KHUK KHAK, Thailand - You ever ruined brand new clothes? Brand new, just out of the sack, first time you'd worn it; then, a spilled drink, a spaghetti stain, leaned against fresh paint, a hot ash, a cat's claws, a puppy's paws, caught on a piece of something, sticking out from something, fist fight at the reception.
I have. What's the feeling? Self-disgust? Karmic fate for you and that shirt, those pants, that outfit? Toss it in the bin, give it to the Salvation Army, send it to the rez.
You Okay Today?
"What brought you here today?" she asked.
With a perfectly straight face, I replied slowly, "Pine Ridge VA shuttle.".
"No, I mean," she began, then hesitated a half second to wonder if I was serious and that far out of sync, or being a smartass. "I mean, what brought you in ... why are you here to see me?"
"Just teasing," I said, laughing. "I drove my truck."
She looked at me hard and cold, not smiling, not into playing games or teasing, repeating her last question.
The other day I asked a visiting friend if it was ethical to reveal the contents of a conversation between a psychiatrist and their client. I already had the answer, but was testing his armchair ethics. He hemmed and hawed around, being evasive and hard to pin down, resting on moral relativity.
Of course, it depends. It's relative to the variables of the nature of the information and where you're sitting. If you're the shrink, absolutely not, unless the nature of the information is homocidal or suicidal. Otherwise, it's confidential.
If you're the client or a fly on the wall, then you're free to disclose any or all parts of the session at your discretion. You can say anything. It's your file, after all.
"The nurses over in intake suggested I make an appointment," I said honestly.
"Why did they say that?" she asked.
"Could have been my answers to their questions," I said, adding, "or maybe they wanted info on you. They told me to report back."
The news that the nurses over in Building A wanted information on her, and that she must be the subject of gossip, caught her by surprise and made her wonder, trumping my answers to the intake questionaire. She went vacant for just a second, wearing the expression of someone in disbelief of the incredible filth they had just encountered upon entry into a neigbor's home, then she caught her flow and turned to her computer screen, checking my history, while I sat studying. the degrees on her wall.
"Why haven't you made an appointment in five years?" she asked, turning to me.
"I've been feeling better," I told her. "And you're the fourth person in this position I've talked to over here. There's a lot of turnover in your job."
Rather than pursue an inquiry into the high rate of turnover in her position, the conversation turned to why she was there and where she had come from and the schools she'd attended and where she did her internship, and where she sat during the football. games between IU. and Purdue, the schools she'd attended, and when it flowed back to me, I told her I couldn't get out of my head those angry words those people were shouting at me.
"What people?" she asked.
"The audience," I said.
"What were they yelling?" she asked.
"GET OFF THE STAGE!" I yelled.
I declined her offer of a non-SSRI* pharmaceutical intervention, saying that by the time they kicked in,** I would probably be feeling better, and that I was feeling poorly last week; I was ok right then because I was boarding a flight in two days.
"Can I see your notes?"
Captive of Thung Maphrao
The Thai are big on songbirds. You see them everywhere, caged in custom wooden cages. I know the guy who makes them. Lives right across the street.
On Saturdays and sometimes other days, they have songbird calling contests, with the cars and motorcycles pulled alongside the road, like for a funeral or an auction or yard sale in the US.
You can often see a guy going down the road on a motorbike, cage in hand, covered with a cloth. Sometimes there will be a guy riding on the back, holding a cage in either hand. They say some of those birds are worth ten thousand baht, about three hundred bucks.
They whistle and call to the birds, and blow a metal whistle, or shoot a gun, getting all sorts of smart song responses from the birds, all fluttering around in their cages in rows on aluminum racks, the owners and observers sitting around on the ground. The winners of the competitions are considered quite valuable, they say.
At some of the larger temples, bird vendors sit outside and sell you a small bird in a small cage. You purchase the bird and release it for good merit. Everybody gains; you, the bird, the vendor.
They called him 'Lucky', but he wasn't lucky at all, being chained to a wooden post in a shed; a short chain at that, allowing him just enough tether to dig a cool hole at the base of the post, penalty for his penchant of killing the chickens.
In the vilage of Thung Maphrao, there was a man held captive and under the spell of a powerful shaman's family, allowing just enough tether to dig a hole, and he did. He was free to go, but he kept returning, making everybody wonder and attempt conclusions.
"... and a dream consultant, but not for fees."
"You mean, you interpret people's dreams?"
"No. There's a difference. Dream interpretation involves interpreting highly personalized meaning and symbolism going on inside someone else's head, a charlatan's act, and dream consultation involves only listening, listening to people describe their dreams."
Three dogs ran alongside the road under the lamplight as I sat in Khoh Kloi awaiting a bus to Malaysia on a visa run, a dreaded trip snatching me from my imprisoning in-country comfort zone. The last dog limped along on three legs, stopping to smell something as his friends trotted on, then sprinted to catch up with them, sprinting with a limp.
'That dog on three legs is faster than a man on two,' I thought.
Dogs can run faster, no question. They can smell better than man. They don't have to worry about the rent or a counseling load. It seems that their primary task in life is to find a good place to stay, maybe pull a little guard duty.
Their disadvantages? They don't have hands, thus, they aren't inventive. They can't have mood rings or chia pets, or listen to Def Leppard. They have to listen to us.
* Psycho/pharmo lingo/babble for 'Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor'.
** Two to three weeks.