Dr. Patel hummed softly, titled his head back to glance at the ceiling. “We obviously have a problem here, Jane.” He lowered his bearded chin, his eyes making contact with Jane’s. “Your memory says one thing, but physical evidence tells us something very different. Have you thought about how to reconcile these two stories?”
Jane shook her head. “I stopped thinking this was some elaborate bad dream a couple days ago.” She raised her right hand, tapped her temple with her index finger. “I don’t want to think I’m crazy, doc.” She lowered her hand, resting it with the other in her lap. “I’ve never had thoughts like these before, I’ve never — ” she swallowed — “seen a doctor like you, before today. Sorry, I don’t mean that personally.”
Sumeet smiled. “No offense taken. Go on.”
Jane leaned forward in her chair. “But here’s what I do know about me, doc, and that’s I can face unpleasant truths. Arjie at work, he tells me I’m wrong and if he gives me proof, then fine I’m wrong. Brad tells me I’m out of line on the phone with my mother — ”
Dr. Patel raised his right hand slightly. “Brad?”
Jane flicked her head. “Boyfriend. Here’s the point, doc — you prove to me that I’m crazy, then fine, I’m crazy, despite how normal I feel. That means I need to take a pill, fine, I take a pill.”
“Is that what you want?” Dr. Patel’s tone was both challenging and encouraging, like a trainer asking a boxer if he wanted to go another round with the champ. “Do you want to take a pill?”
Jane shook her head defiantly. “No. What I want — is for the world to go back to being what I remember it was.”
Sumeet reached his right hand up to his chin, elbow pivoting on the desk. He stroked his beard, black with streaks of grey, as he gazed at Jane. She could tell that Dr. Patel was examining her, realized that every change in facial expression or body position she made would be evaluated, would be a factor in the diagnosis that was coming, as surely as fall of night. She fought the urge to rise from her chair, declare this appointment over, then walk out and face on her own whatever challenges came from this strange new world she found herself in. But the rational side of her kept her in her seat. When Gary can’t figure things out, he calls in the experts. And to figure out what had happened to her, she would need the help of experts.
“I believe I owe Gary an apology.” Jane hadn’t expected this sudden statement from Dr. Patel. “When I agreed to meet with you, I told him that I doubted whether I could help you. From what little he told me, it didn’t sound like you were ill — more confused, than anything else.”
“So you think I’m ill?” Jane sounded defeated, conceding her bout with the champ.
Sumeet pursed his lips, tilted his head to the right. “Honestly, I don’t know what to think yet, Jane. Other than, that we need to meet again — if that’s all right with you.” Seeing Jane nod in agreement, Dr. Patel put his palms on the top of his desk, pushed himself backwards in his chair, turned slightly to his right — then stopped himself, half-turned to Jane with a playful smile. “I hope you don’t mind if I use this?” He pointed to devices on his desk that Jane, with Wings’ assistance over the past few days, had learned were called a monitor and keyboard.
“Sure.” Dr. Patel nodded, and began pressing keys on the device that to Jane still looked like a disembodied typewriter.