Thursday, June 26, 2008

Seeing My Psychiatrist At Margaret Atwood's Psychiatrist

I've been seeing a psychiatrist for the past fourteen years. I'm twenty-four now.

The woman has not been helping me. Here's how it started: I was sent to her by my principal. She was concerned that I didn't respect my female peers. I was a misogynist. I hated women. I didn't think they were equal.

We were ten. They weren't equal. My hair was longer.

My misogyny was eventually cured. Not by my therapist, but by a guy on the street. He said, "Hey, do you see how that broad drives?"

"No," I said. "How?"

"Right over your foot."

After that I didn't hate women anymore. Women and insurance companies are now my friends.

A few days ago I was at my psychiatrist's office; the phone rang. Suddenly she was on her feet and out the door. As I was paying for the next twenty-four minutes, I followed. We went all the way down Charles Street, right through to Yonge. Right past six Starbucks and a Second Cup.

Finally she stopped at a squat brick building and looked up. There, on the roof, was a man. He was ready to jump.

"Alan," my doctor called. "What's wrong?"

Firemen were standing by with a net. Passersby were stopped on the street. Cabs drove in the right-hand lane.

"I can't listen to her anymore," Alan said from his rooftop stage.

"Listen to whom?"


"Who's 'Her'?"

"Miss Canada."

A homeless guy, passing by, stopped and asked me for change: "A couple bucks so I can buy a train ticket and go bother people somewhere else?"

"Sure," I said, and gave him a fifty.

Alan wasn't done talking. "She's in there right now."

"In where?"

"My office."

"Miss Canada?"

"She won't come out."

"Did you ask her to leave?"

"I pushed her."


"And my wedding ring froze."

"Alan," I said, looking up. "What are you doing up there? Have a little too much wine?"

"Who's he?" Alan asked.

"That's my patient," my psychiatrist said.

"Oh, yeah? What's wrong with him?"

The assembled crowd cupped their ears.

"A latent homosexual with severe neurotic tendencies."

"Latent?!" Alan yelled.

"Could you please shut the fuck up?" I asked. Both of them.

"Alan, we've got to get you down from there."

"Not until she's gone."

"Who's gone? Alan, just tell for me crissakes!"

"Atwood. Atwood!"

A firefighter, who'd been inside the building, walked out and spoke to a guy who looked like his superior. He had a nicer helmet, and his jacket was a spotless yellow. He picked up a megaphone and pointed it at Alan.

"Alan! Alan, we were in your office. Fireman MacKay was in your office. Alan, there's no one there. There's no sign there's ever been anyone there. Alan, your office is empty."


"But we felt the chair. The chair's cold. No one was sitting in that chair. Son, you're making this all up!"

Alan came down, walked outside, went back inside, then came out again. "I don't understand," he said. "I was sure..."

There was a breeze, a breath of warmed air rushing from the concrete vault of the subway grate. Chills ran down spines.

"Alan," I said. "Join the club, buddy."

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