Dr. Patel was now standing behind Jane, and made eye contact with everyone else in the room as he continued. “Last week, Jane gave me permission to speak to each of you regarding her condition. The consistency of the stories you’ve told me confirmed the depth of Jane’s delusion.” He stepped back into the circle, turned to Jane, and the smile she saw on his face was not the clinical politeness of Dr. Patel, but rather the genuine friendliness of Sumeet, call me Sam. “But I also learned a great deal more about Jane during those conversations — information that contributes to my recommendation.”Dr. Patel turned to Wings, sitting to Jane’s left. “You told me you’d been teaching Jane how to use her smart phone. How are those lessons going?”
The eyes of the thin girl widened. “Good. I’m not teaching her no more — after a couple days, she was figuring things out for herself.”
The wind outside howled again, rattling the windows of the sturdy suburban home. Dr. Patel nodded, then turned to Gary and Arjie. “Not knowing how to use a computer obviously presented some problems with her job.”
“Well yeah.” Arjie straightened in his chair, pointed a thumb to Gary sitting at his right. “That’s why Gary set up these training sessions with me and her, after work and weekends. When she got the basics, she took her laptop home, did more studying there.”
“And the result?” Dr. Patel pointed with his index finger at Arjie, then darted it over to point at Gary.
Gary smiled like a proud parent. “We got comments back from IDOT on the Route 20 drawings, and Jane did all the edits today.” He turned in her direction. “I’ve got my lead CAD operator back.”
Dr. Patel now turned to Hilda, sitting to Jane’s right. “You’ve been –” a gale interrupted, Dr. Patel raising his voice — “you’ve been living with your daughter nearly two weeks now. How does she seem?”
Hilda seemed uncertain how to answer. “You mean — aside from the story — ”
“Yes.” For the first time that evening, Dr. Patel’s tone betrayed impatience. A flying tree branch bounced harmlessly yet noisily against the home’s brick exterior.
Hilda blinked. “I — she’s been a little — uptight, you could say. Argumentative.” She turned to her daughter, then smiled. “But you’ve always been strong-willed.” She turned back to Dr. Patel. “So no — maybe she’s been a little edgy, but no, I really can’t say she hasn’t been herself.”
He turned to face Jane with an inquisitive look, analytical, more like Dr. Patel than Sam. “Do you know what prompted me to ask these questions about your personal life, Jane?” She shrugged. “It was something you said to me at our last meeting, about the accident you had seen while driving to our appointment.”
She stared blankly at Dr. Patel, sensing that he was expecting her to figure out the significance of his statement. There was something about the inflection of his voice, especially when he said — her eyes and mouth widened. “Driving. I drove to that appointment, instead of taking the bus.”
“Exactly. Even though you’d told me that you not only didn’t remember ever owning a car, but also that you hadn’t driven in over ten years.” He walked outside the circle of chairs again. “You know, for someone who claims that she woke up one day three weeks ago and thought this world was an alien land — you’ve done quite a remarkable job of adjusting. I still believe you need help with your delusions — but, if I may use the vernacular, you’re the most normal crazy person I’ve ever worked with.”
Jane looked quickly over at Gary and Arjie, who both nodded their approval. She then turned to Wings, and received a swift wink.
Dr. Patel walked back into the circle, a darkness seeming to descend on him. The wind decreased into a steady moan. “I need to bring up a sensitive subject, Jane.” He stopped, coughed into his hand. “I have been asked, by more than one person in this room, whether you could be somehow forced into accepting treatment.” Jane felt her mother stiffen in the chair next to her. “And I replied that yes, there is legal precedence for this, and yes, I’ve been the expert witness in several cases where I’ve advised meds over objections.” Jane felt her heart begin to race.
“The fact that you’re not currently hospitalized makes it difficult to force medication on you.” Dr. Patel’s tone banished all traces of Sam from the room. “Difficult, but not impossible. Given the nature of your delusion, I would not hesitate to take legal action to force meds on you — but only If I thought your delusion presented a threat to anyone, or to yourself.”
Jane arched her brows. “I assume that word but is pretty significant.”
A little bit of Sam re-appeared in Dr. Patel’s smile. “Do you remember the amber ball from my office?”
“The one with the mosquito trapped inside?”
“I have no other, Jane. Do you know why I keep it in my office, rather than at home?”
Jane thought a moment, then laughed. “Well, based on what you’ve been saying to lead up to that question — I’d guess it’s in your office as some kind of . . . test. For your patients?”
Dr. Patel resumed pacing around the outside of circled chairs. “A test, perhaps, but I prefer to see it as an agent, which I introduce in my treatments in order to elicit a reaction from my patients. It is such an unusual object that everyone notices it. Some people stare at it inquisitively, but never verbally acknowledge it, or shrug indifferently when I describe its contents. Others ask me questions I cannot answer — how old it is, whether the mosquito trapped inside is the same as modern mosquitos.” He stopped in front of Jane’s chair. “You were one of the few people who, when I said I received it from my father, asked for more information about my family, and the land I came from.”
Sam reached down, touched Jane’s shoulder. “Despite your delusion, you have an active curiosity, Jane. Not only about things, but people.” Dr. Patel withdrew his touch, scanned the faces in the room, turned back to Jane. “You are no threat, Jane. You need help, but not from yourself. I can help you, Jane, want to help you — but I shall not force that help upon you.”