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VOLUME 2, NUMBER 23    <>   MONDAY, JUNE 11, 2001

ordinary lives

curable traits

Jake hung out by the pharmacy desk and glared at his watch.

How long did it take to fill a bottle of Zoloft anyway? For six years he’d come to this pharmacy, same refill every month. Yet they never had it ready, never paid attention when he called the prescription in.

He thumbed through a carousel of brochures. Shit, there was a disorder to explain all your faults. He picked up a glossy pamphlet. Feeling dramatic, too emotional, needing more attention? You may have Histrionic Personality Disorder. Is your loved one self-important, arrogant, and yet too needy? You might be dealing with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Jake snickered. Having problems getting laid, can’t get off with the love of your life? Sexual Aversion Disorder may be your problem. God, whatever happened to the uniquely weird, not damaged or sick but just different? What about for the twenty-something male, living in a room over his mother’s garage, miserably alone, hopelessly gay, wishing his life weren’t so fucked up? What disorder covered that?

He knew what his mother would say. “You kids today, you don’t know what it is to suffer. You don’t know what it means to not have enough food, or to worry we might die in a war. You have too much time on your hands to sit around and feel sorry for yourselves.”

Jake remembered eavesdropping on his parents when he was a kid, listening as they talked about him. Even then his mother’s voice had given him a headache.

“Roger, what are we going to do about Jake? This sickness he has about other boys?”

“Do you think it’s some kind of injury? Maybe he knocked his head on something, we should take him in for a CAT scan.”

“Roger, take him to a psychiatrist. The boy needs some help.”

So they’d treated him for the melancholy and hoped it’d cure the rest. Two for one, cure-the-sadness-kill-the-gayness. And like an idiot, he swallowed their solution, just for the chance to be accepted.

But what if his sadness was just a trait, he wanted to argue. Like dark hair, green eyes, being gay? People used to think homosexuality was an illness; hell, his mother still did. What if his sadness was just the same, something to be accepted, not to be cured? Jake took a look at the blue-smocked pharmacist, counting out pills, white, green, and brown. Behavior modification for the ill-adjusted — the thought popped unbidden into his head.

He walked out of the pharmacy empty-handed.

Vanitha Sankaran is currently writing a collection of vignettes, to be titled Ordinary Lives. Her current work can be found in recent issues of Prose Ax, The Paumanok Review, and Mindprints.