I am trying to explain what it’s like to him, the nonstop maelstrom of words and phrases that swirl in my head. I’ve recently learned what cocaine is, from sneaking peeks at my brother’s National Lampoon magazines. I’ve learned that it makes you hyper, and that adults refer to it as “coke.” Not long after this discovery, the phrase “coke monkeys in bumper cars” spilled out of my head and into my notebook. I was pleased by this; it made sense to me. My head was full of coke monkeys in bumper cars, careening and screeching and bouncing off of one another until I got enough words together to quiet them down.
I don’t tell him this. Instead I ask, “You know the Numbers Game they have on tv? The lottery?”
“So there’s this big bubble full of numbered balls spinning around, and then one ball at a time falls into those little slots and that’s how they pick the winner? That’s kind of what it’s like. The words come down in the right order and that’s when I know I can write them down.”
He says nothing, but raises his eyebrows and jots something down on his pad.
I think I’ve said the wrong thing again. But it’s a good thing I didn’t mention the coke monkeys.
My parents had decided that I needed to speak to somebody. A psychiatrist.
I was simultaneously thrilled and horrified. The fact that I had to go see somebody validated my tumultuous state of affairs, but it also confirmed that I was batshit crazy. I bounced between wanting to tell everyone that I had to go see a shrink, and praying to God that nobody would find out. Because, really, all I needed was to have my classmates discover this additional flaw in my character.
To ensure that I would not be seen entering or exiting A PSYCHIATRIST’S OFFICE in the immediate area, my mother found someone suitably far away, in downtown Plymouth.
I went every Saturday afternoon. I enjoyed the rides over, listening to Top 40 on the car radio. I also liked wandering around downtown Plymouth while my mother spoke to him after our session was through. There was a diner across the street, and I would sit at the counter and order a milkshake, which arrived half in a glass, and half in the stainless steel mixing cup. The time I would spend in the diner afforded me some ambiguity; I was just a normal kid sitting at a counter and drinking her milkshake. Nobody in the diner knew that I was unpopular, “troubled,” and seeing a psychiatrist.
Other times, I’d visit Pilgrim Hall. I’d immerse myself in colonial history, learning about samplers and hornbooks and whispering sticks, round pieces of wood that would get stuffed in the mouth of kids who were caught whispering.
I found myself longing to have lived in colonial times.
We sit quietly for a minute, me and the psychiatrist. Finally he says, “Perhaps instead of writing everything down, it would help to actually TALK when you’re that upset.”
I consider this. I just don’t know that I have anyone to talk to, anymore.