Love and Madness Part 1a

CHAPTER SEVEN

Dizzy in the crowd, I hugged the walls of the Ft. Lauderdale airport, scanning faces. They were . . . There!
At the foot of the escalator. They both looked sad and drawn, their hair more silver than gray. Their stooped and weary postures alarmed me no less than the gauntness that their too-big clothing revealed.

I plunged down the moving stairs, dread driving me toward them, excuse me, excuse me, heads up! Before I could reach them, I heard myself cry, "Is cancer back?"

As if a conductor had cued them, they chorused, "We've had a little trouble sleeping lately — it happens when you get to our age.”

My father stretched out his arms, hugged me and said, “Let's go home."

Fear left me slowly and I warmed in its wake.

During the twenty minute drive, I regaled them with news from Chicago and the marvels of love.

Inside their neat white house, Mih-the took food from the refrigerator. My father took my suitcase to the guestroom, put it on the luggage rack and, before I could open it, he led me to his bathroom and pointed to the scale, and in his tone that mocked severity, he said, "Off with those shoes and onto that." He played with the indicator until the scale balanced. He looked at it, exaggerated his surprise, opening his eyes wide; he checked it twice more. "One hundred and five including that outfit is way too light for five-nine." His sad smile softened his next order: "To the kitchen!"

Food was the last thing I wanted, but Clarence was at my heels and Blanche appeared in an apron and beckoned. I filled a plate with smoked salmon and a bagel and savored the flavor if not the bulk. "Did you just say something about a psychiatrist?" I asked hopefully.

"Yes," Mother replied. "Dr. Richard — he was in medical school with cousin Fred.”

"I need one of those to act as consult to The Book . . .”

"As a matter of fact," my father cleared his throat, "you can meet him at eleven tomorrow morning."

"Do you know Carl Sagan, too? I can get Arthur C. Clarke since we met during my stint at MGM.” When they shook their heads, disappointment momentarily tripped me, until I realized that "The doctor's a good start — I'll get to the others in time."

I smothered them with hugs.

"Daddy-O, is the typewriter still here? I have thousands of words yet to write before nightfall."

In the guest room, he replaced the carved wood-framed mirror on the dressing table with the typewriter. Privacy. I turned the machine on, then off, thanked my father and closed the door behind him. I wrote until called for dinner.

I didn't linger at the table and barely said a word, gobbling my food, in a hurry to get back to the most important work of my life.

Sometime later, Mih-the knocked and asked if I wanted a snack. I blew her a kiss and declined.

Sometime after that, she reappeared. "It's late, dear. Time to turn in — you must be exhausted from all that typing."

"I'm used to it," I said and grinned. "I'll be in to say good night just as soon as I finish this thought."

The door suddenly opened again and my father said, “Patchy — “

I couldn’t help my scream of fright and almost fell off the chair. He came into the room to stand near me and said, "It's bedtime. The bathroom is yours." When he turned to leave, I followed him down the hall and climbed into my parents’ bed, nesting between them. In the cold light of the TV newscast, I took their hands, bringing them together in the hollow below my heart.

Life never would be this shining without them.

I was so lucky to be born to them. And now I knew exactly why.

My father was the second son of Russian immigrants, older than two sisters. His brother had become an orthopedic surgeon and he'd become an attorney, pleasing his mother Mary no end.

When called by my father’s father to help him run his growing business, my father left his burgeoning practice a few years later to join his father’s business. When Papa retired, they sold the business and my father resumed his chosen profession twenty-four years after he’d left it. My father was a staunch man — though he wasn't King Solomon or Midas, he'd claim, always adding that he was perfect despite his mistakes, delight in his eyes, as always, bringing out the giggle in me.

Whenever we locked horns, rare, painful occurrences, my father would say, "I don't care who's right or who's wrong, I love you," a fact he made sure I believed.

My quarrels with Mih-ther, my dear sweet little Mih-the, were rare, quick eruptions easily forgotten, skirmishes for equality and the defeat of ignorance. We often were told that we looked alike, and as much as I loved the compliment, her slenderness was rounded, not angular like mine; her nose was perfect, and I could rest my chin on her head. We both wore our hair short now, but there our resemblance ended. Our rhythms, however, were in harmony ninety-nine percent of the time, our spirits free and adventurous and, unlike dear Daddy-O, she too loved to gallery hop, lunch and hunt through boutiques.

Mih-the lost her parents when she was only three. Thought of her orphanage hollowed my heart, heating my eyes with tears, that pain excruciating now that the orphan state threatened me.

I wouldn’t have been chosen had I not had extraordinary parents. I had to know this state of unconditional love in order to be valuable to my new employer. Blanche and Clarence were the heart of my soul. We were bonded by blood, intellect and emotion rooted in love in its most positive form. The Messiah was giving me the language to create a path to unconditional love that others could follow.

“You are the best parents ever, ever ever! Thank you for giving me art lessons, and art school and horses, and everything, everything, everything else! And as soon as I get home, I’m going to paint again!”

My parents squeezed my hands as one. My mother said she had some sketch books and crayons around for the kids. I was in the best place I possibly could be. My body had broken down yet again and, as in the good old days, my parents were making it easy for me to recover. And now my heart was fine, never better. My heart recovered from heartbreak because my parents had, from my beginning, ensured that I knew I was loved without question.

GET THAT IN WRITING.

I hugged my Creators and kissed them goodnight.

As the first touch of dawn seeped through the curtained windows, I went to the kitchen for coffee and found my father at the table. His sleep-tossed hair waved white above his dark mustache, which Mih-the and I still teased him about, begging him to shave it.

He looked at me, then at his watch, shook his head and smiled. "Why are you up so early?" He hugged me.

I had to sit down.

He brought coffee to the table and sat across from me.

"How were the latest CAT scans?" My voice was steady, wasn’t it?

"Your mother and I were issued clean bills of health," he said proudly, using his hand to flatten his hair. "So, now that you're up, how about a little breakfast?"

"It's much too early to eat!"

“There's no time like the present to start gaining weight."

"Later," I said, grabbing a bottle of seltzer from the fridge, dropping a kiss on his cheek on the way back to my room.

"Patrick-a . . . "

I turned back to say, "When I've finished The Book, I'll eat your cupboards bare, and that's a promise!" The set of his mouth told me he wasn't appeased. "I'll breakfast with Mih-the when she wakes up." He sighed but let me go.

I picked up last night's end of The Book.

Possibilities were infinite.

There was nothing I couldn't do, no one I couldn't be.

Liquid fire sexual non-sexual crying care for everyone, everything poured through me and into words on paper. I couldn't bear such intensity, this warmth that almost burned, this ecstasy, this knowledge.
I left the typewriter and opened the curtains and the view across the street of an island of sawtooth grass surrounding the swimming pool and clubhouse. Why was I chosen, and not Maggie, or Michael? We had the same wonderful Creators. I was close to the answer when Mih-therer said, "Are you ready for Dr. Richard? We leave in ten minutes."

"I will be."

Excitement mounted. He’d be awed and honored to act as consult for The Book. I pulled a flowing white dress from a hanger. It was pure and simple, a proper vestment. I gathered The Book's pages and slid them into the Gucci bag.

In the car, the urge to smoke shortened my breath, made it difficult to get enough air. “Are you not impressed that I quit cigarettes?"

"So why aren't you eating more to compensate?" Father asked, reiterating his new favorite theme.

"We're both proud of you, dear," my mother said quickly. "It's hard to stop smoking — I should know." She'd quit ten years ago after her first heart attack, but she still snuck an occasional smoke, despite cancer.

I looked out the window. The sky was pale, a blend of blue and grey. Puffs of sunlit clouds floated in the east; to the west, dramatic black thunderheads rose from the horizon.

The sky appeared to be split in two.



*******************************************************************************
September 3rd 6:57 A.M. – 7:01 A.M.




NEVER, NEVER FORGET

THIS UNIVERSAL TRUTH:

SENSE OF SECURITY

DEFINES WHY INDIVIDUALS DO WHAT THEY DO.

SELF-DOUBT BEGETS MISCOMMUNICATION =

ARCHITECT OF FAILURE.

CHAPTER EIGHT

The doctor must have been waiting by the door, because it opened before my father could touch it. I was disappointed to find a young-looking, squeaky-clean man rather than my vision of a white-haired man of distinction. As he opened the door wide and motioned us to come into what looked like a waiting room, his glasses reflected the light; his hair was red and fringed the back of his head; his clean-shaven skin was clear and freckled.

He’d gone to medical school with my cousin, which automatically made him one of the good ones. He must know his field. He would substantiate The Book. Love coursed through me, warming, enriching, inviting.

I followed him into his cream and brown office, barely restraining my sudden bursting desire to dance. Anticipation was hard on me. Always was. Dr. Richard would be so grateful to act as consult on The Book, hard as it was to stop working on it to see him.

From the depths of his brown corduroy couch, I presented him with the manuscript.

"Let's start with your medical history," he said, looking at me intently, and with warmth and interest.

"But The Book — "

"We'll get to it later," he promised. “So what was going on with you that you were hospitalized twice this summer?”

"In June, I had a hysterectomy. Then peritonitis, aaaaand thennnn — "

"Why did you need the hysterectomy?"

"Why would anyone need one? I'll tell you: guilt. Yes, that's right." I watched him make another note. "Know why I know it was guilt?" He nodded his head up and down. "I had my tubes tied after an abortion. Seven months later, my body started to bleed. There's your guilt. Guilt is the strongest emotion of all. It made my body bleed for . . . "

Revelation brought me to my feet in a sweep of excitement. "Nine months! I bled, not because of the abortion, but because I rejected the right to bear children! I'll never fall in love again, I don't believe that kind of love is for me anymore, and now, NOWWWW, oh yes! Love will save the world. We must love Wo/mankind as a whole,” I said, slashing the air between ‘Wo’ and ‘man’; we must be in and of a Humane Society — names are so important. Maybe we humans should be numbered instead of named, since names as well as skin color and religion still incite prejudice." I slid back down into the sofa, wriggling a little to gain more comfort, absorbed by my nesting instinct.

"I'm interested in your philosophy, Patricia, but right now I'd like to know what caused you to bleed."

"Pathology found nothing — that's why I know it was guilt!"

He leaned back in his chair and ran a hand through his hair then rubbed the bare top of his head. He lowered his hand and said, "I'm not as sure as you seem to be that guilt caused you to bleed, but we'll go into that later. Now, when was the operation?"

"June twenty-first. Let's talk about The Book!"

"Let's take this in sequence: what happened after the operation?"

"Peritonitis powered me back into the hospital, that's what happened — I never felt pain like that before, not even the night my intestine strangled my appendix — "

"Your — when was that?"

"Eons ago, I was twenty-four . . . "

"I'm sorry you've had such — " His lulling tone opened me to my new higher power and I forgot about him until I heard him say something like —

" — long were you in the hospital for peritonitis?"

I sat up straight before answering. "Ten days. Payment for daring to take my life in my own hands again, or should I say, my body, but," I pounded the armrest, "I can handle anything now! Anything," I repeated and laughed. I bounced in place and hugged myself.

"Let's stick with peritonitis." He leaned toward me.

I leaned back, fidgeting. "I thought I'd die before dawn, but I made it, I got rid of it. It made pneumonia seem like a cold — "

"Pneumonia?"

"Mother Nature gave that to me after a plastic surgeon reduced my chest size from forty-twos to thirty-eights. Peritonitis was far worse than pneumonia, until they slid an IV into my arm with enough drugs to send me to the moon on my own! Suddenly I was flying! And pouf! No more pain. I wasn't so happy once they cut down the dose, pretty depressed in fact to be stuck in that depressing place for another century, but freedom from guilt was worth it!"

"Then what happened?"

"I couldn't stay awake, and then, and then! I began to write a bestseller! This one," I declared, holding up the shopping bag. "Here, read it now. It's rough, I can't type as fast as, well, it's a first draft and you'll get a good idea of the direction it's taking. Here," I repeated, leaning toward him, the bag swinging from my outstretched hand.

"I'm sorry, Patricia. There's no time to read it today. Are you on any medication now?"

"Synthroid. My thyroid conked out in l969. I gave up on Valium eons ago — fifty milligrams couldn't put me to sleep . . . "

"Why do you have Valium?"

"It helps me sleep when my motor races. Whiplash taught me its value — that pain in the neck was worth finding something that could put me to sleep as needed."

"When did that happen?"

"Ten years ago. Ten! Throughout 1971, I took a daily dose of five milligrams of Valium four times a day, four Percodan’s and eight muscle relaxers!"

"Did you have any problems withdrawing from any of those drugs?"

"Why, no! The doc said stop the pills, and I did, all but the Valium."

"How often do you take that?"

"Any work night I'm too revved up to sleep . . . sometimes once a month, sometimes every night of the week. It depends on my level of anxiety or excitement."

"We'll also explore your use of Valium later." He recapped the pen, he uncapped it. "Any other surgery?"
"Yes. Yes! Lots! And always, almost always, followed by major infection."

I didn't want to think about hospitals, but he seemed intent on getting that information. "My body isn't a temple, it's a battleground." I finished the list. "Emergency surgery's best — no time to get crazy waiting."

I ran out of breath, gulped air, fought need for nicotine.

"Did you experience mental or emotional changes after any of your surgeries?"

"I think it was art school that made me so high after the breast reduction — imagine living in Manhattan, no curfew, an apartment, life painting and drawing classes every day, every day learning more by practicing my art and . . . boys — men . . . "

"You've had more than your fair share of surgery."

"That's why . . . " Yes! Now I knew why I had been chosen and not Maggie, not Michael. "The Book's about love. Here! Read it now!"

"I promise I'll read it later, but right now I need to speak to your parents. Please ask them to come in, and have a seat in the waiting room till we call you, okay?" He stood and opened the door.

The furniture in that small space looked uncomfortable. I stretched out on the rug, my head resting on the white sleeve of my dress. My blood raced in outrage. How dare he ignore The Book? Why else would I be here? Obviously he had no idea with whom he was dealing.

My new boss summoned me. And then the doctor.

I went to the couch and into my Mother's arms; my father sat in an armchair; the doctor was still at his desk. Their silence felt ominous. What could they have talked about? Mother squeezed my hand. I was safe, happy, thrilled, ecstatic: the doctor would validate my revelations at last.

“You," he said mildly, peering at me over his glasses, "are in the midst of a full-blown manic episode."

His words hit like an electric shock, jerking my body about. Mother’s arms tightened around me, but that didn’t prevent my voice from hitting high notes as I fell back on her chest and laughed as a full-blown anything sailed across my mind. I laughed until rage broke my mother’s hold on me and sent me to my feet. "Don't you dare even think about trying to make me another loony statistic — you haven't a prayer." Why weren't my parents objecting? "I'm in the midst of full-blown creativity — I'm in the midst of writing The Book that will save the world with love!" The sympathy of his expression made my blood boil, it took my breath, it clenched my hands into fists.

"Manic-depressive Disorder — "

"I know what that is — my first lover was a lithium guinea pig in some clinic in Detroit. If he didn't like the way his hair was cut, he'd stay in bed until it grew out — don't you dare slap a label like that on me! Why, I'm, I'm . . . " I wanted to throw something at him, anything to shake his poise. "Let's leave," I said, turning to my parents.

"Hear the doctor out, Patricka," my father said.

They were on his side.

But the Messiah was on mine. I faced the doctor. "Read this now, Dr. Richard," I commanded, holding out the shopping bag. "It's the only reason I'm here — but hey! You weren't chosen, you were given." I yanked The Book out of his range.

How could my cousins send me to this man? Unless . . . The thought rolled through my mind louder, louder — I clapped my hands above my head, trying to silence the reverberation of that awful possibility.

My mother flinched. My father and the doctor remained still.

"Stop!" I cried.

The doctor cocked his head slightly, his brown eyes glinting behind their glass shield. He pursed his lips.

"Ready to change your mind?" I challenged.

His watchful silence further enraged me. "You must believe you've some divine right to the psyche, a license to divide people into two camps — one sane, one insane. What are you? A Hitler of the mind? Next you'll try to lock me up. Hah! Don't you know who I am?" I paused for breath, expelling it in spurts. "Have you ever seen lightening sever a man's face in half so that he can watch himself smile from across the street? You better . . . " My body went limp. It trembled, it twitched. My mother shifted beneath me. "If you've nothing more to say, I'm leaving," I declared, staring into the doctor's eyes, daring him to stop me.

"Patricia, I understand why you feel this way. Let me help you." His tone was gentle, soft and soothing, taming; sound not meaning.

I found myself drifting in his direction. Mother stroked my hair as she had in doctors' offices throughout my childhood. Father re-crossed his legs.

I heard myself say, "You're right about my having a problem. But it's physical, not mental. I did too much too soon after surgery. I did it! And I can fix it. I don't need your help. I already have all the help I'll ever need."

He adjusted his glasses. "As it happens, Patricia, you do have a physical problem. You're suffering from exhaustion and malnutrition. But," he leaned toward me, "the state of your body has been caused by the state of your mind. The chemicals in your brain have unbalanced and that affects your emotions and your perceptions, it — "

"How dare you! I may have felt better, but I've never thought this clearly before. I now have the formula to end world hungers, all of them, ALL of them! Only when mind, heart and body live free and safe can creativity resolve poverty both financial and spiritual. Only when the hearts of Fe/MaleKind are ALL in the right place, only then will greed be for only good, better, best for the greatest number!" I drew air deep into my lungs. There was nothing manic about my mission . . . "Stop trying to make me a case for your files. Sleep and food, that's all I need. That's all."

"Not eating and not sleeping are part of it," he continued relentlessly. "The brain operates like a computer, but it's far more sophisticated. It lets you know when you need to eat, to sleep, to run. It defines perceptions of reality. When brain chemicals become unstable, physical, mental and emotional needs are modified, redefined, changed — the body suffers, as well as the mind. Do you understand?"

"Of course," I snapped. "But that doesn't apply to me. I love what I'm doing, thinking . . . Why, I've never, ever, ever been happier! Not ever, never, ever . . . " My voice sailed on into inaudibility.

"That's one of the more insidious qualities of mania. I'll bet my reputation that you've never been more creative, nor experienced more energy."

"That’s true, but it's time for me to be better than ever! I'm thirty-eight! I’m not getting younger . . . It's time for my lessons to be put to good use. It's time . . . " I clutched Mother's hand and pumped it for emphasis.

"That's a reasonable assumption," he answered. "But you can't function for long without food and sleep."

"I know that," I cried in frustration. "I'm eating and sleeping more now than in weeks!"

"Manic-depressive disorder is a legacy of ancestors," he persisted. "And you're in good company, Patricia. Winston Churchill, Hemingway, Van Gogh, Abe Lincoln are just a few of the world’s historic figures who had manic-depression, and the list goes on, and — "

"I've nothing in common with them — read the book, then judge me. You've no right to say anything until you do."

He looked at me sharply.

"What's the matter, afraid you'll have to eat your diagnosis?"

"No," he replied in that soft calm tone I was beginning to despise. "I'll read it as soon as there's time. I promise." His eyes dropped to his notes then returned to me. "You mentioned anxiety attacks. Do you have them often?"

"Is that significant?"

“Not if you've had a history of them."

"Well, I haven't," I said grudgingly. "But the attacks were brought on by not sleeping or eating. You should know that — or do you suspect more sinister origins?"

"Not sinister, but I believe your anxiety was caused by imbalanced brain chemicals. So, here it is: I want you to start medication today."

How did I get from being the Messiah's vessel to being the main event in a manic episode? No. The doctor was wrong. Wrong. WRONG!

"I want you to take lithium to stabilize your brain, and Thorazine to help you sleep," he outlined calmly, opening a drawer, withdrawing a small pad.

I watched him fill out two sheets. I watched him deliver the prescriptions to my mother.

As my parents stood, I found my voice. "I have no time to slow down! I must write faster, faster, more and more. I know those drugs you want me to take. I know they turn minds into mush."

My parents’ continued silence must mean that they must believe the doctor . . .

The Messiah murmured and the surge of His strength fed mine. "Dr. Richard? I'll deal: I'll take the pills only if I cannot sleep six hours a night and gain three pounds in a week. Just one week. That's reasonable."

He shook his head. "No, Patricia, no deals. I'm sorry. You have a chemical imbalance that must be balanced before you can sleep. You must start medication today. And, you'll need blood tests every three days until the lithium registers therapeutic levels. After that, once a week will be enough until the dose stabilizes. Eventually, you'll need only quarterly maintenance checks. Here's a prescription for Friday's test."

On top of wanting to drug me insensible, he wanted to suck my blood like some vampire in horn-rims.

I wished it were winter. I could bury myself in sweaters and pull the wool over my eyes.


*********************************************************************************
Messages October 4th 5:11 PM – 5:29 PM


DOCTORS ONCE WERE GODS, BRINGING LIFE AND SAVING IT.

CHICKEN LITTLE WAS RIGHT.

CHAPTER NINE


Wordless and weary, I entered my parents' kitchen and took a gray and yellow lithium capsule.

Guilty by association.

Not guilty. By association.

GET BACK TO WORK.

I headed for the typewriter, waving to my parents as I left them.

Sometime later, my father opened the door, startling me — I was so used to living alone and so absorbed by my work that I forgot I wasn’t at home. He started to speak — something beep-beeped. He held up his watch and said, “I’ve come to get you and as my watch just said, it’s time for dinner.” His watch fostered images of divers and astronauts. I touched each of its knobs and said, "What do all these stems and extra numbers do?"

"It’s a stop watch, a dinner bell — we’re late!" He grabbed my hand and we walked down the long windowless hall linking the bedrooms, turning right into the sun-filled hall that divided the living room and library, passed the front door and ended in a left into Mother’s dream kitchen. A bay of three windows rose above the sink, looking out into the screened terrace and its comfortable rattan furniture and handsome glass-topped dining table and chairs. Beyond the terrace lay lush tropical grass, shrubs, flowers and the canal beyond. Entry to the terrace was through sliding glass doors, one wall of the breakfast nook. On the terrace side of the middle bay window above the sink was a built-in white counter top and high-backed rattan stools.

Before we entered my mother’s favorite place, I whispered, "Can I wear your watch tonight?" It would be a well-timed, twenty-four hour hug from my dear, dear sweet Daddy-O.

"It's yours," he said. He adjusted it, slipped it over my hand, closed the clasp. It felt weighty and I felt immediately stronger.

Once they understood the stakes, my parents would save me from the doctor.

“Patrick-a, let's eat, after which I'll show you how to work the watch . . ."

The bottle of lithium loomed beside my water glass. I took one and set the bottle on the counter out of sight. I ate rapidly, rinsed my plate, knife and fork, put them in the dishwasher, excused myself and, before they had a chance to say anything, I hurried back to my room.

Sometime later, my father knocked on the door and swung it open. Would I never get used to being in Florida?

“You look like you just saw a ghost,” he said and smiled. Then he explained step by step how the watch worked. He fished in a pocket and withdrew a small manual on the watch, handing it to me.

He left and I returned to transcribing The Word.

Another knock startled me, breaking the flow of priceless communication. Mih-the entered bearing one of her fine cotton nightgowns and the sweater I'd asked to borrow. It was the soft thick cashmere cardigan in beige that had warmed her for as far back as I could remember.

She stretched out on the bed and clasped her forearms above her head. She looked so comfortable and so beautiful, I just couldn’t believe she’d endured one heart attack, one congestive heart failure, one breast sacrificed to cancer — what else could happen to her? Not knowing was the hub of my fear.

“Honey?” My dear short Mih-therer sounded as if I’d missed my cue. But she could not have just said that I should start smoking again.

Yet in fact she had, another “coincidence.” It had become increasingly difficult to restrain myself from opening my “emergency” pack and lighting up a cigarette.

“Mother definitely knows best on this one,” I said over my shoulder, as I looked in the closet for my suitcase, found the pack, stripped off its cellophane, plucked out a cigarette, lit it, inhaled it over and over, healing the wound of abstinence.

What a buzz! Electric invigoration, but dizzying.

I happily typed and smoked for hours. My watch said that it was almost eleven. After watching the news, my parents turned out their lights. I went to say good night to them and then changed into Mih-the’s nightgown and sweater, pushing up the left sleeves to give room to Daddy-O’s watch. I also brought to bed a pen, The Book, and a yellow pad, which I immediately propped up against my raised knees. As I wrote, the paper beneath my hand felt cool and smooth, like silk.

The back of my hand captured my attention. I couldn’t stop staring at its pulsing, blue-green veins. Tangible proof of my existence. The Book . . .

My mind was fine. I was cold because . . . because I was too tired and too thin, not because I was scared. Not because the doctor seemed bent on destroying the most important work the world would ever know.

Not because I was scared. But fear rooted deep, and it was hot and throbbing, unlike the breathless icy terror of panic. I had great reason to fear for my mind, given my new doctor’s defamation, and the silence of my parents that had followed his declaration.

I wrapped Mother's sweater more tightly around me, comforted by its soft warmth and lingering perfume, and by the unfamiliar weight of my father's watch. I collected the pen that Jess had left on my table the day before yesterday — no. It was much longer ago than that.

But it wasn't.

Jessie's pen was both symbol and substance of her loving, helpful, encouraging kindred spirit. In my left hand I gripped Jake's lighter. These items made love tangible, no less real than my new employer.

I flipped the top page over and shivered as I drew a line down the fresh sheet of paper. On the left side of the line, I found myself drawing circles and entering into them the names of family and friends. Then I drew a circle around them all. My eye rested on the line between right and left sides of the page and anger swiftly drew a box and in it, inserted the name of the doctor.

I studied the right side of the diagram, and then shifted to the left.

At the top of the doctor's side, I wrote DISORDER and slashed an arrow from the word to his name. I drew another box around his name, then another, and another. "Let's have no more of this manic talk, doc, it's far too depressing. Not now, not tomorrow, not ever."

I slashed a line through his name. “You're cut off, Doc.”

If my body would only slow down long enough to let me fall asleep, I could begin to get my health back right now.

I watched my body shake as I wrestled with the spin of joy and snaking fear that today’s session with the doctor had instigated.

I turned out the light and closed my eyes. But the power of my energy coursed through me, my blood hot and racing, filling me with the need to work. I turned the light back on and returned to the typewriter. It was three-forty AM. I worked until nature called. Then I tried to sleep again, to no avail. I remembered the doctor’s second prescription, to help me get to sleep, he’d said. The label on the bottle of Thorazine directed me to take as many as desired.

Since when did patients determine the dose? I shook out a few tiny beige wafers. They looked so innocuous that I decided one wouldn't be enough; two still didn’t seem to be enough, and since three was a holy number in my book, I shook out one more and took them.

My holy trinity was KNOWLEDGE, LOVE AND LUCK. Yes! I’d never had a holy trinity till now.

The number nine is holiest of holy, three threes, triple knowledge, love and luck.

As I wrote that message down, the tips of my fingers radiated heat and danced along the yellow pad’s lines, forging The Truth.

Refilling my glass in the black marble bathroom, I remembered the little beige pills. It had been a while since I’d taken them, yet nothing had changed, which for some reason left me vaguely disappointed.

I returned to my mission, again absorbed by the brilliance of the prose I transcribed.

When I again put down my pen, I couldn’t get rid of my thoughts about the doctor and his drugs.

Ah, but it didn’t matter what my parents and the doctor did, I’d be fine. Nothing could harm me again. This abiding clear sure safety accompanied the words spilling from the tip of my pen, keys to love for me and the world.

It was almost five when I again turned out the light. My body took the fetal position and I closed my eyes, comforted by love within and without.

But I'd failed to secure a consult for The Book. And according to a psychiatrist, I was “in the midst of a full-blown manic episode.”

I buried my head under the pillow. I couldn’t stand this. Why would a friend of the family say such a thing if he didn’t believe it?

Perhaps I was dreaming because suddenly I was sixteen again and on the back of Shelagh, the Irish thoroughbred love of my life. How I loved that mare, her spirit, her heart, her burnished fine-boned carriage. I could almost feel the soft air of that summer afternoon, the sun hot, the breeze cooling. Shelagh and I were executing flying lead changes at the crux of figure eight circles. We were getting bored with that exercise when our trainer Sloan yelled something. Shelagh seemed happy to stop and I looked for him.

There he was, across the paddock, leaning against the 1949 Ford rusting on its hubs near the hay barn behind the stable; he was with a man in a suit. Motioning me to come in, he bellowed, "Trot her to the gate, start a gallop, and head her over this car. And Let Her Go!" He boomed the last order and slapped the man on the back as they stepped away from the car.

"You're kidding!" I cried, eyeing the fat tall curves of the Ford.

"SEND HER!" he roared.

When we passed the gate, I signaled Shelagh forward and aimed her at the dusty dark blue hulk of metal. Her ears swept forward and I could feel her heart pump as she struck the stride that led to takeoff. "It's all yours, girl," I whispered, rising out of the saddle, loosening the reins, grabbing mane high on her neck. I closed my eyes as she rocketed us into the air, soaring into the sky. In flight, I glanced down on an endless rain-dusted sheet of metal, quickly shutting my eyes again, trusting the powers of my partner.


“Good trip," Sloan casually said, lights dancing in his eyes as he took the reins at Shelagh’s chin and slapped her shoulder a few times with pride and affection.

I swung my right leg over the saddle to dismount and next I knew, I was lying on the ground, and he was dragging me to my feet, slapping me on the back.

Dr. Richard was a different kind of 1949 Ford. That thought brought me to sleep, fitful and short-lived.

I awoke again to the memory of the doctor’s claim that I was crazy. But I wasn’t. I didn’t couldn’t have manic-depression.

How did he get that idea?

I got up and doused my face with cold water and looked down the hall to my parents' room; darkness edged their half-open door. I went back to bed then jumped out again to add more blankets. I huddled beneath their weight, the fan blades stroking cool air across my face. At some point, I slept.

The next time I awoke, I felt refreshed. I brushed my teeth and returned to the typewriter.

When my parents stirred, I dressed in white and joined them in the kitchen.

With their eyes upon me, I announced, "The Book's ready for you now.” Once they read it, they'd put a halt to medical interference.

"I will, right after my golf game," Father said, kissing my cheek on his way to the door.

"It's the first draft, so it's pretty rough."

"If I can read the words, it can't be too rough," he said and hugged me.

"I'll read it the minute he's finished," Mih-the said.

I relaxed. Soon my Creators would laugh that doc right out of my life.

After lunch, my father took The Book to his office and I entered my room to write.

A short time later he was at my door. "Patrick-a? I'm afraid I can't read this," he said, holding out the stack of sheets, misery in his eyes.

"Why?" My heart was so loud that I feared I wouldn't hear his reply.

"I can't follow all your arrows and scribbles. You've not only written over the type, you've written over your own handwriting . . . I'm sorry."

I understood his difficulty, but he didn't seem to understand mine. He looked so unhappy that I heard myself saying, "Don't worry, Daddy-O, you can read it in hardcover."

I found Mih-the resting on her bed.

Her eyes opened; she smiled.

"I've brought you The Book!"

She took the manuscript and went to curl up in a library wing chair. While she read, I worked, bringing her the latest pages. At last she put them down, slid glasses up into her hair, and said: "Time for tea."

Over cold cuts and cheeses, she said the book seemed to cover everything I'd ever thought about and learned. Her smile was tender. She never mentioned the Messiah. That night I had to push that memory away again and again until sleep took me away.

Sometime after four, I woke up screaming, in my head or out loud — I couldn't tell. I stared into the darkness, my eyes stinging as I strained to see. Neon flecks vibrated against a wavering black ground, out of which the doctor loomed. His hands were immense, one finger huge and pointing at me. In a magnified voice, he accused me of madness, he denied me my mind. Closer he came, carrying a prescription pad the size of a billboard, so big, all I could see was the top of his head and those swollen grasping hands.

The doctor was the nightmare. His prescriptions would take the life out of life.

My eyes burned from straining in the dark. My throat closed — I couldn't get any air. I couldn’t breathe . . .

I tumbled out of bed and stumbled to the wall, flipped the fan switch to high, staggered to the typewriter and dropped into my chair. I turned it on and humming words of love flowed onto paper.

The next time I surfaced, I noticed the time and joined my parents in the kitchen.

That afternoon, I answered the phone in my father's office, which also served as another guestroom.

It was Jess.

I told her about the doctor and his diagnosis. I implored her to ask Stan to check out Dr. Richard. She said not to worry, that I was lucky to have more time for my book, and more time with my parents. Then she regaled me with stories from Chicago and said she'd call again soon.

After we hung up, I realized she hadn't seemed surprised to learn about the doctor, or his diagnosis.

I sat back in my father's chair, my eyes wandering across the books that filled the bookcase on the wall above his desk. The Merck Manual of Medicine stood out. I thumbed through the index and found what I wanted tucked between mammoplasty and Mantoux test, whatever that was. The definition of my alleged mania read:

Paranoia; psychosis; refusal to accept disorder; acute mood elevation; loss of reality; accelerated thought, speech and muscular activity; inability to eat and sleep; grandiose perception; extravagant expenditures . . .

I understood the doctor's mistake. He'd taken my lack of sleep and food and parlayed them into a psychotic break of manic-depressive proportions.

What did Merck say about the drugs?

Lithium, merely a salt, has no effect on the unaffected yet balances imbalanced brain chemicals, acting as both a tranquilizer and a conductor toward normality . . .
Lithium can become toxic and result in a coma. . . .

I could see the coma coming. And Thorazine?

An anti-psychotic commonly used to restore emotional calm and relieve severe anxiety —

I replaced the book and gripped the shelf it rested on. I didn't know whether to hold my head first, or my stomach. The word anti-psychotic tumbled on and on in mind-numbing repetition.

The second day on Dr. Richard’s pills, my mouth dried up, causing me to sip my drink every few seconds. The third day, the sound of hovering mosquitoes buzzed my ears. By the fourth day, or the fifth, my hands started shaking. At eighty-seven, my grandmother’s main complaint was the fact her hands shook. She no longer could knit, cook, clean. She filled a glass only halfway.

My body might be thirty-eight, but it felt like eighty-seven.

Before the first week on lithium ended, nausea ruined my dinner. At my mother's insistence, I called Dr. Richard. Take lithium after meals.

He was right.

Time passed at the typewriter, at meals with my parents, sometimes joined by their friends, and in a few hours of nightly sleep.

The further time took me from Dr. Richard, the better I felt.


********************************************************************
Message Fall 1981


BREAK THROUGH TO HAPPINESS

WITH SELF-KNOWLEDGE

WITHOUT SELF-DOUBT.






CHAPTER TEN

"Okay, Datsun," my father said at breakfast.

“The ‘We are driven!’ car!”

"So stop driving that typewriter morning, noon and night! You're here to recover, not to drive yourself sick. And Patricka, how about finding more time for your mother and me — "

Tears flooded my eyes, overflowed, hot, wet tracks down my cheeks.

"You know you can't take everything I say so literally!" He leaned over, lifted my chin and smiled into my eyes. "You know we love you — but from now on," he shook a finger at me, his eyes loving, his mouth in a happy frame, "turn off that typewriter by ten every night. Agreed?"

"No problem!"

"You look better since you've gained a few ounces," Mother said. "But . . . "

"To quote one of Daddy-O's favorites: a hundred times zero is still zero! What do you think of Dr. Richard? You can’t believe him and still include me in your social life. If you thought I were crazy, you'd lock me up, wouldn't you — would you?"

"Datsun! Give us a chance to answer your first question!" My father rarely raised his voice.

"We think Dr. Richard can help you," my mother said. "And why would we keep you from our friends?"

"Do you believe Dr. Richard?"

"I believe in you, dear," she softly said.

"So if you thought I was crazy, you'd put me away?"

“Don't worry so much — just concentrate on getting better."

"And what's your opinion, O Daddy-O?"

"Me?" He pointed to his chest with not quite suppressed amusement. "I agree with your mother — don't I always?"

Relieved that we'd resolved that issue, I retreated to my room.

That night I couldn't stop writing at ten. By two AM, guilt weighted me. I wrote my father a note, speaking the words as I spelled them on paper:

"LETTER TO YOU MY LOVING FATHER FROM ME YOUR LOVING CREATION TO EXPLAIN WHY I CANNOT ABIDE BY YOUR REQUEST THAT I STOP WRITING BY TEN P.M.:

“COMMUNICATING THE ESSENCE OF MY WHYS FOR BREAKING DOWN MY PHYSICAL SELF BEFORE BREAKING THROUGH TO THE TOTALITY OF MY INTERNAL SELF-KNOWLEDGE TO UNDERSTAND THE POWER OF MY EXTERNAL SELF-KNOWLEDGE TO EXPERIENCE THE TOTALITY OF OVERPOWERING FEELINGS OF MY POSITIVE, EVER-INCREASING RUSH TO LEARN WHAT IT IS THAT I KNOW, AND IN SO DOING, ALMOST SELF-DESTRUCTING MY PHYSICAL SELF IN THE PROCESS AND THEN FINALLY UNDERSTANDING THE ESSENCE OF MYSELF AND THUS LIFE. I LOVE YOU . . . I LOVE MOTHER AND I UNDERSTAND MY LOVE — MY POWERFUL POSITIVE LOVE FOR YOU, MY DEAR CREATORS."

I put the folded piece of blue-lined yellow paper on the sink in the bathroom, the first place he went in the morning.

* * *

"Hello, Dr. Richard," I intoned with prepared congeniality. He would change his mind about me. I made myself relax in the chair next to his desk.

"You seem better today," he said, smiling above a cream-colored tie and plaid shirt.

"Of course I'm better — I'm eating, I’m sleeping — If you really think I’m manic, why do you see me only once a week?"

"My schedule's tight. If you were living alone, I'd have someone else see you more frequently."

"Here’s The Book," I said and held out the bag.

"Perhaps later. I'm not avoiding it, but we have a lot of ground to cover today." He looked me in the eye and added, "I'll read it. I promise."

"What ground shall we cover now?" How easy it was to mask my annoyance with him.

"Why don't you start with the milestones in your life."

"Milestones? Or millstones? I've had plenty of both."

"Your choice."

"When I was twenty-five, I asked my doctor for a prescription for sleeping pills, more than enough to — of course I didn't do it." His mouth smiled, but his eyes didn't. "As my dear mother says, in for a penny, in for a pound: Unrequited love almost did me in. After a twenty-minute silent, motionless ascent in the express car to the twenty-sixth floor, I was so glad the doors opened and saw the MGM logo and colleagues that I threw away those pills." Just thinking about that heartbreak and that ride sickened me with pain and fear. Tears slipped from my eyes until another thought dammed them: "Love is the most powerful emotion, more powerful than hate — if you’re lucky, definitely more powerful than guilt. But love also creates fear of rejection, fear of death, fear . . . Love is the most uplifting killing feeling there is."

He zeroed in on my eyes, still silent.

"What do you think of love? Of hate?"

Not one muscle flickered, his silent stare unwavering, as if he hadn’t heard my questions, which infuriated me.

"What do you think of POSITIVITY? Negativity? Internal/external views? What? What do you think? Or don’t you think at all?" I was so angry that I was shaking.

"I'll answer your questions, but first, I’d like to hear more about your suicidal experience. Okay?"

That made sense to me, and anger evaporated. "Evidently I lost my identity when I fell for my first presumed true love, because when he changed his mind about marriage, I was overcome by that unbearable pain of loss, the future and the present suddenly non-existent. Death would save me from that hell. But, now I understand why I didn’t die in 1968. I’ve been given a mission! There’s no greater joy than helping people to help themselves — the book, Doctor, this is what’s important about me."

"I agree with you, and I'm sorry you had to go through that heartbreak, but I need to know more about you before I can read your book, okay?”

“Patience isn’t one of my virtues, not yet, anyway. Let’s get it over with and on to the essence of why we’re meeting.”

“How long after surgery did you buy the sleeping pills?"

"Maybe six weeks, two months — I don’t know. That pain, that decimating power of my broken heart was unbearable. It was just so hard to concentrate on work — I was assisting the creative director on MGM’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is where I met Arthur C. Clark, Stanley Kubrick — Arthur C. needs to read The Book and comment on it, also."

"You’ve led an interesting life. And it may be that the stress of surgery made you feel that depth of pain, which more likely was a suicidal depression."

His words shocked me. I’d never thought about my need to die as an illness. I never thought about it. Back then, there was every reason to die when Jimmy took our future away without warning.

The creaking sound of Dr. Richard leaning back in his chair brought my attention back to him before he said, "Did you ever tell your doctor that you wanted to die?"

"It never occurred to me to tell anyone. In any event, a month or two later, I did tell him that I had trouble staying awake. After getting the results of my tests, he put me on thyroid pills."

Dr. Richard leaned forward and aimed his pen at me. "And were you also overweight?"

"Yes, nor could I focus on anything."

"I suspect your doctor confused symptoms of depression with thyroid deficiency. When you're feeling better, we'll talk about your thyroid."

Fury iced me as he opened up a manila file and noted something on the top sheet of paper. "And Patricia, should you need major surgery again, please ask your doctor to increase your lithium dose accordingly. If you're not taking it, start it a few weeks beforehand. This is important, Patricia."

"It isn't as important as you think," I retorted. "Lithium hasn’t done anything to me at all. Neither has Thorazine. They’re worthless — once you've read The Book, I know you'll take me off them. Read The Book, Dr. Richard. Don't talk to me. Everything you need to know is in that book. Read it now."

"Patricia, the prescriptions are helping you. And I want you to take a fifth lithium starting today."

"I don't need any of it! NOW, in the ninth month of my thirty-eighth year, I'm experiencing the most intense TOTAL HAPPINESS ever! Because I finally made all the connections between my positive and negative relationships — with myself and everyone else. I've removed the last of my self-doubt! But you think I need lithium. That's crazy — I've never been better!"

"Have you experienced anxiety in the past week?"

"Not really, not like before — I'm just so happy — except . . . "

"Except?"

"You’re treating me for a mental illness."

"Yes, and you said you have less anxiety."

"Because I've been eating and sleeping --- physical not mental factors, not because of your pills."

"You are sleeping because the medicine has initiated the stabilization of your brain chemicals, Patricia." His tone was gentle.

"Are you telling me that intense feelings are abnormal?"

"To the extent that they keep you from sleeping and eating, yes."

"But I'm just so excited to finally figure myself out, to be writing, ah, a best-seller!"

"Yes, I can understand and appreciate the excitement of that. Keep taking the lithium and Thorazine."

In the waiting room, Mother looked up from a magazine, slipped her reading glasses into a case, tucked them in her bag. "Ready?"

"I have to feed the lion," I said, digging through my purse for the checkbook.

Maybe he’d read The Book next week.

I huddled against the car door and closed my eyes. I was the only one who believed in my sanity.

Me, and the Messiah.

* * *

Dr. Richard and I faced each other at his desk the following Tuesday. I spoke of reveal/ations and answers to questions. And he actually read some of The Book! Putting it back in the bag, he said, "You have some perceptive observations in here. I'd like to read more at another time."

"Perceptive? That's the only word you’d choose to describe the Messiah’s messages?"

"Tell me about your messiah."

He'd read some of the book. He'd praised it. He was a friend of family, and his interest and warmth felt real. And we needed him to validate The Book . . . "I’ve been transcribing His new Bible that will save the world with love."

"What does he look like?"

"He is everywhere and His presence fills me with soft humming and a golden warmth. Serenity, security, peace fill me when my body temporally forces me to stop typing His messages."

"That's a good way to feel."

"Wonderful! It's a wonderful way to live! You could feel this way all the time too if you harbored only love, if you always did your best, if you walked away from disharmony, or learned to live with it with the least cost to all concerned."

"What does he sound like?"

He was back on my Leader, who now filled my mind. "His messages are like music, flowing faster than I can type.”

“Do you ask why he’s leading you in a particular direction?”

“The only direction I question is my own, but I haven’t time for me. This new Bible has to get into print as soon as possible and put an end to genocide, killing of every kind degrades Fe/Malekind. It’s time for Love now and forever, the only power that can end wars everywhere."

"How long have you been working on this book?" Dr. Richard was leaning forward now, his interest intent, his hands open on his knees, inviting.

"I, I don't know — but His arrival scared the hell out of me!"

"Was that the only time you got scared?"

"No. The Messiah disappeared one day and I almost drowned in panic! Give me elevator malfunction any day! But my brother and friends talked to me until I found Him again and I haven't lost anything at all since — do I just stop the pills, or are they the kind one has to withdraw from?"

"I don't want you to stop taking them."

"But you know everything now! You can't want The Book stopped!"

"Are you writing now?"

"Yes, but to please my father, I agreed to write for only two hours in the morning, three in the afternoon, and complete shut-down by ten at night — he calls me Datsun!"

"Take the pills and keep working."

"But they'll make me stop writing. I know about these drugs. They'll turn me into a zombie!"

"They won't, Patricia. They'll help you to sleep, and eat. You'll begin to feel better and better — you're better already."

"Your pills have nothing to do with it — my parents are making me feel better — I agree with you that I was a little run down, but for good reason."

"Are you still experiencing any problems from the surgery?"

"No. That's done. I've paid any dues I may have accrued. I'm free. Just still a little weak."

"Are you eating well now?"

"Can't you tell?"

"You'll feel stronger soon," he assured me. "And the pills will help, along with good food and sleep."

The fact I liked Dr. Richard didn’t help much given his insistence that I continue to take the medication. But he was a doctor trained in the ways of the mind, a perfect consult for The Book. And, he liked The Book! When he read more, he'd use words like astounding and brilliant to describe the passages he'd read! "Maybe you could read a little more of The Book right now." I proffered the Gucci bag.

"Not this visit — but your output is impressive." He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes.

"Output! What about content? Output. I’m only the typist. Output. That’s all anybody could talk about when I was ten and wrote a story about a horse that my father’s secretary typed, which turned into one hundred single-spaced pages."

"Your output at ten also is impressive. What do you know about manic-depression?"

"Merck said lithium can induce coma. That's not a nice drug you put me on."

"The blood tests are making sure you won't get into trouble. And I've received the results from the last one: you're doing fine."

"What about Thorazine? Merck said it was an anti-psychotic." I glared at him.

"It's also a powerful tranquilizer. You need sleep . . . Remember my telling you that brain chemical imbalance can distort reality?"

"The reality of my reality is so clear, so pure, that if the world were to see as I do, it would be a perfect place."

"No doubt," he said earnestly. "But as you just pointed out, your reality is not that of the world's."

"That's why this work must be finished. This book will teach people to think as I do. Those drugs you’ve got me on will interfere with this mission."

"Have they interfered yet?"

"Stop twisting everything I say to fit your agenda." I lit a cigarette, sending out smoke in a long pointing stream. My composure was as fragile as that smoke.

"In mania, people can get so high that they fail to understand that they're harming themselves by not sleeping or eating. Have you made any large purchases lately?"

"Only for a wardrobe for the talk show tour I’ll be on as soon as The Book's published."

"I see . . . You’ve been off work since June, so there's no problem there."

"Work is the problem. It'll take too much time from Breaking Through to Happiness. But . . . How long do you think I can stay in Florida?"

"Another eight weeks or so, depending on how well you do."

"That long? That should be enough time to finish The Book." But what if it weren’t? Anxiety used its sharp claws on my insides.

"Definitely." He added that, if left untreated, the next stage of mania was acute paranoia, which could result in abandonment by family, friends and employer. Lacing his tale of imbalance was his repeated reference to loss of reality and an increase of anxiety.

Few words penetrated the gate I closed against him. The word depression kicked open that gate.

"Depression, repression, the fact is that suicide is the only answer when one can no longer bear the pain of grinding fear and the burn of terror and failure. From the downside, death is the womb that life seeks."

He took off his glasses and polished them. His eyes looked smaller, watery. Pig eyes.

The man was an insatiable pig, always rooting around disorder.

He replaced his glasses. His eyes looked human again. But on and on he went about the consequences of manic-depression, stating and restating that death could result if one didn’t take the medicine, sleep enough, on and on. I was sick of the subject, sick of him. I needed to get back to the typewriter.

" . . . your anxiety attack a few weeks ago?"

"What?"

"I think that attack was triggered by brain chemicals shifting toward normality, catching you between opposing visions."

Memory of that morning the Messiah disappeared took my breath away.

I clutched my head with both hands, trying to break the grip of horror.

Sound came as if through roaring water, closer, closer.

"Patricia! Look at me, Patricia! What's happening? Tell me. Patricia!"

He pulled my hands away from my head. Strands of hair dripped from my fingernails, hung between my fingers. Tears heated my face.

"Talk to me, Patricia. That's what I'm here for. Tell me what just happened." His soft drawl lulled me. I felt sleepy. My eyelids became too heavy to lift.


Blindly I used the tissue he placed in my hand. As I wiped my face, my Mentor sent my spirit spiraling upwards. "I'm fine," I said in a voice that quavered. I looked into his eyes. "I think I just had an anxiety attack . . . I'm fine now."

"What do you think brought it on?"

"You did." Swift anger again surprised me. "You keep harping on manic-depression." I glared at him. "You keep trying to pin disorder on me."

"I'm not trying to ‘pin’ anything on you," he said soothingly. "I want to help you."

"You sure did a good job of it today." Expressing anger was healthy when given good cause, my Mentor flashed, dissipating the guilt that my furious tone had generated.

Dr. Richard wouldn't budge from his stand.

One day he'd have to accept the new Bible, and my wellness, or lose step with the world.

* * *

Two weeks passed and still I couldn’t detect any change in the way I thought or felt. I would have felt the drugs by now. The doctor was wrong.


******************************************************************************
Message October 9th 11:26:20 PM - 11:43:06 PM


THE PHYSICAL SELF BETRAYS THE MIND
MAKES THE BODY OLD BEFORE TIME.

BUT.

THE MESSIAH WILL SAVE
NOT ONLY THE WORLD
BUT ME.

then why do I feel the cells of my body dying one by one by one?
am i manic?
AM I?

CHAPTER ELEVEN

I woke up in a cold sweat, overwhelmed by fear and a terrible sense of emptiness. No warmth. No answering thought.

My skin felt hot, inside and outside; it ached and it hurt. My heartbeat gained force and presence.

He'd disappeared once before and he’d come back.

I struggled to sit up.

My body was so heavy I had trouble dragging it out of bed.

Thorazine and lithium had done this to me.

Groggy yet light-headed, I opened the door, headed out, and was knocked back by the brightness of the sun-drenched bathroom. He had come in a white light. He’d be back.

He won’t. He . . .

Unendurable dread hounded me until I found my parents in the kitchen.

"Why Honey, what's the matter?" my mother asked, drying her hands on a dish towel.

"I'm a little tired."

"You look better, Patrick-a," my father said. "But you still need a few more pounds."

"I’m only seven away from my pre-surgery weight — thanks to Mih-therer's cooking and your bread." The grin I flashed him came naturally, easily. It felt good.

I took a bagel from the freezer, pried the halves free and put them in the toaster oven.

I depressed the lever. I jumped when it pinged.

Something else was wrong.

Anxiety slithered through me, coiling about the realization that words no longer pressed for release.

Fear lurched when the toaster door popped open.

The Book, oh yes. The Book.

"Patrick-a! Your breakfast," my father called.

"I'll be back!" I cried and hurried to the bible that would set the world free, hurrying to the work that would save me.

My hands hung above the keyboard, awaiting transmission. My hands started shaking with a violence that jarred. My hands fell into my lap.

There was no messiah.

Uurrghfwoom!

I was under blankets on the bed before realizing that the air conditioner fan had kicked in. Agony merged with my need to breathe.

I fought the covers, gasping for air, feeling as though I were strangling in the midst of an asthma attack.

Inhale, exhale.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Slow it down and keep going.

I was twisted by nausea. Bile stung my throat, bitter in my mouth, filling it, death at the end of its choking.

The door opened, the light went on, and I was in my mother's arms, comforted by her age-old cry, "Where does it hurt?" She cradled me, hugging me more tightly the more I sobbed, her voice the taste, the feel, of warmed honey. "Dear, Sweetheart, what's wrong, why were you screaming?"

Screaming?

I inhaled, exhaled. I tried to speak but my voice caught in my throat. I swallowed water from the glass on the night table. Slowly I whispered, "Ohmygod — I know. I know.”

“What do you know?”

“Dr. Richard was right, he was right. But . . . The book, my mind, oh Motherrr." Frenzy was suffocating me. "Tell me what to do, to think, to say . . . I lost my mind. I lost it. Help me, please. Motherrr . . . " I hid my face in her breast, I clung to her, trying to escape the hot ringing that ignited my ears and tunneled through my head.

"Oh Honey, it's all right. It's okay. The worst is over. Do you understand? You'll be fine now, just fine," she crooned, combing my hair with her fingers. "You're back! You're on the mend! We'll celebrate tonight! Name your favorite restaurant and I'll make reservations."

"Don't leave me!"

"I won't go anywhere without you. But let's go tell your father, he — "

“No! Not yet . . . I can't live with this. I can't ever trust myself again. Never. Oh Mih-therer. I can't bear this. I believed I was typing the messiah’s book! Mih-the . . . what will I do? What can I do? I can't get away from my mind . . . I'll never be safe again. Never."

Tiny wrinkles formed within tear spots on her shirt. If I thought about the wrinkles —

"Let's call Dr. Richard." She hugged me again. "He'll help you. Wash up and we'll call him."

“He can't help. No one can." It was cold, so cold, in the exposure of this knowledge.

"You've had quite a shock. But you're okay now. The medicine brought you back . . ." She gently rubbed the sore place at the base of my neck. "And the longer you take them, the better you'll feel. You've been sick, darling . . . The doctor can help you. He already has! You need time to adjust, that's all. Try and relax . . . Try. That's better." She clasped me close, resting her cheek on my head, holding on to me.

"I'm so scared, my heart is beating so fast — you can feel it, can't you? It's going to explode! Tell me I'm dreaming. Tell me this isn't real." She took my hand in hers.

"Look at me, honey." She disengaged us without losing hold of me.

I turned my head, my eyes drawn to hers.

"The worst is over. And it was like a dream. You were sick, sweetheart. But you're better now, and you'll just keep getting better and better and then you'll go on to lead a normal life."

"Normal?" I extended my hand and felt my tears on her cheek. I saw the love in her eyes, the feel of it in her hands. "Life was perfect when I was 'crazy.' Life terrifies me now." I gripped her hands so tightly she flinched and gently pulled them away. "Mih-therer, oh Mih-the, I'm not sure I can ever leave this bed."

"Oh darling."

Our tears mingled.

"Wash up now and we'll call Dr. Richard. Maybe he can see you today."

Love filled me and curved a smile into my lips. "I love you so much, Mih-thereroo." Laughing joy spilled into my saying her name. "You're all the doc I need. I'll get ready and then — let's go shopping!"

I slid into the fire-red jumpsuit I’d flown down in and surged down the hall to the kitchen. "Where's Daddy-O?"

"He must have left for work. Here — I just squeezed it. And — "

"I know the routine." I grinned.

"And here's Dr. Richard's number."

I wasn't ready to expose my latest revelation to him. "I already told you — you're all the doc I need! Now, man your wallet and let's go!"

I went to get my purse and found myself at the typewriter. I turned it on and, without thinking, I typed: "The power is within us all." No more words came.

There were no more words.

I plunged below sadness into despair.

"Are you ready?"

I made myself meet her in the hall. Suddenly I was bent over in laughter. "Mih-the, oh dear little Mih-therer, it's true what they say about being insane — I lost my mind and didn't know it! Do you know what this means?"

She expressed a nonverbal reply before getting into the car.

"It means the book is mine! I'm the one writing a bestseller! Isn't this the most wonderful news?"

My recent role as Vessel became a frequent, frightening intruder upon my dreams of celebrity.

The worst is over,” my parents promised, lifting me momentarily from the trough that fear dragged me through when again I was alone and couldn’t evade the fact I’d believed I was working for the messiah.

Visiting family and friends and reading novels occupied time once sped by writing. Time alone crept in its frightening pace, filling me with longing for my manic belief that I’d been so completely safe. I never would be safe again, and this knowledge burned me physically and metaphysically, kicking me into inescapable hell, right here in this life. I’d gotten out of previous hells. There was no way out of this one. I’d lost my mind. Nothing could change this fact.

Try as I could, I couldn't accept the fact I'd believed that I was transcribing the messiah’s messages, and that the world's fame and fortune were but a manuscript away. Recollection of my sleepless starvation and spending spree scared me the most. I actually had believed I’d been helping to save the world with love. Why hadn't I known I was in trouble?

I was still in trouble. I always would be in trouble.

Again my blood raced, my muscles tensed, they twitched, they strained within their thin-skinned sheath.

Physical discomfort rivaled my mental distress. Dr. Richard said this response was normal, under the circumstances.

A masseuse unknotted my muscles. Her daily intervention afforded brief relief. I recalled Merck's description of "accelerated muscular activity."

No longer driven to write, time became aimless and endless. I read “Breaking Through to Happiness.” Its florid convoluted sentences surprised me, as did its swelling, receding rhythms. Islands of insight seemed familiar, but it was as though the work had been written by someone else.

I read passages again. Nowhere was the messiah mentioned, and everywhere there were refinings of self-defining and determinations into and out of love, and listings and listings of ways to keep and inspire love, the “ultimate comfort.” Indeed, as brother Michael had said, my messiah was me.

But I had discovered universal love from the center of madness. Luckily, love centered me now, an insight never to be forgotten, an insight so overpowering in mania that only a god could guide it.

I put away the manuscript.

***************************************************************
Messages 1981

LOVE DIES ON THE CORPSE OF TRUST

INESCAPABLE BETRAYAL

IRRECONCILABLE. INTRACTABLE.

CHAPTER TWELVE

Night embraced the terrace and breezes came through the screens as my father dealt the first hand of Hearts after dinner. We hadn’t played since the week of my surgery last June, before my mind took its one-eighty. Ultimate betrayal. Don’t think about that.

My father briskly distributed the cards as I heard myself asking what Dr. Richard had said after sending me to the waiting room the first time we saw him.

I looked up in time to see my parents’ eyes meet.

"We pass to the left and you lead, Patrick-a," my father said, his tone matter of fact as he sorted his hand and nodded to Mih-the.

She gathered her cards and said, "He told us you were manic and said he wanted to hospitalize you."

"So he did want to lock me up." I concentrated on putting my cards in order, visions of movie mental wards obscuring my view. Ah, but that movie, The Snake Pit, had exposed that horror, so it couldn’t be that bad these days. But to not have this gift of more time with my parents, unexpected and rough as my new life now was, this time was a gift. How lucky I was not to miss it.

“The two of Clubs must be in the kitty,” my father observed.

I tossed it on the table still unable to meet his eyes, or Mih-the’s.

Mother said, "He was afraid you wouldn't take the medication." She covered my play with the six.

My father took the trick with the ace, and as he studied the face-down cards from the kitty, he assembled his neutral face — poker face, Mih-the called it. He led with the queen of Clubs and the look he gave me was unbearably sweet as he said, "But we knew you'd take the medicine, and there were two of us to one of you."

I glanced at his queen of Clubs and, in the spirit of tradition, cried, "Watch out, Mih-therer, he's going for it again." I was adding a low Club to his when the doctor’s assumption hit me. "How dare he assume I wouldn't take his pills."

"He didn't know you, dear," my mother said, taking the trick with the king, leading with a low Spade.

My father put down the ace with a decisive gesture just as I cried, "Why didn't you take his advice?"

"We thought you'd be better off with us — you'd already been in the hospital twice this summer," my amazing father replied.

Gratitude filled me, brought tears to my eyes. "Most parents would have unloaded their offspring in a shrink tank — what was I like?" I handed him the queen of Spades, hoping to give a Heart to Mih-the later, hoping to delay his answer.

"Bad enough," he grumbled. He looked sad when he returned my gaze. "There were times when we were afraid we would have to commit you. No one could tell you anything. You were either talking, typing, eating or sleeping. Conversation was rarely possible. But you barely ate and couldn't sleep more than three hours a night. We practically had to tear you away from that typewriter, and even then, you'd be at it again in no time." He shook his head.

Mother’s low Spade completed the trick.

He collected the cards and aligned the pack with the neat stack of his others, none of which included a heart, not to mention the thirteen-point Queen of Spades. He led with a high Club.

My cards blurred, their fan closing in my clutch. "How did you put up with me?"

"Out of desperation there comes a way," he said into a long pause.

My heart melted.

I threw in the king, hoping Mih-the had run out of Clubs and could throw in a heart — I never could keep track of cards played.

I couldn't believe we were still playing Hearts, what great hearts my parents had.

Mih-the threw in the two of Hearts and I took the trick, stacking it neatly in front of me, polishing it a bit with my elbow. Mih-the and I grinned at each other and looked at Father to see how he dealt with defeat. "There's a limit to desperation, and to luck in cards," he said, his expression wry and tender.

Mother said, "We couldn't find a way to reach you — "

"How long did that go on?" My insides kept cramping.

"Until you realized the messiah wasn't real." Mother's reply gentled me. "Six weeks, seven? But you've come back to us, Sweetheart. You'll be fine now."

I was overwhelmed by love. "You never once implied that anything serious was wrong. You included me in your social life, lunching and dining with your friends. You never acted as if I were in trouble, not to mention insane."

"Why would we? We were out of our minds, too."


* * *

Speeding toward my eighth week in Florida, I was at the typewriter again, infused by the joy of creation. But this time I knew the work was mine. I actually typed upper and lowercase.

Perfect Worlds began after I won another hand of solitaire, and at the typewriter, found myself comparing man to a deck of cards. I was fascinated by the deck's intertwinings, the perfect equality of suits, each card of each suit unique and complete, and equal members of the family. I then related man's interference, how he used a deck of cards to play some game that followed arbitrary rules, which set one card above another. I loved my metaphor for the mentality that perpetuated prejudice and dehumanized people, civilizations, countries.

The piece made sense, the rhythm wasn’t convoluted, as it had been in psychosis. It’s thoughts fed me self-confidence.

Even my father read it, first page to last. He and Mih-the said they understood it.

The lines of my thoughts were straightening.

But I was still the night-watchman, sleep still elusive. And now and again fear of recurrence overcame me.

* * *

Chicago became a symbol of wellness. I missed everyone I'd ever met there. I was consumed by a longing to return.

I told the doctor I wanted to go home. He said I wasn't ready yet. But I was back on my feet and could shop, cook, back to full steam ahead. I was ready. But my protest remained silent and torn. I wanted more time with my creators.

As the days passed, desire to go home increased and I voiced my mounting wish to get back to my life. Dr. Richard said we'd talk about it at next week’s session. Anger flooded me. He'd no right to keep me in Florida against my will.

My parents urged me to stay; they kept saying the doctor had my best interests at heart. I wanted to please them, but I had to go home. Only there would I find evidence of myself, the me I was before the madness, forevermore to haunt me, its ghost strongest in Florida where I crashed back into reality. Living my parents' lifestyle, not mine.

That evening, the phone rang. My mother spoke to someone. When she hung up and saw me, she said Dr. Richard was worried that, if I went back to Chicago now, I'd stop medication and never seek treatment.

Outrage burst into flames inside me. How dare he speak to Mih-the about me that way. To Mih-the, not me. How dare he not take my word? Every detail of his behavior paraded through my mind, sharpening the knife of my fury.

I wrote him a letter in which I informed him that my parents had no trouble honoring my word, and that I didn’t think much of his ability to assess character — wasn’t that a priority for psychiatrists? Day after day I dwelled on his transgression, feeling stronger and stronger, thriving on his treason, anger livid, its focus a welcome external.

I wrote and rewrote the letter, embellishing my deposition, high on anger over a cause that had nothing to do with my stint as the messiah’s vessel.

Since I’d had no idea that I’d exited the “real” world, fear of it happening again terrorized me when I couldn’t distract myself from that knowledge. Perhaps the next time I lost my mind, I would die of starvation. Why didn’t he know that I wouldn’t dare resume my life in Chicago without a psychiatrist. A watch dog. But I never would give the new doctor my parents’ phone number.

My anger reached a level of feeling that frightened me, fear growing with each new version of the letter. I took the last one to my mother and asked her to read it.

"I'd be angry, too," she said, "but perhaps you should put this away for a while. Then, in a day or two, write it again. It may be a little harsh as it is now."

Her support slowed the fury that drove me, and when I reread the letter a few days later, I toned down its venom.

Mother said she thought I should send it, and with its mailing, rage released me. I hated rage. My sister turned her rage on me no doubt soon after I was born. I remembered the black and white photo of the four of us, when I was about eighteen months old and Maggie was fifteen months older. While my parents and I looked at the camera, she perched on my father’s lap, her profile aimed at me nestled in our mother’s arms, snarling at me, a portrait of fury.

Maggie’s rage erupted at the most unexpected times. I hadn’t spent time alone with her in ten years. Rage twists my insides and chokes my breath. It panics me. I don’t know why I was so terrified to be alone with her when she’d break into rage.

Dr. Richard was holding my letter when I next saw him. His apology was warm, soothing the last of my disturbance. He said that since I didn't have a psychiatrist in Chicago yet, we'd talk about my departure next week. And, he cautioned, I was still on the high side of mania.

"But I don't believe in the messiah anymore, I'm not writing twenty-four hours a day anymore . . . "

"How much are you sleeping now?"

"Maybe five hours."

"And usually?"

"Seven to eight."

"And your weight?"

"I can't seem to gain, oh . . . "

"You'll soon start to keep weight on."

Before the next session, Jess called with the name of the doctor Stan had found for me. Dr. Richard knew him by reputation, and though he thought I was still too high on mania, he agreed to let me go.

Before we said goodbye, I asked him if I would escape depression.

"You might. Your brain chemicals could stabilize and not drop."

"How will I know when I'm not manic anymore?"

"When you sleep seven to eight hours a night, and gain weight and keep it. And your muscles will relax — you'll know." His smile was endearing.

I shuddered, still raw from self-discovery. When I stood to leave, we shook hands, our left hands grasping each other’s forearms. We hugged and he opened the door to the waiting room; he said that the doctor in Chicago had a good reputation, that he specialized in manic-depressive disorder, that I would be in good hands.

"Thank you, Dr. Richard," I said, sudden sadness penetrating our last moments. "I've been difficult, and I'm sorry, but on the other hand, what can you expect from a madwoman?" He grinned and I hugged him. He'd saved my mind, saved me. I always would love him.


*********************************************************************
December 15th 5:27 A.M. — 5:31 A.M.

I AM WITHOUT THE ME I KNEW AND TRUSTED


CAST WITHOUT ANCHOR ON THE SEAS OF SANITY

MIND MAGNET TO A DIFFERENT COMPASS

ENCOMPASSING ULTIMATE LOSS.

NOTHING NOW

BUT

FLESH; BONES

FEAR.

I AM WITHOUT THE ME I KNEW AND TRUSTED.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Anxiety collided with euphoria as our flight to Chicago descended. I reached across the aisle and touched my father’s arm. He smiled and pointed to Mother's head on his shoulder. I nodded and tried to swallow the words of emotion that flooded me, my dear dear Mih-thereroo so vulnerable, danger still threatening, my fears about to spill into sound and wake her, my Mih-ther, dear Mih-the.

I withdrew a pad of paper from my tote bag, a pen from my purse and wrote until seatbacks and tray tables went up.

As we circled O'Hare, excitement swirled inside me. I couldn’t wait to be again with Jess and Susan, friends, guardian angels, like Mih-the. In just a few hours!

* * *

My parents rested in my bedroom. I'd never slept in the guestroom before — they usually stayed at the Knickerbocker.

I loved lying on the grey velvet sofa bed, listening to music within walls glazed to the sheen of antique mahogany-red leather books, cozy heart-warmth. My room’s window looked out on the brick terraced backyard with its tall stockade fence against which wisteria climbed, as if to counteract the dark alley, its rows of garbage dumpsters backed into brick walls of apartment buildings on LaSalle Street. My guestroom window faced a brick wall, turning the room into twilight from sunup to sundown.

I hugged myself. I was really really home. Everything would be okay from now on.

Except that it was Thursday already and Mih-the and Daddy-O were leaving Monday morning. I'd have to drop them at O'Hare on the way back from visiting Michael et al in Milwaukee.

Monday afternoon held my first appointment with the specialist in manic-depression, Dr. Geltzer — hand-picked for me by Jessie’s beau, Stan. But after that, the afternoon yawned, as if trying to catch its breath. All is well, all is well.


Maybe Jess would come over for dinner.

How unlike me not to “vant to be alone” and soak in all the solitude I’d missed these last three months. Not to mention that, since the second half of my stay in Florida, I’ve been afraid of what lay in wait for me right behind my eyes. This too-new realization dropped me into a black hole. Invisible sucker punches doubled me over, fear shrieking, sending me to see if my parents were sleeping. I soon would be alone with my mind, and fresh memories of the most horrifying time of my life.

Jess and Susan were a few blocks away. Jake was often free weekday afternoons.

I hunted down the living room phone and Jessie’s number came to me without thinking about it. Her voice didn’t seem any closer to me than it had in Florida, but we’d see each other at Susan's for drinks at seven, and Eduardo's at eight for dinner.

I replaced the receiver and the sudden silence reverberated. Susan’s machine answered. I looked into the dining room. The table gleamed; not even one sheet of paper marred its beautiful grain. Three months ago, it had been the stage of my fall into madness.

Jess and Susan must have cleaned up. Ah, stacks of paper sat on my dining room chairs. Evidence of my unexpected tour of outer space. That idea made me grin.

I actually had believed the messiah and I were saving the world.

Heart-racing, heart-thumping horror filled me.

I'd believed — how I'd loved that complete sense of safety! I'd loved believing I was bringing love to the world.

But returning to reality gave me the worst endless moments of my life.

The “positivity” of it all had enthralled me. Universal love wasn’t in my mind before I lost it. I'd answered long term tough questions —

Thoughts of apostles, disciples and zealots at first surprised me, and then I felt a connection, or at least an understanding of them —

Hot perspiration drenched me and I thought I was going to faint. That threat soon passed, leaving me in a coat of dried sweat.

I took a shower, and as luck would have it, my parents were awake when I emerged from the bathroom.

Euphoria reclaimed me.

Jess was at Susan's when we arrived. "You don't look like a maniac," she observed, her grin face-wide, her soft, short curls springing back away from her face as she stretched out her arms and came toward me.

"You look so wonderful!" I cried and hugged her, hugging Susan, propelling the three of us into a huddle, drawing in my parents. Voices filled the air and arms encircled bodies and everyone kissed cheeks, everyone laughed. And then we sat down, drinks in hand.

My father didn’t sit down, he held up his glass of scotch, dipped it toward my friends and said, "Susan . . . Jessie . . . Thank you for helping Patricia. We love you, like family. You're not only good looking — you knew who Patrick-a’s messiah really was."

Jess raised her glass to me, mirth lighting her voice, her eyes. "Obletzkrieg, I told you to find a muse, not the messiah. Only you, Obletzkrieg! Only you!"

"You have wonderful friends, Obletzkrieg," my father said, his enjoyment of Jessie’s nickname for me illustrated by his playful enunciation and grin.

Suddenly we all were laughing so hard we had to put down our drinks.

"Oh, Daddy-O, you're so right! And you and Mih-the are my original best friends! Everyone's wonderful! So very won-der-ful!" I returned to my spot and rubbed the ankle I’d banged on the coffee table on my way to hug him.

* * *

Love also was an expert masseuse, relaxing my muscles as I looked from face to face at dinner in Milwaukee the next day. I felt whole. Secure. I felt like me.

Michael teased me about the messiah. Cindy comforted me during sudden spells of tears. Jacob and Eta were loving, busy as always and, thankfully, oblivious to my struggle.

Life was as always, only more so, so completely filled with love.

Time flew.

The drive home went too fast. O'Hare approached. It was time to let my parents go. I watched them disappear through the automatic doors. Loss swallowed me.

Horns honked. A policeman knocked on my window. I put the car in gear.

Desolation lifted at the sight of Chicago rising into the November-blue sky. I turned the volume up and sang with Bob Dylan.

Home, I dressed for Dr. Geltzer in my new, as yet unworn, Shogun jacket and jodhpurs, matching my conquering spirit.

I entered his waiting room suddenly nervous. It was beige on beige on beige. He was suited to match. Tortoiseshell glasses — outsized to downsize a bulbous nose perhaps — hid his eyes. His sparse, generic hair was short, a prop for his shining pate. His jacket and tie were a neat front for his paunch. When he spoke, his tone was carefully modulated.

"Come into my office, would you please?"

The bizz of mosquitoes in my ears sounded louder. I gripped my shoulder bag strap with both hands, trying to stop them from shaking. I followed him through a short hall and another door. Beige walls and carpeting and north woods motel furnishings.

How original: a black-framed van Gogh print on the wall behind his desk, the only color in the room. Black-framed certificates, diplomas and awards were arranged across the wall facing a beige curtained window that held the air conditioner obligatory in every vintage office building in Chicago.

I selected the chair furthest from his.

He sat down behind his desk, drew his glasses down his nose and eyed me like a predator.

The silence grew intolerable.

"Well," I began, adding, "Since Jess already briefed you on my condition, I'll just tell you what I want."

He allowed an almost imperceptible dip of his head.

"I take lithium five times a day, and three Thorazine at bedtime. I understand a blood test and a mood check are necessary once a month — every other month. Will you take me on?"

Again his head inclined just so far before he slowly looked up at me and said, "Have you considered psychotherapy?" His eyes bored into mine.

"There's no need for that," I replied, ever the cavalier Shogun. "My mind is fine — my body might need therapy without drug regulation though."

"Fine," he replied without emotion. "But first, I need the details of your manic episode.”

“Didn’t you get this information from Dr. Richard? “

He affirmed with a nod that he had and pointed to the file on his desk. “Are you married? What do you do for a living?" He kept his eyes on that file, which he fingered throughout his inquisition. "What are your interests? . . . Any previous experience with mania or depression?" Occasionally, he made notes, but not when I mentioned my suicidal depression that followed major surgery fourteen years ago — or the fact I went on thyroid medication two years later, in 1969. Dr. Richard had found those facts significant.

(My father's a horse.) That thought was so strong, I feared I'd uttered it aloud, but not even his eyelashes stirred. He not only had no idea what I was thinking, he hadn't one shred of interest in what I was saying.
He was a poor second to Dr. Richard. But as long as he monitored the medication, he could be tolerated once a month. I didn't have to like him. I'd be out of trouble soon.

I watched him extract an envelope from the file folder and, with deliberate precision, he removed a letter and silently read it. At last he said, "This is Dr. Richard's summary of your case. He included last week's blood test results, but I shall require another test within the next day or two." He scribbled a prescription and handed it to me. "Your time is up," he announced without changing his inflection. "I'll see you again," he checked the calendar, "Tuesday, November 18. Furthermore, I am in full agreement with Dr. Richard: do not return to work for two weeks. Any questions?"

I stood, rubbing the strap of my bag. "Will I avoid depression?"

"You might." He shuffled papers on his desk.

I left him feeling reassured. Persona notwithstanding, the man agreed with Dr. Richard, a man I'd learned to trust. No work for two more weeks. No depression.

I walked up State Street, looking in the windows of Carson's and Fields, touching for luck their cornerstones, hurrying past lots under construction. I turned onto Wacker Drive, following the curve of the Chicago River to Michigan Avenue, hastening my pace over the drawbridge, unable to stop eyeing the waters below the grate walkway, their churning turning my stomach, spreading anxiety.

Dread grabbed me. I froze. I was falling, down down down into the river, off balance and drowning in fear. My hands shot away from my sides, clawing the air, flailing, banging against cold metal, grasping then gripping the iron railing.

I wept when I realized I was still on the bridge.

I tore my gaze away from the river below and sought sight of the lake on my right, more precious than any treasure harbored in the shops along the Magnificent Mile. Chicago's beauty was enthralling, its juxtaposition of man and nature a timeless, ever-changing glorious drama.

I breathed in slowly, keeping my eyes on the white-capped lake beyond the city’s skyline. I breathed out slowly.

Evidently my chemical imbalance was physical as well. My body still trembled from my envisioned plunge. My heart still pounded.

Suddenly the joy of triumph purged me of fear. I, me, myself and I, had conquered panic simply by changing the physical point of my view!

Laughing, I hurried across the bridge to the solid sidewalk, the sky a massing tumble of angry grays above the pewter waves of Lake Michigan. Raw winds clawed my scarf, my coat, my hair. I stuck gloved hands into pockets and thought about Dr. Geltzer, sidestepping litter and pedestrians.

He was nothing like Dr. Richard. But I didn’t believe in the messiah anymore. I was okay now. I didn't need another Dr. Richard, despite my fear of coma, of insanity, of the unknowns of manic-depression. I'd be out of trouble soon.

My watch — I still wore my father's heavy, multipurpose timepiece — had become my most treasured possession. It was almost three. I wanted to see Jake, and Jess was coming to dinner.

There was plenty of time for everything.

Happiness took me into a reckless rush of feeling spurred by my escape from depression. I was okay! I'd just conquered anxiety, I'd vanquished disorder, escaped the messiah — of course I'd elude depression!

***************************************************************************
Journal November 1981

Mih-the said, “I believe in you, dear.”

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

As the front door closed, I hurried to change into jeans and a sweatshirt and attacked my rooms with vacuum, mops and cloths. Another stint in the bathroom, and I was as polished as my home.

Singing "We are marching to Pretoria" as loudly as my voice could stretch, I pulled on red corduroys, red boots, a red cotton turtleneck and an oversized white fisherman sweater. I grabbed my car keys and flew to the lot on the other side of Wells Street.

I could see Jake at the bar through the window of Butch McGuire’s. Inside, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the interior twilight, I heard Jake laughing. And then I stood a few feet behind him and caught his eye in the mirror behind the bar.

He whirled around. "Patricia!" he cried, his face bright with pleasure. He met me halfway, hugged me and herded me to a stool.

"When are you free?" I whispered, blood heating.

"Tomorrow might be possible," he said, squeezing my neck.

"Start prepping for tomorrow now! See ya!" I spun around and raced out the door.

Jess was due at six. I rushed through the grocery store at Clark and Division, racing up and down aisles, grabbing things in a frantic hurry. The wait at the checkout counter fired my impatience.

At last at home, I hurled ingredients into pots and pans, stirring, tasting, adjusting the flames for each. Dinner was prepared.

An hour remained till Jessie arrived. I lit a fire, arranged Brie and crackers on a plate, put it on the coffee table. I couldn't settle down, I couldn't relax. That much energy was a pain in the butt. I thought about finding the typewriter but set the table for dinner. And I paced the rooms of my home.

The doorbell. I flew down the stairs and greeted Jess in the foyer. "We haven't a moment to waste!" I cried, pulling her up the steps.

She laughed and shook her head.

We settled before the fire with wine. Brie melted on the plate and the Budapest String Quartet played Brahms on the stereo.


"Welcome home, buddy!" Jess caroled from her favorite chair, the raw-silk ivory one that had been leather in my father's first law office — more than fifty years ago. She lifted her glass to mine.

I lost wine to the floor and mopped it with a napkin, checking for her reaction.

"Stan sends greetings," she said warmly. "He's fine. Harried, overworked, but fine. Things are fine between us, too."

"You look like things are fine! Work, too?"

"Same old thing — kill to make the deadline, then rewrite the damn ad fifty million times. How was Doc Geltzer? What did you think of him?"

"The man's a medical mechanic. He'll do the job." I slathered cheese on crackers and handed one to her.
"But did you like him? Can he help you?" Her preoccupation with Geltzer annoyed me.
The wine sloshed precariously close to the rim of the glass as I brought it to my lips. "Let me say this about that — before we shelve him," I said in my best broad Boston.

"Okay, senator, let's hear about 'that' and then I'll drop the subject."

"The man's a pompous ass. He's beige on beige on beige. Worse," I leaned toward her and whispered, "he's condemned to life without humor."

"Then why don't we . . . "

The kitchen timer went off. "Saved by the proverbial!" I sang out and jumped up to rescue dinner.

Loath to leave the fire, I loaded place settings and dinner on trays and returned to the living room.

"If you want to start tossing your weight around again, you better eat more than that," Jess observed when I set down my fork.

"Cute, but I've pounds enough now to put a punch behind my words." Laughter felt good. It felt natural. I scanned the room, eyes lingering on two of the oils I’d painted in New York when I was in my twenties. "I wasn't that bad an artist, once, and I’m going to give it a go these next and last two weeks of freedom, but... “

"You still have that talent," she cried. "Paint again! It'll come back to you, you’ve nothing to lose!" Her excitement was contagious.

"Maybe, but if the artist in me doesn’t return, I just don’t know . . . " I looked at the steeplechase begun Memorial Day Weekend three years ago. It had become an annual test of bravery: keep the life and improve the action. Maybe this year, fear of failure wouldn’t send my muse away.

“Patricia?” Jess said in a warning tone.

"No failure can be worse than finding out I’d believed I was working for a god.”

"So listen, Patricia . . . "

I could tell by her tone that I wouldn't like the rest of her message. "About that Geltzer character . . . Stan has a list — "

"Stan always has a list. At least I've seen the first man on mine! Or have you made contact with a doc from yours?"

"No, not yet. I told you! I'll start therapy when I come back from Mexico . . . Now. You don't seem thrilled with Geltzer and I know we can find you a more compatible doc."

"Oh, Jessie. Geltzer's as good a drug jockey as anyone — better, according to Stan. I don't have to share my deepest, darkest with him. I see him only once a month — like the curse — which, thank life, I'll never have to deal with again!"

We lit cigarettes. I was pleased to note that my hands shook less than hers.

"You won't get into mental trouble again, either,” Jess declared, her curls again nestled around her head. “Are you okay about that, buddy? I mean really okay? I'd be having a hard time if I'd lost my mind."

"Psychosis was nature's last sentence, a bit harsher than pneumonia and peritonitis, but, as you said, it's over.” I let myself slide into the far corner of my tuxedo loveseat; my chin dropped to my chest until my head sank into the green velvet pillow.

"But are you really okay, buddy?"

"I'm sane and sanely happy — "

"If still on the high side of mania," she laughingly interceded, breaking off, leaning forward. "Patricia, you're in territory foreign to me, maybe you should talk to a pro about it."

"Like Geltzer?" I snorted.

"There's a Dr. Richard in this town for you."

"Oh Jess, I don't need anyone. The worst is over. I'm fine, I know what's real and what isn't, the seat belt's on, and this ride'll be over soon — Geltzer said I could escape depression! I tracked Jake down at Butch McGuire's, we dine tomorrow night."

Her smile seemed forced. She'd never be happy for me about Jake.

"The messiah's a great story for cocktails!"

She looked startled. She said, "When did you realize he wasn't real?"

"Five or six weeks ago. That was — " My heart stopped beating; icy sweat chilled me. I gagged and fought to breathe.

"Patricia! Patricia! It's me, Jess! Hey!" I heard her words but they were muffled by the beating of my heart. Pressure crushed my shoulders inward. My teeth closed on my tongue. Through pain I grew aware of her touch. "Oh, Jess . . . "

Anxious eyes swam through a blur of red and then I saw their blueness, and the curl of her hair. Everything came back. "Oh, Jess. That trip into psychosis was the greatest high I've ever known — " Tears coursing from my eyes heated my cheeks, splashed my sweater.

She released my shoulders to wrap her arms around me. "Steady, old pal. I'm here, it's okay. Go ahead and cry. Losing your mind is worth a good cry. Go ahead, let it go. That's good. Good," she said gently, smoothing the back of my sweater, ending each stroke with a pat.

Tears flushed fear from my mind as weakness spread through my body, uncoiling muscles and sinews, stroking me into a state of quiescence. I pillowed my head in her lap, locking my wrists behind her back.

"Shush, shush," she murmured, her hands a supportive pressure on my shoulder, warm and soothing.

"What do you charge an hour?" I raised my head to meet her eyes.

She hugged me and withdrew from me, picking up her wine before returning to the channel-back chair.

"I wonder why I got the messiah and not the devil."

"What I find most interesting is the fact you never once thought that you were the messiah!"

"People kept saying that my messiah was me, which of course sounded crazy. I made so many connections, brilliant connections, I’d thought. So brilliant, they couldn't possibly be mine."

"Stream of consciousness writing uncovers unrealized perceptions — "

"It might reveal repressed dreams," I cried excitedly. "Do it Jess. Let paper carry your burden!"

"Maybe some day, but for now, I have to turn feelings into fiction."

"Spend a weekend here with your journal. Come on! It'll work."

"I appreciate your offer, but I'm not ready to tackle my demons head on. Not yet — they ain’t no messiah."

"Too bad!"

"You're a screwball, but I love you, buddy. And listen to me: if you ever get nervous, or scared or anxious or anything, call me, whatever the time. Take down Stan's number. If you can't reach me, leave a message with his service. I'll get back to you the minute I can. And Stan answers his phone at any hour. Okay?"

We hugged before we parted. Once I buzzed her through the gate, I was more alone than I'd been before her arrival.

The medication-mosquitoes buzzing my ears increased in number and decibels; the trembling of my body doubled. My teeth clacked and my nails clicked on the table in rhythm to the speeding beat of my body.

I didn't know what to do with myself. I felt like I'd swallowed a bottle of Dexedrine. I'd tried one of those pills once in the 1960s to make it through work after an all-nighter. It made me so jittery, so agitated, so confused, upset and sleepless, that I never took another one.

No one slept down the hall. It was too late to call anybody. I fled to the kitchen for a drink of water and found myself on hands and knees scrubbing the floor I’d washed that afternoon.

What I needed was a dog.

I'd name the dog Watcher and he'd be big and black and strong. He'd be warmhearted and playful. He would save me from myself.

And with that thought came the way to make friends with my sister Maggie. Her world was horses and dogs, which we once shared. She'd help me find Watcher, and we'd find positive ground based on mutual love, just like my messiah had instructed.

I switched the classical station to rock. And I danced, exercising nervous energy produced by revelation. And then I changed the sheets on my bed.

By four, I stood in front of a blazing fire, glass of wine in hand, its liquid a shining, fire-lit bauble.

Above the mantelpiece hung the unfinished steeplechase painting. Three dark horses, three jockeys in silks, raced over fences on a course of revisions, their positions changing every year — all but the leader, the only one with signs of life.

I set the thirty-nine-by-fifty inch work on the floor against a wall. I switched on every lamp in the living room, tilting each shade to throw light on the canvas. In a rush of excitement, I went to the parlor closet and grabbed brushes and paints, palette and turpentine, an old sheet to protect the floor. I sat down in front of the painting.

A jockey on a brilliant white challenger emerged beneath my brush. He was powerful, that grand snowy stallion, and he was flying over the fence, flashing his heels at the dark horse behind him, gaining on the one in the lead. Only the rump of the original leader was visible now, giving the center to the white charger carrying me out of madness.

After three Memorial Day weekends and one lonely, early November night, it was finished. This accomplishment set reality in concrete. The world was fine and my mind was okay and I'd removed another long term thorn.

Evidently I’d needed to lose my mind in order to answer my question about Gary. I'd had to land on the high side of mania in order to finish the painting begun when Gary and I had ended. Only now did that painting glow with surging life and color and passion. The gains of madness were adding up.

I cleaned the brushes in the kitchen sink and unlocked and unchained the back door. Standing on my small back porch, I looked upon a tangle of naked branches, dark shadows stirring in moonlight. The air brushed against me cold and sharp. I took it quickly into my lungs, its rush cleansing me of smoke and uncertainty.

The moon begged to have its portrait painted. "I'll do it," I said out loud. And I filled with self-confidence. My soul was back. My spirit was whole again, for the first time in three years. I could paint again. This was my gift from the messiah.

Around eight, I slept blanketed before charring embers.


********************************************************************
Journal January 1982


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Critically Acclaimed Art by Colorist Patricia Obletz