My psychiatrist re-enacts scenes from Bad Lieutenant, the ‘92 version. He stands behind his desk, arms spread in a Christ pose, wailing about gambling debts. He takes a swig from a Snapple bottle, pretends it’s Stoli, wraps his lips around a ballpoint pen, simulating pulls from a crackpipe. “You sure this doesn’t trigger you?” he asks. He tells me he always wanted to be an actor, always dreamt of playing damaged men, muscular roles he could lose himself in, just like Harvey Keitel, a close personal friend. “You ever see The Piano? The way Harvey’s so quick to strip naked shows you how serious he is.”
He kicks his feet up on his desk and opens the nurses’ report. It says that I’ve been wetting my bed. Before I can explain it’s not because I’m crazy, it’s because of the Seroquel he prescribes, how the dose is too high and I can’t wake up, he asks if I know that Michael Shannon really pissed all over himself in Take Shelter. “That’s what I’m talkin’ about, reckless abandon. True Method acting,” he says, yanking his gut.
The dwarf palmettos in the courtyard shudder, white blossoms flutter onto sandstone, black fruit splits down the middle like ignored abscesses. If the windows opened, we’d be able to smell the beach. I inquire about my discharge date. He waves me off, tells me he’s positive I’ll get out before summer, plenty of time to come see him at the Pompano Playhouse. He’s been cast as Biff in Salesman. Popping a square of nicotine gum into his mouth, he tells me no matter how hard I try I’ll never write like Arthur Miller, never produce anything as raw or authentic. “It’s not your fault, you were born too late.”
His desk drawer is full of Polaroids – patients in hospital beds, stomachs pumped, wrists bandaged, torsos tangled up in ECG leads. He holds up a photo of a man he thinks is me but is really my roommate, another tall Irish guy. “When I need to get emotional during a scene, I carry this in my pocket,” he says. “I look at you before I step out there. That’s your pain, man.”
“Does that really make you cry?” I ask, deciding not to correct him about whose picture he’s holding. I want to learn to cry again. I remember how before I got admitted even the tears had stopped. I’d pray for just one uncontrollable sob, a reminder I was still alive.
“Yeah, I cry, sometimes” he says. “But it’s all part of the performance. Have you been listening to a single thing I’ve said?”
My psychiatrist tells me to continue taking my meds and stop liquids at 7:00 PM. He pages a nurse to escort me back to 3-South. He hands me the photo of my roommate fighting for his life. “Keep it, I’ve got it saved right up here,” he says, tapping his finger against his head and shooting me a wink. “Wait ‘til you see me on stage.”