, stupid little anxieties and stupid, stupid phobias. Dr. Julius knew he had been practicing psychiatry for far too long. Not only did he not care about his patients anymore, he had actually grown to despise them. If he didn’t need the money so badly, he’d be happy to retire without a full pension. His day was filled with men and women, young and old sniveling about how their lives weren’t perfect. “Well, boo hoo,” Dr. Julius often thought. “Since when did life come with a guarantee of perfection”. Dr. Julius was heartily sick and tired of every last one of them. They talked, they cried, they begged, they pleaded for miracles. Dr. Julius had no quick fixes for them and they didn’t want to hear about anything that required work or change on their part. All they wanted to do was talk endlessly about themselves, how hard everything was for them, how mean everybody was to them, how insensitive their husbandswiveschildrenmothersfatherslovers were and/or are.
Dr. Julius could tell them a thing or two about real trouble. Sometimes, he pined for the days when patients had problems worthy of psychiatric consultation. It seemed to Dr. Julius that when he first became a psychiatrist people had a bit more backbone. They spent their days working hard at a time when working required actual physical and mental labour. Now that technology had virtually eliminated people’s need for any sort of exertion, they used all their energy picking apart their own and everyone else’s innards in public. Up until thirty years ago or so, private troubles were kept private and worked out in private. A person had to be very disturbed indeed to be sent for professional help. These days everyone was encouraged to believe they had a syndrome of some sort. If a person didn’t have a physical malady to complain about there were plenty of psychological syndromes being bandied about in magazines, tabloid newspapers and on television talk shows which anyone could adopt, adapt and embellish upon. From the lowliest hillbilly married to all his sister’s kid to the royal family’s digestive upsets: everyone spilled their guts to the world and the world listened eagerly. Being well adjusted was boring. Only the dysfunctional of this generation, the psychologically and morally weak, the professional victims were considered cool and interesting. So, instead of having the satisfaction of making a real difference in the lives of the gravely ill, Dr. Julius was now forced to spend his days wiping the noses of the fashionably distressed.
Claudia Spinney, for instance was someone on whom Dr. Julius had wasted many, many hours of his life. Claudia was a drab, middle-aged idiot of a woman. For eighteen years Dr. Julius had listened to her cry about one pathetic relationship after another. “Oh, Dr. Julius, I don’t know how to cope anymore with the thought of Stanley going home to his wife every night, eating with her, talking with her, sleeping with her, (Wah, wah). He loves me and wants to be with me, but he’s such a good man that he can’t think of a way to leave the mother of his children without hurting her. Help me to be patient with him, Dr. Julius, please.”
Last year it was the career criminal who Claudia was convinced she could reform with her love. He robbed her blind and vanished off the face of the earth. That episode was good for several months of snot-nosed bawling. Claudia had been no less devastated by the teenage boy with whom she had been involved a few years back. She was inconsolable when the boy stopped taking her calls. “Oh Dr. Julius, how could he do this to me after I did everything for him? Just last weekend he brought a whole group of his friends over to my house to party. He promised that sharing me with them would make him love me more!” (Wah, wah) In the beginning, when it seemed to Dr. Julius that Claudia just needed a bit of work on her self-esteem, he had tried to help her, but he soon realized that Claudia didn’t want any help. She enjoyed wallowing in her misery. It wasn’t bad luck that threw her into the arms of highly unsuitable males. Claudia actively sought out the most inappropriate men on the planet, plunged headlong into relationships with them and when they ended badly, (as they always did) she dropped all the resultant debris on Dr. Julius. It was very twisted. Dr. Julius found that the best way to deal with the Claudias in his life was to inject himself with a very small dose of Demerol or something similar a couple of times a day. Then he could nod and make some appropriate noises at his patients without actually have to listen to them. Most of them never seemed to require his input anyway.
Ivy Bigger, on the other hand was very demanding of Dr. Julius. There was no end to the little favours she felt she could call upon him to do for her as part of her so-called therapy. Ivy’s visits always left Dr. Julius with a big, fat headache. From the moment she threw her massive bulk into his chair Dr. Julius felt the tension seize his body. Even with double his usual dose of Demerol, his jaw would clench immediately and, as Ivy droned on and on, Dr. Julius’ teeth would grind together, while his fingernails imbedded themselves in the arms of his chair. “I asked for medication from my GP, Dr. Julius, but he wouldn’t give me anything! You know I have shortness of breath and heart palpitations, Dr. Julius. I asked the GP, but he told me I had to lose weight and he wouldn’t give me any medication. Can you talk to him, Dr. Julius? You know how anxious I get. You know I can’t lose weight.” Dr. Julius knew she wasn’t going to lose weight by stuffing her face with Mallomars, of which she had an ever-ready and seemingly endless supply. He had no idea why she insisted on showing up at his office for fifty minutes every week and wished he could ask her to stop, but she was a good source of revenue. Dr. Julius’ wife seemed to spend his money as fast as he could earn it. Of course he couldn’t, in good conscience restrict his wife’s spending while giving his lover, Marco, carte blanche with his credit card.
One week Ivy Bigger tried to get Dr. Julius to hypnotize her like the doctor on Oprah had done to one of her guests. The guest had discovered all sorts of hidden trauma buried in her youth. Ivy was pretty sure that with hypnosis she could dig up with some equally traumatic events from her own youth Another time she thought her husband was cheating on her and wanted Dr. Julius to follow her husband wherever he went for a couple of weeks and take photographs of anything concerning the husband that looked suspicious. Before that Ivy had wanted Dr. Julius to give her a personality test so he could tell her what sort of career she might be best suited for. At forty-eight, Ivy thought she might like to get her first job. Sometimes Ivy would just rattle on about her daytime soaps so that Dr. Julius could use his psychiatric experience to predict the outcome of their inane story lines. Ivy was always touching Dr. Julius, too, which further added to his aggravation. “Dr. Julius, I know you’re a man of refined taste.” She would then grab hold of his wrist with one of her fat, chocolaty, ham hands. “Would you please come to my dinner party on Thursday and give a little talk about French wines?” How Ivy had gotten the idea that Dr. Julius was her personal guru/manservant was beyond him. When he refused her, (as he always did) Ivy always cried very loudly and tried to throw herself into his arms for comfort. Dr. Julius desperately needed to get away from these people. Whatever passion he had once had for his profession had long since been spent. He’d lost all interest in his patients. Fe’d never had much interest in his wife and he was beginning to lose interest in Marco as he became more and more demanding. Lately, Dr. Julius’ lunch hours at the casino were beginning to feel more like something he was driven to do rather than something he enjoyed.
Of all his patients, only Stevie was a genuine nut case, thought Dr. Julius. Even Stevie was irritating him these days, though. Stevie was fifty-three and wanted to kill his parents. Stevie spent every session, week after week explaining to Dr. Julius exactly how he was going to do it in painstaking detail. This had been going on for over ten years now. Of course, Dr. Julius had been concerned at first, but then he discovered that Stevie had never had a father and that his mother had died of perfectly natural causes when Stevie was in his early twenties. As well, Stevie’s murder methods were so unnecessarily complicated that Dr. Julius was fairly certain they could never be carried out successfully. Stevie was the Wile E. Coyote of matricide and patricide. Stevie’s plans involved a lot of mail-order gizmos, lengths of wire, the need for pits to be dug and a variety of timing devices. Dr. Julius could only hope that Stevie would try to follow through with one of his plots one day soon and end up plunging off a cliff tied to an anvil. Beep, beep!
Two or three times a day, Dr. Julius would sit down with his calculator in an attempt to figure out exactly how much longer he needed to work until he could retire without forfeiting too much of his pension. He could never make the happy day work out any sooner than seven years, no matter how he manipulated the numbers. He worked and reworked his pension contributions to-date against his present salary. Dr. Julius calculated this against his spending and against his mysteriously shrinking savings over and over until he thought his head would explode. He could see no way out in less than seven years unless he went to live in a cardboard box.
As luck would have it, however, Dr. Julius’ retirement was sprung upon him much, much sooner than seven years and quite suddenly. He couldn’t quite remember how the topic had come up, but he was happy to take the medical board up on their suggestion of spending some time at the Medvale Retreat. It seemed to Dr. Julius that one moment he was sitting with one of his patients and the next he was enjoying the sunshine in the garden at Medvale. He couldn’t recall exactly what had happened in between. They told him he had lunged at one of his patients and force fed her Mallomars; or maybe Dr. Julius had dreamed that. It didn’t really matter, he supposed. There was a pleasant fog in his mind and the sun felt good on his face.