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VOLUME 2, NUMBER 22    <>   MONDAY, JUNE 4, 2001

ordinary lives

lost causes

Ted leaned back in the chair and propped his feet against the desk. Ten minutes till his next patient, ten minutes to find his balance. He rubbed his finger through the gritty sand of his miniature Zen garden. He’d lost the tiny rake sometime back. The mountains dip deep into the rivers, he breathed. The yang pushes firmly into the yin. His pulse slowed. He inhaled the faint sweetness from his aromatic diffuser — lavender, bergamot, and ylang-ylang. He should have been a New Age consultant instead of a psychiatrist. Fewer loans, same respect.

Screw this job anyway. No one appreciated what he did, except for maybe his patients. Even then he wasn’t sure. They all wanted a miracle solution, less talk, more pills. All that med school just to be a pill pusher. And endure the look of disdain when he introduced himself as a psychiatrist.

“Oh, you’re a doctor?” they’d ask.

“Yes, a psychiatrist.”

A subtle scorn would creep over their lips.

Didn’t stop them from coming to him. He’d loved this job so much. Once. Anyway, what else would he do? Probe and cut distended carcasses oozing putrid gases, foul-smelling pus, and matted body hair? He shuddered. Cancers of the psyche were subtler to find, and cleaner to the touch.

The intercom buzzed and his next patient was shown into his office.

“Hello, Dania. How are you doing?” he greeted her, and rose to shake hands. She’d made this appointment outside of their regular sessions.

“Okay, Dr. Chalmers,” she replied. “I’ve decided to try the medication.”

Of course she had. “That’s good. I think the pills will help you, but remember, we want to continue talking and working through what you’re feeling.”

“Okay.” Nothing more, just okay.

He sighed, taking out his prescription pad. Theodore Chalmers, M.D. Mad Doctor. Delusional deliverer of the maniacs, the maladjusted, the misinformed.

“Have you given any thought to the different medications we discussed?”

He waited for a response. One, two, three… nothing.

“I would recommend one of the newer SSRIs, maybe Zoloft or Paxil. Probably the Paxil. You don’t really want the weight loss you might experience with the Zoloft.”


He scrawled the prescription on the page. “You should start feeling a bit better in a couple of weeks. You might experience some faintness, headaches, or nausea. But don’t worry, the side effects will pass. We’ll keep up with our regular sessions, so I can track your progress.” He looked up. “Any questions?”

Silence. Of course. Just hand over the prescription.

“Okay then.” He rose. “I’ll see you in a few weeks and we’ll talk more about how you’re doing,” he said. And then she was gone.

Ted sank back into his chair and scratched again at his sand garden. Where the hell had that rake gotten off to? He sucked in a breath of lavender and pulled out the file on his next patient. No matter. There was no point in searching for something he’d lost so long ago.

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.