"According to this report, Mr. Papp, you either refuse to take your medication or you gulp it all at once. Have you never heard the adage, 'everything in moderation, nothing in excess'?"

"You're a great one to talk. When was the last time you had sex, Ms. Zoe?"

"Longer ago than you could—or I'd care to—remember. And it is Sister Zoe. Now, your doctor has prescribed Tegretol and Mysoline. To be taken daily. Have you done so today?"

"I have not."

"You forgot, then? Or did Sister Clara neglect to take it to you this morning?"

"Oh, it was there all right, on a tray no less—impotence on a silver platter."

"Are you referring to the drugs' ineffectiveness?"

"Just the contrary. I haven't had an erection in weeks."

"Listen, Julian. May I call you Julian?"

He let a stony silence answer.

"Mr. Papp, then. Things will be a lot more pleasant if we can work together. You were allowed to leave the hospital, remember, because you made an agreement to cooperate."

"I'd have agreed to Leavenworth to get out of that sensory-deprivation tank."

"So your promise was a false one?"

"It wasn't a promise; it was a confession. I couldn't stand it there anymore so I signed. They beat it out of me, Father."


"Tongue depressors under my fingernails, disinfectants in my food, dope injections and ice water enemas—it was hell, absolute hell."

"And were these 'cruel and unusual punishments' necessary to prevent you from attempting suicide again?"

"If not necessary, at least successful, for here I am."

"Willing or unwilling to cooperate?"

"I promise never to attempt the terminal deed again."

"Mr. Papp, we haven't the staff to watch you day and night. If you're really determined to kill yourself, you'll find it easy here. Therefore, it might be better…"

"You're not thinking of sending me back? Mother of Mercy, not that! I'd sooner survive."

"How is it, Mr. Papp, that someone with such a hearty sense of humor can be so fatalistic?"

"Let me consider… 'Life is the one joke from which we all die laughing'… or… You see? They've so befuddled my brain with their pharmacological charity I can hardly manage to answer clich�s in kind. What's to become of me?"

"Let's see if we can work that out. Will you agree to come and talk to me if ever you feel deeply depressed?"

"A contract?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"Suicide Prevention Center jargon: placing an intermediary between the client and his threatened act. I'm surprised you're unfamiliar with…"

"I know the term. Well?"

"Will you call off your spies?"


"Ms. Clara and that bald girl."

"Marcy? Where did you meet Marcy?"

"We haven't met. She runs away every time I catch a look at her. First time was the day I got here. She was watching from behind a tree."

"How odd… Marcy is not a staff member; she's a patient. As for Sister Clara, she has been assigned to help you get acquainted with the lifestyle here. She will do anything she can to make your stay with us more comfortable."

"Thanks, but no thanks. She's not my type. Now, if the bald kid were a few years older…"

"Mr. Papp, I find your consistent use of sexual innuendo of interest only professionally; it is personally quite obnoxious. If it is something you would like to discuss, fine. I suspect, however, it is more a case of bad manners. But what is merely a minor irritation to me could be quite damaging to a patient, and I suggest, if you have any desire to stay on here, you demonstrate a bit more respect for others—as well as for yourself."

"You have a peculiar bedside manner yourself, Ms. Zoe. What if I were the sensitive type and your chewing me out sent me plummeting into the 'slough of despond'? My death would be on your head, wouldn't it?"

"Firstly, I don't think you're that delicate psychologically. Secondly, your death as well as your life is in God's hands, not in yours or mine."

"You must be kidding. I can see the costume and all—the beads, the wimple, the crucifix—but surely you've come to realize psychiatry and Catholicism are hopelessly incompatible. Or is that diploma on your wall back there in 'Faith Healing'?"

"I take it, then, that you are not religious?"

"If there's a God, I'm a monkey's uncle. Whereas if there isn't, the monkey's my uncle—and I believe Mr. Darwin proved that rather convincingly."

"You're very clever, Mr. Papp. But are you bright enough to have wondered, to have asked the question why, to have plumbed your imagination for a primary cause?"

"The 'Big Bang' will do."

"Yes, but who set the charge?"

"Personally, I'd vote for the abominable snowman. But others—with equally inane justification—have latched onto a more anthropomorphic character—invariably old, wise, male, and Caucasian."

"And with so little faith you still can live?"

"Zugzwang! Though you'll be hard-pressed to attribute my existential apathy to atheism."

"Why do you want to end your life?"

"I doubt you'd understand."

"Try me."

"All right. Imagine that through constant prayer and meditation you were able to achieve a certain rapport with your God. It was like as open channel through which some 'quintessential meaning' flowed. Then one fine day an illness struck you down, and when you recovered, you realized the channel had been closed. What would be the point of going on?"

"Could you use your own case as an example instead of analogizing mine?"

"Chess, goddamn it! I can't play anymore."

"Since your overdose?"

"No, since my first seizure."

"Have you tried?"

"I played my computer."


"It beat me. It never beats me. Even on its slowest speed."

"You had been through quite an ordeal, though, hadn't you?"

"When you look the way I do, ordeals are quotidian. No, you don't understand. I used to see the right moves. I'd go to a special place in my mind, completely relax, and when I'd come back the moves were obvious."

"What kind of place?"

"I can't describe it. I tried to tell my doctor, but as soon as he could slap on the medical term—'aura' he called it—he stopped listening."

"I'll listen."

"What's the use? It's gone."

"Did your doctor explain how auras generally work?"

"That they're warning signs a seizure's about to happen—or is in fact happening? Yes."

"But you used to get the auras without suffering the convulsions."

"Yeah, I guess so—if aura is the right name for what I experienced."

"Did he also tell you that it's not unusual for epileptics to forget the aura after a seizure, especially after a grand mal seizure?"

"Implying that I still go to my meadow but just can't remember? What’s the difference? Either way it's lost."

"So it's a meadow you used to visit?"


"You said, 'my meadow.' Is it a place you recall from real life or is it imaginary?"

"This interview is over."

Julian rose, spun around, and defiantly left the room.


"... relaxed...

back to Table of Contents

back one