The Sliding Scale

I had been crying. A lot.

I couldn’t explain it. Sure, I was recently divorced, but that was a really bad situation and I was glad to be out of it. I had been living in this crap-hole apartment building on Cumpston Street in North Hollywood. I had been making movies for the last ten years and finally decided that I hated people, so turned to writing books instead. 

But, I was still crying.

At eleven o’clock in morning, my neighbor was trimming a tree with a chainsaw and I almost killed him. There was nothing wrong with him or what he was doing. He was a very nice guy. I liked him. But, I knew I was cracking. It had happened before.

I called up a shrink in Burbank. 

“How can I help you?” a woman said.

“I’m cracking, man! I’m losing it. I need to see someone right away.”

“How’s next week?”

“I said, ‘right away!’”

“That’s the soonest you can be seen, sir.”

“So, what do I do until then?”

“Take care of yourself.”

Fucking hell. So, I basically had a week to kill without killing anyone else or myself. The week passed with little to no catastrophes. I walked to 7/11 and bought a carton of smokes, coffee and any other food items that I thought I would need until then and put myself on lockdown. It was horrible.

The next week, I drove to Burbank and parked my car on Magnolia, right in front of the building in case I needed a quick getaway. I entered the waiting the room and walked up to the counter. There was a portly young woman with acrylic nails that needed a fill. She was Arminian, I think. Very pretty.

I told her my name and she told me “$150.”

“What the shit?” I shouted. There was only some old lady in the waiting room and it was a small waiting room. I felt like there needed to be an outbursts of some kind. “I thought this was a sliding scale place?”

“Oh, it is,” she said. “Sorry.” She typed something into a computer and said, “$70.”

“Seventy fucking dollars? That’ll break me!”

She raised her eyebrows and shrugged her shoulders. 

Weren’t these people worried about driving crazy people mad? For fucks sake, I could’ve pulled out a gun and shot her. I don’t have a gun, but she doesn’t know that. I could’ve pissed on her. That’s more up my street.

I gave the chick the cash and waited for about twenty minutes. I saw the doctor walking around in the back, talking to the ladies, small talk, jokes, etc. 

Does anyone care that I may be on the verge of completely cracking? These people work with crazy people and they act like it’s a joke! A walk in the park!

I was getting mad, but then the door opened and the doctor called me back. We went into a very small room with two chairs. His swiveled, mine did not. He looked strange. He had a damn Van Dyke beard. Was that still a thing? He looked like the cartoons of the devil from the thirties mixed with what was either Freud or Jung or one of those guys that I’m sure he looked up to. He wore tiny,  framed glasses, but I think he should’ve had a monocle. He had short thick black hair slicked down forward. He had a very thick accent from where I do not know. His name was… It started with a constant and ended in a vowel. I can’t remember. I will call him Dr. Van Dyke.

“Mr. Wall, what do you do?” He asked.

“I’m a writer. Used to be a filmmaker but mainly a writer.”

“I see.” He scribbled a bunch of shit down on a yellow notepad. “What can I do for you today?”

“Jesus Christ, man!” I said. “I’m fucked up right now. Why else would I come here? I cry a lot, I fly off the handle. I have horrible thoughts.”

“I see.” He scribbled on the paper and handed me a prescription. “Take these and see me in two weeks.”

And that was it.

Two weeks later I was back. I was very angry. I had to talk to the portly gal who still hadn’t gotten her nails filled and she tried to get me for $150 again and I said, “sliding scale”, and she brought it down to $70.

I saw Van Dyke.

“How are you feeling this week? Still sad?”

I almost jumped out of my chair. “Yes! I feel worse!”

While writing something down he said, “Yes, that happens.” He gave me another prescription and said, “Let’s double your dose and see me next week.”

The next week came and went. I was back in the waiting room about to rip off homegirls acrylics if they weren’t filled, but they were. Lucky for her. She had a stain on the front of her top though. I think she was trying to make me crazy. We did the same rigamarole about the money and I said, “$70 again? I thought this was sliding scale. My scale hasn’t slid once. You guys are breaking me!”

She shrugged.

Doc Van Dyke had me in his broom closet again and he asked, “How are you feeling?”

“Listen here. You guys keep gouging me for cash. I have seen you a total of ten minutes, if that. We are going to get to the bottom of this right now.”

He smiled. “Okay, Mr. Wall.”

“Okay.”

“Where would you like to start?”

“That shit you put me on.”

He chuckled. “Okay. What about it?”

“It’s killing me. It may have taken my mania away, but it has killed my drive. My soul!”

“What do you mean?”

“I write for a living man. I write scripts. I write books. I have to write them fast. I once wrote 16,000 words in a single day! Good words, too. I didn’t even edit it and put it up on Amazon. You get me?”

He nodded.

“Now, I can’t write a damn text message! The other day I was sitting on the couch. I watched Oprah! Oprah! Didn’t change the channel. Then the View came on. The fucking View. I couldn’t be bothered to find the remote so I WATCHED IT. Do you understand? I watched it.”

“So?” Van Dyke shook his head.

“I don’t even have a fucking T.V. What the fuck am I doing? I can’t write and you want me to give you $70 every time I come in here?”

He looked over his glasses at me. “You’re only paying $70?”

“Sliding scale, doc!”

He nodded.

“If the crap you are pumping into my body takes away my drive and my ability to earn a living, I think you need to do something to help me out, especially since you’re asking for cash every time I come in.”

I scribbled something down. “I see, I see.”

“Good!” I felt proud of myself. 

“You want me to put you on disability because your awful stories aren’t selling.”

“What the fuck?”

“Yes, you want a hand out because you can’t cut it.”

“Cut it? Like hell mother fucker. I’ve been hustling this shit the last decade. You broke me! You killed my drive! I need my mania back!”

“Could you imagine if I put every writer in the valley on disability who couldn’t sell their crap?” He chuckled. “I’d be a laughing stock!”

I stormed out. Flipped off the fat chick. Got in my car and drove home to North Hollywood, running as many lights as I could. I felt as if I were in a rush to get home. Couldn’t figure out why. There was nothing I was late for. No deadlines coming up. I was just hustling to hustle. Get home as fast as I could, to sit alone in the dark, doing nothing.

12 days left and it will be The End of Everything for this campaign! it’s a shitty time to ask, but if you can help me out I’d appreciate it. please contribute or share this link. thanks https://igg.me/p/2583891/twtr/23172666

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