Insanity runs in my family.
Despite that fact, every Monday for the past two — no, three — years, my psychoanalyst Chamomile (yes, like the tea!) has told me the same thing:
"Leonard, you're not nuts. You're not crazy. You're not a lunatic. You simply have some issues we need to work out."
Several sessions ago, however, after diagnosis of and treatment for attention deficit disorder dismally failed, Chamomile seemed a tad more ready to accept my insanity plea.
In fact by last session she seemingly had surrendered to my layman's self-assessment of what particular form of mental illness afflicts my weary psyche.
"OK, Leonard, you are nuts. You are insane. You are a crazed lunatic," she'd told me. "But now that we've accepted that fact — that you are a lunatic, Leonard, that you are insane — we must now embrace that insanity, Leonard, embrace it, and devour it, Leonard!"
Devour it? Chamomile, my trusted psychoanalyst — though only a social worker, not even a lowly psychologist — had told me to eat my insanity.
Needless to say, I've stopped seeing Chamomile.
When I told Dad about Chamomile's diagnosis and prescribed treatment, he merely knowingly shook his head as if to say "I told you so." Ever since the time Dad had joined me in one of my sessions with Chamomile, he'd harped continuously on the fact that Chamomile sat, barefoot, legs folded "Indian-style" the entire fifty-five minutes the three of us chatted.
"What kind of psychiatrist doesn't wear shoes?" Dad had asked me over and over again.
"Dad, she's not a psychiatrist," I'd tried to explain to him.
"Psychiatrist, psychologist — what's the difference?" Dad had responded.
"No, Dad," I'd explained to him. "She's not a psychologist either."
"So what the hell is she?" Dad had inquired. "Maybe she's a chef," he'd chortled. "After all, she wants you to eat your insanity — maybe she has a nice recipe for it!"
That was that. I'd heard enough from Dad. I'd heard enough also, I decided, from Chamomile. I'd long ago accepted my insanity — I suppose even embraced it. But Chamomile's bologna about eating it, well, that was enough to ....
It's Monday. I sit now with Chamomile in her office. I have this uncanny ability to talk my head off to her while my mind wanders off far, far away.
Chamomile is explaining her suggestion of last week that I devour my insanity. It's based on what she calls Freud's — albeit little-known — "ramake theory."
"Pretend your insanity is a chicken liver," Chamomile's advising me. "Now, embrace that chicken liver."
"What? How?" I ask.
"Embrace it with something warm and comfy — comfort food," Chamomile offers (Could it be that after all this time my compulsive overeating is now the answer to my dilemma?)
"Embrace my insanity with, say, an Italian beef sandwich?" I suggest to Chamomile.
"Well, no," she says. "In keeping with the analogy, how about embracing your insanity — your chicken liver — with ..." Chamomile's face suddenly pales.
"With bacon?" I wonder aloud.
"Yes," Chamomile says, color returning to her face.
I don't question the momentary change in her demeanor. I'd hate to admit I notice such things. But what exactly is it all about? Did she suddenly realize how preposterous this all sounds?
"Freud says," Chamomile continues, "that by embracing our insanity — he used the analogy of chicken liver wrapped in bacon, or ramake — and then devouring it, we can metabolize its inherent psychological caloric content and, in turn, burn those psychic calories, toward a more mentally-healthful ..."
Chamomile's face again pales. I'm pretending not to notice.
"And?" I pipe in.
She's staring blankly.
"And?" I ask again.
"We'll pick this up again next week," Chamomile says, color yet again returning to her face.
I'm looking at the clock on the wall behind Chamomile's desk. But our fifty-five minutes aren't up.
"Uh," I begin.
Chamomile doesn't hear me. She's writing out the bill for this session.
"Uh," I'm offering once more.
"Yes, Leonard?" Chamomile is responding.
"Uh," I'm saying — again.
Chamomile's handing me the bill. I'm handing her a check for forty-five dollars — my insurance co-pay.
"Fine. See you next week," Chamomile's telling me. Session's over.
Fast forward to next week's session that hasn't yet even occurred.
"Cham, about the 'ramake theory,'" I'll start.
It's Saturday. Later today Dad and I are probably heading out for dinner and a movie. It's been some time since either of us has had a girlfriend. In lieu of romance, we've accepted — embraced, I suppose — the mediocrity of father-son activities.
Dad's a widower. My mom died of cancer when I was eighteen. I don't mind discussing it. I usually can express my feelings about Mom's death with a warped sense of good humor. Dad, however, each time we discuss Mom sinks into a chasm of deep depression.
We don't discuss Mom much anymore.
Actually, Dad spends most of his time griping about his second wife — not my mom — who divorced him, let's see, about three years ago. He says he hates "the bitch" — but, damn, that's a whole other story — yet he remains obsessed with her. There's even an order of protection "the bitch" had placed against him. Dad, who wouldn't harm a fly, used to stalk "the bitch." Well, not really stalk her — but that doesn't matter anymore. Dad's blind now. At least legally blind, because of his diabetes.
I'm now also diabetic. I wonder if my insanity is sugar-free.
Dinner was pretty good. The movie, though, sucked. It was supposed to be pretty good, too — like dinner. We had barbecued baby-back ribs — we love 'em! I think I'd rather my insanity was like a slab of barbecue baby-back ribs. I could easily devour that. The movie was about a talking pig.
It's Sunday. I remember ramake now. From all the cocktail parties I've attended while covering some press conferences. It's an hors d'ourve. It's the rich man's pig-in-a-blanket. I love ramake. Maybe this whole insanity-devouring thing won't be so bad after all.
Yesterday's session with Chamomile went pretty well. I told Cham I love ramake. I told her I'm now ready tot embrace and devour my insanity.
We'll deal with that next session, Chamomile decided. Fifty-five minutes. Forty-five bucks.
It's been six months since Chamomile suggested my insanity is bacon-covered chicken liver and that I ought eat it. So far, though, all I've devoured are Italian beef sandwiches. I'm still compulsively fat. And unhappy as hell.
I'm insane and unhappy. And hungry for a cure for both maladies.
Two years ago I allegedly ate my insanity — I ate my ramake. Last time I checked, though, I'm still unhappy. I'm still insane. I'm still hungry. And I'm still really, really fat.
I now see Chamomile twice a week. Sessions are an hour-and-a-half, and cost me a hundred bucks each.
We're working on another possible component of my mental illness, Chamomile says. This time it doesn't involve ramake.
As it turns out, Chamomile had misinterpreted and misread Freud's theory. It's not the ramake theory; it's called the Rashomon theory. I googled it.
Rashomon theory. I don't even want to go there.
Turns out I was wrong. There is no Rashomon theory. I forgot I'm dyslexic. At least that's what Chamomile claims.
These days I'm too impatient to scour the Internet on my own for answers. It's been five years since I ate my ramke.
Dad reminds me every chance he gets that Chamomile doesn't wear shoes. "This rumpke shit," he says, "it's a bunch of bullshit!"
"Ra-ma-ke," I correct Dad.
"Ramake, shmamake," Dad says. "It's nothing but a bunch of barefoot bullshit!"
Perhaps, I wonder, I should've eaten my shmamake.
I'm attending Chamomile's wedding. It's her third. We've know each other long enough, she says, that it's all right for me to know her socially, and attend her wedding.
Everywhere I look I see ramake. Chamomile's wedding cake is in the shape of a humongous chicken liver, and wrapped in frosting swirled to resemble bacon.
Chamomile and I are celebrating our fourth wedding anniversary. Being married to my psychotherapist isn't as convoluted as I'd expected it to be. She's even a dandy cook.
Chamomile and I divorced last year. There's a restraining order against me. Sessions are difficult: we have to meet at the criminal courts building, joined by Cham's attorney and a sheriff's deputy.
No mention these days of ramake.
Chamomile and I have reconciled. She's now pregnant. I'm not the father, though. It's the sheriff's deputy's. But it's me Chamomile loves. Or so she says.
I've suggested we name the kid Ramake. Chamomile wants to "analyze" that. What a bitch.
"Ramake came home from school today with a black eye," Chamomile tells me over dinner.
"Mm-hmm," I mutter, concentrating on refilling my plate with Rice-A-Roni. "No chicken livers?" I ask.
"The other kids make fun of him," Cham continues, pulling from my grasp the bowl of Rice-A-Roni. "You've had enough. You weigh four hundred pounds!"
Like father, like son, I guess. Turns out that's why the kids at school make fun of Ramake. Even though he's only eight he weighs almost two hundred pounds.
Funny thing, though; my dad has never been overweight.
Last year Dad married his therapist, who I've never met, and of whom he discusses little. Unfortunately because Cham and I were in Vienna attending The Viennese Psychiatric Institute's annual Sigmund Freud Birthday Bash, we were unable to attend the wedding.
All I know is that Dad and Oswald moved to Mexico following their honeymoon.
Got word from Dad that Oswald's pregnant. All this time I'd worried Dad had turned gay, and it turns out Oswald's a woman.
Ramake went to Cham in the custody battle. Lord knows we've tried to make our marriage work but ...
Turns out I've been daydreaming. This is still that last session. I had with Chamomile. No marriage. No kid. Dad hasn't remarried.
What about the ramake theory, I inquire. That happened.
Turns out the daydream was a daydream.
"You're not even listening to me!" Cham yells. "This is why we could never make it work."
Chamomile is still my psychoanalyst. No attorney and sheriff's deputy, though. Her new husband, Enrique, a Colombian drug-runner who claims he has a doctorate in psychology, sits in on our sessions. He doesn't understand much English, though. My ass he doesn't.
'There is no Enrique. I've confused my ex with a girlfriend I had years and years ago. Chamomile says she has no plans to remarry, although she dates frequently.
'Turns out Ramake is mine. Chamomile had made up that story about an affair with the sheriff's deputy. She'd thought if I was jealous I wouldn't eat so much.
For the first time I notice a resemblance between Ramake and myself. He's slimmed down, though. I did that once. A long, long time ago.
Insanity runs in my family. Will Ramake too be insane? He's already diabetic.