I was seated casually in the closed cabin of my counsellor, David's office. The aluminium light of afternoon pierced the Venetian blinds, striping the pressed lazy air. Dust idled fitfully in the light hot space. My throat was dry. My fingers prickled. My palms moistened. My head felt spun out. My mind seemed stretched like lumpy spaghetti.
David's vibrato voice bumped through the thick air, "Richard, It's a paradox. What is the way out? There are many gateways to Heaven ... if you'll excuse that rather quaint anachronistic term. So too there are many signposts to Hell. Sometimes there is a choice, which may not be at first obvious to the afflicted, the dysfunctional, the inattentive, the oppressed..."
His wandering basso profundo lost itself in the air. I shifted my body to one side, attempting to bring him back on track, to prevent a cerebral derailment.
The movement worked. He resumed. "Remember St. Paul: ’straight is the gate and narrow is the path.’ " He paused, flicked his drowsing eyelids and sighed, "and remember too, the therapist is not God, not even a priest -"
I stabbed the air with the interjection, "David, but ... but... how can this be so, can this be the case? If this is-"
"Wait, let me finish. The therapist is not God. I am not your only guru. I'm not even a priest or a sage, and I can only prompt you, the alcoholic, the sufferer, to heal yourself, and this, at the end of the day, involves finding and searching for the meaning, the mystery ... of God." David clasped his entwined straight fingers across his Buddha-like belly. He beamed his wide-open smile, like a whale basking contentedly in its warm watery pod. The dust in the air hovered, uncertain which way to wander.
My mind sat in its own hot air-pressed cocoon, blotched, baked and blurred. Words slipped out of my bloated lips, "Are you saying there is no instant automatic salvation, as of right, as a Christian?"
David cocked his head, " ’fraid not. We leave that to the rescuers, the Salvationists." His eyes glistened with wry irony. "Remember Christ's: 'I am the Resurrection and the Life.’ "
I felt my choler rise, then subside. The air in the room sweated against the walls. The room swayed and swam. I closed my eyes. My mind was drowning in a warm lake of reeds and quaking amoeba and grotesque protoplasmic blobs and swollen forms bound in white ribbons, banded shrouds, and swaddling clothes. A swarm of images swam in my heat-oppressed brain: the raising of Lazarus, the Nativity scene, the slow agonizing torture of Jesus by crucifixion, the groaning gurgle of the un-bandaging of great giants in agony. The noise clunk of an executioner's axe jolted the photism. I erupted, "David. Stop. I'm hot. I'm hallucinating. I'm in a clammy stupor. I'm feeling sticky. I'm very uncomfortable. I'm strung out. I'm feeling sort of ... whelmed." I creakily stood up and stretched my exhausted limbs. Through the window I glimpsed the cool pine-green of the sea. My eye zoomed into its cooling vastness. My mind dived into its cooling salve. The blue washed, caressed my mind.
"Ah-h-h-h!" I soared in tingling hope. "The sea! The sea! I'd love to go for a quick dip. It will jolt me out of my stupor." With measured irony I added, "I want a quick fix."
David calmly breathed, "I understand perfectly. But ... but you should go to Heather's relaxation class. No sudden jolts there. Just calm beneficent healing. It will soothe like soft new milk. And like the sea (but unlike a quick dip or quick fix) over the time of a long immersion, it unties all knots. No instant fixes there."
He beamed his cherubic smile. I was intrigued. I was quietly confused. He was smiling. I felt irritable, yet passive. He smiled the confident moral superiority of the chess player who is letting his opponent know he made an error in the previous move.
I slumped out of David's room like a wet over-flowing cake-mix subject to too much quick heat. I stood on the threshold. I was in stasis. I stole another yearning look at the sea. Milk jade. Pounamu. The emerald Buddha. David's belly. David's wise (but maddeningly cryptic) words. David's chess-victor's glow. But the sea! But the sea! But no! No! Heather's class! Relaxation! Oh no! Oh Hell Such soothing soporific seances of sentimental swill. Pagh!
Clay, our 'new' American 'been-there-done-that’ counsellor cruised past me. He cast me a querulous glance. I returned a glazed stare. The sun beat down. The hot iron roof creaked in a dulled shriek of pain. Seagulls returned the metallic groans with carnivorous cawing. Down the hill Max started his tractor engine. Its roar was like that of a demonic un-tuned orchestra. A cacophony of mechanic mayhem. What stupefied equilibrium I had had, was unbalanced by the crackle of exhaust retorts. My mind was so loaded, so pressed, so explosive. The sun scorched my raw fibre. I felt cooked, sweated. My God, I cried inside, the pressure, the p-r-e-s-s-u-r-e forces me to melt. Thoughts dried up in the heat. Feelings fought each other like birds caught in a golf-driving practice-net. The sun beat mercilessly on and on. I felt I was falling into despair and humiliation and driveling insanity.
I was in turmoil. Yet my body cried, "The patient must minister to himself." Max drove away. The air quieted. My panic stilled. Heather glissaded past, as if on an uphill escalator. Her example stirred me. I zapped out of my brainstorm, my mindset. I brought myself to attention. I clicked my heels. I threw back my head. I strode up the hill.
My good friend Bob stopped me near the entrance to the relaxation therapy room. "How is it with you old friend? The bloody battle within your mind still raging?" He gently tapped my shoulder with his closed fist, a little soft reminder of the intolerable sumo-wrestling inside my skull.
I expelled a rush of embattled air from my lips. "I feel the thumping has lessened, almost stopped. Perhaps a truce between the wrestlers has been called, perhaps God has called a cease-fire."
"Good. But perhaps your mind will run away again into those dark gladiatorial theatrical places."
"I don't think so. I certainly hope not. It's as if I've been in a dark wrestler's stadium, looking at the spotlit dazzling bodily enmeshed contestants thumping and graunching each other. Now I'm sort of out in the lovely gently lighted real world under the sunny open sky?" I pointed gleefully upward. "It's a fever that has perhaps run its course; more like a play in which I had to act, all the way through, until what was so plainly the end."
"The stage full of corpses?"
"No, I just walked out of the theatre."
2001 Trout &