Tales From The Airstream
ISBN 13: 978-1-63396-003-9
ISBN 10: 1-63396-003-X
Library of Congress Control Number: 2016960910
Richard James Dewalt, M.D. was once the lead-ing cardiovascular surgeon in New York City. In the early years, he was one of the very few in the world. He was considered one of the world's best, right up until the incident. During a procedure to close a hole in an 18-year-old kid’s heart, the power went off, pumps failed and the stainless steel walls of the operating theater began to close in on him. He had been through all manner of training and tested by residencies. He was eval-uated by a psychologist early on in his surgical residency to ensure his mental fitness for the stress of the job and had passed with flying col-ors. The onset of his disorder was sudden and shocking. The panic attack lasted just long enough for the young girl to die on the table and within a week, the skilled surgeon was holed-up in his apartment with no intention of leaving it.
Two weeks after “the incident”, Richard left his apartment twice; once to attend a board of review and a second time to clean out his office. Both events ended with the walls closing in and him pissing his pants. He was a bright guy. He grad-uated top of his class and after serious thought and soul-searching could find no explanation for why this was happening. He had always been cool and calm, maybe overly so according to women he had dated in the past. All he really knew was something had snapped; something deep in the unreachable core of his being clicked and now he felt like a Pavlovian dog pissing himself when a bell rang, but it was a bell he could never hear or see. It is strange how we as humans come up with solutions to problems, even when the solution is a bigger problem than the one we are trying to solve. Richard realized that his anxiety ceased the second his pants were soaked with urine. It seemed to be the release mechanism for the cycle: walls close in; tunnel vision; momentary deafness; tachycardia; enuresis. He was never particularly fond of behavioral psychology, but found that just pissing his pants as a matter of course seemed to ward off the attacks. By the time he had lost his medi-cal license due to non-renewal, he had become a urine soaked recluse living off delivered pizza in an apartment that smelled like a cut-rate nursing home.
Bones beneath the skin and toasted cheese sandwiches at the Lunch Counter.
A man, a nondescript man, an every- man sits snipping coffee at the lunch counter of a
Woolworth’s department store; long fingers struggle with a short pencil as he writes furious-ly in a small blue note pad. Notes for no one and about not much, but he labors as if masses will be cured and worlds will be righted. Such might be the plight of us all; writing in a note pad for an audience of one.
Here is the deal. One day I was born. I was born with the skin color of my parents, as they were theirs. None of us chose it any more than we chose our noses, or hair, or stature, or any of the other attributes of our physicality. It is a skin I have learned to live in, albeit with some awk-wardness and angst. I have been told and pro-fessed to that I have lived a life of privilege be-cause of it. That because of its color I have somehow been
afforded great gains I would not otherwise have had. I can't speak to that, it for me just was and is. When in college I was told in several sociology classes that my skin color made me a devil, a do-er of all bad things to people with other color skins. I'm not sure, but I may have spent hours in the sun to darken myself a little, to become less of a devil. I have been told that because of my skin color there are things I cannot know; things that my skin prevents me from seeing.
I often wonder if that is true, and if it is true then it must be true for people with all colors of skin. I have been told I am blinded by my geni-tals and that they too have somehow made me privileged. I don't feel any of this. Thus far I have just
stumbled through my life and tried to stay alive. I have tried to live a life of meaning, with service to others, kindness, charity and a transparent code of conduct that offered those around me a sense of certainty as to my intentions.