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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Doctor

Motioning me to sit down, he picked up a pair of hearing aid from the desk and put them in his ears. "When you get old, your hearing goes," he smiled apologetically. "This way I can hear you better." His hair and beard were mostly white and both needed a trim, but he had obviously reached an age and place in life that allowed him to completely ignore appearances. On the bookshelf sat several Freud dolls, one porcelain and one cloth. Both had the characteristic white beard too.

When he talked, his blue eyes, magnified behind the thick glasses, were fixed on an invisible spot behind my left ear, as if to concentrate his thoughts or to recall something important. They would flick back to my face every minute or two, and then went back to that spot.

"I am toxo positive, but I have not developed schizophrenia. My sister is also toxo positive and she has schizophrenia. Presumably we were both exposed in childhood. So why is it that she is affected but I'm not?" He said it matter-of-factly, but my mind immediately romanticized this detail. Did he become a psychiatrist and devote all his life to the research of the cause and cure of this disease to save his sister? A psychiatrist might scoff at such simplistic deduction. Still, I imagine that it made for as good a mission as any.

For decades almost no one believed him. Contagious madness? What a crazy idea! It didn't make sense intuitively. A lone voice in the wilderness, making do with whatever funding he could scrape together, he continued to make noise about his cause and made small but steady progress, not unlike Captain Ahab's pursuit of the great white whale. Near the end of his career he was finally heard, and people began to convert to his ideas, after other, more glamorous and fashionable theories failed. Vindication was so close he could taste it. But he was too old and weak to slay the whale with his own hands and might have to hand over the pursuit to others. Yet for the moment he was still hanging on, lingering for another day, another year, even if just to witness the kill, which, perhaps, would be as sweet as revenge.

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