in the hours in which i don't sleep i have started thinking about doctor omnibus, the octogenarian navy vet who was my psychiatrist for a decade or so. he was fond of saying that none of the things that mattered to me would feel important when i was eighty; he also said "tell me how you want to feel and we will make you feel that way" rather a lot, because he was a psychiatrist and not a psychologist or a psychotherapist. from where i sit, psychiatrists are master aeronauts: theirs is to stoke lanterns and fling ballast rather than to sit through gastrointestinal soliloquies about my social anxiety. we parted ways a year ago, but that is a story for another time.

he told me when i first met him that he had parented his daughter...eccentrically, and that they were no longer in touch. he told me a few sessions later that his only vacation spot is a dead forest on the oregon coast, and the fact that his happy place is an offshore stick garden of ghost trees has always been one of my favorite things about him.

so: doc om is estranged from his progeny and while it's silly to imagine that one knows anything about one's former caregivers' lives, i feel pretty sure that he's alone somewhere. does he have an apartment near his apartment-office on central park south? is he now on an air mattress next to the DSMs and pirated comics he warned me again and again that i was never to touch?

radical empathy's a helluva drug. i'm still worrying about my janky homemade mask's potential repercussions for the elderly folks receiving groceries from me across the street, but i'm also re-gnawing local calamity hangnails: who's checking on joan didion? this time, the first time: who's checking on doctor omnibus?

in the best of all possible worlds, he realized that he needed to get the fuck out of new york city a month ago. he made a terrible phone call and is now desperate to escape grandchildren he didn't know he had. he's ditched his old-man moccasins and the tide is pushing sand up under his yellow nails. i would check on you at your office number, doctor omnibus, and i know that you would think less of me if i reached you.


Lisa said...

"psychiatrists are master aeronauts: theirs is to stoke lanterns and fling ballast"

This is brilliant.

And I don't actually like the sound of Dr. O, but you're OK and my empathy is radically enormous for my loved ones and less for pour le grand monde, so, I'll leave him be where ever he is.

lauren said...

he was what i needed him to be, until he wasn't. i am probably long overdue for some kind of talk therapy, but i also have a bad habit of turning interactions with professionals into dick-measuring contests; a gruff, just-the-facts-ma'am guy knocked me out of my tendency to be manipulative, and he wasn't wrong about the fact that i overthink everything. his job was to confirm that my ages-old prescriptions were doing what i wanted them to do, not to coddle me, and that was fine.

joe and i now see the same psychiatrist, and that has been a wild ride; she has zero boundaries, so when i first told her that what i was doing chemically was working for me, i felt like i just have bone-deep anxiety that isn't related to my relationship because that's great, she said, "oh i know, joe IS great!" and showed me a bunch of pictures of her house and some birds she met.