Micah Bates

Showtime!

The decor in my psychiatrist’s waiting room isn’t retro. It’s just old. And the green shag carpet always makes me sneeze. The worst part is I can’t see his office door from my seat on the stained floral-print couch. Every couple of minutes I wander over to the hallway to make sure Dr. Kildare isn’t waiting for me. 

I clutch the bright blue pill in my hand, Geodon 40 mg. I used to take the lower dose pill, half blue and half white. I must’ve said something wrong at my last appointment—’cause this was what came out of the new bottle. I usually take it with breakfast, but I don’t like when my meds get changed without anyone telling me. So, here I am walking around with it, like it’s a precious gem or something.

 Dr. Kildare greets me from the hallway, “John, good to see you. Thanks for being patient while I finished my calls. Come on back to one of my rooms and tell me what brings you in early.” 

I follow him back into his office. His shoes are terrible: white, clunky and sticking out below his pleated dockers. The soles are worn out at funny angles and just looking at ‘em makes my knees hurt.

 I like the brown leather couch in his office better than the floral print one in the waiting room. At least someone made a pretense of cleaning this one.

“How have you been?” Dr. Kildare asks.

“Okay. Surviving.”

“What’s in your hand?”

“The blue one.”

“Are you going to take it?”

“Yeah—but can I tell you a story first?”

Dr. Kildare repositions in his chair. He sets his pen down on his yellow notepad, which I’m pretty sure isn’t a compliment. He nods for me to continue. I feel patronized and want to clamp shut, to curl back down inside myself. But I don’t get a lot of chances to talk to other people.

“It starts on Friday, when I went to the movies with my wife. After the show, I was using the urinal when this massive guy stands next to me, which was strange ’cause there were a lot of other options. I was doing my best to keep my eyes forward and ignore that this guy is looking over at me, but then he sneezes. It was loud and wet. The germy droplets tinkled down onto my pecker. Which is a weird sensation, if you’ve never had it happen before.”

I look up at Dr. Kildare. He’s not smiling, but he’s no longer staring at the blue pill hidden in my hand. I knew this was a good story.

“Doc, I know we’ve been working on me standing up for myself more in the moment, but I ain’t ashamed to admit that I didn’t say a thing. The guy was twice my size and I didn’t have any one-liners prepared for that particular situation. I just waited for him to zip up and leave. When I went to wash my hands, I wondered if I should wash off down there too, but there were kids in the bathroom. So, it didn’t seem like a good idea.

“I should’ve done something different though, ’cause by the time I got home, my dick was sick. It kept sneezing and coughing away, which when you’re wearing pants, feels as muffled as it sounds.”

Dr. Kildare looks like he wants to stop me. I know he doesn’t like it when I talk so much about dicks—I mean who does? But I gotta get this story out.

“I had to do something. So, I opened a can of chicken noodle soup and warmed it in the microwave. My wife caught me in the kitchen, which was real awkward. Me with my pants around my ankles, pressed against the counter, standing on my tippy toes with my man-parts dunked in the soup. 

“My wife’s a gem, though. She got over the shock quick, bundled me off to bed, and took care of me. Course that meant she got sick too, which wasn’t pretty. You’d think a vagina sneezing would be cute—but it’s not.”

I look up at Dr. Kildare with hopeful anticipation.

He frowns and adjusts his glasses before answering. “I’ve asked you to limit vulgarity in my office. Don’t make me do it again.” He looks at his watch and then back at me. “I have to see my next patient. Take your medication and I’ll check on you when I’m done.”

Dr. Kildare leaves the room with his notepad. 

I stand up to follow him, but the doorway ain’t there anymore. The walls are gone too. I’m on an empty stage with a single microphone. The amphitheater in front of me is filled with the rustle of people waiting to be entertained. The spotlight’s so bright, I can’t quite make any of them out.

I walk up to the microphone, still clutching my blue pill. When I cough, the hall fills with the amplified echoes of my discomfort. I’m nervous, but I’ve always dreamed of making it big.

“You all get charged a copay to get in tonight too?” I ask the quiet crowd. “If so, I hope your insurance is better than mine. Mine seems to think it stands for con-pay. ’cause I’m the only one getting conned into paying anything around here…”

Nothing. Not even a chuckle. I grab the microphone and pace around the stage, trying to think. I’m not gonna get many more chances.

“Did you hear the local university is offering a course where the students watch the Tour de France backwards…”

I pause and count to three. Giving ‘em time to mull it over.

“…It’s gonna be called Reverse Cycle-ology.”

A single laugh. Short and awkward, but still a laugh. It gives me hope and spurs me on.

“I gotta tell you all that while I’m thrilled to be here, I just can’t wait to get home and rip off my wife’s panties…”

I hook my thumb into the waist of my cotton boxers and pull at ‘em. Grimacing real big, so even the people in the nosebleeds can see.

“…’Cause the elastic in these things is killing me.”

That gets me a scattering of chuckles. 

“You all like the wife jokes and potty humor, huh? Well, who am I to argue?

“So, the other night the old lady and I went out for dinner. It was a real fancy place. Didn’t even have prices on the menu. Now I know what you’re all thinking. That’s not such a great idea for an agoraphobic with schizoaffective disorder. But that’s where you’re wrong. How else are we gonna get all these great stories? Can’t argue with that logic, can you? 

“Besides, I had my wife with me. She was wearing a real pretty blue dress with a low-cut white sweater over the top. She’s a real gem. Did I say that already?”

“John,” a deep voice rumbles, filling the room and interrupting my bit. “It’s time to take your medication.”

The spotlight moves to my hand. I uncurl my sweaty fingers. The blue pill glows in the bright light. 

I sigh.

“It’s been a pleasure entertaining ya’ll tonight…but it seems my time has come.”

I try to swallow the pill dry. It catches, a lump in the back of my throat. I gag and it comes spitting back out. I cough up a storm and before I know what’s happening, there’s a sharp jab in my right shoulder. 

I sink back down into the brown leather couch and sit there for I don’t know how long. The amphitheater walls constrict back into the tan-striped wallpaper of Dr. Kildare’s office. A foggy version of him pockets a syringe and small vial. He picks the blue pill off the rug with a tissue and drops it in the trash. His stern face pops into focus, a little too clear, and he offers me an off-white dixie cup. The water’s lukewarm and waxy.

“Feeling better?” Dr. Kildare asks.

“No.”

“Would you like me to call the hospital? A few days inpatient would allow you to safely stabilize on the new dose.”

“No.” 

I’ve been admitted to the psych unit before. It never helps, and I still haven’t paid off the three grand from last time.

“Will you at least promise to take your medication?”

I want to tell him that he’s the one causing all the problems by messing with my dosage. But I know better than to say that.

“Doc, I may be crazy—but I’m not stupid.” 

“Good. The intramuscular Geodon I gave you works quickly, but won’t last as long. Take a 40 mg pill as soon as you get home and I’ll add you on for a check-in Thursday morning.” 

The bus ride home is rough. The medication makes my blood heavy and my gut sick. There’s a kid with big green eyes standing on the seat in front of me. I ain’t got nothing for him. Not even a silly face to make him smile. 

Back in my studio apartment, I go straight to the bathroom and flush the blue pills down the toilet. Crawling into my single bed, I look up the half-life of Geodon. Then fall back onto my pillow. 

Only twenty-five hours ‘til I get back to Showtime!

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