The White Room
WHEN GIBSON HAD first been brought to the clinic, the medical staff had seemed determined to bury his so-called rock-star fantasy beneath an impenetrable layer of mind-numbing drugs and mental dislocation. Now, as the weeks turned into months, Dr. Kooning appeared determined to dig it all up again. She was particularly fascinated by the incidents that had destroyed his career. One day, hardly able to disguise her glee, she had let slip that she believed he was experiencing auto-destructive delusions of grandeur. From her excitement, he gathered that she believed that this was some big deal.
The pattern for the sessions was normally set by the first question. First, Kooning would read her notes, then remove her glasses and look at him. Gibson didn't like it that she wore the same round Himmler glasses as Rampton.
"You talk about a chain reaction of events that put an end to your career…"
Gibson was not in a particularly good mood. He was beginning to believe that his wholesale avoidance of the prescribed pills was setting up a serious psychochemical imbalance in his metabolism. The problem was that the shots continued, which meant he was actually only getting one half of the intended medication, and God only knew what that was doing to him over the long term. He'd found that he was waking up feeling increasingly ratty. He was also heartily sick of the sessions with Kooning. There had to be some finite limits on how much you could talk about yourself, especially when you had long since ceased to be your favorite topic of conversation. Escape was more and more on his mind.
"I thought we'd agreed that the whole thing was just a neurotic fantasy."
"I'd still like to hear about it,"
"It seems to be the thing that you're least willing to talk about."
"Is that really surprising?"
"It might prove to be a lot easier than you think."
"There isn't really that much to it. I fucked up. I fucked up by abusing the audience and walking off the stage at the Garden, I fucked up on the Letterman show by being drunk out of my mind. I went on the Woody Allen Show after doing coke and mescaline and took it into my head to mouth off about how I was the reincarnation of Ivan the Terrible and what the country needed was a good, old-fashioned autocratic tyranny, which was obviously the gig for me because there was absolutely nothing that I couldn't excel at if I put my mind to it, and how I'd end up ruling the world and the inner planets. I've seen the tape; my last words to Woody before they dragged me off were I'm Joe fucking Gibson, Master of the Universe, and don't you forget it."
Kooning's eyebrows had shot up like a pair of twin tilt signals on a pinball machine. "Woody? The Woody Allen Show?"
"In my reality, he was a talk-show host."
In fact this wasn't true but he was so tired of talking to Kooning that he had started slipping in selected pieces of fiction. As far as he knew, Woody Allen was the same in the reality he was in as in the one he'd come from. In fact, it had been Oprah Winfrey who'd borne the brunt of that piece of lunacy.
"Did you really believe that you were the reincarnation of Ivan the Terrible?"
"Of course not. I was just trying to upset people by being perverse. And attract attention, too, I guess."
"And did it work?"
Gibson nodded."Oh, sure. I was banned from over two hundred radio stations and MTV."
"So you wanted to be a victim?"
"Shit, I didn't know what I wanted. In fact, what I wanted hardly came into the picture."
"You felt you had no control over what you did?"
Gibson sighed. He was weary of even thinking about it. "Listen, what was really going on was that I had this job. The Holy Ghosts in general and me in particular had landed this job. Aside from the music, which at times became almost incidental in the minds of some of the fans and most of the media, we were expected to go out to the edge and come back and tell the world what it was like. We were professional pushers of the envelope. We gave the world a window on the weird. In the beginning, the world was titillated and gave us loads of money and drugs and sex. They liked it while it was all fun and frolic and nobody was getting hurt, but when we started showing them what it was really all about they didn't like that. When we publicly got the horrors, they started looking a bit askance."
Kooning was looking a bit askance herself, and Gibson became a little alarmed. Dear God, had he overdone it? He couldn't imagine what might happen to him if she started believing what he was telling her.