Monday, June 9, 2008

Am I crazy, or…

This morning I took my wife to the doctor for her midyear EEG. This procedure is necessary to allow them to see if she’s still got a brain in her head and, if so, whether or not the brain functions properly. I go along as translator because when she selected a neurologist here in Europe, she was sure to specify that she wanted one who speaks English.

Of course, she received one who understands every third word in English and speaks almost nothing beyond “I no speak English very well.” Add to that the fact that the doctor looks about 16 and you’ve got the most comforting medical experience of your life.

I’m okay with it, though, because it’s not my brain that they’re twiddling with.

The neurology department’s other main function there is as a psych ward, with an emphasis on alcohol addiction. So there are “DO NOT ENTER” signs and secured doors everywhere, along with “Drinkin’ problems?” posters on every exposed surface.

We were told that the technician was caught in traffic, so we’d have to wait. We were the only ones there. It was 9 AM and the hallway was heavily reminiscent of the one in the mental hospital in Halloween II that got blown up. I could hear the creepy music as I sat there.

To try to calm my nerves I enjoyed the artwork, but I became more and more agitated by the big painting in front of us. It was an art nouveau tree, with all kinds of swirls and dots that made you think of a tree without actually looking like a tree. It easily deserved first prize in an elementary school art fair.

What bothered me was that it hung cockeyed. Badly cockeyed.

“Do you think that’s a test?” I asked Wifey.

“What kind of test?”

“A psyche test. If you get up and straighten the picture, you’re obsessive-compulsive because you couldn’t leave it alone. If you ignore it, you’re normal. If you stick your hand down your pants, you’re a pervert.”

She scoffed and gestured at the empty hallways. “How are they going to know?”

“They have cameras,” I assured her. “That thing sticking down from the ceiling? Camera. That burnt-out light? That’s a camera. That exit sign that’s turned off? You better believe that’s a camera.”

“What about the garbage can?” she asks me. “Is that a camera?”

“Of course not. Don’t be silly.”

“Do they have cameras in the bathrooms, too?” she asked.

I leaned in close to her. “Would you find that erotic? You wanna join the third-floor club?”

“You’re paranoid and a pervert,” she said. “Leave me alone.”

After some time, she pointed out to me another painting, properly hung this time. “What do you make of that, Dr. Freud?”

It was a profoundly disturbing thing, a montage of birds and feathers that looked like it’d been splattered with blood and piss all along the front of it. “It frightens me to look at it,” I admitted. “It seems as if all the contempt for human life has been poured onto canvas and then my nose is being rubbed in my own inadequacies in a provocative fashion reminiscent of a public flogging.”

If that sentence sounds strange to you, then you have never properly appreciated art and artworks and are likely a philistine.

“I worry that it’ll give the crazy people inspiration of new ways to cut up their victims while they torture them to death,” she said. “Did you know that here in this hospital they have that cannibal guy that-”

Just then, the technician came to take her into the scanning room behind a three-inch locked steel door and leave me all alone in the hallway with the demonic portrait and the don’t-touch-this-unless-you’re-a-pervert painting.

“Have fun sitting in the unmonitored corridor while the criminally insane wander by armed to the teeth trolling for victims!” she said cheerily as she left.


Screw this, I told myself. I’m gonna go wait in the car and let Hannibal Lecter eat her.

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