Transcript of 41st Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Ms. Sharon Lough, Friday, February 19, 1999 at 10:00 am.

Dr. Balis: Hello, Sharon. You look tired.
Ms. Lough: Your powers of perception never fail to astound me.
Dr. Balis: Are you all right?
Ms. Lough: What's the clinical definition of "all right?" When a patient ends her therapy, do you say "she's all right now" on your claim forms to CalaCare HMO?
Dr. Balis: Sharon, I...
Ms. Lough: Do any of your patients successfully complete therapy? You probably prey on their weaknesses to keep them coming back for more--all the better to pay off your student loans...
Dr. Balis: What's the matter, Sharon? You look like you haven't slept in a few days.
Ms. Lough: That's because I haven't. Thanks for not mentioning my body odor.
Dr. Balis: I...
Ms. Lough: Yeah, I know, it's pretty bad. I try to clean up in public restrooms, but there's not much I can do.
Dr. Balis: Did Charlotte throw you out of the house?
Ms. Lough: You really are a brilliant diagnostician, Doctor. You're a Ph.D. who really earned your letters.
Dr. Balis: I take it that means yes. What happened?
Ms. Lough: Rob is in the hospital again. He was admitted last week with severe abdominal pains. He's in ICU, and they won't let me see him since I'm not a family member. Charlotte can see him because she's technically still his wife--the divorce isn't final yet. She won't authorize me as a visitor. I'm just the ho as far as society's concerned. I don't have any status.
Dr. Balis: Unfortunately, many hospitals have that policy when it comes to patients in the intensive care ward.
Ms. Lough: It doesn't make sense, especially today. Everybody's divorced, or cohabiting, or gay. The people you're closest to aren't necessarily related to you.
Dr. Balis: Do you feel close to Rob?
Ms. Lough: I care more about him than that bloodsucking breed-sow. It makes me sick, the way she keeps a vigil at his bedside. I saw her at the hospital, she was actually praying! Maybe she was invoking the goddess, asking to be included in Rob's will. The only reason she's doing it is because she thrives on playing the martyr. I can't stand her amateur theatrics--all that sobbing and sniveling. I bet it makes Rob even sicker having to listen to her.
Dr. Balis: Do you know what's wrong with Rob?
Ms. Lough: No, no one will give me any information. They won't even let me talk to him on the phone. And when I got home from the hospital, Charlotte was there and told me to leave. I told her to go fuck herself. The next day, when I came home from work, all the locks were changed.
Dr. Balis: What did you do then?
Ms. Lough: I took a rock from the yard and broke a window in the kitchen. She saw me as I crawled in and threatened to call the police. I picked up a big piece of glass from the floor, backed her up against the wall, and said I would cut her throat if she didn't put the phone down. I must have looked deranged, because she did what I wanted. I told her to sit her fat ass down so I could get a few things, then I left.
Dr. Balis: Where are you staying now?
Ms. Lough: In my car. I parked it along Fulton Street, next to the park. A lot of car-dwellers hang out there. I wish I bought a Buick instead of an econo-box. My back hurts from being so cramped.
Dr. Balis: Is there anyone you can stay with?
Ms. Lough: If there were, do you think I'd be living in my car?
Dr. Balis: Have you tried finding a shelter?
Ms. Lough: Why? So I can wait in line all day for the privilege of spending the night next to smelly, lice-ridden alcoholics and drug addicts who talk to themselves? I can't do that--I have to work. I'm almost all out of money now. I'm hoping with my next check from SII, I'll be able to get a cheap apartment or maybe a room at a residential hotel. But I'll have to wait another week for that, though.
Dr. Balis: It must be difficult to report to work...
Ms. Lough: Your brilliance knows no bounds, Doctor Balis. Yeah, it's a pain in the ass. The hardest part is trying to be presentable. I didn't bring that many work clothes, and it's difficult to go to the laundry more than a few times a week. One of the assholes in marketing--this big hairy wop--made a comment about my fashion sense...or lack thereof. I hate the way people look at me downtown. Everyone else looks so perfect in their suits and ironed shirts. But no matter what I do, I can't stay clean, and all my clothes get wrinkled.
Dr. Balis: Where do you shower?
Ms. Lough: I know I stink, Doctor, you don't have to rub my face in it.
Dr. Balis: Sharon, I didn't say...
Ms. Lough: I haven't taken a real shower in a while. I thought about using the ones at Ocean Beach, but the fog comes in, and it's freezing cold by the time I get off work. It's hard to keep warm. I've been using those public pay-toilets instead--the ones in the green kiosks that cost a quarter. I get twenty minutes for every quarter, that's almost enough time to clean myself up. It's hard to wash your hair in those little sinks, though. It's a good thing I cut my hair. I heard those public toilets self-clean. Maybe I should stay in there past the 20-minute limit and get myself hosed down along with the bathroom floor.
Dr. Balis: I wouldn't advise that, Sharon. You might be sprayed with industrial-strength cleaning solvents.
Ms. Lough: Yeah, I'd be disinfected, pine-scented, and fresh smelling, too. Maybe men would find me more attractive.
Dr. Balis: You could try going to a shelter and asking to use their shower facilities. If you explained your situation, they might understand.
Ms. Lough: I don't know. Homeless people are kind of territorial, and shelters creep me out. The ones who park along Fulton Street didn't take kindly to a new person joining their ranks.
Dr. Balis: Have you been harassed?
Ms. Lough: Not anything serious, just people looking in my car windows and making rude remarks. I feel like I'm trapped in someone else's nightmare.
Dr. Balis: Hmm. Sounds like you've still got that sore throat.
Ms. Lough: Yeah, I can't shake this cold. I hack and wheeze all the time. That's part of the reason why I have trouble sleeping. I can hear the whistle in my throat as I try to sleep. I'm hoping to develop a sexy, throaty voice like Lauren Bacall. Maybe I could get a job doing phone sex.
Dr. Balis: Have you seen a doctor about your cough?
Ms. Lough: No, I don't want to take the time off work. I've used up all my sick leave already, and I've missed a lot of days. I almost didn't come here to see you.
Dr. Balis: I'm glad you did. Sharon, I'm concerned about your health. You're clearly at risk for getting pneumonia or hypothermia...
Ms. Lough: What the fuck do you want me to do about it? Where else am I going to go?
Dr. Balis: Perhaps you could talk to Charlotte, try to reason with her.
Ms. Lough: Fuck her! I'm not kissing her saggy, dumpy ass just so I can live under her roof! It's not even her house anymore. She signed a quitclaim Deed as part of the divorce settlement. I'm fucking pissed. I feel like such a nobody. I always hear that shrill Doctor Laura's finger-wagging voice in my head: "This is what you get for sleeping with a married man."
Dr. Balis: How about your sister?
Ms. Lough: No way! Remember what she said when my landlord threw me out on those bullshit child-molestation charges? She said, "I told you to stay away from those kids." I don't want to give her the satisfaction of another "I told you so."
Dr. Balis: Hmm. Are you getting enough to eat? You look like you're losing weight.
Ms. Lough: Yeah, all my life I've wanted that fashionable, heroin-addicted waif look. I just haven't had much of an appetite lately.
Dr. Balis: You need to eat, Sharon, especially with that cold. You can go to a soup kitchen if necessary. I believe Saint Anthony's prepares hot meals on a daily basis at no charge.
Ms. Lough: I can't deal with all those people looking at me like I don't belong there. I'm not dirty and disgusting enough to look like a true homeless person, but I'm not clean enough to blend into corporate America. I'm always a misfit.
Dr. Balis: Hmm. Are you able to keep warm at night?
Ms. Lough: I wear a couple of layers and use garbage bags I steal from work. It's still chilly, but it's the best I can do.
Dr. Balis: Perhaps you could keep your car running and turn on the heater.
Ms. Lough: I can't do that. I have a leaky radiator or something--if I let the engine idle, my car will become a miniature gas-chamber on wheels. But that's not such a bad idea if I get desperate enough. Hey, that's an idea for Doctor Kervorkian--mini-suicide chambers on wheels. He could start a national chain providing assisted suicide on delivery. Depressed people could call 1-800-SUICIDE, and instead of a pimply-faced teenager bringing pizza to your door, he'd be packing you into a Ford Escort with the windows rolled up. I should give Doctor Kervorkian a call, we can haggle over who gets the patent. I wonder if he's allowed to get incoming phone calls in jail.
Dr. Balis: Are you feeling suicidal, Sharon?
Ms. Lough: I'm not exactly singing show tunes and skipping down the street with all the birds and animals in the forest following me.
Dr. Balis: I need you to be honest with me, Sharon. If you're thinking of hurting yourself, I can arrange to have you hospitalized. At least, that would give you time to recover from your cold, and you'll have a warm bed to sleep in.
Ms. Lough: I'm not that crazy, yet. Besides, I don't want to jeopardize my job any more than I already have. I've taken more time off than almost anyone else at SII. If I lose my job, I'm totally fucked--you can have me committed then.
Dr. Balis: Perhaps if you talked to your supervisor and...
Ms. Lough: No, I'm not telling anyone at SII. I don't want people snickering at me behind my back or feeling sorry for me.
Dr. Balis: I'm very concerned for your health and safety, Sharon.
Ms. Lough: If I can stick it out for one more week. I'll be okay. Next week, I'll get my check, and then I'll find a place to live.
Dr. Balis: All right, Sharon. If you change your mind, call me, I mean it. I'm here to help you.
Ms. Lough: Yeah, yeah.
Dr. Balis: Well, our time is up. Take care, Sharon. I'll see you next week?
Ms. Lough: Yeah. Bye.
Dr. Balis: Goodbye, Sharon.
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