She was forever haunted by the sound of children’s voices screaming, “More Ovaltine please!” ad nauseum on the TV in the late 90s, when her mother decided it was appropriate to let the screen in their living room do the “baby”sitting instead of an actual person (one must cut costs where she can when she’s trying to stay up to date with the latest Calvin Klein skirt suits). Someone that might give her the love and care required to not turn so fully into an emotional automaton, which is to say, she had no emotions. She tried to “squeeze them out,” mind you, at the appropriate moments. When someone told her that they loved her or when someone died in the family and she was supposed to cry. The truth was, though, she would react the same way to news of the store being sold out of eggs as she would to news of an impending nuclear wipeout. It was all just so utterly meh to her. What was worse, she was just as desensitized to pleasure as she was to pain. She had never screamed in delight at an orgasm, experiencing it more as a light flutter than an explosion, as most other women had attempted to describe the “magic” of it to her.
Subsequently, she became a powerful force to be reckoned with by the time she reached her mid-twenties, for a woman that could not be controlled by her own carnal lust was immune to anything that men could “offer.” And when one could clearly see just how little that was, she (or he) transcended into a being truly celestial. For what could be more otherworldly than balking at the baseness of sex (or was that now merely considered just another part of being a twenty-first century human with diminished interest in the physical)? The problem was, the one thing that she could “feel” (or anti-feel) on a constant basis was the void of depression. And it was taking its toll after fighting against it for so long unmedicated while putting herself through college. That she somehow managed to graduate summa cum laude was only a result of never cumming loudly, or at all.
When she finally admitted to herself that she needed help, she fell down the rabbit hole of the psych industry fast and furious. After enough consults and half-commitments to one shrink, she came to discover that she had what her many therapists deemed “treatment-resistant” depression, making her very highly immune to the gamut of SSRIs, thus prompting therapist #15 to recommend a highly concentrated cocktail of Zoloft, Lexapro and Celexa. Apparently Prozac on its own just wasn’t enough. And though she knew she ought to do just a little bit of investigating on the nature of the side effects of such a suspect, ill-advised mixture, she genuinely believed in Dr. Donato’s care and interest in her well-being, especially since he had started eating her out during the last ten minutes of every session. It was almost as though that in and of itself was one of his own unorthodox healing methods, his attempt at getting her to feel something, anything. So she kept going back and listening to his counsel. Usually by now–after the six-month mark–she would have moved on to the next, constantly in search of the Christ-like figure in the psychology world that could save her from herself. Dr. Donato had simply materialized in the populated list of ZocDoc options. It wasn’t as though he came highly recommended by a friend, nor was he referred to her by another qualified doctor. But something about his forehead wrinkles in his “professional” photo (very much a selfie), so deep and pronounced despite only being in his forties, spoke to Marion. Made her think that perhaps he was capable of genuine concern for her plight. So she went. And kept going even after his level of inappropriateness increased. Maybe it was preferable to staying the course with a more “conventional” (read: less open to trying for their built-in hourly fee) thay-rapist. That’s how she saw them: emotional rapists, constantly trying to penetrate her brain when she didn’t really want them to. Little did they seem to know, she truly had none, although they were each so convinced that, in their brilliance, they could draw at least a modicum of affectivity from her. So she pretended. Gave them what they wanted after about three months and then, after another three, insisted that she was healed, they were geniuses. In truth, however, she just wanted the drugs. The Ovaltine. But now, her new drug was Dr. Donato. Come to think of it, she wasn’t fully certain she even knew his first name. Was it Derreck or Darrin? And how, exactly, was that in keeping with his Italian last name? Maybe it was Dario. It didn’t matter. Dr. Donato is who he would always be to her, so what if she couldn’t exactly pinpoint his first name? Weren’t we all just souls, not names? What was the use of trying to classify our random existence in the world with a moniker? It was just another way we told ourselves we were somehow a special species in the universe. But we were not. If anything, the most special species was the axolotl (that perverse motherfucker, special enough to be recognized by Julio Cortázar). Marion knew that. She just wished everyone else did. That they could see the sheer meaninglessness, which was precisely what fed her depression. Because she was having a normal reaction to life. It was everyone else she found to be insane for being so cavalier. So utterly blasé about what “this” was. And what it was, Marion determined at her latest session, turned out to be one seemingly endless attempt at filling all the holes with something. The vacancies of need–I need to feel loved, I need to feel like I’m not drowning, I need to feel like there is something more. Of course, she knew that there was an expiration date on everyone’s attempts at satiety. Death was that grand consolation prize, that beaming and distant light at the end of a tunnel that must have been built by Sisyphus himself with concrete from that damned rock he really ought to have just let topple him over.
And then, one day, it felt as though Marion herself had been toppled over by said rock when she showed up to Dr. Donato’s only to find a sign on the door that read: “Dr. Donato will no longer be available to see his patients. Please contact Dr. Estrega for further information at 212-835-7633.” For the first time in her entire life, Marion actually felt something. Something deep within the pit of her stomach (certainly not in the fire of her loins, though). It was almost like the pulling of all her intestines into one taut mass. It kind of made her want to shit right then and there, but she held it until she got to the nearest Starbucks on Madison Avenue, where she held up the expectedly lengthy line for at least thirty minutes, walking out with not even the faintest trace of shame on her face. She was still a stoic…even if she was churning and burning on the inside from the betrayal. In this regard, maybe Dr. Donato was the Christ-like figure of the psychology world she had been seeking all this time. The one shrink that had ever been able to fully lift the thick veil of melancholy numbness off of her comatose state. Maybe she should be kissing the ground he walked on for that. But no, she despised him. How could he lure her into that false sense of security (in addition to that belief in steady head) only to walk away from her the way she was supposed to have walked away from him? It was cruelty. Outright cruelty.
She supposed she rather lost track of how quickly she slipped into madness after that slight. It could have been weeks, it could have been months. But before she knew it, she had found herself in lockup, not to be trusted to function “properly” in regular society. No, her neurotransmitters could not be sparked, sending her into her own form of a non-racial “sunken place”–getting to that point where all she could hear in her mind’s eye and ear was the Ovaltine commercial. The banal white children demanding in their faux polite way, “More Ovaltine, please!” (which, of course, translated to, “Give me my fucking taste, mother-bitch, or I’ll blame you even more later on in life for my shortcomings!”) But all Marion could manage to scream out as her own replay of the ad to the men in the white coats was, “More SSRIs, please!”
She was obliged. But no matter how many she was given, in no matter what mixture, it was never going to spackle over the cavernous trough of unfulfillment.