Friday, September 08, 2006

Roy: CMHC Dream


It's 4:30 AM now, and I just awoke suddenly, heart pounding, frightened, unable to go back to sleep.

I just had a dream.

Kinda weird dream, but ending in one of those sit-bolt-upright-awake kind of deals. Might as well tell the story, since I can't go back to sleep.

So I'm sitting at my desk, leaning back in my chair, talking with a social worker about the "client" she just evaluated. We are sitting in a small front office room, big enough for two desks and a small waiting area. I mean small waiting area. There are 3 of those cheap, plastic-with-metal-legs type of chairs. The only light comes from two fluorescent, overhead fixtures, one missing it's lens, both with only half the bulbs working, in addition to that coming from the frosted, display-type, storefront windows on either side of our front door, which has a 2-inch, metal bell on it. The walls are old, cheap paneling, some with faded bits of yellow tape where signs used to hang. Two of the dropped ceiling tiles in a corner are stained with old water damage, the top of the paneling there buckling slightly. There's a few signs on the wall and a calendar... The kind that that comes from the local car dealer... turned to September, with a red 1965 convertible Impala on it.

It's the same calendar page I saw yesterday morning when I picked up the rental car at my car dealer while my 1999 Chevy Malibu was getting serviced (the sunroof won't close). I remember it because it looked a lot like my old 1964 convertible Chevy Malibu that I drove throughout college and medical school. My first car. That was a good car. It was never in the shop, and I had no trouble closing the roof.

Interesting. The paneling in the dream office was the same as in the car rental office, as were the waiting room chairs. Well, that's how dreams go. And I'm sure it's Dinah's mention of her writing class that has got me in this writing mood.

The door bell jingles and in walks a little girl. "Can I help you?" I ask.

"Do you make home visits?", she asks, in a surprisingly mature and succinct way.

"We can. What do you need help with?" I'm working in a small, community mental health clinic (CMHC), set up just off Main Street in a storefront office that probably used to be a bakery or something.

"My mom's needs help with her depression. I just live two blocks away." She turns and goes out the door, standing there, waiting patiently. This is just odd. She doesn't sound frightened or upset. I tell the social worker that since there are no scheduled patients for me, I'll go check it out. I grab my jacket and my ID badge and go outside, in the cool, fall air. The girl starts walking, and I follow her.

I see that the office is in a past-its-prime, small town. In fact, it is very much like the CMHC that Dinah and I used to work in, some 10 years ago. So I follow the little girl, blond hair, probably 6 or 7, dressed in a just-started-first-grade kinda dress. It's like 3 in the afternoon and sunny. She stays ahead of me, very determined and sure of herself. We walk silently. She's clearly on a mission.

We walk up to this block of small, one-floor houses, all with front porches and mature trees in the front. There's a metal, chain-link gate, but it's open. We walk up the three concrete steps, which are off-kilter from tree roots pushing them up. We go up the steps to the front porch and she takes out a key from her pocket and opens the door.

Now I'm expecting this place to be a mess. I have this image of a mother, laying in bed all day, with little Susie six-year-old taking care of the house. The little girl excuses herself while I stand awkwardly in the foyer. It's a nice, little home, not at all a mess. I hear some murmuring, then the little girl comes back and motions me to follow her. I take a deep breath and enter the small living room, where mother is sitting, dressed nicely, on a sofa chair. I'm thinking, "She doesn't look depressed. What is all this about?"

I introduce myself as a psychiatrist who works with the County Mental Health Department, and that her daughter came to us and asked for some help. As I'm talking, I notice that the woman makes no eye contact with me, instead staring at her daughter the whole time, with this odd fake smile and a look that seems to silently be saying to her daughter "what the hell did you do this for but I can't look upset about it or else something bad will happen."

As I'm talking, I become aware of a man dressed in a checkered, polyester suit, standing about three feet to my left, leaning against the wall, listening to me talk. I'm also vaguely aware of two other, younger children.

"So she told you I'm 53, did she?" he blurts out, more to himself than to me. I'm talking for another minute or two and I'm getting the vibe that father is getting upset, from the looks on the mother's face. The little girl just sits there, staring straight ahead, attentive but silent, as if she's waiting for things to fall into place.

All of a sudden, the father starts talking to me in a very calm, disarming voice, then suddenly changes his demeanor to intense anger and rage, precedes his action with a "Why, you little...", then leans in towards me and violently spits in my face.

Bold upright. Heart pounding. I'm awake in my living room, where I'd fallen asleep.

And I'm still trying to decide if it was a dream or do I need to do something. I quickly realize that it was a dream, but just can't get back to sleep. I think that I would have rushed out of the house, then called 911, charging the father with assault, followed by a call to Child Protective Services. The whole thing was just weird.

Might as well get up and make some coffee.