Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Memoirs of Arnold Schnabel: “the couch”

Let’s rejoin our hero Arnold Schnabel here in the cozy consulting room of the lady psychiatrist Dr. Blanche Weinberg...

(Kindly click here to read last week’s installment of this Gold View Award™-winning 77-volume epic of confessional literature; those curious souls who would like to start at the beginning may go here to purchase
Railroad Train to Heaven: Volume One of the Memoirs of Arnold Schnabel, available both as a Kindle™ e-book and a handsome large-format paperback.)

“Arnold Schnabel: outsider or the ultimate insider?” – Harold Bloom, in the
Us Weekly Literary Supplement.

I don’t know why I didn’t just say thanks but no thanks, get up, say goodbye, please send me the bill, and go. 
But then where would I go? Outside was the unknown, and inside here was also the unknown, but less unknown. And here was an attractive woman doctor who wanted to help me, and charging only five dollars an hour, and deferred at that, urging me to lie down on  a comfortable-looking couch, and I was tired, very tired, it felt like six and a half years since I had gotten out of bed that morning.

I got up and went over to the couch, walking on legs that felt as if they belonged to someone else in some other world, and wasn’t that the truth anyway. The couch was about seven feet long, more than enough for me to stretch out on, with three or four tasseled unmatched floral-patterned pillows at the left end, the end closest to the door, and a crocheted pink and orange and purple afghan folded at the other end. To the left of the couch was a cozy-looking easy chair, and this too was upholstered in a floral pattern, one that didn’t match the couch but which didn’t clash either. To the left of the chair was a small round lace-covered table with an ashtray and an old-fashioned electric table lamp, its curved base painted with flowers and its tasseled shade printed with more flowers. 

There were a lot of other things in the room – cabinets, book cases, shelves, little knick-knacks and sculptures, paintings, photographs – but I won’t attempt to enumerate or describe them because to be quite honest I barely noticed them at the time because all I really saw was that couch, that comfortable looking couch, and I was just bending my knees preparatory to flopping down on it when the lady doctor’s voice called and said, “I would ask you to take off your shoes, Mr. Walker.”

“Oh, of course,” I said.

I sat down on the couch and unlaced my work shoes, which were in fact very dirty. I had greyish white sweat socks on, and they were damp with sweat, but there wasn’t anything I could do about that. There was an oriental rug on the floor here, at least the rug looked oriental to me, although it could well have been made in Philadelphia for all I knew, anyway I set my dirty work-shoes side by side on the rug and lay down on my back on the couch, my head and shoulders on the pillows, the fingers of my hands joined over my stomach. It was almost as if I were dead finally, and on display in my coffin, and I felt almost as calm as if I were dead.

“You can take off that seersucker jacket if you like,” said the doctor. “It will get wrinkled. Or I suppose I should say more wrinkled yet.”

“That’s okay,” I said. 

“Yes, of course, you’re a poet after all, are you not, Mr. Walker? I suppose the wrinkled look is quite de rigueur in your profession. Unless perhaps you are T.S. Eliot.”

To be honest, now that I was lying down I just didn’t feel like sitting up to take the jacket off. Speaking of the jacket, I could feel in its right pocket what felt very much like the revolver that woman Lily had given me ages ago, so I still had that in this world, that was good to know.

Turning my head, I saw that Dr. Weinberg was pulling venetian blinds down over the windows and drawing the lace curtains together.

Then she walked out of my field of vision, and a moment later the overhead lights in the room went out. It was still daylight outside, so the room was dim but not dark. Then a light came on somewhere to the back of my head, but a low-wattage, pinkish blue-tinted light, and I heard Dr. Weinberg’s voice saying, from just behind and above my head:

“Would you like to tell me what’s on your mind, Mr. Walker.”

What a question.

All I could do was to answer with at least a modicum of honesty.

“I hardly know where to start, doctor,” I said.

“Why don’t you tell me why you made an appointment with me. Something must have been bothering you.”

“If I told you the truth I’m afraid you’ll think I’m insane.”

“I doubt that.”

“No,” I said. “You will.”

“Why don’t you let me be the judge of that. I didn’t get those diplomas on the wall behind my desk for my good looks you know.”

“Yes, you’re right, I suppose,” I said.

“Then I ask you, Mr. Walker, please, simply tell me the truth.”

I sighed.

“I mean of course as well as you’re able to,” she added. “The truth shall we say as you perceive it.”

Again I sighed, involuntarily, or as involuntarily as sighing ever is.

I heard the sound of a cigarette lighter being clicked, and then  I saw a small cloud of cigarette smoke wafting above my head.

“Oh,” said Dr. Weinberg’s voice. “I should have asked, because I know you said you quit smoking, but do you mind if I smoke?”

“Oh, no, please do,” I said. “It’s the next best thing to actually smoking myself.”

“Are you sure you wouldn’t like a cigarette yourself.”

“Oh, I would definitely like one,” I said. “But I’m so comfortable lying here, and I’ve never liked smoking lying down.”

“You could sit up if you like.”

“No, I think I’ll just keep lying here,” I said. “But please feel free to blow the smoke towards me.”

“I shall then,” she said. “So.”

“So,” I said.

But then I said nothing. It was just all too much. I lay there and looked up at the ceiling, which was the same blue color as the walls of the office, a greyish blue now that Dr. Weinberg had closed the blinds and curtains and put out the overhead light. The table lamp that she had apparently turned on cast a gentle and vague circle of yellow and purple and pink on the ceiling, which was decorated with the molded outlines of large flowers and swirling vines.

I closed my eyes. I could hear the scribbling of pencil-lead on paper.

I began to doze, and in fact I even began to hear myself snore, but before I could fall solidly asleep I heard Dr. Weinberg’s voice again.

“Mr. Walker. You’re snoring.”

“Sorry,” I said.

“Have you had a long day?”

“Very long,” I said.

“Six and a half years long?”

“Approximately,” I said.

“I can’t help you if you say nothing at all.”

I responded to this by saying nothing. I wasn’t trying to be annoying, I just couldn’t think of anything to say, or, rather, I thought of many things to say, too many things.

“I have an idea,” said her voice. “But I shall need your permission. Would you mind terribly if I hypnotized you.”

“That depends,” I said.

“On what?”

“It depends on if it’s going to make me crazier than I already am.”

“I stake my professional reputation on my assertion that hypnotizing you will make you no crazier – your term, not mine – than you already are, if indeed you are, although again 'crazy' is not a term we use in my profession.”

“I don’t know why not,” I said.

“Ha ha. Do I have your permission.”

“What is it like?” I said.

“Being hypnotized?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Well, I suppose the closest analogy would be to the dreaming state. It’s not the same as sleeping, but it does share some of the qualities of a good sleep, for instance, the so-called rapid eye movement –”

“Okay,” I said.

“Okay as in yes you agree to be hypnotized.”

“Yes,” I said. 

If it was anything like sleep I was all for it. I felt like I could sleep for twenty-four hours straight, but I would settle for a good nap.

“Very well, then, Mr. Walker. Now listen, I should like you to try to relax.”

“I actually feel pretty relaxed already,” I said. “This is such a comfortable couch.”

“Splendid. Now I would like you please to breathe deeply and slowly. Deeply. Slowly. That’s it. Deeply. Slowly. Feel your stomach rising and falling gently as you breathe. Slowly, deeply. Deeply, slowly…”

Then I was asleep, or hypnotized I suppose, or both, deep asleep, a sleep without dreams, no, that’s not quite true, I was aware of myself, or of someone, aware of myself dreaming or someone or some thing dreaming, but I didn’t know what the dreams being dreamt were, and I didn’t care, and centuries passed without fear or terror or desire, and then after six hundred years I heard Dr. Weinberg’s voice again:

“And now you will awaken.”

And I was awake, and the room was much darker, although the lamplight from behind and above my head was much brighter than it had been.

“You can sit up now, Mr. Walker.”

I sat up, swinging my stockinged feet down to the floor and the rug. The blinds on the windows were still down, the curtains still drawn, but no daylight shone through them, night had fallen. I looked to my right, and Dr. Weinberg was sitting in her chair, smoking a cigarette, her legs crossed, her leather-bound notebook open on her lap.

“How do you feel?” she said.

“Very well rested, thank you,” I said. “How long was I out?”

She looked at the tiny watch on her wrist.

“Oh, about seven hours,” she said.

“I thought the session was only for an hour.”

“Yes, so it was meant to be. But what you were saying was simply so interesting that I just let you go on. I hope you don’t mind.”

“No,” I said. “To be honest, I really needed the rest.”

“Yes, I imagine so,” she said.

“What did I tell you?”

“Oh, you told me quite a bit.”

“About – how I got here, and everything that happened before?”

“Yes. Or as much as could be told in seven hours. I’m sure there’s much more.”

“Oh, there is,” I said. “So.”


“So now you know I’m crazy.”

“I know nothing of the sort. Are you hungry by the way.”

“Yes,” I said.

“I am famished. Shall we get something to eat?”

“I’m not sure if I have any money on me.”

“Please allow me to treat.”

I’ve never been one to turn down a free meal, so I told her okay.

(Continued here, and onward, inexorably.)


Unknown said...

Annie Ross! Brave of Arnold to undergo hypnosis, although It's probably much more pleasant than electroshock therapy. Wasn't he subjected to that in Byberry?

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I didn't say anything more flippant or banal than usual. My computer's hyper-active and keeps doubling everything. My apologies. n

Dan Leo said...

Getting back to Arnold's hospital stay, I don't think he's actually said if he had electro-shock – in fact he hasn't said very much about it at all...maybe he felt that Ken Kesey had already covered all that territory in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest?

Oh, PS, Kathleen, your commenst are never flippant or banal, and they are always appreciated!