He was in the middle of a session when his secretary lightly knocked upon the door and poked her head in. He and his patient, a plump, brunette woman in her late forties, turned to look at her. The woman on the couch was wiping away silent tears. His secretary turned a light shade of tomato.
“I’m sorry to interrupt, but we have a problem out here,” his secretary began, and then the door was being pushed open and she came barging in, the only patient who ever challenged everything he believed as a therapist.
“I need to talk to you,” she said authoritatively, then glanced at his patient on the couch. “Sorry to interrupt,” she said. Her tone said she wasn’t really sorry at all. His blood was up, but not just because he was frustrated. However, he sounded calm, cool, and collected when he spoke.
“Then go back out to the lobby and make an appointment with Martha,” he said.
“No,” she challenged, her eyes dancing. “I need to talk to you now.”
“I’m in the middle of an appointment, it’s going to have to wait,” he said.
She sat down beside the plump woman on the couch and said, “I can wait.”
A serious of conflicting emotions ran through him at the same time: frustration, appall, humor. He fought to keep his features composed. “Please, go wait in the lobby. I’ll be with you shortly.”
“But you have other patients to see—“ his assistant began, but quit when he silenced her with a quick, dark look.
“Yes, right this way,” Martha said grabbing her by her elbow, and ushering her into the lobby. She let herself be led, but she gave him an unreadable look as she walked sideways out the door.
Fifteen minutes later she was back in his office and sitting across from him on his couch. Now that she had his attention she didn’t quite know how to begin. Funny how what seems so urgent can get clogged up in the throat when it really needs to come out.
“So what is so important that you had to talk to me right now, today, and couldn’t make an appointment with my assistant?” he asked twiddling with his pen.
She looked at him and smiled. It was a broken, humorless grin. Any hope he’d had at the initial sight of her vanished.
“Well, after our last session I knew I didn’t need therapy, but I needed to come tell you why,” she said.
He put his pen down in anger and laced his fingers together in his lap, to keep from doing anything rash with them, she supposed.
“And why don’t you need therapy? Since I have other paying patients waiting on their own appointments because of you,” he said icily.
“That’s not my fault,” she said, eyes widening in defense, “you could have refused to see me.”
“You barged through my fucking door!” He said angrily, leaning forward, before he was even aware of what he was going to say. After the words were out he was certain his secretary and waiting patients had probably heard him. His face flushed with color. God, she was aggravating.
She was smiling at his outburst, and leaning forward. “I like you when you’re angry,” she said with a chuckle.
“Get out!” he said pointing to the door. “Get out and don’t come back.”
She laughed, “You can’t send me away, because I’m leaving on my own, after I tell you why I don’t need therapy.”
He looked at her stunned. He’d never faced someone so baldly, blatantly difficult before. It was crazy, insane, but he found it attractive. A terrible thought to be having about a patient, or former patient, or whatever she was to him.
“Then tell me why you don’t need therapy so you can leave,” he said resigned, sitting back in his chair, and taking up his pen again.
She looked at him, chin lifted, as if she had some amazing revelation to share, and said: “I don’t need therapy because expression is therapy.”
Silence lengthened between them for a moment.
“That’s it?” he asked in disbelief. “That’s why you came all the way out here? You could have e-mailed that to me!” he said finding anger and latching onto it again. It was an easy crutch to keep within reaching distance, once you got the habit.
“That’s profound!” she said angrily, rising from her seat. She looked down at him like a petulant child, and did that pouty look turn him on? Of course it did. He had to cross his legs to keep that fact from becoming apparent.
Her eyes darted to his crotch and his crossed legs. Both of them pretended they hadn’t noticed. “Fine. I’m leaving, and never coming back,” she said childishly, and turned and walked from his office, slamming the door behind her as she went. He heaved a sigh of relief after she left, but was there also disappointment there? Of course there was.
After a moment Martha poked her head in. “Are you ready to see Ms. Smithson now?”
He smiled wanly, “Yes, send her in.”
Credit where credit is due: my thanks to ohellino for the line “expression is therapy.”