Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Excerpt from novel, DISPOSITION

dis-po-si-tion (noun).  A habitual inclination; a tendency

   Having spent the week executing what turned out to be the fruitless task of interrogating suspects, Liza felt it was reasonable to take the afternoon off for an appointment with her psychiatrist.  There had been a couple of anxious occurrences of recognising a couple of men amongst the stills from the videos of the people of interest.  She remembered them from one-off encounters that she had arranged at a hotel through the internet.  She called in sick on the day of one of the interrogations and strategically arranged to be stuck in traffic on the day of the other one.  It was unusual for her to shirk her responsibilities, so nobody questioned her inconveniences to be anything but genuine. However, she was accustomed to keeping things to herself, despite the strain she felt.  
   She had been seeing Dr Simone Anwar for the last five years after being referred to her by a colleague.  As well as heading her own practice, Dr Anwar occasionally consulted for the police as a forensic psychologist.
   Liza found the psychiatrist's office waiting-room to be a peaceful place; somewhere to contain the calm before the storm.  There was never anyone else sitting there but her.  The patients were scheduled in a way that ensured they didn't overlap.  One patient never saw another unless someone was unnecessarily very early for an appointment.  Liza appreciated the privacy.  As she sat alone, she periodically stared at the two oil paintings hanging on the green walls adjacent to the chair.
   The first painting that she gazed upon was the lone silhouette of a rambler scouring the countryside.  Liza was always drawn to the large shadow that he cast.  The painting on the opposite wall was a landscape portrait of tumultuous waves crashing against the face of a tall cliff on a sunny day, with a lone cloud hovering in the blue sky above.  Liza had been staring at the painting for years and was still not decided as to whether she should have been imagining standing at the top of the cliff looking down at the crashing waves or staring out at the seemingly endless ocean on the horizon.  On that Monday afternoon, she was thinking that it was more likely that she felt like the lone cloud in the sky when her mobile rang in her coat pocket.  It was Morgan Stone, so she answered the call with a despairing sigh.
   "Can't you just give me a break?" she said.  "Just one afternoon, for crying out loud."
   "I know, but it's important," Stone reasoned without apology.
   "I'll be the judge of that.  What do you want?"
   "Where are you?"
   "What do you want?"
    "I've got a new lead."
   "Great, but, couldn't that have waited?  Stone, give me a break.  Deal with it yourself and don't bother me until tomorrow at the earliest."
   Liza terminated the call and switched her mobile off, cursing Stone for disrupting her serenity.  She focussed on the painting of the cliffs again and tried to compose herself.     A minute or so later, Dr Anwar opened her office door.
   "Liza, sorry I kept you waiting," she said.
   "Don't worry about it," Liza said.  "That's what the room is for, isn't it?"
   "That's certainly a positive way to look at things.  Come in."
   Dr Anwar extended her arm to point the way.  She was in her late forties and had a warm yet firm manner.  Every time Liza had seen her, she was wearing a black suit and heels over a white blouse with a wide collar. 
   The office was four times the size of the waiting room and almost the same size as Liza's apartment
   "It's been a while," Anwar said as Liza entered the room.
   "I was doing well, or at least I thought I was.  I thought I didn't need the therapy as much, but then I had a relapse."
   "You'd better sit down."
   "On the clock already?"
   "Well, I do have other patients.  It's your time, so make the most of it."
   There were no paintings hanging on the walls in the office, just framed certificates of Anwar's qualifications.  The decor was bland; a desk, a bookcase containing reference books, two chairs and a couch.  Liza always sat in a chair facing the chair where Anwar sat.
   "So, a relapse, you say," the psychiatrist prompted.  "Would you care to elaborate?"
   "You know what I mean."
   "I recall us establishing the conjecture that your condition was ultimately a very subjectively measured one.  You eventually insisted that a specific criteria for defining it was absent."
   Liza rolled her eyes and conceded to Anwar's point.  "Okay, that's right.  Maybe society has the problem and I'm just projecting a cultural aversion towards sexual liberation."
   "Is that how you feel about it?  You resent having to feel shame?"
   "I was just responding sarcastically to what you said."
   "Tell me about your relapse, as you call it."
   "I just gave in to it.  Saturday before last,"  Liza said.  "I hadn't been with anyone for about a month and it was just nagging away at me, like an itch I couldn't scratch.  I tried satisfying myself to ward off the urge, but it's just too insatiable.  After a while, it starts to interfere in the everyday stuff.  I get tense at work and, you know, I don't interact well with colleagues.  So, I just threw caution to the wind, logged on, had a few drinks and arranged a date.  As easy as that, I had an intimately dispassionate encounter that very night."
   "So, you acknowledge that surrendering to your compulsion doesn't result in satisfaction.  You're saying it doesn't appease the need?"
   "We're going over old ground here, but, okay. Yes; exactly.  It's like I give in to it because there is a brief moment where the tension fades, but it just makes things worse when I reflect upon it in the cold light of day.  Then, there seems that there'll just be one thing that'll sort me out again."
   "And a self-perpetuating cycle ensues," Anwar added.
    "Have you kept up with your medication?"
    "I may have eased off during the last month or so."
    "May I ask why?  I didn't advise you to."
    "I wanted to eliminate the side-effects.  It's hard to be effective at my job when I'm losing interest and I stop caring all the time.  I usually love my job , but recently I haven't taken much pleasure from it and I don't want to talk to anyone."
    "That's called anhedonia," Anwar interjected.  "It's a common side-effect of the antidepressants that I prescribed you, but it usually passes in time.  You should give them another chance."
   "I got by without them for years.  What is it they're supposed to do exactly?"
   "What?  The tablets?  You know what they're for.  You wouldn't have taken them to start with otherwise.  And another thing; you really think you were getting by?"
   "Just remind me."
   "Okay, I'll play along and indulge whatever game you're playing.  It's your time after all.  If you need me to explain that the antidepressants will suppress your relatively excessive sexual urges, I can do that."
   "Relatively excessive, you say?"
   "It depends whether you're measuring your behaviour against social norms or not."
   "How do they work?"  Liza asked.
   "What do you mean?"
   "What's the science behind them?"
   Anwar frowned as she paused for a moment, unclear as to why Liza was uncharacteristically testing her.  She seemed more embittered than usual.
   "Why are you so interested in the science?"  Anwar enquired.
   "I want to know what the other potential side-effects are.  What harm could they do to me?"
   "So, you blindly engage in a lengthy string of sexual encounters with strangers, risking infection, disease and who knows what else in the process, and now you claim to be concerned about what medically prescribed drugs can do to you?"
   "Maybe it's because it's the only risk I've been able to control lately.  To everything else, I yielded.  The drugs have been what I chose to stop."
   "Yes, in a sudden fashion, which by proxy put an end to your sexual abstinence."
   "How do they work?"  Liza insisted.
   "They're called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.  They're a psychotropic drug that correct chemical imbalances in the brain.  They specifically block serotonin from being reabsorbed by the nerve cells in the brain, therefore releasing it and lifting your mood as a result.  Liza, you know this, surely."
   "And there I was thinking it was just Prozac," Liza said with a smirk.
   "Prozac is just a brand name for fluoxetine," Anwar corrected her.  "You're on Paxil, which is a brand of paroxetine."
   "Am I pissing you off, Doctor?"
   "No.  Let's just say that your hostility is quite infectious this afternoon.  I'm sorry."
   One of the symptoms Anwar had been treating Liza for was a condition called hypersexuality.  When the therapy sessions started, Liza thought it was going to be a short-term arrangement.  Five years had since passed and it seemed that she was still going to be in need of Anwar's services for quite some time to come.  Hypersexuality was the label that Anwar applied to Liza's dysfunctional preoccupation with casual and non-intimate sexual encounters.  They still had not established what the probable cause for Liza's condition was, and Anwar stressed that maybe they never would.
   After apologising for allowing her professionalism slip, Anwar remained silent and waited for Liza to resume the conversation.  It was around thirty seconds before Liza broke the silence.
   "I've got a new case," she said.  "A murder.  You probably saw it on the news."
   "The woman found in Sutton Park?"
   "That's the one."
   "There's a lot about her we haven't made public."
   "You know that whatever you tell me stays in this room."
   "I know.  It's just, well, some of the details are a bit close to home."
   Anwar stayed quiet, leaving the talking to Liza. 
   Liza continued, "We found videos and photographs of her with lots of different sexual partners.  You could argue that she makes me seem normal by comparison.  So, obviously, she's being called a slut and a whore by anyone who comes across the evidence.  It's clear that she was discreet enough to keep her Messalina complex a secret while she was breathing.  Of course, everyone's in shock now, especially her husband.  I try to appear indifferent.  I can't explain to them that I understand where she was coming from."
"Why not?  You can control how much you reveal."
"They'd probably call me detective nympho, or something as equally derogatory."
"I see.  It's unfortunate you don't feel that you can provide an informed insight with confidence."
   "If a man was just as promiscuous, he'd be hailed, celebrated even.  A man's ego can't deal with a woman having a greater libido than his, so then the double standard is applied."
   "Moral regard, as quite often conveyed either frankly or indirectly by society, is most certainly malapropos and doesn't support your affliction.  It's up to you to improve your situation, Liza.  Yes, I'm here for your therapy, but the rest is your responsibility.  Open your mind to the world's possibilities outside the sex-related experiences.  Concentrate on emancipating yourself from your addiction and seize control of your actions.  That will put you on course for achieving true satisfaction."
   "You make it sound so easy, Doctor."
   "I know it's not.  Start by taking your medication again.  You're in no position to cut it out as drastically as you have.  Maybe in time we can look at reducing your dosage, but now isn't the time.  I'll write you another prescription.  On one hand, you're saying that it's affecting your work.  But, on the other hand, you're restraining the use of your experience when it could benefit your investigation."
   "Okay, sure," Liza conceded.  "Whatever you think will work."
   "I don't make any promises, Liza.  Didn't you mention something about a holiday a couple of months ago?"
   "Well remembered, yes.  Or was that in your notes?"
   "You said it was booked for sometime around now, didn't you?"
   "Five nights in Lanzarote in about three weeks' time, which I'm thinking of cancelling.  I'm too busy with work."
   "I'm sure they could cope without you for a week."
   "I'm sure they'd be glad that I wasn't there for a week."
   "So, why don't you go as planned?"
   "I could take a holiday anytime."
   "You say that, but then you also say that you maybe can't take this one because you're too busy."
   "I'll think about it."
   "I hope you do."


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