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Knitting Fiction

The Doldrums

Published on: August 15, 2023

 “Oh shit!,” Anna says out loud. “What have I done? What have I done?” 

     She begins pacing. Or trying to. But the bathroom is small and turns her around. And around. Soon she is pacing in circles. Circling along with her thoughts. She stops and rereads the note still taped on the mirror. She begins circling again. No matter how many steps she takes, she cannot seem to gain purchase. There is a wall, a slick titanium, mountain of a wall, that stands between her and her memory of taking the drugs. She cannot find even a toe-hold. When she tries to remember, she keeps overshooting and coming up with memory shards from further back behind the wall. Behind the memory of taking the drug. She sits down on the toilet, folds her arms around her middle and hunches over.

It’s Dr. Waldt’s office that she’s remembering now. The little man, in his careful suit, sitting in his rocker, and most of all, his sad eyes. Yes, he has Buster Keaton eyes, she remembers thinking. 

     “I’m afraid I must recommend that you consider this plan of yours very, very carefully,” he looks down and shakes his head as he speaks. “Let’s look at the pros and cons. I will take some notes on our ideas and then give them to you to mull over.”

     “Good, I want to know what you think. When I told my sister, Joyce, about the MDMA therapy she recommended a second opinion. She trusts you.” 

     “I’m pleased to hear that. I certainly hope all is well with Joyce.”

     “Yes. As you know, she had a tough time after their baby died. But she is doing better now. They’ve had another child. Their little boy is two. Joyce is happy. And she and Chad are doing well as a couple also.”

     “I’m sure the loss of Joyce’s baby was very difficult for the entire family. For you too.”

     “Yes. For me too. Did you know the baby was named after me?”

     The sad eyes of Dr. Waldt hold Anna’s, “No, I did not know. Somehow the death of a baby who shares one’s name is even more personal.” Anna nods. Still holding her gaze Dr. Waldt asks, “Do you think Little Anna’s death has anything to do with the place in your life you now find yourself? This place you call ‘the doldrums’.” 

   “Yes that and everything else in my life. It feels inevitable that I be here. Like ‘all roads lead to Rome’,” Anna says.

     “You are a very poetic person. Do you know that about yourself, Anna? You are a creative person. Others, with less imagination, would refer to themselves as ‘depressed’.”

     “I don’t know about being poetic. How does it matter what specific word a person uses?”

     “Oh it matters very much. A person who calls herself ‘depressed’ might seek treatment for depression—maybe engage in talk therapy or take medication. A person who sees herself in ‘the doldrums’ might seek ways to move without wind, or perhaps even create wind.”

     “Yes, you’re right. I want to blow a mighty wind into my life—blow things around–mix things up.”

     “You’re thinking the psychedelic drug will be the mighty wind you need?”

     "I need to make a change. If I let that drug into my skull, it’ll blow my brains around, right? I’ll come out changed.” 

     “Yes, a psychedelic drug will change your brain. At least temporarily. But it might not be the kind of change you desire. Also there are other ways to change your brain.”

     Here Anna leans forward, “Are you going to try to persuade me to take antidepressants?”

     “No, actually not. In fact, it might not be a good idea at all for you to take antidepressants. I don’t know what’s the best thing for you to do. I can’t predict outcomes with a hundred percent certainty. What I can do is invite you to step back. Step away from your situation so that you can see it from another perspective. Let’s look at it from many different angles. Then you can make your decision.”

      “You don’t know everything?”

     “No, I don’t know everything. Do you know everything?”

     “No I don’t know everything.”

     “Then let’s make a pile of what we do know. We’ll just heap it all up into a pile that you can sort through.”

     “Okay, where do we start?”

     “Let’s start with ‘the doldrums’, tell me what it’s like to be stuck motionless on flat water, with empty sails.”  

     “I know this drill. You are going to ask me to rate my depression on a scale from one to ten. You are going to ask me if I have thoughts of suicide.” 

     “Is that what it’s like to be in the doldrums?” He asks with his pen poised and ready to write.

     “No. Nothing like that. It’s more like I know that I’m supposed to be somewhere else. My ship is not on the right seas. I don’t know where I am, but I know I’m not where I’m supposed to be. And I can’t get my bearings. The stars are all wrong. Each day the sun rises and sets from the wrong direction.” 

     “So it’s a feeling of being lost, then?”

     “Lost. Yes. Lost. But the point is not so much about being lost. It is more about not being where I’m supposed to be. I need to figure out where I’m supposed to be and get to that place. This must all sound crazy to you,” Anna says.

     “No, you do not sound crazy,” Dr. Waldt says. As a human, I have myself been lost. As a child I remember being lost in the woods while on a hike with my family. I was wandering beside a rushing stream and could not hear them call out to me. Nor could they hear my calls. I remember wanting desperately, with all the power of my will, to be back safely at home. I know that kind of lost, and it is not crazy. But I think the kind of lost you are experiencing is different from that.”

     “Yes, it is different from that kind of lost. I can also remember a time I was lost as a kid, but for me it was not in the woods, it was in a department store. I couldn’t find my mother and sister anywhere. It’s like they had been erased.” 

 “Oh shit!,” Anna says out loud. “What have I done? What have I done?” 

     She begins pacing. Or trying to. But the bathroom is small and turns her around. And around. Soon she is pacing in circles. Circling along with her thoughts. She stops and rereads the note still taped on the mirror. She begins circling again. No matter how many steps she takes, she cannot seem to gain purchase. There is a wall, a slick titanium, mountain of a wall, that stands between her and her memory of taking the drugs. She cannot find even a toe-hold. When she tries to remember, she keeps overshooting and coming up with memory shards from further back behind the wall. Behind the memory of taking the drug. She sits down on the toilet, folds her arms around her middle and hunches over.

It’s Dr. Waldt’s office that she’s remembering now. The little man, in his careful suit, sitting in his rocker, and most of all, his sad eyes. Yes, he has Buster Keaton eyes, she remembers thinking. 

     “I’m afraid I must recommend that you consider this plan of yours very, very carefully,” he looks down and shakes his head as he speaks. “Let’s look at the pros and cons. I will take some notes on our ideas and then give them to you to mull over.”

     “Good, I want to know what you think. When I told my sister, Joyce, about the MDMA therapy she recommended a second opinion. She trusts you.” 

     “I’m pleased to hear that. I certainly hope all is well with Joyce.”

     “Yes. As you know, she had a tough time after their baby died. But she is doing better now. They’ve had another child. Their little boy is two. Joyce is happy. And she and Chad are doing well as a couple also.”

     “I’m sure the loss of Joyce’s baby was very difficult for the entire family. For you too.”

     “Yes. For me too. Did you know the baby was named after me?”

     The sad eyes of Dr. Waldt hold Anna’s, “No, I did not know. Somehow the death of a baby who shares one’s name is even more personal.” Anna nods. Still holding her gaze Dr. Waldt asks, “Do you think Little Anna’s death has anything to do with the place in your life you now find yourself? This place you call ‘the doldrums’.” 

   “Yes that and everything else in my life. It feels inevitable that I be here. Like ‘all roads lead to Rome’,” Anna says.

     “You are a very poetic person. Do you know that about yourself, Anna? You are a creative person. Others, with less imagination, would refer to themselves as ‘depressed’.”

     “I don’t know about being poetic. How does it matter what specific word a person uses?”

     “Oh it matters very much. A person who calls herself ‘depressed’ might seek treatment for depression—maybe engage in talk therapy or take medication. A person who sees herself in ‘the doldrums’ might seek ways to move without wind, or perhaps even create wind.”

     “Yes, you’re right. I want to blow a mighty wind into my life—blow things around–mix things up.”

     “You’re thinking the psychedelic drug will be the mighty wind you need?”

     “Yes, I need to make a change. If I let that drug into my skull, it’ll blow my brains around, right? I’ll come out changed.” 

     “Yes, a psychedelic drug will change your brain. At least temporarily. But it might not be the kind of change you desire. Also there are other ways to change your brain.”

     Here Anna leans forward, “Are you going to try to persuade me to take antidepressants?”

     “No, actually not. In fact, it might not be a good idea at all for you to take antidepressants. I don’t know what’s the best thing for you to do. I can’t predict outcomes with a hundred percent certainty. What I can do is invite you to step back. Step away from your situation so that you can see it from another perspective. Let’s look at it from many different angles. Then you can make your decision.”

      “You don’t know everything?”

     “No, I don’t know everything. Do you know everything?”

     “No I don’t know everything.”

     “Then let’s make a pile of what we do know. We’ll just heap it all up into a pile that you can sort through.”

     “Okay, where do we start?”

     “Let’s start with ‘the doldrums’, tell me what it’s like to be stuck motionless on flat water, with empty sails.”  

     “I know this drill. You are going to ask me to rate my depression on a scale from one to ten. You are going to ask me if I have thoughts of suicide.” 

     “Is that what it’s like to be in the doldrums?” He asks with his pen poised and ready to write.

     “No. Nothing like that. It’s more like I know that I’m supposed to be somewhere else. My ship is not on the right seas. I don’t know where I am, but I know I’m not where I’m supposed to be. And I can’t get my bearings. The stars are all wrong. Each day the sun rises and sets from the wrong direction.” 

     “So it’s a feeling of being lost, then?”

     “Lost. Yes. Lost. But the point is not so much about being lost. It is more about not being where I’m supposed to be. I need to figure out where I’m supposed to be and get to that place. This must all sound crazy to you,” Anna says.

     “No, you do not sound crazy,” Dr. Waldt says. As a human, I have myself been lost. As a child I remember being lost in the woods while on a hike with my family. I was wandering beside a rushing stream and could not hear them call out to me. Nor could they hear my calls. I remember wanting desperately, with all the power of my will, to be back safely at home. I know that kind of lost, and it is not crazy. But I think the kind of lost you are experiencing is different from that.”

     “Yes, it is different from that kind of lost. I can also remember a time I was lost as a kid, but for me it was not in the woods, it was in a department store. I couldn’t find my mother and sister anywhere. It’s like they had been erased.” 

“I can’t exactly say how it’s different; I just know it is,” Anna looks at Dr. Waldt and waits. 

     “I wonder if this is the difference. You can tell me if this makes sense to you. When we are lost as kids, we can picture our mothers, we can see our house, our room, our dinner table. We know the place where we want to be. The problem is we do not know how to get there. But you have no such pictures in your head. You do not know what it is you seek.”

     “Yes, that’s it exactly. How am I supposed to be able to find it when I don’t know what the fuck “it” even is? I just know it’s out there somewhere. And I’m supposed to be there.” 

Still sitting on the toilet seat, Anna unwraps her arms from where she has been holding on to herself. She reaches up to her head and grabs two handfuls of hair and pulls. When it hurts— but before her hair comes out by its roots, she stops, rewraps her arms around herself and rocks.

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