“What the fuck?” Doyle thought. Dr. Brohand had just finished telling him how he was dying, tossing at him some polysyllabic words Doyle didn’t care to understand. The unwavering focus of Doyle’s attention was entrenched elsewhere, between the waist and shoulders of the Dr. himself. The reason was this: the Doctor was wearing a belt around his waist, in the normal fashion—this was not what concerned Doyle, his mind was broad and as such could recognize that many a good man wears a belt—the thing that Doyle could not fathom, was that thrown cleverly over his shoulders, like a man hiding something, Doctor Brohand had also a pair of suspenders.
What could be the purpose of this seemingly innocuous yet severely troubling pants-holding duality?
“Did you hear what I said?” Dr. Brohand asks, leaning towards Doyle with something of an avuncular familiarity. Leaning so close, in fact, that Doyle was afraid of being punctured with the aquiline crest of the Dr.’s nose. The threat swayed him from his obsession for only a moment.
Could it be a fashion statement? Brohand’s other aesthetic accouterments—such as his large, wire-frame glasses and his scuffed, brown oxfords he had obviously tried to use black shoe-polish on—spoke only of degradation and exile and had led Doyle to believe that Brohand was not a vain man: but then there were the belt and suspenders.
“I understand that this is a very hard thing to understand.” Brohand says.
“You’re goddamned right it is,” replies Doyle, his eyes fixed to the ungainly straps of leather and nylon flanking Brohand’s belly like the discombobulated armies of Richard III.
“If you need someone to talk to, I know of a specialist I would be happy to refer you to. He deals with people facing the daunting uncertainties you are. I really think he could be of some help.”
They have specialists to deal with this? Doyle thinks, the problem must be bigger than I thought. “Sure, that would be nice, thank you for offering.” Doyle says, thinking that perhaps a man as highly recommended as the one in question might have light to shed on the wardrobe debacle at hand. But then again, how could he? Anxiety rose up in Doyle’s throat, and his eyes swam feverishly over the crystalline austerity of the room, the instruments glistening as though they had never been used; the light from the midday sun peering through the slats of the pastel, Venetian blinds. The scrubbed pinkness of the Doctor’s face and neck looking like baby skin under a flashlight. And finally, the belt and suspenders.
Doyle felt suddenly overwhelmed and he lurched forward, grabbing Brohand by his starched, white lapels. “Why?! Just tell me why!”
“I’m afraid there is no simple answer to that question, aside form the medical one I’ve already mentioned.”
Medical answer? Did Brohand suffer from a bad back? Did the surplus of pants-holding power somehow alleviate the strain of an internal injury that the Doctor kept secret, like the onus of a spy? Doyle began to feel tired and light-headed, and he sank back into the plastic depths of his chair.
Eventually Doyle left Broahnd’s office, no closer to understanding Brohand or himself. He made his way down the seemingly infinite halls of antiseptic white, his shoes squeaking audibly on the freshly mopped floor, the floor that was forever freshly mopped. At last he reached the outer doors, which opened automatically, and Doyle stepped into the corpuscular blaze of August, feeling all the questions of the world beating at him at once. If he could just figure out this one thing.