“We’ve got your results back” said the good doctor.
“Yes?” said Prose, unsure what he had actually been tested for.
“It’s good news and bad news.” The doctor attempting another pause for effect.
Prose looked at the doctor blankly. The doctor sighed, finding he couldn’t even produce the least bit of anxiety from the young man in front of him.
“Look,” he said, leaning forward, trying a new tactic, his voice dropping to a low and serious tone: “this is hard for anyone to say, let alone when we’re as close as we are.”
“I’ve only been here for three sessions?”
“Yes, but -“
“Please tell me my results,” said Prose without conviction.
At last! The doctor thought, he plays along: “Yes, as I said. It is grave news. It’s -” he paused once again before locking eyes with the young man in front of him “- Cheese.”
“Cheese?” said Prose, unconvinced of its relevance.
“I thought you were a psychiatrist?” ventured Prose.
“I am! A very good one in fact. I have come to the full cheesy depth of your depression, and found its cause.”
“Oh yes, well, that’s good then,” said Prose, “What is it?”
“I’ve told you already: Cheese,” the doctor repeated.
“Yes, Cheese!” said the doctor, a little exasperated, “I thought you were an intelligent man?”
“I thought I was,” said Prose. He pauses for a moment while the silence hangs. “Does… Does the cheese change everything?”
“Yes, you will be cured!” said the doctor.
“So what do I do?”
“What do you mean ‘what do I do?’?”
“I mean what do I do, to cure myself, with cheese?”
“It’s more a case of not doing,” said the doctor.
“You mean -” said Prose, realisation dawning on him.
“Yes. You must give up cheese. For good.” the doctor said, smiling. “See! It’s very simple. You’re what is known as psychosomatically lactose intolerant. Your depression springs from cheese. You just have to give it up!” exclaimed the doctor. Prose stared back at him, silent, serious - and with the cracks showing.
“but I love cheese.” said Prose before he dropped his head into his hands.
The doctor shocked, stood and walked to the window.
“I had no idea…” he said, with a solemn tone.”I would never have approached it like this if I had…”
No he thought. I would have chizled away at your misery for 30 minutes, teasing out the tasty, complex anxiety from you. This, this is not what I wanted, all over too quickly - how on earth am I meant to get my kicks if I can’t feed on the neurosis of my patients. I only have myself to blame, I should have read this better - I gave up on reading it an began to practice medicine again instead of doing what I should have, followed my selfish desires and -
“Does Halloumi count? I mean it’s not really a proper cheese, it’s basically a squeaky meat?”
“I’m sorry son but…” The doctor said before coming and sitting down across from his patient. “It’s all cheese.”
“But there has to be some worse than others, what about Gouda, I could have some gouda, or brie couldn’t I?”
“Not if you want to stay away from that deadly spiral of depression. Remember why you’re here Prose.”
“I know, I know. That nonsense with the fish-slice - honestly, I didn’t mean it! I can live with this, but not without cheese!”
There was all but silence in the room except for Prose’s wracked breathing.
“What about Danish..”
“Or Port Salut?”
“Okay… Cheddar even?”
“Well, is there something you can do, something you can prescribe - to take the edge off.” said Prose, tear reddened eyes turned to the doctor.
“No, I’m … Actually, hold on.”
The doctor riffles through the draws of his desk and finally pulls out a few sheets of stabled paper. He reads through quickly, lifting the pages up so he could see the bottom line.
“Yes, there is something we can do. But it’s not on the NHS. You’ll have to pay. We can try it and see how you go.”
“What is it?” said Prose, looking hopeful.
“Cheasoning,” said the doctor.
Before Prose could ask any question the doctor was on the phone asking the nurse staff to bring a box.
Shortly a dumpy woman in a blue nurse-like frock knocked on the door, immediate entered and shoved the box at the doctor.
The box was about the size of cereal box, a pale fleshy tone with bright orange letters reading “Cheasoning” on the front. On the side was a great deal of small print.
This was examined by the good doctor before he smiled and handed it to Prose.
“Nothing to worry about, except the cost - oh, and you don’t have a cholesterol problem do you? or mind a bit of shortness of breath? In reality the random heart palpitations will become quite enjoyable. Give someone a call if it stops though.”
Prose looked at the box skeptically.
“Are you sure this will work?”
“No. But really, it’s your only choice - if you want to beat this depression that is.”
After a short silence the doctor spoke again.
“We can take a direct debit or a standing order, but you can have this one for free.”
“And I think our time is up. Hopefully I’ll never see you again.” he said as he ushered Prose up in the professional way a doctor should and gently pushed him out the door.
The door clicked behind Prose, he stood in the hall for a while; thinking about his only choice.