A Normal Heart


This is officially the weirdest article yet written.

If I had my old position as a writer and editor at a major magazine I would immediately bring this up, and suggest we devote at least 15,000 words and a major investigation to it.

Were it Bob Guccione Jr. conducting the editorial meeting, I would bet all my chickens (seven) that he would say: “Brilliant. Brilliant. Do it.”

I’d be on the next plane to Moscow.

God, this is a story.

But this article is so oddly short, blithe, incomplete. Is this true? Who’s this “man” whose body heated up as if he were “thrown into a frying pan?” What happened next?

Why can’t we ever get to the bottom of anything? Why does the American Media focus so devoutly its attentions on the trivial and petty?

I am quite certain we are all being transformed slowly into zombies. I can even trace, in myself, parts of my psyche that were once alive and functioning that are now zombified. In some ways it’s rather pleasant. BUT–I’m not far gone enough as a zombie not to recognize that the development of potential Zombie Guns as Modern Weapons is a very big story.

The whole thing has made me fantastically anxious. Zombie is a silly word–a 1950s kind of silly word– so we don’t take it seriously, but it is the ONLY serious matter in the universe.

I sometimes try to wake myself up. “Wake up,” I say. “Wake up.”

I am aware that I am sleep-walking, that my trauma injuries have shut down parts of my emotional system, and that I can’t cry properly anymore, or feel the things I used to be able to feel. As soon as I do feel things that are normal, and if I ever admit these feelings, what awaits is a symphonic incomprehension and a kind of fire-dousing foam that quickly persuades me that feeling is pathological, so just forget it.

This is the age of Reason.

I have doctors who shout at me that I must come see them. I can either a) see them, and lie, or b) see them and tell the truth, and agree that nothing I feel is normal, which leads to c) medication programs and d) lying about medication which leads to e) being shouted at even more resoundingly by, for instance, Dr. C. I call him that. “Dr. C.”

He’s Spock like. Very intelligent but he refuses to listen to me about why I feel as I do, and keeps asking me questions like this:

I enter office:

In haute British accent:

Miss Faaaahbahh. Lovely to see you. How good of you to come.”

He asks me the same questions each time.

“Can I ask you a question? “Are you working?”

“Uhh….well….again…I mean…I ran into…you know…some trouble..and…I mean, no, not really…. But I remain hopeful…and I uhh…”

He cuts in:

“Are you dating?”

And this triggers my fighting spirit, a little, and I say:

“Are you joking?”

But there it is:

Not working, not dating.

“Dr. C, I experience dates as traumatic events. Can you hear me? I don’t think we have time to discuss this.”

“I’m glad to see you’re looking a little better. You’re actually wearing lipstick.”

“Yes. I am glad you noticed. Listen–are you ever going to spill the beans about the Pharmaceutical Industry.”

He smiles.


And yet, his answer contains my answer.

We are constantly tinkering with how exactly to make me sleep. He smiles, scribbling prescriptions.

Ten years ago, he started prescribing Ambien and I became way too fond of it, and wound up coming in strictly to demand that he never give it to me, which became incorporated into our act.

“Don’t give me Ambien ever again.”

“Have you ever taken any of these pills?” I asked him once, in desperation.

And I remember vividly: Dr C. put his Pfizer pen down, looked at me, and said:

“I took Ambien once. Had the best night’s sleep of my life. Never touched it again.”

“See?” I said. “See how you are?”

I smile.

These conversations are absurd. Why can’t I sleep?

Last visit he said:

“Do you read The New York Times?”

“Against my will, occasionally,” I said.

“Well, I want you to read it, today. Science section, main article, all about…”

“I know, ” I said. “Ambien and death. Cancer. I know. May I remind you that I was the one who demanded that we never give it to me again, after you prescribed it liberally for a decade and now I am in the doghouse. Anyway, who cares? Dying sooner. Big deal. Oh God, now you’re going to tell me I am suicidal, just because I won’t suction myself to every last potential minute of life. Anyway, you prescribed it. I asked you repeatedly if it was dangerous and repeatedly you said it was the safest drug in the world. Jesus.”

He can’t hear a word I say.

Yet in his own convoluted way, he seems to care about me, if only in a very worrying way, and this must me why I keep coming in for these surreal 6 minute conversations. I am supposed to take anti-depressants.

“Listen to me,” Dr. C says, leaning over his vast desk. “You have a chemical imbalance. Like diabetes. These drugs can help you.”

“I know that!” I say. “I know that. They can. But they don’t. If they DO, then we’re in business.”

“Would you like me to read back the letter you wrote me last April?”


“Oh that. Well, it was a bad day. And I needed to express myself.”

“Listen to me, you were…” [Redacted.]

“I’m never writing you a heartfelt letter again. You always use it against me. Why won’t you listen to my story? I have a story.”

We have tried all kinds of things but I get rashes and headaches…FINALLY I agreed to take something in the dose you’d give to a baby turtle.

I show up and tell the truth. Proud.

“I am taking it, religiously. Like communion. I have seen the light.”

“Don’t be sarcastic.”

“But you’re always sarcastic. You can’t possibly believe that these grubby pills are the answer to anything.”


“Do you have a boyfriend?”


“When you did, could you sleep?”


The Woody Allen obvious joke would be Dr. C. scribbling “Boyfriend, Extended Release, Generic,” on the prescription pad.

“The generic is exactly the same,” he says brightly.

“Thank you. But Dr. C, can I see it? Sometimes they can’t read your hand writing at the pharmacy! This one seems important.”

We are in a slow battle, like arctic bisson, me and Dr. C. He’s very intelligent, and British, and not a rube. He knows. And yet, he denies.

Either I am clear as a bell and society is crazy or society is crazy and I am clear as a bell.

“Dr. C,” I ask him, “Are you dating?”

He smiles.

“I can’t stand dates. I prefer books.”

“See what I mean?”

He was onto the Dragon Tattoo series by Steig Larsson years before the rest of the world.

After I finally read it I say: “I am half Swedish. Do you know that? Listen to this: He called his trilogy Men Who Hate Women. He said nothing about Girls With Dragon Tattoos. It was called Men Who Hate Women.”

Handing me the prescription I am about 70% likely to throw in the trash, he smiles, and I stand up.

Always lovely to see you,” he says.

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