Upon understanding nothing and realizing that all medical tests - so minute,
costly and, often, humiliating - were useless, I decided to consider myself
rather healthy and, maybe, as Voltaire says, happy, because this
has a benefic influence on the organism. But it didn't have. This much
was obvious: I was subject to a general malaise that I could not
control in any way, and all its miseries-- now itemized in detail -- were
recurring more or less periodically, I'd say - "out of the blue." It was
then that I resolved to abandon the ways of general medicine - which had
declared me healthy beyond doubt - and to have recourse to psychiatrists
and psychonalysts that, praise the Lord, come in sufficient numbers here.
I transcribe only a few crucial encounters of mine with a domain that,
even if it proved incabale of fixing me fix me, occasioned some exquisite
March 12, 1993
"You will agree, Dr. Goldenberg, that if this ... this chronic anxiety,
this panic syndrome, or whatever [else] you'd want to call it, had been
discovered by Romanians, it would've been called moft." (1)
Everything was all right so far, but how
could I get across to Dr. Goldenberg, indisputably, a famous authority,
the meaning of the word moft. I tried, to the best of my humble
abilities, to translate from Caragiale's (2) Romanian its rough meaning.
But when I reached the passage where Caragiale writes:
"The Patient (very impatiently):
Doctor, I am dying!
The Doctor (very calmly): Mofts!"
it seemed that I kind of touched a chord. [He says:]
"Hm, yeah!" says he. "This doctor of yours
must've had a pretty solid malpractice insurance to allow himself to deny
a patient the natural right to suffer from something. Because what I get
from what you have told me, although all the symptoms you mentioned here
(joys and sorrows, merit and infamy, guilt and happenings, right, duty,
feelings, interests, convictions, politics, black plague, languor, dyphteric
fever, Sybaritism, destructive vices, suffering, misery, talent and imbecility,
moon- and mind- eclipses, past, present, and future--quoted from Caragiale)
don't seem to have much to do with our case - it will hurt the patient
more than it will soothe him, vexing him and noticeably increasing his
anxiety. Whether this anxiety is real or imagined, is not our business!
Look what he did to you. Had he cured you, you would not be sitting in
my office right now. However, give me a moment to take a few notes from
your doctor's case ... Not that it would have any scientific value - the
guy is unquestionably, a dilettante - but it might be of use in an article
of mine which should appear without fail in [...], and which denounces
precisely such unfitting attitudes toward a patient that - well, since
he has the means, and wishes to subject himself to treatment that is often
costly - should not be discouraged! Maybe you can recall some other things
he told you when he used this ridiculous concept ... as you said, moft,
with regard to your wholly justified disorder that we'll try right away
"No, you didn't get me right," I smiled,
as I often do in America. "Mr. Caragiale was not my doctor ... let's say,
not in the sense in which you think. He died in 1912, in Berlin."
"Aha, that's interesting! Did he have any
connection with the psychomotric circle of Schulemberg?"
And he was feverishly taking notes, writing
all the time (in a jittery and large handwriting) on a (large) pad. I
had brought a little notebook in which I would write nothing, neither
then, nor later.
"You see, Dr. Goldenberg, Caragiale was
not a doctor. He is a classic Romanian writer, whom I reread now and then,
although, practically, I know his stuff by heart. And, then, he died in
1912, how could I have met him otherwise than, say, in spirit - which,
I have to admit, as you have said, wouldn't have much to do with our case!"
"All right, all right ...," said Dr. Goldenberg,
clearly disappointed, "We don't deal here with this kind of problems ...
I mean temporal ones. As you said, there might well be a chronological
conflict - he did not consult you personally - but this does not mean
much for medical practice in general; for, in diagnosing this as a moft,
he has actually acted like a doctor: like a bad one, I must say, who minimizes
suffering and seeks, God knows out of what reckless, cynical, or altruistic
tendency - it is all the same--to discourage the sacred duty to develop
a complex, long-term treatment, based on clear prescriptions and on following
up on the case with the purpose of ... well, the amelioration of the symptoms
and, perhaps, the total elimination of the ailment, in due time!"
"But, Dr. Goldenberg, all these are criteria
that you may follow in your common practice ... Caragiale, well, he can't
be subjected to such standards ... It was more of a parenthesis with which
I was trying to show how Romanians would regard such a, let's call it
leisurely illness, where the patient is physically healthy ..."
"Well-well, my dear friend, not quite !
And stop looking at your watch. It won't cost you more than one session
at the price that ... well, you know it already ... We might as well extend
this discussion a bit, and I hope you won't mind if I take some more notes
... you know, for my article, because it seems that this individual had
certain intuitions which, albeit totally unsuitable, are extremely interesting!"
"And how about me? When are we going to
talk about my case proper?"
"But this is exactly what we're doing...
all the while! Don't worry! Tell me more about him; this will help us
understand, perhaps, the hidden aspects of the disease, those aspects
that are less evident at first sight. In any case, it is clear that you
could not possibly have consulted him personally ... but what other diagnoses
of his are known?"
Poor Caragiale! I thought. He hasn't even
been an adherent to Schulemberg's psychomotric group in his Berlin years.
What's more, time goes by and I hadn't even had a chance to explain anything
of what bothers me!
"In principle, I'd say that his diagnoses,
if you want to call them this, were referring to all of us living over
there, in the old country ..."
"Hm, wellll!" He retorts while scribbling
feverishly. "An endemic disease."
"No, Doctor Goldenberg, you make it sound
as if it were a case of Thalassemia,(3) I sort of know something about
these matters, too ... I come from a family of doctors."
"This makes things even worse! Hodgepodge
knowledge only brings about more confusion ... such shards of knowledge
are, you must realize, rather useless fragments. And I hope you'll agree
with me when I say that nothing is more harmful than partial expertise
... This, of course, from a perspective that is - you have enough background
to understand - holistic! Look, don't take it personally, but you
should forget everything you knew beforehand, or, the treatment that I
would attempt to develop for your case might fail! It seems that you've
got a prime obsession with the theories of this quack you keep talking
about. Analysing his thinking style, we will succeed in determining with
clarity that nexus which, while acting at the level of the mind,
affects your, medically-speaking, otherwise perfect physical state!"
Well, here my doctor seemed to strike closer
"Well," I said, "Dr. Goldenberg, if, for
instance, someone were to say the word clean[ly] to you, what would
you add to it?"
I thought that this time I had really cornered
him. Dr. Goldenberg took his glasses off, pinched his nose a few times,
and then shot off:
"Clean[ly], that is to say, spotless, let's
say, immaculate, morally flawless, hygienic ..."
"You see, somewhere he writes clean[ly]
dirty; d'you get it? Maybe this doesn't have anything to do with either
the moft or my sickness that we haven't had time to talk about,
but this is what he says, and we, those from over there, seem to be somehow
condemned to this, let's call it, oxymoron. So much so, that no
one there can say cleanly without immediately adding, or at least
thinking, maybe involuntarily: dirty!"
"Aha! Cyclothymic! (4) Very interesting!"
"Not quite. In general, I've been categorized
as either a schizoid or, on the contrary, a paranoid, but
never as a cyclothymic."
"No, I wasn't talking about you, this is
secondary right now ... Him! It's him I'm talking about, the one who is
the source of your obsessions ... This Caragiale! He must have
been a cyclothymic, do you understand? Cleanly dirty, this
is a typical example! Look, for the time being you must take these pills
... let's see how they work, and then, to the extent that the symptoms
will, you see ...? But first and foremost, avoid any form of stress, this
is crucial ... Things are going on the right track," he said, and tidied
up for the nth time all the objects on his table - had been doing this
for almost the entire duration of the time he [had] spent talking to me
- so that none of them would be out of line or protruding beyond the edge
of the table. "Ah, as to this Car ..., well, whatever you called him,
I urge you, don't even think of reading from him again. Otherwise the
drugs I gave you won't have any effect ... And they are expensive enough!
And, in general, leave aside the books ... Total relaxation, as
much relaxation as possible," said he while picking his nose, and
inquisitively examining the finds.
I couldn't get out of there soon enough.
All of a sudden I felt healthy and in no need of any help whatsoever.
How the hell had I gotten here? I swore to myself to never in my life
set foot in such a doctor's office!
"Ah," said Dr. Goldenberg as I was about
to leave. "One more thing ... Maybe it's trivial, but it interests me--
for my article, you know, the one for the New England Review of Medical
Science. When you are on a bridge or somewhere, in a very high place,
do you ever feel like spitting in the water, or spitting down? ... Don't
think, just answer as quickly as you can, without any kind of auto-censorship!"
"I don't need to think at all," I said.
"I always feel like spitting, and I actually do it when there is no one
"Heh, he," Dr. Goldenberg laughed meaningfully
and, for a moment, he stopped taking notes. " I do the same! Isn't that
"I feel like sleeping when I am supposed to be awake. I can't sleep when
I would like to. In the morning I wake up more tired than when I went
to bed, and my heart beats sometimes too fast and irregularly, other times
almost imperceptibly, as if I were about to breathe my last breath. In
such moments, as if the this weren't enough, it suddenly seems to me that
my finger-nails grow uncommonly fast, and my beard too, oh, Lord, sometimes
I feel almost like I am dead. ... But, no! Right away, my heart starts
going crazy, hands and feet grow numb, I have vertigo, and a sensation
of choking or suffocating because of the lack of air: that makes me breathe
fast, like a fish out of water. Then I get even dizzier, I am about to
faint, and can't think of anything else but that "I feel enormously and
see monstrously." (5) It must be these pills! I'll try to get rid of them
right away. But how? You see, Dr. Lieberman, that's why it's not good
to swear: I had sworn to never again set foot in such a doctor's office
... And here I am now!"
"You did exactly what you had to do," said
Dr. Lieberman kindly. "As to these spells, however outlandish and unbearable
they might seem to you, they don't represent the slightest danger for
you, even if - and I do understand this - it is hard for you to believe!"
"I hope you don't doubt that I feel ill
... by the way, I think it's written there, too, in the papers from Dr.
"Not at all," smiled Dr. Lieberman. "It
is normal to feel bad since you follow a treatment that is absolutely
inadequate for your ailment ..."
"Thank you," I said, obviously reassured.
"Thanks a lot ... At least, I hope the world won't think I'm crazy!"
"Crazy? Oh, dear man, how can you say such
a thing? And especially here, in my office, to me who has demonstrated
in so many books and throughout my entire medical career that there is
no such thing as mad people. Have you ever met one? Of course not ...
All of these states of yours are induced by those pills ..."
"All right, all right," I said, "But I wasn't
feeling well before taking them either, this is why I went to see Dr.
"This is a different problem altogether.
We'll get to it in due time, no question about that. Lissy - this is what
we call Dr. Goldenberg - is a sweetie, I hope you'll agree ...! But this
is how he is: he examines you very carefully, both psychologically and
intellectually, this is his well-known theory, after which he prescribes
pills right away. Oh, well, maybe this is just the thing in some cases;
you know, our discipline is more of an art. However, in your case I would
never have prescribed pills, neither those nor any others. Anyway, it
is clear that all of Lissy's observations--which we'll make an extensive
use of - isn't he absolutely adorable with his obsessive way of asking
you if you spit from a high place? - lead doubtlessly to a treatment based
exclusively on behavioural self-control and exercises in desensitization!"
"Absolutely, Dr. Lieberman. I can't stand
pills, particularly the ones I am taking now. But do you think that this
treatment will work? This ...this behavioural desensitization?"
"Without a shadow of a doubt ... your mistake
is that you create far too many problems for yourself ... Look, this is
precisely what Lissy writes here, too, in his case ... It seems that it
all started with the obsessive compulsion you have for a kind of a guru
... after all, things like this happen, especially here ... we live in
a city which is a haven for all sorts of beliefs, one weirder than the
other, and for hundreds of charlatans that stick ideas into people's heads,
and empty their pockets ..."
"You are referring to Caragiale,"
I dared to say, hoping, though, that it wasn't the case.
"Exactly," nodded Dr. Lieberman. "I didn't
dare to pronounce such a name which is ... which is so uncommon. In any
case, I must warn you that it might not even be his real name. Most of
the time these so-called gurus or occasional healers more
often than not take on false names, generic pseudonyms. Dr. Goldenberg
notes here clearly that you reread him often, although you know him almost
by heart ... It is like a mantra for you, as far as I can tell
... Such rituals may very well be [very] widespread in the culture of
your country of origin, where people, gathered together, repeat syllables,
words, or sentences, hours on end. But I hope you realize that in our
case such practice does nothing else than throw you into a confused state,
so that your body - which, according to the very detailed tests you took,
is perfectly healthy - reacts in the most normal possible way: all it
does is defend you. The panic, the anxieties you complain of, are precisely
the vigorous reaction of your organism: an entirely benign symptom that
warns us against certain behavioural deviations that go against nature."
"Such as, for instance, reading Caragiale?"
"But of course! You see, Lissy was partially
right, we face a compulsive maniacal syndrome with a derivative fixation
... This Caragiale, you mention his name all the time, better disappear
from your life for good. If you want the treatment that I think of prescribing
to you to work, you should stop seeing him, reading his teachings, and
thinking of his mantras I see here one of the adversative-obsessional
types that you mention all the time: clean[ly]-dirty), and, all
in all, I'd like you to consider him a dead man!"
"That's just what he is, Dr. Lieberman.
He died in Berlin, in 1912, and had no connections with Schulemberg's
"Ah, he's dead?" asked Dr. Lieberman intrigued.
"Lissy does not mention this here." And she, too, started taking notes
on a pad. "Hmm ... things seem to be getting more complicated ... Do you,
by any chance, have encounters with him, do you hear voices or, well,
other phenomena ..."
I felt that I was about to explode. Oh,
"Dr. Lieberman," I said in a tone maybe
a tad too rash, and then somewhat raising my voice, "I beg you to leave
Caragiale in peace. He's never been--neither when I went to Dr. Goldenberg
(or Lissy, as you call him, although I think that a name like this is
more for a dog or a cat), nor now, when I hoped to finally get adequate
treatment--anything else but a simple parenthetical example. A
rather expensive one, since it has cost me more than three hundred dollars,
and I see that not even today will I get by [it] any cheaper, or end up
more healed ..."
"Relax ... relax!" smiled Dr. Lieberman,
"I won't mention him again ... if this bothers you so much. Look, in our
medical practice which, [as] I think I told you, is more of an art, sometimes
mistakes happen, too; mistakes that result from premises assumed in a
way that is, let's say, inadequate. As did, for instance, Dr. Goldenberg,
Lissy, despite his indisputable competence ... Sure, he was completely
off the mark when he centred the discussion on this topic - I promised
you I would not pronounce his name anymore, didn't I! - instead of dealing
in fact with your own case. And the pills that he prescribed you ... as
I said, seem to be completely inadequate in your case ..."
It was obvious by now that Dr. Lieberman
was a completely different kind of psychiatrist. All of a sudden I felt
relaxed, confident, radiant.
"However, you must agree," she added, "that
someone who says or thinks clean[ly]-dirty, clean[ly]-dirty all
the time, can't be feeling quite well ... I mean it's not normal. Now,
what you want -- and what you must regain --is precisely your natural
ease, your calm, uncramped state. For instance, stretch your legs, put
your feet on the table, don't worry, and try to relax!"
I tried and it was dreadful: my feet on
the table, my butt about to fall off the chair, my neck - stiff, a dull
and piercing pain in my nape, maybe because the chair was too far from
the table, or maybe because, in principle, I detest putting my feet on
the table ...
"Hey," exulted Dr. Lieberman, "isn't it
"No," I answered relieved, since she [had]
asked, anyway. "My legs and arms tingle, as if I'd slept on them, plus
this pain between my shoulders." I didn't even mention the butt.
"Perfect!" she said. "Now, let's resume
your initial position. This only confirms the fact, which I proved eloquently
in some older works of mine, that, in the end, we all have our own ways
of relaxing. Yours is a bit uncommon: you don't relax with your
feet on the table ... As to the tingling, it is caused by the pills prescribed
by Dr. Goldenberg, a treatment, to be sure, most proper for certain exogenous
cases, while you happen to suffer form an endogenous syndrome.
Would you be so good and take off your trousers?"
"No way!" I answered, glancing instinctively
at the door.
"I thought so," said Dr. Lieberman with
a wide smile, taking notes again. "It is totally normal not to want to
expose onerself, to feel the desire for privacy. However, this needn't
"But who said I was obsessed? Moreover,
I don't see what my disease has to do with ..."
"It has, quite a lot, if you look at things
from a holistic perspective, if you know what I mean. We'll get
to this, too, give it some time. For the time being, let us try the desensitization
exercises ... Look, imagine you are not feeling well, that you have one
of those crises: your heartbeats are now too fast, now too slow, you feel
like you are choking, that you can't breathe anymore, that you'll either
faint or lose your mind ... Like this ... Close your eyes, relax,
and imagine your favourite landscape ... Stay there, rest there for a
few minutes, analyse closely each detail of the landscape, oh! ah! how
relaxing ... You see? Where are the heartbeats, the suffocation,
the dizziness? They are completely gone! This is what we'll be doing for
some time," said Dr. Lieberman opening her eyes as if returning from a
trance in which God knows what she saw ... "All right, close your eyes
and let's start!"
I closed my eyes, pressing my eyelids shut
as best I could, not seeing anything, proded on and on by her voice:
"Good. Just like this ... we're doing very well!"
"I've got a problem!" I said, opening my
eyes precisely when Dr. Lieberman was probably thinking that I was doing
really well. "I don't have a favourite landscape ... I am not prepared,
I never thought about it!"
"This is insignificant," she said a bit
piqued, "you are an intelligent man, imagine anything ... anything that
would really please you ... Come on, try it ... I think we are on the
I closed my eyes again, while I was receiving
indications like: "No, no, no! Your eyelids are closed too tight, this
is not a sign of relaxation, let your head fall backwards, like
this ... don't move your fingers, your hands must be feel light, in a
relaxed position ... Can you please tell me now what you see?"
"Herds of unicorns ... herds of unicorns
bathing in the sea ..."
"Hmm!" she said, "are you sure that this
is your favourite scenery?"
"Absolutely!" I answered. "Only that the
noise of the sea and all their frolicking induce in me, I really don't
want to say it ... a kind of panic!"
"Feel free to cut off the sound" - and she
looked at her watch - "in fact, a landscape doesn't always have to have
sound. On the contrary, it is even more relaxing if you don't hear
a thing. We will try this for a few weeks, and you will see that everything
will go really well."
"And, did it?" asked Dr. Reichbar not without a hint of irony.
"Not at all! Had it worked, would I have
come to your office? In three weeks, all I found out was that I hated
my favourite landscape with all my heart! ... You know, associating it
all the time with my worst states ... Maybe it was partially my fault,
too, because I could never cut off the sound."
"You aren't guilty in the least," said the
doctor, who had green, very intense eyes, and an extremely pleasant voice.
"Why don't you call me Debra ... we'll have to go a long, long way ...
together! The treatments that my colleagues - to call them such- prescribed
in your case are, simply, aberrant: placebo, if you know by any
chance what this means ..."
"That is, a kind of bull," I exclaimed.
"Precisely!" she allowed. "Here, at our
therapy centre, we regard such ailments from an entirely distinct perspective
... I'll give you a few brochures [for you] to read [ about this] ...
They will help you along the long road we will cover together! It's a
perspective that doesn't leave anything to chance, and that comprises,
how should I put it, everything ..."
"Holistic," I said, inspired by the
recently acquired wisdom.
"Yes," said Debra, "you can call it holistic,
and it is good for you to be aware of this. For instance, you know that
each thing, endowed with life or not, is an extraordinary source of energy,
an immense permanent explosion that we can't see or feel only because
of the perversion of our senses, a phenomenon that allopathic medicine
has all but increased by resorting to drugs, psycho-physical speculations,
and other things like that ... Look what state they brought you to!"
"But, Debra, I was sick before I went to
see Dr. Goldenberg and Dr. Lieberman. This, at least, is written in black
on white, in all the papers in the file ..."
"This is precisely the problem! This file
does not interest us at all! We won't even open it! For, my friend, there
are no sick people, this is an illusion maintained by ... you know
... you easily realize why ... There are only energies, that may
be either positive or negative. Do you understand? It's very simple: in
your case the negative energies probably prevail over the positive ones.
All we have to do is balance them properly, and everything will
She was blinking fast, with her beautiful
and intense eyes, and for a moment she seemed extremely convincing. But
"Take off all your clothes and I will try
to decipher the exact nature of the energies!"
I thought at once that she was probably
conniving with the other one, Dr. Lieberman, but the fact that she had
not opened the file (where, in all likelihood, it was written that I have
an aversion to intimacy!) made me abandon the idea. I was feeling very
well again, [as if I were] no longer afraid of my bizarre states, and
all I wanted at that moment was to leave the place as soon as possible.
"But couldn't one survey these energies
... through my clothes?"
"By no means!" she said. "The epiderm develops
an aura that the clothes constantly obstruct ... This is, in fact,
one of the most innovative points brought forth in my article published
in the Yale Journal of Medical Practice: to feel better, we should
walk around naked, untainted by any touch. But, you see, social pressure,
wherefrom so many misfortunes come, forces this sense of humiliation upon
us... so conventional, and so damaging. Look, here is a hallstand,
I'll go to the other room to relax in order for the consultation
I took off my clothes, then I laid face
down on the table.
Dr. Reichbar did not take long.
"Relax," she told me with her seductive
voice. "Tenseness is a hypostasis characteristic of the dressed body."
Instinctively, I looked over my shoulder,
terrified that she had relaxed too much, but no, she was fully
dressed, eyes closed, moving her hands up and down above by back. From
time to time she would murmur: "Ah! dizzy spells, well, no wonder, here
I sense a very bad pressure point," or "Hm, it's clear that you don't
like pats on the shoulder! I don't blame you for that ... But, lower ...
very bad energies, the coccigian zone, this is to be kept in mind, try
to wear briefs without elastic ... this might help!"
I was sweating alright, although it was
not very warm in the office. I had hoped that, once she had gotten to
the coccis, the examination would come to an end, when, all of
a sudden, without opening her eyes, Debra said:
"Now turn on your back, we will examine
the abdominal energies!"
"Couldn't one read the abdominal energies
from this side ... I am kind of weak, with a bit of relaxation
... maybe ..."
"No way!" Debra whispered, and turned me,
briskly, in the desired position.
Again she moved her hands above me, murmuring:
"Your body talks to me ... it tells me very clearly that you do not eat
properly, hence the dizzy spells, the heartbeats and all the rest ...
You should eat more ... colourful! I am not sure ... Ah, yes! Something
between yellow and red ..."
"Orange," I tried "... oranges!"
"Hm ... Yes, maybe orange ... but not oranges.
Their energies are mixed ... Carrots, as many carrots as possible, and
"But the rice isn't orange!" I protested
vehemently, maybe because I can't stand rice.
"It doesn't matter," Debra went on, "rice
with carrots ... this is what your body tells me it would like, to balance
the negative energies!"
She then started palpating my arms, going
up the neck.
"Green!" she said in the end, without opening
her eyes "... Green ... Your body told me that you have to dress in green
... or, wait a second, at least the sleeves should be green ... You understand
that, if we can't walk around naked as in fact we should, at least we
should wear what our body tolerates best! Now you can get dressed! But
you must come back weekly for check-ups."
After I got dressed and sort of got hold
of my senses, she asked me, blinking again with her aquamarine eyes:
"Now, don't you feel a lot better?"
"Certainly," I had to acquiesce, "especially
in comparison with ..."
"No!" said Debra, "don't even mention comparison!
This ruins it all. We will go on with the epidermic communication
until you reach absolute relaxation, the natural state in which
you must always find yourself. Trust me, I've succeeded with so many patients,
after all ... I can give you addresses and phone numbers if you want ...
Bye-bye, bye-bye, see you next week!"
I was giddy when I left. I must confess
that, while I don't have a penchant for carrots and I hate rice, also
I don't find green clothes particularly becoming, or, at least, not with
a figure like mine. I went, nevertheless, to the Banana Republic
across the street, and I bought myself a verdant shirt and green pyjamas.
I wore them for a while, until my little girl started calling me froggy.
As to the carrots with rice, they gave me nothing more than terrible constipation,
which provided anything but relaxation ... At least, I had not
set foot again in Debra's office for the weekly epidermics. Even
so, the first one cost enough, and the diagnosis she gave me (for she
does not believe in diseases or sick people) did not even give me a chance
to get my money back from the medical insurance ... As to the crises:
they went on all the same - heartbeats, suffocation, the sensation
that I am losing my mind ...
"Frankly, it amazes me that you are still able to function normally, and
to do your job at the university!" exclaimed the Professor, Dr. Kaplan,
understandingly. "You must have an iron will.: How do you manage during
"Like I know?" I answered. "Now and then,
I take a pill from those left from Dr. Goldenberg, sometimes I close my
eyes and contemplate the unicorns bathing in the sea, or I touch[ed],
from time to time, a green sleeve, munch[ed] on a carrot [to no end],
or gulp[ed] down a bowl of boiled rice. What can I do? Probably this holistics
stuff does not agree with me at all ..."
" Holistics, Schmolistics!" Dr. Kaplan
laughed condescendingly. "What is holistics after all, but a collection
of fragments. You do realize now, I hope, that it is them we have
to focus on!"
"Yes, yes, doctor. For instance, this disease,
my ailment is, certainly, a fragment that deserves all the attention ...
after all, this is why I am here!"
Prof. Dr. Kaplan had an respectable baldness
and a pair of small, inquisitive, and extremely lively eyes.
"Let's not rush into things!" he said, raising
his right index finger solemnly. "First and foremost, it is known
that constipation per se can induce dizziness, suffocation and
all the rest ... It is an anomalous state, you must admit, that we will
have to eliminate first!"
"Then, please, remember" - I grew angry
- "that I had these symptoms even before the epidermics, the rice,
the carrots, dressing in green, and everything else, such as the Goldenberg
pills or the unicorns taking a bath in the sea. I did not come here because
of a simple constipation! Look, read the file please, I hope that at least
you will not ignore it, as did Dr. Reichbar!"
"Don't even mention it," Prof. Kaplan protested
gently, "where this is concerned, you needn't worry. And that person you
keep on calling Doctor Reichbar all but mocks the mission of our
Meticulously, he opened the file, examined
each and every page, turned them over on each side, then arranged them
in a new order and, although I must admit that everything he was doing
could not but inspire confidence, in principle, I was becoming annoyed
with this interminable rustle.
"Ah, it is crystal clear!" he then said,
as if enlightened by the reading of those sheets in a different order.
"Well, you suffer from a phobia, were you ever told this before?
Look, if you put things head to head, they become clear all of a sudden.
Phobias, my dear fellow, are compulsive behavioural disturbances, with
a substratum ... he! he! here we will have to do a bit of work, that is
often hard to determine."
"Doctor, as I have had the honor of telling
you, I suffered from all of these things before the rice, which, true
enough, I detest ... still, a phobia ..."
Dr. Kaplan took off his glasses and made
a gesture of exasperation.
"But, my dear man, who said that you have
a phobia of rice? No, it's an entirely different matter altogether. You
have a phobia of this fellow, this Ca ... Caragiale, it's (very)
clear from your entire file. First you speak endlessly about him, then,
all of a sudden, you can't stand him anymore, to the point where you even
become violent and raise your voice when he is mentioned. Very interesting
... but I wonder, whether what we have here is a rivalry, a misunderstood
competition ... maybe there's even a woman involved: in my recent studies
I proved that phobias have, almost all of them, an erotic, sexual substratum!"
"'s dead!" I said, exasperated, and feeling
like I was turning in circles.
"Who? She is? Under natural circumstances,
I hope ..."
"No, he, this unfortunate Caragiale."
"Oh, really? Let's see, is it written here?
... Where? ..."
"In Berlin, in 1912 ...," I managed to add,
At this point, Dr. Kaplan ignored me completely,
engrossed in reading the pages of my medical file, which, as I said, he
kept arranging and rearranging.
"Interesting ... very interesting ... I
gather from here that he was an obstinate opponent of Schulemberg, of
the psychomotric school ..."
"And, generally, of universal stupidity
and foolishness," I caught myself murmuring.
"I fully agree!" said Dr. Kaplan, "Psychomotrism,
really, was pure rubbish ... what I don't understand is where this phobia
of yours comes from ... because, no doubt, that's what causes all the
bad moods of which you complain ... Anyway, you must promise me never
to think about him again, in spite of all the theories and books which,
out of a reflex to rebound, extremely frequent in cases of phobia,
you feel drawn to read again and again ...
I think I had grown so tired of trying so
many times to clear up the misunderstanding with Caragiale, or maybe -
I don't even know anymore - everything was so jumbled in my head, that
sometimes I even believed, in all probability, that I truly suffered because
of Caragiale! And so I let Dr. Kaplan go on as he pleased.
"We should, as a start," he said, "tackle
that sexual, erotic aspect of the problem ... tell me, in this obsessive
imagery that you keep developing, do the unicorns go into the sea
or do they come out?"
"Obsessive imagery?" I protested. "But,
Doctor, this is what Dr. Lieberman asked me to do..."
"No, no!" Prof. Kaplan contested. "She only
told you to imagine your favorite scenery, you chose the elements yourself.
Here is the most important thing!"
"I don't know ... I didn't think of this
... Generally, I think they're splashing about and making a terrible commotion,
there, in the sea foam. Why is it so important whether they go in or out?"
"Aha! There's foam, too! It's clear, we
must find out immediately whether they go in, because then we are
faced with a complex produced by the incomplete satisfaction of the libido,
whereas, if they are coming out, it's clearly the case of a castration
complex! Please, close your eyes and try to record every detail with accuracy!"
What could I do? I closed my eyes half-heartedly:
"I can't tell you for sure, doctor, some
of them go in, others come out, they're probably not all ready at the
same time with ... the bathing. -- by Jove, it's not the army!
"Very well!" exclaimed Dr. Kaplan. "Now
try to count the ones that are going in and the ones that are coming out,
separately. Is there a lot of foam?"
"Pretty much! Like at the seaside ..." I
answered without opening my eyes. "Then, with all this horsing around,
yes, there's a lot of foam ..."
"Perfect, now count them!"
After a while I opened my eyes.
"I can't count them separately, doctor,
because they're moving about constantly, and, then, all this counting
is making me sleepy ... I think they're in equal numbers, or something
like that ..."
"Yes, yes! I expected as much, more or less,"
said Dr. Kaplan, taking notes. "Eroticism, therefore ... frustrated libido,
on the one hand, an incapacity for satisfaction ... Tell me, please, do
you practice masturbation?"
"Good grief, Doctor, I'm a married man,
thank God, that's the last thing I need ..."
"Married or not," Dr. Kaplan giggled, "it
makes no difference here. On the contrary, I have been led to find so
many times that this occurs especially with married people ... You know,
marriage - I, too, was married for thirty years - produces these habits,
a certain apathy and the need to turn to ... or to experiment with other
I felt that I was losing my patience with
this shrink, most certainly perverse, since he kept shifting his half-closed
eyes everywhere far too often, especially when he talked about eroticism
and sex ...
"But I love my wife, Doctor, I don't think
that any of this has anything to do with the dizzy spells, the anxiety
attacks, the palpitations, the suffocation and everything else. I have
the feeling that we're digressing again, and that it has nothing whatsoever
to do with my problem ..."
"Ho, ho, ho!" laughed Dr. Kaplan hoarsely,
"I hope you're not such a bigot or so narrow-minded to confuse sentiment
with sex! But maybe you are, and then it's very clear why you're having
these symptoms, let's call them confusional! Well, then let's recapitulate
... the unicorns go into the sea and come out of the sea ... foam is made
... in, out, in, out ... What more do you want than a typical instance
of the sexual act?"
What a devil, this Doctor Kaplan! I sort
of understood where he was heading, I was happy that he had at least left
Caragiale in peace, but I still couldn't figure out what all this had
to do with my moments of dizziness. After he had taken notes for a while,
evidently satisfied with how things were unfolding, he slid his glasses
down to the tip of his nose and said:
"It's clear what you must do! Every time
you have a crisis, engage immediately in a sexual act! In time, this will
take care of all your states, no doubt about it!"
"But," I protested, "they don't happen only
at home ... Now that I think about it, they never happen at home!"
"You see? Where do they happen, so
to speak, although I know now that here nothing is happenstance!"
"Well," I said, "for example, in the subway,
on my way to the university or on my way back, in a shop, at a reception,
during a course, at a congress, on the street ..."
"That's it, that's it!" Dr. Kaplan exulted.
"Didn't I tell you? The unicorns going into the sea ... This is only because
you want to have them all!"
"All what?" I asked stupidly.
"The women, it's them we're talking
about! Don't you feel, sometimes, that you want to jump one, just like
that, out of the blue?"
"No," I answered, sincerely ... I hope.
"Hm! I wouldn't say that ... the unicorns
that go in and out, in and out! Heh, heh! You [alone] exposed yourself
there, and from this we will also infer the basis of the treatment - it
will be long, I want you to entertain no illusion about it - which we
will prescribe! It's a typical syndrome of possession, which, because
of social pressure, or anyway, because of the principles which you alone
impose upon yourself, throw you into these most awful fits ... which you
described so well: the dizziness, throbbing temples, feelings of suffocation
This time he had flummoxed me completely.
I seemed to feel guilty about what I did do as well as about what I didn't
do; especially since, all of a sudden, I was faced with the revelation
that I might be an insatiable sexual monster ...
"I would have never thought that I am some
kind of repressed Casanova, or something like that ... as you see fit
to insinuate, doctor!"
"But we, all of us, are like that! Ah, someday
I'll tell you about myself ... Anyway, maybe this is not the moment ...
Let's go back to the treatment: since you are unable to practice the sexual
act in the, well, the above-mentioned circumstances, you will have to
try to imagine it somehow ... Heh, heh! There are many ways of doing it,
you will find the most appropriate one ... This will relax you, without
a doubt, and the crises will pass, miraculously, please trust me!"
Two weeks later, when I paid him another
visit, I had to admit that I had had fewer crises. No wonder: I was too
busy with something else. In the subway, when it seized me, I began to
undress, in my mind, at random, a young thing sitting in the seat opposite
to me, or maybe even two at a time, if my dizziness was too great, or
if I felt that I was going to suffocate on the spot.
"Excellent idea!" Dr. Kaplan exclaimed,
taking his usual notes. "I can actually prescribe this from now on in
similar cases, with your permission."
"The only problem is, Doctor, that some
of them get off too quickly and I don't have enough time to dress them
back up, and then it happens that I also mix some of them up, so that
one leaves stark naked, only with the other one's coat on, while the other
one that stays on the train finds herself with two bras, two ..."
"Their business! Their business!" said the
doctor. "What's important is that you overcome the crisis and everything
comes out perfectly! After all, you're really not responsible for the
way in which people go about in New York ... Don't you dare, now that
we've taken care of the erotic compulsion, develop a guilt complex,
which is often [frequently] the consequence in individuals with primitive
"In this case, " I decided, "I would rather
go back to the image with the unicorns ... at least it doesn't imply any
sort of responsibility!"
"Who do you think you are, the Holy Ghost?"
Prof. Kaplan grew annoyed. "Of course you have some sort of responsibility
in all this, but you must face it like a man, you can't want to possess
them all and then pretend [like] nothing happened!"
"But, after all, nothing happens!" I protested.
"And I don't want to possess them all either, as I had the honor of telling
you; just like I didn't want the unicorns to go into the sea or to come
out, in the treatment prescribed by Dr. Lieberman; just like I didn't
want to strip buck naked for the epidermics performed by Dr. Reichbar,
or to wear green, constipating myself with rice and carrots; just like
I don't have any obsession with, or a phobia of Caragiale, who has never
treated me, and who died in Berlin, without having, in all probability,
anything to do with the psychomotric school of Schulemberg; and just like
I have never felt like swallowing the pills of Dr. Goldenberg, or Lissy
- dog, cat, whatever this guy may be, because the name is for anything
but a human being! And, generally, I feel totally abused by your perverse
way of making me undress all the women I happen to run into, without being
then able to put all their things back on, and to decently let them go
about their business ..."
"Splendid, splendid!" sang out Dr. Kaplan.
"Such a violent reaction tells us more than we need, and this in a short
amount of time ... in fact, very short ... Your illness is, as of now,
almost healed, and you must realize that this can only make me happy,
although I was hoping for a slower remission, which would allow me another
series of sessions at the price which ... oh well, since the insurance
is paying for it anyway ... "
"On the contrary!" I said, deep in thought.
"It seems to me that now that I've gotten rid of one thing, I've acquired
something even worse ..."
"No, no!" said the doctor. "This shouldn't
worry you! Didn't I heal you of dizziness, suffocation and everything
else? What do you care that you'll be undressing women in your mind until
the end of your days? Ah! I envy you: why didn't I hit upon this idea
sooner! But ... perhaps you could reward me fittingly for the infallible
treatment that I've prescribed for you: for example, you could at least
bring me a bra ... you see, one of those that are left over; the women
get in and out so quickly, I am well aware that you don't have enough
time to put back everything that belongs to each one ..." "Then," he continued
heatedly, "you could try it with four or five women at a time, this would
leave so many things left over ... All you have to do is collect them,
gently, after they get off the train, and bring them to me ..."
"Unbelievable!" Dr. Finch marveled. "Are you sure that we're talking about
"Do you doubt it? Look, I even have his
card, with the date of the last session, to which I didn't even go ...
The situation was getting worse and worse: I had the impression that it
was me who was treating him!"
"Ah, I don't doubt it at all! It's clear
that he suffers from a somatic psychomania with an actant voyeuristic
and equally fetishistic fixation ... The symptoms are described in
detail in one of his books ... You know, I was his student at Cornell
University ... I wouldn't have suspected, however, that he is still ...
Nevertheless, here in your file, he says that you were able to materialize
the erotic compulsion ... a black bra is mentioned, which you gave him
"What could I do, Doctor Finch, he nagged
me so much about it, that, in the end, I bought a bra and I took it to
him ... I told him that it was from one of the young girls in the subway
"Was he content?" asked the beautiful Dr.
Finch, smoking absent-mindedly.
"Content is an understatement!" I answered
her. "He was jumping around everywhere, stopping every now and then to
take notes, after which he caressed the bra with long, lascivious strokes:
'Hm!! Perfect! What a scent!' There wasn't any scent, since I had bought
it directly from Woolworth half an hour before!"
Dr. Finch put out her cigarette, took another
look at the file, and then:
"Tell me again, why didn't you go to the
"Well, he asked me to bring him a pair of
underwear, but I had sworn to myself, never to undress women again, no
matter how sick I would feel, neither in the subway, nor at congresses
... nowhere ... It became clear to me that this preoccupation made my
bad moments go away only because it shifted my attention on to something
else, which, after all, could be quite captivating ... But all the disorder
that followed, with things that I couldn't put back on the persons ...
you understand ... Furthermore, I thought that, after the underwear, the
batty Prof. Kaplan would ask me to bring him Lord-only-knows what other
thing ... a breast, or God forbid ..."
"Of course I understand!" she purred. "You
suffer from a panic syndrome, a widespread disorder in the last
quarter of a century, especially here, in the States. The most effective
treatment, although it is episodic, rather than long-term, is to shift
the accent on to a preoccupation that would solicit your full attention:
count money, do sports, or, why not? undress women ... This is not what
intrigues me ... I'm only thinking: I didn't know Prof. Kaplan would still
"Oh, no!" I got up, ready to leave as quickly
as possible. "I'm sick and tired of talking about other people and their
problems ... I don't want to hear either about Caragiale, or about Goldenberg's
pills, Lieberman's relaxation with unicorns, constipation with
green sleeves à la Reichbar, or Prof. Kaplan's masturbations.
I want to know about myself! Me and only me!"
"It's natural!" smiled Dr. Finch. The panic
syndrome always reduces the individual to the self, in order for it
then to actually make it clear to him that there's nothing else to do
in the moments of crisis, except to find himself, like I said, a preoccupation
outside of the self. The body is perfectly healthy, look, it's written
here, all over the file, so you have nothing to fear: mens sana in
corpore sano! You are perfectly healthy, but poor Kaplan, my good
professor, doesn't he deserve to have a preoccupation as well?
Didn't you think about his panic?"
"No!" I said firmly. "To hell with him."
"Come on, don't be so angry!" pleaded Dr.
Finch, "Rony - that's what we, students, called Professor Kaplan - needs
help more than anyone. I didn't suspect that he is still active
at his age ... And since I don't really have captivating preoccupations
either ... You understand me ... I would like you to do me a favor: look,
the session won't cost you anything ... I'll just go over there and, be
so kind, take my underwear to him... Since you still have a session with
him ... who knows?"
April 11, 1997
"And did you take them to him?" asked Dr. Weichelt, "but it was clear
that he had neither the perverse movement of Dr. Kaplan's eyes, nor Dr.
Finch's frivolity, who, above and beyond the whole oddity with the underwear,
at least gave me a somewhat more reasonable diagnosis.
"Not at all!" I answered. "I left her consulting
room immediately, insisting to pay for the session, no matter how much
"Strange!" murmured Dr. Weichelt. "It seems
that Rony received Myra Finch's underwear through the intermediary of
a patient ... A patient who materialized erotic obsessions, or something
like that ... It's an older story, from about a year and a half ago ...
It was even written in the papers! Now Rony and Myra are husband and wife,
what's more, it seems that they're even expecting a baby ..."
"I swear it wasn't me!" I exclaimed.
"I believe you," the doctor calmed me down,
"it's only that it fits too well. As for myself, when something fits too
well, only then do I start to doubt ... Doesn't that happen to you, too?"
"Oh yes, and how!" I hurried to acquiesce,
delighted that, finally, someone was paying attention to what I believed
or what I felt. "Then," I added, "all of your colleagues took down so
many notes of everything I said, it's quite likely that Dr. Finch convinced
another patient to take her underwear to Rony, I mean to Dr. Kaplan; just
as it's equally likely that a wretch like me, having come under Kaplan's
spell, to have ended at Dr. Finch's beck and call, and maybe this is just
how the whole mess ended up ... like Caragiale says: "We don't refuse
anything: Mrs. X to Mrs. Y, Mrs. Y to Mrs. Z," and at the end of the line,
there's me, who remains untreated in this whole chain of weaknesses, through
which, as I've just realized, the only illness that's being cured is Dr.
"You mean Finch," Dr. Weichelt interfered
seriously. "Don't be surprised! That was the condition of the marriage:
he had to take her name, something which suited him just fine. Actually,
she was the man in this whole relationship. What's more, Rony's complete
healing took place precisely through the symbolic transgression of gender:
accepting her name, Rony became in a way a woman, this cured him
of the obsession to have them all, which it seems to me he confessed
to you during the sessions ... A transition as simple as possible ...
and perfectly curative, as I, too, demonstrated, among other things,
a few years ago in a paper which it wouldn't be a bad idea for you to
read! Actually," he added blushing, "with me it was exactly the contrary:
I was terribly unhappy as a woman, until I decided to become a man!"
"Dear God, take pity on me!" I told myself
and I got out of Dr. Weichelt's office, without bothering to recuperate
my medical file, with all the analysis and the priceless notes of my torturers,
accompanied by the doctor's voice, seemingly more and more of a soprano,
which proposed a treatment, naturally long-term and just as infallible!
Having landed on the street, I closed my
eyes, feeling the oh-so-familiar dizziness which now seemed much more
reassuring, in spite of the sensation of fainting, suffocation and madness
or imminent death. As if on cue, the herds of unicorns started frolicking
in the sea, with a loud and unbearable roar, while, almost without realizing
it, I was touching myself everywhere, with the hope that somewhere
I would find a button, where I could turn down the volume ...
Thus passed a few more months, during which, when I felt ill, I would
try different therapies: I cracked about two hundred eggs in the bathtub,
I did a thousand push-ups, I bought myself a cuckoo clock, I ran three
times to and from my home all the way to the Greek cleaners Katharsis,
I lit candles, I counted backwards from one thousand in Romanian, English,
German, French, Italian, and Spanish, then I tried Hungarian and Aramaic,
rather unsuccessfully; I put on a tux and I conducted the overture to
Master Singers in front of the mirror until the fatigue almost
made me faint, I read the New York Times obituaries, imagining
to myself that I knew all the deceased, I wrote a story about all of them,
then I cried, having grown too fond of their lives, I ate germinated wheat
kernels and juniper seeds until I couldn't feel my tongue anymore, I made
faces at three cops, I spat from twenty bridges, I took the train to Trenton,
I bathed all dressed on Coney Island, I took apart a faucet which worked
perfectly and I assembled it again, making it work just as well and having
six parts left over, which I put into my pocket, I bought a ticket for
the national baseball finals which I tore up at the entrance of the stadium,
I read The Life of John F. Kennedy in a popularized edition, I
got an anti-rabies vaccine, I collected Burmese stamps, I recited verses
from Vlahuta,(6) imagining how Whitman would have written them, then I
did the opposite, I drank five glasses of water, twelve of mango juice
mixed with chick peas, I waited for four planes with a delay of over an
hour at La Guardia airport, I visited the firefighters' museum,
I let my nails grow for three weeks, I carried a cane, I went to the public
Well, well! All this until one day when,
although I had sworn never to go to the doctors again, my heart gave an
uncommon flutter, I found in the usual mail an envelope on which my name
was clearly written as the addressee, and as the sender: Dr. William
Hellsty, MD, PhD, MSG and, well, everything else, consequently -
what a diploma-ridden psychiatrist! Inside, a kind letter addressed
to me, since he had just moved to the neighborhood! What delicate
attention, I said to myself - ah! the sacred Hippocratic oath! - plus
an invitation to a free session! After all that had passed until then,
I found it more than appropriate to pay a visit to this unexpected and
possible savior! So I ran quickly to Dr. Hellsty, especially since the
address was only about two blocks away from where I live. The waiting,
not too long: I'd say, neither too-too much, nor too-too little, but what
did it matter? You couldn't resist an invitation like this!
The office - a gem! The room was wallpapered
[everywhere] in the warmest colors, relaxing music in the background,
diplomas in golden frames hung all around. I must say, when he asked me
about the medical file, I had to give it to him in a roundabout
way: I couldn't just say that I had taken to my heels, and that I had
left it in the office of one who, although a man, had previously been
a woman ... He would have taken me for a lunatic!
"I'm perfectly healthy, Doctor!" I tried
to answer as relaxed as possible, while I felt by his prying looks
that, in all probability, he suspected exactly the opposite. "I took all
the necessary tests, even more than was necessary, they were studied by
colleagues of yours, whose names ... I can't recall for the moment and
... and who, in conclusion, even said, I don't remember which one of them
it was: mens sana in corpore sano! Not to worry, in this respect
... About the file, I lost it, I mislaid it somewhere among my papers
... you know how it is, with so many papers, mail, notes, which, sometimes,
out of carelessness, I can say that even the most careful people, like
myself, for example, now that we mention it: I couldn't find it, exactly,
at the pinch: namely, when I came to see you!"
Dr. Hellsty, a man of about sixty years
of age, with serious glasses, was listening to me rather unbelievingly:
"Hm! Perfectly healthy - please allow
me to have my doubts concerning this statement. The more tests you take,
the less of a chance you have to be healthy ... It's a logical thing,
after all: pure statistics ... That's not what intrigues me. Tell me:
Does it happen to you often to forget names or to misplace things? And
I would furthermore like to know: Do you drink a lot?"
"Me? Goodness, no!" I exclaimed. "Moderately,
I mean so-so, not more than others, and probably more out of fear! I mean,
to give me courage ..."
"That's not good," the doctor said. "You
shouldn't drink at all!"
And he idly opened a notebook: it was clear
that he would begin to take notes.
I hurried to stop him.
"No, please, I beg you! Don't write anything
in there: I'll give them all to you immediately: Goldenberg, Lieberman,
Reichbar, Kaplan, Finch, Weichelt, and then myself ..."
"Ah, are you a doctor?" he frowned
and removed his glasses.
"Yes," I exclaimed, saved. "That's what
it is: I'm a doctor! In a way, I treated each one of them ... You know,
it's more a question of ... a second opinion, which implies confidentiality,
doesn't it ..."
"In this case, colleague, you will pay for
the session, it seems only natural! As to confidentiality, have no worry!"
Then he listened to me attentively, while
I, describing the symptoms, tried to grease them up with holistics,
fragmentarism, confused states, and all the other terms,
which I now wielded so well. But I adamantly refused to mention Lissy's
spitting from heights, the desensitizing unicorns, the epidermics, the
undressing in the subway, Rony's underwear, actually Myra's ... confidentiality,
"Look," said Dr. Hellsty after a while.
"What you have been describing to me so coherently here can lead me to
only one conclusion: you suffer from an illness--before we used to call
it panic syndrome-- a neuropsychological disorder which manifests
itself very drastically, but which has no life-threatening basis, at least
not one that has been proven physiologically. To be more precise, where
you are concerned, and taking into consideration, of course, the individualized
symptomatology, the diagnosis that would suit you best is the one described
by Dr. Lewis Goldenberg in his book that came out recently from the Hopkins
University Press ... Look, I even have it here, with his autograph ..."
He moved about the room for a while, then
he brought out a massive volume, hard-cover, bound in inviting colors.
He skimmed through it, then he stopped at a certain page:
"Moft!" he exclaimed. "That's what
you suffer from! And how well he describes it: you said you knew Lissy,
didn't you, with his hermit's air, oblivious to almost everything happening
outside. Just look how wonderfully he's put it here! Allow me to read
you this sentence: "The seal and motto of our times!" That's exactly how
it is. I've had more and more cases in the past years, especially with
the massive immigration from other territories, which make their own contribution,
don't they, to the nuancing of illnesses which we often register-- with
so much superficiality! - under generic, flat names. That's what you suffer
from, too, dear colleague. The symptoms which you've described to me leave
no shadow of a doubt!"
I felt as if I were floating. I didn't want
to close my eyes only because of the infernal noise of the quadrupeds
bathing in the sea ...
"May I take a look at the book?" I asked
with a voice that sounded more determined than sure ... "I was out of
the country for a while, I must have received it by mail, because I have
a subscription to the Hopkins University Press ...
"How else?" said Dr. Hellsty approvingly.
It was as if the book almost burned my fingers.
I immediately went to the index: A, B, C ... finally C ... I look feverishly:
Caan, Cabala, Caby ... then, directly, Clitoris ... No sign of Caragiale.
Ah! I have a sinister misgiving! I jump directly to P. Parana, Palimpsest,
Paranoia, Paranoid ... My eyes follow the lines frantically ... Papa,
see Vatican ... At last, Popa, my name, I go to the
page in question: healed patient! Oh! The knavish crook! I was
afraid that I would arouse Dr. Hellsty's suspicions.
"Go ahead, go ahead," he encouraged me.
"I always do the same thing myself, the index is a wonderful digest of
I now felt reassured in this respect. Let's
see what else is in here ... Impossible: I find full passages from Carnival
Matters and Mr. Leonida Face to Face With the Reactionaries
(7) reduced to diagnoses and neuropsychic symptomatology ...
"Fandacsie!" (8) I found myself
"Oh, yes! Fandacsy, I'm glad you've
noticed! Don't you think Lissy is brilliant here? Sounds almost like Ecstasy!
Who would have thought that this whole process with somebody having an
obsessive idea could produce a psychosomatic phenomenon of the intensity
of a genuine inner earthquake ... Fantastic!"
"The only thing is," I decided to retort,
"that we have a fundamental lack here. I see that Schulemberg is cited
six times in the index; on the other hand another extremely important
doctor, also from the Berlin school, and who, I can say, even invented
the concept of fandacsy that you admire so much in Lissy's work,
is entirely missing ... I'm even ashamed that my name is mentioned ..."
"On the contrary!" said Dr. Hellsty, "Congratulations
to you! Any sort of presence in a book as fundamental as this one is important!
As to your colleague, whose side you take, perhaps out of friendship -
which is a wonderful sentiment - maybe his time hasn't come yet, don't
worry about it: you're young, in a new country, where merit will have
its reward sooner or later!"
"He's dead," I murmured, "in Berlin," yet
without adding the year, too, since, in any case, it would have been useless.
"I'm sorry," said the doctor, looking insistently
at the clock. "But merits, if they're truly substantial, will be recognized
even post-mortem ... Going back to your symptoms, as a second opinion,
I can't but confirm the diagnosis of our great colleague, Dr. Goldenberg
... And I'm especially pleased to know that one of his collaborators lives
near-by ... Good-bye, then, and don't you worry: Lissy says it clearly,
one doesn't die of moft."
"No, but you don't feel whole either," I added, leaving the office of
the last shrink I would ever consult again. English is better for explaining
this matter: in English it's ever again. So that, in fact, I don't
know either what will still be.
As to the crises, I gave up both Goldenberg's
pills (what a crook! And who could have given him all the other tips?),
and landscapes with unicorns bathing in the sea. I'm more content this
way: it's not good to dream of a white horse, says Caragiale somewhere.
1. Moft (pl. mofturi): "trifle." "A face mofturi", literally
"to make mofts" means "to act spoiled," or "to be picky." Caragiale
(see note 2 below) turned moft into a very general pseudo-concept
usable practically in almost any context of Balkan life. The term is a
mixture of fun-making, sarcasm, condescension, and dismissal, and is translatable
as "Really?", "So what?" "You don't say," or "Bullocks!" as evidenced
in the short dialogue: "She: 'I love you!'; He: 'Moft!'". Caragiale, who
also edited a magazine called Moftul Român (well, yes, The
Romanian Moft), sometimes uses moft as the absurd universal
answer to human experience, language, existence, death, no etc.
2. Ion Luca Caragiale (1852-1912) is a richly ironic, deadly humoresque,
and hard-to- translate Romanian prose writer and playwright who is credited
with inspiring well-marketed-in-the-West Romanian born writers such as
Tristan Tzara (father of Dadaism), Urmuz (a Romanian born and died author
of surrealist and absurd prose pieces), and, the most famous of all, of
EugËne Ionesco. Romanian culture filtered through Caragiale appears
to always have been, orally and "Westernly," avant la lettre. To
the Romanians themselves, Caragiale is a tutelary figure invoked during
times of crisis: "had Caragiale lived today ..." (he would have written
pretty much the same).
3. Thalassemia: an inherited form of anemia caused by faulty synthesis
of hemoglobin (syn: thalassaemia, Mediterranean anemia).
4. A cyclothymic disorder is an affective disorder characterized by cyclical
mood swings or by a fairly consistent elation or depression. Its less
intense range of emotions is much less extreme than in the case of manic
5. "Simu enorm oi viz monstruos" (I feel enormously and see monstrously)
is from Caragiale's short story "Grand Hôtel "Victoria Român."
6. Romanian turn-of-the century minor poet whose picturesque patriotism
made him a must for secondary school students.
7. Plays by I.L. Caragiale.
8. Fandacsy is the Anglicized version. by Dr. Goldenberg, of the
Romanian fandacsie. It is another "concept" elaborated on by I.L.
Caragiale to denote an (ill-defined) mental state characterized by self-induced
somatic symptoms (such as sweating, trembling, restlessness, violent agitation,
or inner anarchism - especially in private and public places), triggered
(and never abandoned) by an obsessive thought, or set of thoughts.