Dear Doctor March,
You asked about my dreams. So here's one I liked:
In this dream, I'm scooting around in my chair, like some athlete. I mean, I'm popping wheelies, I'm defying God and gravity. I'm practically flying! And then I see Chuck, the night orderly. My beefy crew-cut nemesis with a heart of serpentine.
And the amazing thing is I notice he's gone and gotten his ears pierced. But that's not all. For earrings - oh man, I love this part! - for earrings he's got twin colostomy bags. And I think, well okay, sure; that's kind of macho...
And then (you know how dreams are) suddenly this long pole-thing appears in my hands, with this sharp little pin at the end, see.
So I'm zipping along behind Chuck, kind of giggling, because he really looks pretty silly with those bags flapping in the breeze. I'm gaining on him and he's starting to look over his shoulder and snivel a little.
But I just laugh and keep rumbling after him until pretty soon, he's trapped in a corner by the meds station.
"C'mon, Liz," he begs. "Don't do it. Please? Pleeeze?"
And I see those colostomy bags have reached critical mass. I mean, they're bulging like Holstein udders.
God, it's just too tempting; so the next time he whines "Pleeeze?" I let him have it.
Crap spurts everywhere. But mostly all over Chuck, who is now a dripping, stinking, revolting mess.
I mean, he's so completely disgusting that, for a second I think, well, Jeez, maybe I should help him clean up. But then I remember, hey; he's the orderly! I'm just a poor crip.
So, what the hell, I poke a couple more holes for good measure, do a snappy one-eighty and glide away humming the "The Battle Hymn of the Republic". Aah, it was the best damn dream...
Dear Miss Bishop,
Thank you for your most recent email telling me of your very interesting "dream."
I'm happy to see you're working through some of your anger.
You may be interested to know that Charles Weatherby, the orderly you call "Chuck," is highly regarded by the medical staff.
However, if you wish to file a formal complaint, it will certainly be reflected upon in his job performance review, when the time comes.
Jeffrey March, M.D. Ph.D.
You mind if I call you Jeff? You can call me Liz, if you want to. On the other hand, if you insist on using titles, then please refer to me as Ms. Bishop. Not "Miss." Okay?
About UpChuck: Who do I send the formal complaint to? You? If so, this is it. I can't stand the guy. He's an incredible jerk. If you want specifics, just say so.
Here's another dream. (I have to admit, I'm kind of proud of this one. I think you'll agree, it's a Freudian classic.)
Okay, so this time, I'm on a horse. Bareback. It's a big Palomino stallion. Flowing mane and tail, the whole bit.
Anyway, we're galloping along and I can actually feel this horse between my legs. I mean, I can feel his sweat and his muscles sliding against the insides of my thighs as he runs.
So, we're still galloping and galloping. Through fields of wildflowers, maybe. (Frankly, I wasn't paying much attention to the landscape.) Anyway, we've got this thumping rhythym-thing going and suddenly I realize the horse is talking to me. He's been talking the whole time, see. Saying things like, "My God, Liz, you're an amazing rider. Really, I mean it. You're the best I've ever had."
And I'm saying, "Well, gee whiz, thanks, Bob." (The horse's name is Bob, obviously.)
And then he's saying things like "I love the way your legs feel against my sides. I love the feel of your ass."
Wow, I think. That's a funny thing for a horse to say. But he distinctly said, "ass." (I was actually pretty surprized. Though you're never completely surprized in a dream, are you? )
So then I say something like, "Well you have a nice body too, Bob."
But by then, I'm kind of holding my breath because, aside from the sexual turn this conversation seems to have taken, I notice, to my horror, that we're also headed, full tilt, straight for this enormous brick wall. (Used brick. You think that's significant?)
Bob shouts, "LET'S DO IT!"
But for a second, I'm not sure if he's talking about jumping the wall or getting it on.
So I scream, "Stop! We can't! I'm a WOMAN! You're a HORSE!" which I figure covers either possibility.
Bob yells back, "Hold on!"
Well, okay, I wrap my arms around his neck. Hair from his mane fills my mouth, so I can't scream anymore. And then, we leap! I hear this clashing of hooves. Sparks are flying off the bricks. We clear the top of the wall! The feeling of exhilaration is just amazing. This tremor moves through Bob and into me. And it builds and builds until it's this cataclysmic orgasm. I swear.
Pretty interesting, don't you think? Inasmuch as I haven't had any feeling below the waist since my accident.
Liz Bishop, B.S.A., F.W.
Dear Ms. Bishop,
Thank you for your most recent letter detailing your dream. I am not, strictly speaking, a Freudian, though I do recognize that horses are generally regarded as symbols of sensuality.
It may interest you to know that your dream-state experience of orgasm is not unique, even in patients with spinal chord injury. It's somewhat akin to an amputee who from time to time experiences pain in the non-existant (severed) limb. Though, obviously, your sensations would be much preferred.
I have enclosed a couple of articles from psychiatric journals which discuss the phenomenon of phantom sensation.
While we're on this general topic, I've taken the liberty of sending along a sex manual for patients with S.C.I. (Spinal Chord Injuries). Let me know if you have any questions.
With respect to complaints concerning Charles Weatherby: Yes, I'm afraid we must have specifics.
Do you think you'll be ready to come back to Group in the near future? I'm not sure e-mail is very effective.
Jeffrey March, M.D., Ph.D.
You never said whether you minded my calling you Jeff, so I'll continue to do so until further notice. Thank you for referring to me as "Ms." Bishop, though I think "Liz" would have been friendlier. (You should check out Dr. Joyce Brothers or some of the radio shrinks. They're not so uptight).
I could give you a very vivid rendition of my latest dream. It was an all singing, all dancing extravaganza! Starring me, Fred Astaire and a few cowboys.
But I've decided not to bother. You weren't sufficiently impressed by my last efforts, so I don't see that there'd be much point.
Anyway, thanks for the reading material. Got any suggestions about who I'm supposed to test-drive these frisky ideas on?
Re: UpChuck and his brilliant career. Do you need specific dates or just a list of specific atrocities?
About Group: If I remember right, you said that I was the one in charge of my life. Well, if that's true, I don't want to go back to Group, okay? Not ever.
Just a couple of quick questions for you, Jeff, then I'll sign off: 1) Are you married?
2) Aren't you curious to know what the initials following my name (B.S.A. and F.W.) stand for? Hint: B.S.A. does not mean Boy Scouts of America.
Your Most Amazing Experience,
Ms. Bishop, B.S.A., F.W.
P.S. I was extremely disappointed to learn that you're not even a Freudian. What's the problem? He out of style now? Or maybe this lousy hospital's just too cheap to hire a real shrink? (No offense).
P.P.S. Okay, Jeff, here's the deal; Since you are quite possibly the least curious person I've ever met, I've decided to tell you- even if you don't care!- that B.S.A. stands for "Bull Shit Artist" and F. W. means "Feral Woman".
Dear Ms. Bishop,
Please call me Jeff, if it's important to you.
I was married for six years. At present, I'm amicably divorced. Thank you for asking.
And now to a more pressing matter: Charles Weatherby has, as you may already know, filed a complaint that you sexually harrassed him on the evening of June twenty-third.
Obviously, the ramifications of such a charge are quite troubling. I'm afraid we must talk. Face to face. I'd like to schedule an appointment with you soon. Say the next day or two.
However, if this is not convenient or if you are dissatisfied with me and with the progress we've made, I could refer you to another of the staff psychiatrists. This is a serious offer. Your mental health is of primary concern to me.
Dear Dr. March,
In art therapy today, I learned to make an origami crane. Rumor has it, that if somebody makes one-thousand of these things, they get some sort of special deal from the Pope. I'm not Catholic, but I figure, what the hell.
"Blowjob." That's what I said to UpChuck. That's all I said. Now, I ask you, Dr. March, what kind of wacko would think that was a serious offer?
And, just out of curiosity, can someone identify what's at risk here? I mean, what are they going to do? Take away my T.V. privileges? (No more Gilligan's Island?)
"Amicably divorced." Boy, there's an interesting concept. What exactly does it mean?
Forget the appointment. I'm too busy making cranes.
Your Most Amazing Experience,
P.S. Could you cut my tranks a little? I'm trying to have a life, okay?
As you requested, I've ordered that your tranquilizer dose be cut in half. This is a good faith gesture, not a bribe. I hope you see that I'm on your side and that we can work together.
Yesterday I talked at length with Charles Weatherby. As a result, he's willing to withdraw his complaint.
Now, perhaps you can do something for me? I'd like to reiterate my request to meet with you. The time has come for us to put our heads together and brainstorm about your future. I'm free next Thursday at two o'clock. Please let me know if this will be convenient.
Dear Dr. March,
Sorry, I'm having my Mambo lesson Thursday at two.
Thanks for the trank cut. My synaptic pathways are positively crackling now with thoughts of such crystalline clarity and brilliance, it's almost frightening. (I'll bet you're thinking, 'Oh my God! She's gone manic.' Well, I haven't).
Your Most Amazing Experience,
Elizabeth (Feral Woman) Bishop
P.S. Only nine-hundred-eighty-seven more cranes to go!
We must meet.
For the record, I'm willing to accommodate almost anything that fits your schedule.
I've cancelled all my regular appointments for this Friday. Please indicate which hour you prefer. I look forward to hearing from you very soon.
I imagine you're pretty good with your hands. Did you ever learn origami? I'm still making these damn cranes but I'm thinking I might branch out to other things. Horses or pigs maybe.
And speaking of pigs, today this guy Deacon was making these teensy weensy origami hookers. Anatomically correct too. He wants to hang them above his bed so they're the first and last thing he sees every day. What's your professional opinion of the mental health aspects of this type of therapy, Jeff?
About Friday: Sorry, but I can't make it this time either. I've got scuba-diving in the morning. Sky-diving in the afternoon. And in the evening, my friend Mamie Lee and I are going to get ourselves all gussied up. Then we're going to hit the halls and do a little trolling for trouser trout. So, there it is, Jeff, as you can see, another day, shot to hell.
Liz (Feral Woman) Bishop
P.S. You ever consider changing the way you sign your e-mail? I mean, "Sincerely yours"...? Kind of pathetic, isn't it?
Maybe you should think up some sort of snappy motto or trademark phrase to end with. Something that sets you apart from the rest of the pack.
Beginning tomorrow, June 23rd, Dr. Rolfe Eccles will be taking over your case.
Please understand that this was a difficult decision for me. But, after a good deal of thought, I've come to the conclusion that I am not adequately prepared to guide you through the transition you face.
Rest assured, Dr. Eccles is an excellent psychiatrist. One of the best, as I know from my own experience. Especially for patients with S.C.I.
He'll know what's needed now. Really, I think you'll like him. Give him an honest try.
Best of luck,
Dear Dr. March,
Well, guess what? I am extremely PISSED OFF!
Rolfe Eccles?! How could you do this to me? So who is this guy, anyway? Some cheap rent-a-shrink-hit-man that you sic on recalcitrant patients?
I thought we were a team, you and me. I thought we had an understanding. A program!
P. S. Here's a good signature phrase for you: Abandon Hope. And while I'm at it, a few more initials to tack onto your credits: O.U.C.H.
It's understandable that you might feel a sense of abandonment. But if you can take a moment to honestly reflect, I believe you'll see that we were at an impasse almost from the beginning.
Please trust Dr. Eccles. In time, you'll see that he's better suited to your needs.
And, no experience is ever wasted, is it? I, at least, have learned a lot. For one thing; I know now that it was foolish (if not dangerous) to pretend that any kind of meaningful progress could be accomplished via email.
P.S. O.U.C.H.? I'm afraid to ask what that means.
Don't be afraid. Only Us Crips Here.
Last night I dreamed I had a baby. She was perfect except, where her legs should have been, there were tiny little wheels.
Oh, Christ, Jeff! I give you my dreams and you give me an "amicable divorce"?
Did you share your dream with Rolfe ? He's a Jungian, you know - very good with dreams.
As for me, your wheeled baby makes me sad.
There is, of course, more to say. From the beginning there was something between us. More than I could admit.
That's why, after that blow-up I agreed so quickly to let you leave Group. Pure cowardice on my part. I'll admit now that I was afraid of you.
And these emails... Each one left me feeling less sure of my ability to help you. To help myself.
Each one only brought more questions. Questions I thought had already been answered. Now I understand there are some questions that have no answers.
Why do I think of you all the time when I have a dozen other patients who are more cooperative, more deserving?
Why do you call yourself Feral Woman?
Why did I send you the S.C.I. sex manual when you weren't ready for it?
Somehow, there's a tiny hole in the fabric of your education. Feral refers to an animal that has become wild, from a state of domestication. Having failed at domestication, where else could I turn?
Two more questions: 1) Did your wife leave you because of your wheelchair? 2) Have you got the hots for me ?
P.S. I lied about the horse. His name was really Jeff.
Appeared in Kalliope, 1997