Disconnection -- the first meeting
Even without looking at the name on the card, I'd have known she had to come from a 'Crat family. She had the kind of prettiness that only they could afford to have engineered. Tall, slim, a natural honey-blonde -- even a golden burnishing to her skin and freckles, on a world that hadn't seen the direct light of the sun in more than sixty years. What's more, you knew that she never had to go to any effort to keep the weight off, that a metabolic-rate-enhancer would kick into action the moment anything high-energy passed those perfect pouty lips and those gleaming white teeth.
Just what I needed. The first member of one of the twenty families that made up the Aristocrat class to come to me for treatment and I had to argue with her. I had to try to deny her something she really wanted, when she'd probably never been denied anything in all her spoiled young life. She wasn't going to like it, and I was probably going to fail, but it was my absolute moral duty to try.
"Miss Parkinson," I said, trying to sound undisturbed by the potential of her power, "I don't think that you realise quite what you are asking."
"Can you do it or can't you?" she wasn't interested in what I had to say, obviously. That didn't surprise me, 'Crats seldom were.
"I can do it, yes. The question is whether I should. I really don't think you've considered the ramifications..."
"Just do it, you braindead bourgette or I'll have my father close down this ridiculous little... institution... before you can say 'ramification'!" Oddly, her swift aggression and the insult made it easier for me to stand firm. She was like a toddler throwing a tantrum, and I've had plenty of practice at dealing with that.
"Miss Parkinson, the law on psychosensual alteration --a law which your father signed -- requires me to disclose full information on any procedure the patient or the physician suggests, and to explain the implications of that procedure. This interview is being recorded -- if I fail to make full disclosure, and later you regret undertaking the treatment, the clinic would, quite justifiably, be closed down. You don't need to listen to anything I say, but by law I must say it. It is in your interests to let me finish, if only because there is no other surgeon in any clinic on this world that can do what you are asking for -- or any other world for a light-year in any direction."
She was clearly not happy
, but equally clearly I had something she wanted very badly, and she was only going to get it if she did it my way. Her face was sullen
, but she said nothing and nodded in a 'go ahead if you have to' kind of way.
"Basically," I explained, "this process is like a cauterisation of certain areas of the psyche. When it is complete, certain areas of your personality, certain feelings and emotions will simply not be available. You are asking me to cut you off from them forever."
"That's right. I don't care for these feelings -- I want you to take them away, for good. I want to stop loving him, and I don't ever want to fall in love again."
"It isn't that simple, I'm afraid. I can't just stop you 'falling in love'. Romantic love is only one of a whole range of feelings connected with this particular pattern. There is a strong likelihood you will be unable to feel any kind of affection or tenderness, even the mildest fondness for anyone. You will certainly never again experience physical desire ..."
"You mean I'll stop enjoying sex?" She interrupted. At this point she actually looked horrified.
Though I longed to lie and tell her "Yes" the clinic director would roast me over a small but exceedingly hot fire if I was less than honest, so I couldn't. "No ma'am," I replied, "you will get the same physiological enjoyment from the act of intercourse that you have always had; what you won't get is the anticipation, the urge to indulge in it, any responses would be purely physical. If you are touched, you will respond, but you, yourself will have no urge to touch. At least 50% of the emotional pain you are feeling arises directly from your lover's rejection of your desire for him, so to remove the pain, we must remove the desire."
"But I'll still like sex?"
"Yes, as I said, it will still be satisfying physically, but you may well choose avoid it if you can. After the treatment you will find that masturbation will fulfil your needs equally as well as intercourse."
She shrugged, gracefully of course -- more engineered perfection
"I personally believe Doctor..." She read my name tag, another deliberately insulting gesture as she could hardly not know my name, given that she wanted a procedure I pioneered, "...Rosenbaum, that a certain amount of coldness might be an asset in my position. I can function perfectly adequately in the role of Aristocrat wife, without those excesses of emotion, don't you think? It’s unlikely that I will love the man my family select to marry me, and this way at least I won't be tempted to adultery." She was trying to appear cynical and sophisticated, but only succeeded in seeming desperate.
Eighteen years old, disappointed in love, and rather than living with it, learning from it, she was looking to daddy's money to take the pain away, to metaphorically 'kiss it all better' So determined that she just wouldn't look at any downside .. it's her idea, so it must be a good one.
"You won't lose the memories of the happiness you had, Miss Parkinson, nor of the pain. You will simply cease to feel them deeply. You will, however, remember being capable of those excesses you mention and their loss may haunt you." I breathe deeply, slowly. She stares at me, her face fixed and obstinate.
"I can't tell you precisely what the effect will be if I carry out this treatment. We have never dealt with removing this kind of emotion -- as you know, I have specialised in neuroses, phobias, that kind of thing." I keep trying, though I don't know why; maybe because I was eighteen not so very long ago, and let down by a man. I remember the pain, how much it hurts, how you want it just to stop hurting. But from a distance, no longer mired in pain, I can remember the joy too, and wouldn't give that up for mere painlessness, ever.
"Ah yes, that's the other thing. I'd like all memories of this man removed. Everything. I want him out of my life, out of my mind, totally.” Hearing selectively again.
"I can't do that. It's not possible."
"Rubbish! I read in the paper that this clinic had successfully removed the memories of trauma patients, so that all recollection of the incident, and all associated stress and trauma was completely erased."
"Indeed we have, but trauma is a quite separate case. The incident which causes the trauma is a single memory which overlays others, and exists without associations to other memories, so can be safely destroyed, providing one takes action quickly. Memories of a person, particularly a person one loves, or loved, are far more insidious. In order to remove them I would have to rid you of every memory that could possibly call him to mind -- eating, drinking, sleeping, flowers, sex... You would end up as little more than a zombie, certainly not a functional human being."
She started to speak, to protest.
"Don't even consider trying to change my mind on this point Miss Parkinson. Whatever pressure you bring to bear I cannot, and will not, attempt to erase established memories. As far as the other procedure goes, I’m very reluctant, but if you take twenty-four hours to think carefully about what it means, and are still insistent on going ahead, I will do so."
She smiled. "I won't be changing my mind, Dr Rosenbaum. I'll see you tomorrow, and I'll come packed and ready for you to operate, or treat, or whatever you call it." And as she left, I knew, with a sinking feeling, that she had no intention of wasting a single thought on my concerns, and she would, indeed, be back.
Forward to part two