May, 24th 2017 — The Doctor
This article is part of the series “What is like to attempt suicide and fail”. Start there, if you have not read it yet.
“I’d really like you to see Rubens,” Dr. Irapuan, my friend, suggested to me. More than once. Rubens, in this case, is Dr. Rubens, a “kick ass“ psychiatrist and psychoanalyst from São Paulo. But he’s not just that, dear reader. Hold your armchair, your wooden stool, your twisted Ikea thing. Dr. Rubens, you see, is precisely the one who recommended to my beloved friends and family the psychiatric clinic, the delicious Alcatraz who welcomed me with so much love. Today, free as I am, I went to São Paulo. To see Dr. Rubens.
I arrived at his office 10 minutes in advance. Few things give me as much pleasure as getting to appointments early. Few things give me as much anguish as arriving late. I was welcomed by the friendly girl who, along with the usual words, handed me a form. I had not even seen Dr. Rubens and was already giving out a dozen pieces of information. All in block letters, which is how I write when I’m agitated. When I’m calm too. The first task was done and I was directed to the waiting room, where I headed, quietly, as I tried to open the sticky paper of a 1987 Halls candy that I found in my pocket, next to the money for the payment of the consultation.
The tight little room had a few books, a gallon filter with a lace dress, some armchairs, and on the wall a picture of the Bishop of the Rosary, a Brazilian with a past in the navy, a boxer’s career, and a series of mystical hallucinations that made him a perpetual guest from an insane asylum here, another there. And so, locked in his delirium, he became one of the most important contemporary artists in Brazil, with more than a thousand works recognized worldwide. I thought about the people I met at the clinic, especially those who lived their own universes. I thought of Mr. Chess. I missed him.
Before I could get emotional I noticed that, despite the victory with the paper of Halls, 83% of the candy was stuck in my fingers. And it was almost time to go into the office. I grabbed a plastic cup, a little bit of filtered water from the lacy gallon, improvised a sink and voilà , clean hands, soft and small. Just in time to shake those of Dr. Rubens, who had just opened the office door to greet me. Hands of a experienced man. Hands of who of a “kick ass”, as I was warned. Hands of those who advise THE clinic.
The office entrance made me realize that I had two immediate goals. First, decipher the figure of Dr. Rubens, which I would do anyway. Second, to understand the environment in which I had just entered. I decided to start with the last, such was the complexity of the place. Starting with the books, a sea of them, scattered all over the area. Wherever there was space for a book, there was a book. From somewhere, it echoed classical music. Around, objects of all kinds. Almost a flea market. I saw a sound box, I saw a micro-sink smaller than a baby’s hand, I even saw a PT (Brazilian Work Party) star neatly set against a wall. I imagine it must have been received from Lula (former Brazilian president, founder of the party) himself on the day the party was founded. Or part of the doctor’s youth. I could not find out today.
Describing Dr Rubens is easier. Imagine a perfect cosplay of Albert Einstein, already white-haired but full of life. There. You have imagined precisely. Now dress him with a white shirt, jeans, and brown shoes that hold the stride. There’s Dr. Rubens. A guy for whom I had immediate empathy, which made all my rancor for the history of the clinic disappear. One less topic to talk about. Great.
The consultation was a chat. As I imagined it would be. He ordered coffee for two. His with sweetener. Mine, pure, because I have serious mental problems, but I’m not barbaric. He asked me to talk about myself. I started and got cut off after three words. “You’re talking like the doctors say,” he warned. “I really want to hear you.” I explained that I am a journalist by training and I spent my life editing what I say. He worked out a hypothesis saying the reason I studied journalism was because I liked editing myself in the first place. I liked the hypothesis, but I offered the real reason why I chose the course. “My dream was to talk on the radio,” I said. “I spent my childhood and adolescence with a shortwave radio under my pillow,” I explained, discovering that I was listening to radios that he also listened to.
From that point the conversation flowed. We talked about motorcycling. I told him about my Harley. He told me about his BMW. I talked about the time at the clinic. I spoke about Mr. Chess, about this journal, about the experiences I was able to capture while I was in the hospital. I spoke of God, or the lack of. I spoke of Einstein, Freud. I spoke more of myself, of my dramas, of my weaknesses, of the pains, of all that was to speak at the moment. “I am interested in you,” he said at one point. “We’ll have to talk a lot,”. He mentioned conversations with me would be of great enrichment to him (I thought about charging).
I felt really good about everything that happened. He would have easily talked to him for eternity. Which, by the way, is what he wants. He suggested two meetings a week, ad infinitum . My head immediately processed two pieces of information. First, that’s great! Second, value of consultation times two, times four, times twelve, times eternity, holy fuck, shit . We agreed to discuss details in another meeting. He took me to see his bike and we said goodbye.
I went back to the office well. Feeling that the meeting with Dr. Rubens had been fruitful, just as my friend Irapuan had warned. Dr. Rubens can, I thought, fix my head. And I was really better. Lighter. Surely there was a good dose of placebo in that, but I put my hand on my chest and felt that a chunk of the pain of the previous days was gone. Then I put my hand in my pocket and felt the volume of the bundle of money. I forgot to pay for the appointment.
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