One encounters the craziest people while working in an adolescent mental health clinic along Park Avenue. It was my personal observation and professional diagnosis, while serving as the Office Manager for the upscale, state funded loony bin for kids of New York City schools, that professional staff in the mental health field suffer from an acute form of demonic possession. The kids who came to the clinic for treatment had nothing wrong with them, in my view, with the exception of a handful of teens that suffered from an addiction to ADHD pills.
While covering the reception desk one evening, after collecting a twenty-dollar co-pay from outpatient, Melonie Mare, I was asked a question by the pretty girl who changed the color of her hair from pink to blonde at least twice a month–
“Is ‘she’ in with someone?” Melonie asked, referring to the gay male psychiatrist who was treating her. I continued to work at my computer, noting Melonie’s cash transaction upon an outdated software program, One Write Plus. I took Melonie’s receipt from a printer behind me and motioned her to approach the bulletproof glass. I handed her the paper and responded, “Dr. Udarbe’s in there by himself, voicing his thoughts aloud as he responds to millions of e-mails. He will be with you in a moment,” I said, not cracking a smile and maintaining a seriousness that enabled me to survive in such a job for more than seven years.
Melonie smiled as she returned to a large sofa in the waiting area. She seemed upset because I did not respond as most gay men would to such a campy comment. It was not wise, I reckoned, after encountering odd children over the years at the Youth Counseling League, to become too friendly with our clients, even if they were fag hags. I was the one in the clinic who ensured that outstanding co-pay balances did not accrue too much. Melonie’s NYU Chickering Insurance denied most of her clinic visits, and very well the subsidiary of Aetna should have—Melonie was at the League at least three times a week—often crying hysterically in the waiting room, her mascara running like that of a sweaty drag queen.
“They say that mental-health professionals have issues of their own. I bet Dr. Udarbe talks to himself all the time,” Melonie remarked while folding up her receipt and sticking it in the rear pocket of her tight, skinny-leg jeans, “and they say I’m the one with borderline personality disorder. Go figure,” she commented while plopping down on the couch and picking up a copy of ‘US’ weekly.
“Watch out! She’s got on a ton of that awful cologne again today. You’ll have to hold your breath the entire time you are in there,” I snipped. The look on Melonie’s face turned from seriousness to surprise, and she smiled brightly. Her shiny gapped teeth looked like Chiclet’s gum from my side of the glass.
It was common knowledge at the clinic, among both staff and crazed kids, that Dr. Udarbe had a crush on me. Melonie’s obvious reference to the “rumor” pissed me off, but I didn’t let on. Teenagers who came there twice and sometimes three times weekly for group sessions, individual sessions and medication management became as adopted kids to the staff. Teenagers have a way of knowing everything that goes on in a house, and ours was a house of true madness.
If there had not been so many college kids in need of prescribed speed, I would have had sexual harassment charges brought against Dr. Udarbe and the other staff who started the rumor in the clinic. He curbed his wants, never once making his passes far too obvious, but always hinting that he could offer to my mind what his disturbed, fat body lacked.