‘You know why you were transferred to this facility, right?’ asked the man – in a loose white coat, with oval rimless glasses, and a clipboard and a pen in his hands – sitting on a big armchair, cushioned with red velvet, in his huge chamber with his back towards the lace curtained French windows.
‘Yes, my family couldn’t take it anymore – they couldn’t keep me in the house anymore.’ replied the man – reclining on the couch, opposite to the chair and separated by a coffee table from it – looking at the ceiling.
‘You have a very interesting case, I must say – I have seen people doing crazy things’ the doctor chuckled remembering a few cases, ‘but your case is unique.’
The patient rotated his head by ninety degrees very slowly to look at the doctor and then turned his head back to look at the ceiling.
The man in the white coat continued ‘We don’t even have a name for your condition in our medical dictionaries. I have certainly never seen a man do what your report says you do – not even heard of one.’
‘And what does my report say doc?’ inquired the man staring into the heavens.
‘“The patient doesn’t brush his teeth … doesn’t even clean his mouth” … umm … aa … but most disturbingly “the patient gets close to people’s faces while talking” … it also says that your teeth were brushed forcefully many a times, but each time you ate rotten or rotting things and your oral hygiene was compromised in a matter of days. And what surprises me even more is that you are very much careful about everything else – you take good care of your body, even practice yoga, except for your teeth and mouth … I mean …’ suddenly he found himself jumping up from his chair, covering his nose with the sleeves, and running towards the bathroom.
The patient had silently crept up on the coffee table, while the doctor was looking down on the report through his bifocals, and said ‘You mean …’
The smell from his mouth was something the doctor had never experienced before. He had rung for the bell before running to the bathroom. The routine was simple for the two ward boys outside the door – if you hear “the bell” come in and restrain the patient and put him in a straight-jacket. The doctor came out of the bathroom looking dizzy – the smell didn’t only hit his olfactory receptors, it seemed to have hit his brain directly. The men put the patient on the couch and tied him up with the special arrangement on the couch – two safety-belt buckles coming from under the couch and securing into the sockets, normally hidden inside the edge where the seat meets the backrest.
‘That was really unnecessary of you to do’ said the doctor wiping the sweat from his forehead and trying to put a smile on his face, ‘but, given what your report said, I am the one who should have been careful.’
The smell seemed to have echoed back from the walls of the chamber to the doctor and he almost puked. He opened one of the windows. The strange behavior of this man, for which he was supposed to get treated, was already troubling the doctor – the smell is now what kept his frontal lobe busy. He thought of postponing this session to another day, but on a second thought decided to get it over with. Wait, He thought, wasn’t the condition of this man already known? Why wasn’t his mouth cleaned then, before sending him in?
He rang for a different bell now and one of the boys came in.
‘Were you not told to clean this man’s mouth and teeth before sending him to my chamber?’
‘Yes, and we did.’
‘You DID!?’ the doctor was furious with the boy – not only he didn’t do his work, he dares to lie on my face?
‘He cleaned my mouth alright’ came the voice form the couch.
‘What?!’ the doctor waved his hand to tell the boy to go outside ‘Then what was that smell?’
‘Oh! That was nothing. I churned something out from a cavity …’ the doctor’s intestines tied some knots hearing this, ‘… and the cavity is called stomach’ He winked at the doctor.
This was not a simple case as the doctor had expected. He thought this man had a really bad habit of not brushing his teeth, and maybe that somehow had turned to stubbornness or something. But this was NOT AT ALL something he would’ve imagined in his worst nightmare. Have you ever been in a closed space – with someone whose dietary habits don’t agree with their digestive system – after they had their regular meal, and they farted? Imagine that and multiply it with five or ten maybe; that’s what the doctor had experienced. And this was when that crazy man’s mouth was cleaned.
It took a few seconds for the doctor to come to his senses completely – except for his sense of smell maybe. ‘OK. Let’s get started now. I am going to ask you some questions.’
‘Go ahead doc; I’m all ears’ the ears sounded like something between ears and yours.
‘This is the first time you talking to a therapist. Tell me why weren’t you taken to one before, if this was a very old condition of yours?’
‘My parents didn’t want to send their twenty-eight year old son to a facility you see. They have put up with me for fourteen years.’
‘Is this something you cannot control … I mean you don’t brush your teeth on purpose and use your bad breath … to … to annoy people?’
‘Now don’t be so modest doc’ a glint in his eyes ‘Yes, I do this on purpose – but not to f**k with people – I want to find something out.’
‘WHAT could you possibly … I mean what do you want to find out? And HOW?’
‘I can tell you that, but then I’ll have to kill you … ha ha! Just kidding doc; I watch too many movies. Of course I’ll tell you, but you’ll have to listen to my story … the whole of it.’
‘No problem, if that is what it would take to understand your problem.’
‘Great.’ The crazy man paused for a few seconds as if to shuffle and arrange his thoughts before producing them in front of the doctor. ‘I was the only child of my parents. My father’s a rich businessman.’
No wonder you are in ‘this’ facility, Thought the doctor.
‘But my mother hated businessmen. She wanted me to be in academics. As far as I can remember in my childhood … by the way I must tell you something your report doesn’t say – I cannot remember a few things from almost a year of my life, when I was in the 8th grade … So as I was saying …’
‘Is what you want to find out, something from this period of time?’
‘Patience doc, patience! I’ll tell you. As I was saying, as far as I can remember from my childhood my mother wanted me to shine as an academic. She insisted that I secure high marks in the exams. Now, you might say that every mother wants her child to do well at the school. I know every damn mother does – they want their children to live by their rules, they think they know what’s best for their children, and they think they can control the fate and life of their children. Don’t they doc?’
‘I don’t suppose that we are here to discuss about parenting skills, are we?’
‘I’m sorry doc. I suppose I get carried away when it comes to my mother and how she tried to manipulate me. I feel all mothers in our society try to manipulate their children. Anyway, that’s none of our concerns right? We are talking about me.’
‘My mother put a lot of pressure on me for getting good grades in exams. She would constantly scold me for hours if I got poor grades, which I seldom did. But when I did get bad grades she would be furious with me. She would tie up my hands – just as you have done now’ the blood capillaries in his eyes suddenly seemed to get a fresh supply of oxygenated blood ‘and hit me on my back with a cane.’
‘And that has something to do with your not brushing your teeth.’
‘If you are going to interrupt me …’
‘OK, I’m sorry. Go on.’
‘Like I said, I seldom got bad grades. In fact I was the class topper from fifth to seventh grades. But something happened in the 8th grade. I couldn’t take the final exams because I had chicken pox. But that was no problem – for my mother – she loved me, as every other mother loves their children. But more than that, it was not a problem because my mother had done something when I was seven years old. She managed to get a new birth certificate for me which said I was born a year later than when I was actually born. So she didn’t mind losing me a year. You might think my mother was a really bad person to do such thing – but let me assure you she wasn’t the only one. I have since then found many people who have gotten forged birth certificates for their children; some even pushed the date of birth to as far as three years. It’s like a ritual – and they, the parents, proudly do this – thinking that they are somehow helping their children build their future.’
The doctor was getting frustrated, is he just playing around with me? How could all these sh*t be related to his condition? But the doctor knew better not to interrupt this guy.
The man went on with a sudden change on his countenance ‘Anyway, because of my chicken pox I had to repeat 8th grade. My mother might have been glad actually; this way her son would have to compete against children who are one year younger to him – forgetting that some of these kids were actually older than me by a year or two. But at least I had the advantage in the 8th grade – I had already completed the syllabus once. Maybe I could get a head start on my studies for the ninth grade and so on. But something else happened too – I met my arch enemy. And this is what I don’t remember – I don’t remember his name. That’s what I want to find out.’
The doctor seemed perplexed but he sat back straight in his chair and asked ‘OK. That answers what do you want to find out, but how? How can this obscure thing you do help you find that out?’
‘You are a doctor’ smiled the restrained man ‘but you really need to learn to be patient.’
‘Why do you try these silly jokes? Anyway, go on.’
‘All my mother was concerned about were my grades. She didn’t pay much attention to my health, oral hygiene or anything –don’t be hasty to jump to conclusions now though – and thus I had developed a bad breath. But it wasn’t that bad – I think most of the kids in my town didn’t even know about bad breath. I, for one, never noticed it myself.
‘So the first day of school after summer vacation, I was really scared to go to the school and sit in the same class as I had done the year before – none of my friends being there. Also I was afraid that the new kids are going to pick on me; so I decided to lay low in the class – but that didn’t work out. Our chemistry teacher after taking the attendance called up my name and asked me to stand up. He then asked another guy to stand up and said to him “You see this guy? Now he is your competition. You’ve been topping the class because you never had any competition from the rest of your classmates; but this chap is better than you – so let’s see if you can top the class this time.”
‘He was a short fellow just like me; he even looked a lot like me. I hated him from the first time I saw him. It was extra pressure on me this time – the pressure created by my mother changed me from inside as well; now I also had a desire to show people that I was a genius. I studied extra hours – not because my mother told me to do so but because I wanted to show this guy how inferior he was to me. I would answer every question asked in the class. My classmates nicknamed me “genius” – which I obviously liked. Our chemistry teacher seemed to have preferred me over that boy now.
‘But for some reason my hatred knew no bounds. I would kick him in the belly, on the sheen whenever we played any sport. I once beat him up real bad after a game. But he never reverted back or complained to the teachers or to his parents – I thought that he was really scared of me. I was happy; this guy was going down.
‘Then one day I saw him talking to a girl I really liked; she was laughing at something he said. But it didn’t bother me much – I knew that I just had to scare the sh*t out of him. One day, when the girl didn’t come to school, I got him by his collar after a class and dragged him out of his seat in front of the whole class, and said “keep away from Akshara or I am going to punch you in the face.”
‘But he didn’t look scared at all. Instead, he caught my hand; his strength surprised me – and then he said “You know what? I’ve taken enough of your sh*t – no more!” I tried to free my hand but his grip was scarily tight. He slapped hard on my left cheek and said in a barking voice “I was just letting you go because I’ve heard how your mother treats you and that you were really misfortunate to miss the finals exams. I put up with your sh*t because I had pity on you; but if you try to come between Akshara and me, I swear to god I’ll beat you up more than your mother has ever done.”
‘Our classmates were enjoying the action – not every day you get to see two nerds fighting with their hands. I recovered from the sudden shock of being challenged and slapped in front of the whole class and punched him in the stomach and barked on his face “You have made the biggest mistake of your life. I’ll kick your a*s now, and when I’m the class topper this time Akshara will definitely like me more than you.”
‘As I was about to kick him he pushed me with both hands and I fell back on a bench. He then grabbed my collar in his left hand and pulled me up, and shouted “Do you really think you can get a girl with the way you stink? Haven’t you ever noticed how horrible your breath smells? People are repelled by you – you bloody freak. No girl will ever come even near to you, you stupid loser.”
For the first time in my life I tried to smell my breath and it was really obnoxious – I was stunned. I gazed at him with a blank stare; not able to understand a single word he spoke now – but the expression on his face showed how my breath on his face made him feel. He slapped me … once, twice, thrice and on and on, until some other guys pulled him back seeing it was getting out of control.
‘I passed out and was taken to the hospital. We both were suspended from the school for a week – being equally responsible for the fight, according to our classmates. I never went back to the school – I never went back to ANY school; I lost the ability to learn anything; I couldn’t do anything for a few months; the shock was too great. When I came to my senses I wasn’t the same guy I used to be.’
The doctor had his eyes closed during this monologue; He was trying to understand what was going on inside the mind of this freak show. He already understood where his story was headed; and he couldn’t but amuse himself by thinking how human intelligence is misdirected and wasted. He tried to think of a solution for this guy – How could I treat a bizarre case like this? How should I get his mind straight?
‘All I could see was a face full of loathing. I can never forget that expression. I had to find the guy who did this to me. And the only thing I remembered about him was the expression on his face.’ The madman’s voice was getting low.
‘And your plan is to find out this guy by looking at his expression when you hit him with your smelly words, right? But do you really think that’s a good idea? I mean, it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack.’ The doctor put the end of his pen in his mouth.
Suddenly the doctor felt an iron grip of two hands around his neck, and a mouth near his nose. The freak had gotten loose somehow, ‘I keep my stomach inventory handy doc! A small folded knife and this and that. And I had my own doubts too about the idea you see … I had my own doubts, until today! You don’t seem to even remember me! But like I told you, I can never forget that expression. My search ends’
When they found the doctor dead on his chair, the expression on his face wasn’t of fear, amazement or surprise – it was an expression of pure disgust and loathing.