A pretty woman in a brown and pink striped dress, carrying a cafeteria tray with a salad and cup of chicken noodle soup, sits down directly across the table.
Well now. Maybe this one won't threaten to rape you.
She's got the kind of face you'd expect from a French model, round brown eyes under thoughtful brows, her lips are pale and naturally smiling, and her nose has a slightly Jewish touch to it. She's wearing large spectacles and the silliest pair of wooden craft-class gag earrings you've ever seen on a woman so otherwise cultured. She has a name tag which identifies her as Dr. Di Lucien. Her ID picture is horrible and looks nothing like her.
You stare at her. Perhaps she got lost on her way to the pediatrics ward. She seems like the type to treat children. You wish she'd leave the cafeteria before something ugly happened in her presence. She looks like she would fall apart if someone spoke roughly to her. She doesn't belong here, you think.
"I'm Patricia," the woman says, putting out her hand. "Nice to meet you."
You reach to shake with her, but you're not really keen on using that hand until the muscles in the arm have healed, and so you pull it back and give your left hand instead, which makes for an awkward but successful shaking experience.
"Hi." You say, and realize she's waiting for a name. "I'm Kano," you say. "Are you looking for somebody? Because I don't know anybody here. I can't help you."
"Actually, Kano," The doctor swipes a floret of cauliflower through the ranch dressing on the salad, and your name sounds really strange when she says it, "I was kind of hoping I could help you." She bites the cauliflower in two and munches it.
The idea of eating something that's been polluted by ranch dressing makes you want to throw up. And she's still looking at you, which is another bad sign. It means she's probably waiting to see how you react to her words. This woman actually wants to help you. That makes her an enemy already. She probably can't even find a vein properly, like the first nurse you remember seeing, the one who left junkie-red blotches all over your arm because she kept missing.
"I have a doctor. I saw him this morning."
"Different kind of doctor," She says with that perpetual smile. "I'm a psychologist."
"You're a shrink."
"If you like. I've been assigned to your case."
"Oh well fuck that." You stand up and, leaving your tray untouched on the table, stalk away. She of course follows you.
"Is there some reason why you're upset?" she asks, catching up. She must have left her vegetable tray with yours. Perhaps the two of them will fall in love on the table and, when thrown away, will mix together in the trash.
The bliss of wedlock.
"I don't want another shrink. Benton's bad enough. I don't even need him. And you don't want to deal with me."
"Why?" she asks, and you turn around, ready to say something scathing and painful or super teenage-dramatic, perhaps "Because I'll kill you eventually, and I don't want to do that." But instead, you find the words just come out unbidden: "Cruciferous vegetables. I can never open my mind to a woman who dips them in ranch dressing. Now go away, Dr. Di Lucien. You can't help me." Not the most profound method of doctor dismissal, but it will have to do. Since you're supposed to be this crazy kid, she no doubt has you pegged as a psychotic already. So who cares how you sound?
And you try to stalk off again, but a second time she ruins it by stubbornly refusing to back off in a properly dramatic fashion. It never works like in the movies, you think.
The two of you end up in the corridor between the cafeteria and the recreation room, a face-off at high noon. She has the kind of high-heeled sandals that require a minimal amount of bondage to wear, and the straps go halfway up her calf. Like a Greek goddess, kind of.
Why are you looking at this doctor's legs? She's the enemy. You have to remember that she's Doctor Mengele. Doctor Womengele. Never to be trusted. That innocent face may look angelic, but inside there is a PhD waiting for you to say something meaningless so she can turn it around and convince you that you're insane because your mother didn't sing to you enough while you were floating around in the embryotic soup of her guts.
Beware the quack within.
"I'm sure my eating habits will never come up in conversation, since it's not me we'll be talking about." She thinks she's being so clever. "In fact, I'll take great pains never to mention them as a part of therapy."
"And you're so sure I need therapy." you ask. You try to stick a derisive snort in there for good measure, but it comes out sounding like a stifled sneeze. This... is not going well. "What for?"
"Well, for one thing, Dr. Benton tells me you threatened him with a piece of broken glass when you arrived here." She crosses her arms and regards you with a totally neutral face. Inside that brain, her PhDemon is waiting to pick your reply apart.
"I was having a bad day."
"He said you also told him that he had a demon face, and he was turning into a monster."
This lady's done her homework. You guess there must have been some sort of prodigy in the shinking arts, because she can't be a day older than thirty.
"He was being a dick. And I already apologized."
She makes pity look beautiful, which makes you even more angry at her.
"Stop feeling sorry for me. I don't want your help." You decide that since you've already stomped away in a huff twice, this third time you'll just wear her down until she leaves. You stare at her for a good twenty seconds until you start seeing something--maybe a fish, maybe something else--behind her eyes. It swims lazily from the left eye to the right, inside her head, like her head is hollow and full of water.
Definitely a fish. One of those lacy, mottled-colored ones. A koi. Only smaller. As you gape at her eyes, the koi flips a fin at you. The fish's delicate, ethereal way of saying "Fuck you." You can't help smiling at that. You cover your mouth so she won't see but she's sharper than that angel's face would have you believe.
"What's so funny?" she asks, not in that smart-ass way people have when you make fun of them, but in a way that tells you she wants to be let in on a good joke. "Why are you laughing?"
"There's a fish," you tell her between breaths, "swimming around in your head." And, realizing you just gave yourself away again, you're instantly angry. "It's nothing. Go away. You're fired."
And then it happens: The showdown itself.
"Your father is prepared to keep you here as long as it takes, whether you fire me or not." Bang.
"Fuck him, fuck you, and..." your brain fails to cough up a third target. You fumble for whatever seems appropriate. "And double-fuck whoever put up all these retarded posters. All the fucking kitten shenanigans in this place. Is it like job security to you people? Driving us around the fucking bend?" Dry click: misfire.
Shit. That was stupid. You are stupid.
"Nevertheless," she says, and just looks at you. Bullseye.
It hurts, but you twist your hands into two dry fists and jam them as deep into your pockets as they'll go. It's a good thing you have your street clothes back. It would be even better if you could find a big black hole on this shiny floor and just sort of fall into it. But there's nothing in this hallway but stupid pictures of cats climbing trees and a broken clock (how fucking poetic) and you and your stitches and this fucking psychologist with little swimming fish inside dangerous eyes that don't slide off your own and won't let up.
You would give anything to get in that head and wipe out any memory she has of you. Knowing you, you suddenly are certain, will ruin this woman's life. Fuck it, be dramatic. Everyone expects it.
But she's not as helpless as she looks. Maybe because you're not much of a threat to her like this, or maybe just because she's some kind of super-bitch. A super-bitch powered by koi fish. No, stop that, think the crazy people thoughts when she's not here to read them.
"Fine," you say at last. "When."
"I'd like to get you in before I leave today, if that's all right," She says, and you are pretty sure this whole thing has been a formality. She has shot you down without trying. And there she goes again, she smiles, she's fucking happy to think of seeing you again because she's back on top and you're a patient. She has the advantage on her side and you have... Joe, in his stupid fucking wifebeater and his smug face while he reads those endless romance novels in the hallway.
"But I don't do the couch thing. You want me in your office, I had better not even see a couch."
"I don't have a couch." She doesn't roll her eyes but you can hear it in her voice. "I'll send someone at three to bring you along."
And now she walks off, leaving you in the dramatic silence of your failed attempt at a showdown. She wiped the floor with your skinny ass and all you can think about is those legs, which is just fucked up and makes your empty stomach turn a little. That bounce to her step as she goes off to report to her superiors tells you that you just lost a battle against the one person you honestly need to beat, and you aren't even sure how it happened. It should have been easy but she looked at you.
You unpeel your hands from the pocketed fists (which hurts) and return to the cafeteria because you have nowhere else to go for three hours. Might as well give the guy with your future career a break and dump your fucking lunch tray.
But first you reach over and take a floret of cauliflower from Doctor Womengele's abandoned plate, skim it across the rubber-skinned vanilla pudding on your own, and pop it in your mouth.
You throw out the leftovers and wander the hall like the world's lamest ghost until it's time to visit Dr. Di Lucien.