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ADELAIDE Independent Bimonthly Literary Magazine / Revista Literária Independente Bimensal, New York / Lisboa, Online Edition  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SARAH
By Isaac Wofford 

 

 

 

“What are you working on?” asked James.

“I am writing a fiction story about my toxic psychiatrist.” said Dan, then he handed the detached scribbled looseleaf paper and hot notebook to James.

James looked like he was reading, rather than just pretending, but the sun was taking its tole on both of them so Dan questioned his ability to perceive pretend-reading.  James said “Yeah its good, I want to see more. Give a physical description, what was her hair like, you know.”

“She had hair like a stupid bitch!” Dan slapped his draft against the table then took a breath and made his hands in a prayer position. “I’ve processed this I’m ready to describe what happened” he said as a robotic mantra.

They were at a table outside The Drop, a coffee shop that Dan had taken James to in order to show him where he wrote. Dan wrote into a notebook with coffee and cigarettes and no water at a wooden table in the blazing hot sun several days a week. Dan looked up behind him at a recognizable figure walking by, but he didn’t get the person’s attention. It was England Cohen.

Dan had met England first when he was an undergraduate living on the campus at Northwestern Arizona University. They were both in a creative writing class. England had a face covered with un-popped pimples, matted dark blond hair pulled into a ponytail, and he smelled like armpit. It wasn’t long before England got married, got into mushrooms and acid, and dropped out of school.

Dan and England had been in Professor Odin’s class. Professor Odin taught creative writing at the local university although he had no masters degree and no creative publications to his name. It wasn’t until later that Dan learned Professor Odin was dating  Professor Sarah, Ph.D.

Professor Sarah substituted one day for Professor Odin. After class Dan asked her about the graduate program. Dan asked how long the submission should be, “It said two to five pages on the website” he said.

She said “As short as possible, we don't want to have to read long pieces.”
“Oh. And the cover letter?”

“The less we have to read the better, just look like someone we would want to work with for two years.”

Then Dan’s mother went to Europe for a week and he had to visit her house downtown and walk her Italian greyhound. As he walked eleven year old Loki through the residential area with beautiful lawns he came upon Professors Sarah and Odin.

At first he didn’t see them, he was looking down at the ground to let Loki sniff some grass. Then her heard a woman’s low, nervous laughter, almost a growl.  He looked up and there was Professor Sarah in her dusty-rose, fitted wool sweater and slacks with her dark grey heavily highlighted bob. Professor Odin was about six feet tall and about fifty pounds overweight with a striking white goatee.  They were sitting in lawn chairs, and each holding a glass of champagne.

Dan said “Oh!” and then “Hello!” in the most friendly way he could. He was stoned and felt awkward.

Professor Sarah kept laughing nervously.

Dan left, though he may have spoken too long as they would not respond or speak. That was weird.
The first day Dan took Professor Sarah’s class she said “take off your hood.” Dan should not have kept his hood on, perhaps. When he exposed his naturally red hair she said “He looks like the Unibomber.”

To be honest the evil professor was amazingly witty. Every day she had something newly toxic to say about someone and Dan. It could be any one of the other students in the class, and also Dan. Dan got his every day.

Finally, Dan stayed after class to confront his professor. He had to wait for her to speak to four other students first and she spoke to each for ten minutes. It was already the end of the semester, he had to ask what was going on because he might take her class in the graduate program. Also Dan was angry. It was wrong. Why did she aggrandize her own wit at the price of his pride for so long?

When he finally saw her they were alone in the classroom. He said “Sarah, why are you mean to me?”

She said “I am not mean to you Dan.”

He said “Another student said she felt bad for me after you made a joke. And other students agree with my point of view I have asked them.”

Professor Sarah stood up “I will monitor my behavior around you from now on.” She said it like a robot, and then she walked out.

When Dan got back to his Dorm he had an email from Professor Sarah that was forwarded to the head of the English department. It said “Dan, in hindsight I find it confusing that you would want to attend graduate school with a professor you find ‘mean.’ Please report my behavior to the head of the English department. Sarah.”

Dan responded immediately. Instead of “mean” he called her behavior “harassment” and since she had no idea Dan was disabled (due to his bipolar disorder) he threw in the word “discrimination.” He included about ten examples of her doing things like comparing him to the Unibomber for a class joke.

In a way, Dan won. Professor Sarah had to take a class in ethical teaching or something, and one can tell because she hands out candy to the class. Dan learned from his experience with Sarah that professors that hand out candy or order pizza may have had to take a class to prevent showing favoritism.

Unfortunately, Dan could never attend his alma matter for graduate school to get the Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. He could write like Shakespeare and they would never accept him now. Instead of Northwestern Arizona University he had to attend Western New Mexico University and take every class online. Dan’s Masters of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies with concentrations in english and writing qualified him to teach literature or creative writing at a community college, but not a university.

Going to school online was hard. At one point, halfway through, Dan withdrew from both of his classes and saw a private psychiatrist. This first psychiatrist tried to have sex with him so he replaced his first psychiatrist with another one. 

The second psychiatrist put Dan on medication that she said would not make him gain weight. Dan called her back when he got home and said “I have been on atypical antipsychotics before, I gained so much weight I almost got diabetes.” It was true. Dan had done an amazing amount of work to recover.

She insisted Seroquel would not make him gain weight. He started Seroquel that night.

The second time he saw her he told her he gained weight. He was perfectly ready to reveal that the weight was being gained on his love handles and on his inner thighs, the kind of weight gain could make a man question his sexuality if it continued. It made his thighs looser and his chest droopier. Even if he were fat naturally, Dan didn’t gain weight like this. But she looked down at Dan, shrugged her shoulders, and didn’t ask any questions so he gave her none of those details.

The second time he saw her it was difficult for Dan to walk the two miles to get to her office without stopping for breath. His gut spilled out from under his shirt and with no belt his large pants were tight. In three weeks Dan had gained about fifty pounds, he hadn’t had the means to replace any of his clothing, and he had no car. His mother was paying for the private psychiatrist. He had no choice but to look the way he did in public.

“Well we have to take you off of the Seroquel! you’re obviously gaining weight!” Doctor Sarah said. Sarah the psychiatrist, like Sarah the English professor, wore a blonde bob. Sarah the psychiatrist was more overweight than Dan, no matter how much weight he gained he could never be as fat as her. She wore dresses that fit too tightly, always sleeveless, and she had fat shoulders. Her breasts were always in her way.

Dan wondered why she didn’t listen when he told her he was gaining weight. Before she could tell through his clothes, because that was before it ruined his body. Why hadn’t she listened? Didn’t she know that anyone would know if they’ve gained weight before someone else saw them in clothing?
In further sessions Doctor Sarah revealed she had an “addiction to eating,” told Dan how to eat to lose weight, told Dan which exercises to do, asked Dan if he weighed himself, she replaced the chair she was sitting on with a medicine ball, and her clothing became too short.

“Since the pills turn muscle into fat why are you telling me what to eat?” Dan said “I think you are trying to give me an eating disorder. Let me rephrase that. I think you are trying to give me your eating disorder. No! Wait!” Dan waved his hand “I think you are pretending I have an eating disorder. Dummy, I had a six pack when you met me! You are fat don’t tell me what to eat you are prescribing the pills that made me fat what the hell is wrong with you?” Sarah was an exhausting trigger for Dan, and she seemed to enjoy arguing back, so there was no way for Dan to really defend himself from her lectures about exercise and food.

Once a medication gave him double vision in each eye. Not only did Dan look different than before, he now had to see people differently than others saw him. It was another unwelcome change to his body.

“You can’t have double vision in each eye” said Doctor Sarah.

“I do.” Dan said after closing each eye to make certain.

“Maybe you should see an eye doctor!” Doctor Sarah argued back.

Doctor Sarah had ordered blood work and deciphered it incorrectly, she told Dan that he had hepatitis C. “You could get a liver transplant!“ she suggested cheerfully.

Suddenly and momentarily Dan identified himself as someone with a dying body, one that would need another’s organs inside of his own to stay alive. She held eye contact as he digested her words, and she smiled and looked down at her desk when she was done looking into Dan’s eyes. The blood test turned out to be a false alarm, Dan did not have hepatitis. Not only that but the treatment would have been a pill, not a liver transplant.

Finally, Dan graduated. He took the cocktail of medications Doctor Sarah had prescribed him to a clinic for refills. He didn’t need her anymore. The ordeal had ruined his physique, but he lost some of the weight. Rounder and less handsome facial features and the need for loose clothes were worth it for a graduate degree.

Dan saw England Cohen again when he was buying weed downtown. England still had a face full of un-popped pimples, matted dark blond hair along the scalp even though the rest was pulled into a ponytail, and he still smelled like armpit. “How are you Dan? Long time no see.” England said.

“How’s your wife?” Dan asked.

“Crazy bitch is in a mental hospital.”

“From the drugs?” Dan remembered that England had done acid, gotten married, and dropped out of school.

“I don’t know. She was just a bitch.” said England.

Of course Dan wanted to say he had a Master’s degree. So he asked “Gonna go back to school?”

“I already finished the program.”

“Which program?” Dan asked “The one at Northwestern Arizona University?” Oh Hell no. Not you, you privileged little asshole. Did Professor Sarah like you? You were comfortable flirting back! I know it! You’re heterosexuality was a privilege and you don’t have the education to understand.

When England replied he affirmed that he had indeed finished the program at Northwestern, and then he said “I don’t agree with the privatized educational system…” That was something Professor Odin used to say. Professor Odin was Professor Sarah’s boyfriend, he had no graduate degree but still taught at the university. England’s imitation of another professor’s rhetoric got him into the program because the professors were dating.

“So do you work there? Dan asked. little slut.

“Yeah.” England said. You know a friend of mine said I was bragging when I said how much I make but it was a just a statement.” England said, shrugging his shoulders.

“What do you make? Thirty thousand a year?” Dan asked.

England remained silent but nodded.

“How old are you, England?”

“Twenty-Seven.”

“Well I think that’s awesome! Congratulations you are set for life!” You can’t brag because you don’t know what to brag about. Your accomplishments were gifts. You have the gift of being given gifts.

Dan sat back and drank from his cup of coffee. He was no longer thinking about Sarah the English professor that harassed him or Sarah the psychiatrist that pretended he had an eating disorder. He was no longer watching England Cohen walk past. He still felt fat.

“James check out my notebook.” He said.

James was facing the other direction smoking a cigarette, the back of his neck was now brown.

Has it been twenty minutes?

They looked at one another, James’ skin and hair shone in the blazing sun.

Dan said “Yeah. Too long. Let’s go.”

 

 

About the Author:

isaac

Isaac Wofford is a thirty-six year old emerging writer. He lived in Brooklyn until he was nine and at the Navajo and Hopi reservations until he was fifteen. He has one self-published novella, "Too Ethical for Empathy," published by CreateSpace and available on Amazon. He has a BA in religious studies (comparative religion) and an MA in writing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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