Imagine this scenario: I’m a self-serving little gobshite undergraduate who thinks he can use his non-standard initiations to his advantage, to get some interest and sympathy, and, possibly, some consoling sex.
I’m fine, but I tell anyone who’ll listen (mainly myself) that I’m not, and this leads me, by a process of referral that I can’t remember, to see an analyst at the state’s expense for to assess whether I would benefit from therapy (good old NHS – as if it didn’t have better things to do with its inadequate funding.)
She’s lovely – young, attractive and perceptive enough to realise that I’m going to need an analyst who isn’t. I spin her my yarn, a story in which I am the innocent and troubled victim and everyone else is a motiveless perpetrator. It’s all factually true, but the way I tell it feels dishonest, so it’s a relief to hear her say she thinks I have a good case for therapy, but that I’ll need, under the circumstances, to see an older man, and she refers me to her boss.
I’m overjoyed. I’ve been given professional, medical vindication for a version of myself that even I doubted. But I still feel like an imposter and it feels like a betrayal of the other people involved, my co-conspirators. They, too, were vulnerable and confused and don’t deserve to be sacrificed on the altar of my fiction, my bildungsroman. It’s with a sense of guilt and trepidation that I arrive at the big, run-down hospital-type building.
My memories, here, are sketchy. I don’t remember checking in, but I remember standing at the bottom of a large flight of stairs. A young, harried, doctor comes down and takes me into some Spartan side room with elderly chairs. He’s not the man I’m here to see. I tell him I have an appointment, but he says I should tell him what the problem is. It all seems worryingly informal, but he’s a doctor, so I spill my filth out in front of him. It’s pretty personal and embarrassing and squalid, said out loud to a total stranger. He fixes his eyes on me with a look of polite concern, but I get the impression (probably in retrospect) that he’s not really concentrating. I don’t remember him asking me any questions, for example. Perhaps he’s going through his more pressing business, his more deserving cases, in his head.
When I’ve run to a halt, which is quite quickly because I’m not feeling comfortable about this, he leans forward, and in warm, sympathetic tones, he says something like, “Look, you’ve clearly got yourself in a bit of a tizz, but Dr/Mr X [my appointment] is very busy, at the moment, and I think you should go home and try to relax…” I say, “But I’ve got an appointment” and he says, “Dr/Mr X is very busy, at the moment…”
And I’m horrified. Horrified. I’m crushed. I ‘ve truly got my come-uppance. I creep to the door and I turn and thank him. I thank him. Then I creep out. I creep home, silent, to village wells, up half-known roads, through a hissing dimness, and all noises, dog barks, bus engines, people calling across the park, seem tiny and far away, submerged in a sort of ear-singing shock.