“But I–,” began the patient.
The doctor pushed a button. Spoke into a speaker.
Came the voice: “Yes, doctor?”
“Grace, have we a large rag or sponge?”
A brief pause. “No, doctor. No rag or sponge.”
“Grace, begin a list. Item one: large rag or sponge.”
The doctor released the button, thought.
Then: “Say the word once more.”
The patient shifted in the chair, said the word.
“Good to hear you say it. Finally.” The doctor’s fingers removed thick black glasses from the doctor’s nose, put one gnarled black earpiece into the doctor’s mouth. Teeth clamped, the doctor said, “Are you ready?”
The patient blinked. “Pardon me?”
The doctor’s head shook no.
Between the doctor and the patient fell a shaft of sunlight.
The doctor gnarled his glasses. The patient wrung his hands.
“Have you ever wanted to be someone else?”
The patient squirmed. The chair squeaked. “What do you mean?”
The doctor sighed. The hand holding the glasses fell to the doctor’s lap. Spittle dripped from the doctor’s gnarled earpiece onto the doctor’s notepad. “I mean what I said.”
The patient swallowed, blinked. “Yes.”
“Luke Skywalker,” said the patient. “When I was seven, I wanted to be Luke Skywalker.”
The doctor licked his lips, furrowed his brow, nodded. “If you’d any sense, you would have wanted to be Solo.”
The doctor held down the button on his speaker phone. “Grace, have we some plastic bags?”
“No, doctor,” came the response. “No plastic bags.”
“Item two, Grace.”
The doctor released the button.
The patient gulped and said, “Doctor–”
The doctor’s eyes snapped up, and pushed the patient deeper into his chair.
The patient choked back a cough and said, “What did you mean, just then?”
The doctor put his glasses back on his nose. The learned head cocked back, the nose went up. The eyes squinted, and sighted down the nose. “What did what mean?”
“You said, ‘it would be best.'”
The doctor’s eyes rolled in their sockets. “I meant what I said.”
Fingers to glasses, earpiece to mouth, teeth to gnarling. The doctor turned a pencil upside down and erased on the notepad. “Can you do it yourself? Or do you require help?”
The patient blinked. “I don’t understand.”
The doctor’s head shook no. “You misunderstand. You waste my time. Are you paid?”
The patient blinked, swallowed, was silent.
The doctor pushed a button. “Grace, the status of the gentleman’s account?”
“Paid but for today, doctor.”
The doctor considered this. “Acceptable loss.” The doctor studied the patient. “Grace, go to lunch. Take the list. Add to it: one bucket.”
A moment passed. Footsteps approached the door. A click sounded from the latch. The patient’s head whirled towards the door. Footsteps receded as Grace left for lunch with the list. The patient gasped, twitched, rose. “Doctor, I must–”
The patient froze, not sitting, not yet standing.
The doctor erased on the notepad again. “This will be our last session.”
The patient stood fully, his head in the shaft of light.
“Now you understand,” the doctor said. “I see it in those eyes.”
The patient turned, went for the door, rattled the knob. Clenched his teeth. The patient rattled the knob again, blinked again, put hand to mouth. The patient beat the door with a fist.
The doctor rose, walked through the shaft of sunlight, swirling the dust within. The doctor drew the window curtain, snuffing out the light. The doctor circled the desk.
On the desk, a lamp.
The doctor unplugged the lamp, removed the shade and tossed it aside. The doctor wound the cord around the lamp. The doctor’s palm closed around the thin part at the bottom.
The patient slammed his back up against the door. “No,” he whispered.
“Not yet,” the doctor agreed. “Tell me again about those eyes.”
The patient squeezed his eyes shut. “I hate them.”
“Yes,” the doctor said, facing the patient. “Now comes the part where I say you should not. Or they are not so bad. Or they can be fixed.” The doctor paused. “But I cannot.” The doctor removed the thick black glasses, tossed them on the desk. “Tell me about that brain.”
The patient made the sounds of someone fighting to not cry.
The doctor stepped closer. “How old were you, the first time?”
The patient burst into tears, tried to say fifteen.
“Sad. To think of how you polluted it, very sad. Do you know what I am reminded of?”
The patient, crying, said enough. Said do it.
“Shall we talk about that night again? What you woke to the next day? The humiliation?”
The patient, heaving, cried out god just do it. Sank to the floor.
“And what did you learn?”
The patient shook his head and wept.
“Now you are ready–,” the doctor raised the lamp, brought it down against the patient’s the face, “–for the cure.”
The patient spilled across the floor, bleeding where the bulb broke. The doctor towered above, lamp shouldered, blood on the lamp.
“About that word, suicide–,” the doctor turned the patient’s head with his foot, “–there are two questions. First, should you do it. Second, can you do it.” The doctor placed a shoe on the patient’s throat. “For you? Yes to the first.” The lamp shattered the patient’s jaw. “No to the second.”
The patient moaned. The lamp fell.
“I have fixed the problem with your eyes. I will chase away the scar where the bandage was. I will fix your teeth as well, for I simply do not like them.”
After lunch, Grace returned with the items on the list.