Personal phone calls

written by Kate O’Neill

She’s called several times before he pounds in her number to phone her from the car.  The drive to the afternoon Wednesday clinic takes some time.  He returns patient calls.  The matter was private, she gave no information to the secretary, only that she needed to speak with him, urgently.  The patient has several other ailments in addition to Parkinson’s Disease, as well as a psychiatric history.  Several months ago she had a severe crisis and spent weeks recuperating in a rehabilitation unit.

He calls with some reserve, hoping the matter can be resolved easily and that he won’t have to pull over.   She answers the phone in a breathy salute.  She’s been painting again.  The newest regimen of medications enable her to be much more productive, though she fears there is an awkward side effect; something embarrassing.  The doctor reassures her dopamine agonists are portrayed somewhat scandalously, the true percentage of patients adversely affected is really quite low.  The woman on the other end of the line interrupts him as he digresses about the safety of dopamine agonists.  She fears her marriage is in jeopardy, should she act on the urges she’s felt.  A particular male model has caught her eye.  He has been sitting for her drawing class.  She knows the whole scenario is outrageous, but she finds herself thinking about the young man throughout the day.  Using a class sketch, she works to paint him.

Painting is her reward for folding laundry and washing dishes.  She treats herself to his image every day, looking forward to that time, when she can be with his likeness, alone.  Her spouse is happy to see she has returned to her vocation.  She’s mortified with herself and fearful of confiding in her spouse.  Could the medication, the dopamine agonist be the culprit, causing her to fixate on the young model?

There is a break in their conversation, when the doctor considers the matter.  She can’t see him raise his eyebrows or slightly shake his head.  He launches into an explanation of punding- a term given to what some patients do, repetitively, though their actions are usually sorting or re-arranging, not painting.  A sense of satisfaction comes with the chore.  The doctor urges her to speak with her spouse or her therapist.  She tells him her therapist thinks it is a positive sign and she’s rather die than share her secret with her husband.

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