Friday, January 9, 2004


Dr Whitman reclines, sinking comfortably into his leather chair behind his massive mahogany desk. Resting on one elbow, he plays with his pen, clicking it in his free hand. He’s watching his patient, and waiting for her to settle into the leather chaise longue across the room. Satisfied that she’s achieved comfort, he stands and approaches.

“It’s nice to see you again, Ms Sinclair.” He sits himself down on a little stool along side the couch. “You seem rather melancholic today – is there something you wish to discuss with me?”

Ms Sinclair doesn’t even stir when the doctor approaches, but lays still, relaxed, with one arm draped over her eyes. After considering his question for a moment, she responds, lazily. “Indeed, Doctor, but I’m going to suggest we do away with all the distractions first.”

Bemused, Dr Whitman smiles. “Pardon me?”

“It’s easy doctor, I’ll just ask that you first clear your mind – focus...”

The doctor flips open his notebook, puts his pen to paper, ready to take notes. “Now, just one minute, Ms Sinclair; what is it you're you talking about?

Sinclair: Focus...

Whitman: My word! You can be silly sometimes.

Sinclair: But isn’t this better? No more fluff?

Whitman: If you say, Ms Sinclair, if you say. Now, what is it you wish to tell me?

Sinclair: You are not actually here, Doctor.

Whitman: Please, Ms Sinclair, not this tired issue again.

Sinclair: The same but different. I’ve been doing some thinking. There’s a twist.

Whitman: Oh? How so?

Sinclair: I am not actually here either.

Whitman: Ah...

Sinclair: Oh, tell me you’ve never considered the possibility.

Whitman: Well, sure I have, but then I came to the conclusion that the possibility is absurd.

Sinclair: And what makes you so smart?

Whitman: You.

Sinclair: Ah! He jests! The man has a sense of humour!

Whitman: Ms Sinclair, please...

Sinclair: Just consider it. We’re not here, we’re-

Whitman: Ms-

Sinclair: No! I will not stop talking. What if we’re not here, doctor? You say you’ve considered it – everyone has. What if it’s true?

Whitman: Something like Chuang Tzu and his butterfly dream.

Sinclair: Right - sort of. Chuang Tzu could not tell if he was dreaming he was the butterfly, or if the butterfly was dreaming she was he. What I’m proposing is that they were dreaming of each other.

Whitman: Hmm, interesting.

Sinclair: Right? It could be true that neither existed. Or maybe they both did but were someone – something – else...

Whitman: Go on, Ms Sinclair, you have my ear.

Sinclair: What if we’re not who we think we are? What if we’re not real, or are real and are someone else? We could be two egos haggling over the price of a nickel-plated Kalashnikov in a weapons bazaar in the bordertown of El-Azhr. We’re both clutching the weapon across the table, feeling its cold metal in our hands, and spitting harsh words at one another. And we imagine, together, that we’re actually a doctor and patient. Even if for a spit-second our thoughts and imaginings coincide, our other selves are brought into a different reality – a different universe. Tell me, doctor, have you ever held a gun in your hands?

Whitman: Yes, I hunt quail.

Sinclair: So you can tell me how a gun smells, how your hands smell after you’ve held one?

Whitman: Like, like metal – metallic, and something else. Sort of...oily.

Sinclair: Right. And you’re smelling it now.

Whitman: I am, yes.

Sinclair: We might even be two lovers on a beach, lying side by side in the sand, our hands stretched out toward one another, my fingertips gently brush yours. We’re not even talking; only thinking-

Whitman: Ms Sinclair, enough, I understand-

Sinclair: You can even be the girl if you want. Maybe you are; it doesn’t matter. Can you tell me what the beach smells like, doctor? What you smell right now?

Whitman: The smell of seaweed is carried in off the ocean in the brackish air. If you stay long enough the salt lines your nose, the mucous membrane, and you start to taste it. You smell the sand, too. It’s fresh and earthy. It smells new, yet it’s so old.

Sinclair: Have you ever been to the beach, doctor?

Whitman: No, I have not.

Sinclair: But you’re right, that’s exactly how it smells. You only know that because you’re there right now. You’re there right now with me.

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