Therapy, Again.

You can read previous sections here: Never HappyExpression is Therapy, & Therapy.

 

Back on the sofa, like always and forever. Somehow, time and again, she found herself on various different sofas, all in the same kind of cozy, barely-lit room; an office, really. A therapist’s office. A new one every six months or so. She couldn’t stop fucking them, and that’s why she kept therapist hopping. What choice did she have?

 

And once again, here she is, sitting on a plush, red sofa—the kind of sofa meant to put the client at ease, but no one has a sofa with pillow arms like this in their home. And no one’s home is this dimly lit, except maybe at night, when you leave the bedside lamp on after watching a scary movie, and are afraid to sleep in the dark. The room—correction, office— is a lie.

 

You aren’t safe here. This isn’t a safe space, where you can spill your darkest secrets and the contents of your heart like a child dumping toys from a cardboard box. This is a place of rational logic and science, even if it’s meant to look like someone’s home with the faux plant on the end table at the other end of the couch. No one’s home is this neat, and forcibly sterile. Home is a familiar, chaotic mess; never orderly.

 

“You’ve been here fifteen minutes and haven’t said a word,” the therapist spoke, breaking the patient from her reverie.

 

She looked up into her new therapists face, and for a moment pined for the previous one. He’d been an older gentlemen with a defined, but caring face. That face was an easy read, as was his feelings towards her. He consistently had to hide them by crossing his legs. A small smile curved the corners of her mouth at this thought.

 

“What are you thinking about? Her new therapist asked.

 

The new therapist was a stern woman who looked to be in her mid-fifties. Her hair was pulled back into a tight bun, and she wore thick rimmed glasses that gave her eyes an insectile look.

 

“I was just musing about my previous therapist,” she said, leaning back against the comfy sofa. It was incredibly soft; a good napping couch. Not designed for sharing one’s inner most thoughts, she thought.

 

“Yes, I see you’ve had several of those,” the therapist said, consulting the page from the notepad before her. “Why is that?” She asked.

 

The patient shrugged.

 

“You don’t know?” The therapist asked.

 

“Oh, I do, I just don’t think it bears weight to this conversation,” she said, smiling.

 

“And why do you think that?” The therapist asked, peering at her from above the rims of her glasses.

 

“We’ve only just begun to get to know one another. We’ll get there, in time.” she said.

 

“I believe that’s supposed to be my line,” the therapist said.

 

“Like you said, I’ve been to many therapists. I’ve learned the lines.”

 

“Is that your goal here?” The therapist asked.

 

She shrugged.

 

“You don’t like talking, do you?” The therapist asked, leaning back in her own chair, and putting her pen down; realizing this had become a battle of wills. “You know, therapy isn’t any use to you if you won’t talk,” she said after her question failed to illicit a response.

 

“I’ve been told that before,” she said.

 

“And still you keep visiting therapists. Why?”

 

She shrugged. “I think I like the company.”

 

“You can find someone to keep you company at any bar in town,” the therapist replied.

 

“Not the kind of company you get with a therapist,” she said, smiling. It was a devious little grin; the grin of an adolescent who knows she’s done wrong, but doesn’t mind the consequences.

 

“I’m not here to be your friend,” the therapist said. “My job is to help you gain insight to what brought you here, and help give you the tools to conquer that.”

 

“There’s nothing wrong with me,” she said, a haughty look of contempt upon her face.

 

“If that were true, you wouldn’t be here.” The therapist said, sitting rigidly in her chair.

 

To that, the patient did not reply. The therapist had had stubborn, difficult patients before. None like this, however. There was something different about this woman; something unsettling—perhaps it was the sheer number of different therapists she’d been to in just the last year alone—seven. Something about the patient had her on edge.

 

“Why are you here?” The therapist finally asked, after listening to the clock ticking away the seconds on the wall.

 

The patient appeared to be thinking over her answer as she stared at her hands. It was a difficult thing to learn, to be patient while waiting for an answer—sometimes you got one, and sometimes you didn’t. With most patients, she could usually gage whether they’d communicate or not, but this one didn’t fit the mold of most patients—or people, she thought.

 

Finally, the patient lifted her gaze, and folded her hands in her lap. “I’m here to prove that some people don’t have worth.”

 

That was not even in the ball park of what the therapist had expected. The patient could tell she’d been floored. It made her smile.

 

“Didn’t expect that, did you?” she asked.

 

“No, I did not.” The therapist admitted.

 

“What do you think?” she asked.

 

“I’m the one who’s supposed to ask the questions,” the therapist said, sternly. “I see what you’re trying to do.”

 

“What am I trying to do?” the patient said, feigning innocence.

 

“You think that you’re the first patient to try flipping the script on me; that if you ask the questions I’ll be dismantled, and you’ll have won. What you don’t understand is that this isn’t a battle—we’re not fighting, because we’re not foes. You may make me your enemy, because it’s my job to help you, but that’s you’re doing, not mine.” The therapist said.

 

“And why do you want to help me?” the patient asked.

 

The therapist sighed, “because I took an oath, and because I made it my life’s work to help people, whether you believe me or not—I do care.”

 

“That’s generous of you,” she said.

 

The therapist did not reply.

 

“So, I assume you believe people are inherently worthwhile?” The patient asked.

 

“I’m not going down this conversational path with you,” the therapist said.

 

“Why?” she challenged.

 

“Because it’s a waste of time. You want to argue semantics, and I’m here to help you, but you clearly don’t want help; I’m not sure what it is you really want, perhaps a chance to feel superior—look at me, I outsmarted the therapist! But that kind of behavior will only provide you with a temporary high. This is why you’ve been moving from therapist to therapist.”

 

“I’m not difficult to figure out,” the patient said smugly.

 

“No, you’re not, but you’re dangerous—to yourself and others—because you think you’re beyond your illness. You’re not.” The therapist said.

 

“That’s a bit presumptuous, don’t you think?” The patient asked, insincerity hiding the hurt.

 

“No, I don’t. I’ve seen several patients like you—patients who think they’re too smart for their illness. You can’t logic your way out of emotional distress; I’m sorry, but you just can’t.”

 

“Never hurts to try,” the patient said, laughing with her eyes.

 

“We’re done here,” the therapist said, getting to her feet.

 

“But the sessions only half begun,” the patient said, looking bewildered at this turn of events.

 

“I’m not going to waste my time on someone who doesn’t really want help; there are plenty of other therapists who will gladly take you on—I’m not one of them.” The therapist said, opening the door.

The patient looked out into the empty lobby, and loneliness overwhelmed her. She looked up at the therapist with tears in her eyes.

 

“You can’t just turn me away,” she said.

 

“I can, and I am.” The therapist replied with finality.

 

The patient scrambled for something to say, something smart, something witty—anything, any reason to keep the session going. She came up with nothing.

 

“Please leave my office,” the therapist said, feigning kindness.

 

“Would it change your mind if I said I wanted to die?” she asked.

 

“Only if you were serious,” the therapist replied after a moment’s hesitation.

 

Silence spiraled out between them while the therapist stood at the door, waiting to see if the patient would stay or go.

 

“I’m not,” the patient finally said, and with that she rose from the plush sofa, and left without a glance back. On to the next therapist, she supposed.

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Never Happy

Here are the previous two parts to the series, if you want a refresher: TherapyExpression is Therapy.

 

All around them was the drunken chatter of singles hoping to get laid, and from the jukebox came the latest pop hit, but in their small part of the bar conversation had ceased. She stared into the amber depths of her bourbon as he took sips of his vodka tonic between furtive glances in her direction. Her conscious mind kept count of every time he looked at her, but her unconscious mind couldn’t be bothered with him, and it was in those unconscious waters that she was drowning.

 

“We can take this to my office, if you’d be more comfortable there.” He said trying to open conversation once again. Twenty minutes ago he’d been furious when he’d walked in and found her sitting at the bar in his usual spot, but the look she’d turned to him had silenced that anger in an instant. He’d seen several patients over the years with that haunted look, and it never bode well.

 

She finished her bourbon in one gulp and turned to face him. “Let’s do that,” she said now properly inebriated for conversing. She slipped from her stool and stumbled. He reached for her and grasped her by the elbow but she shook him off and steadied herself. He finished off his vodka tonic with a grimace and then followed her out into the busy night air.

 

Thirty minutes and one eerily quiet cab ride later he was unlocking the frosted glass door to the outer office. He held the door for her and glanced into the corner where he was spied by the round red circular light of the surveillance system. He latched the front door and then made his way past her to unlock the inner office and turned on the lamp beside the couch. There was an overhead fluorescent, but he liked to keep the office feeling homey, and less like a doctor’s office. He took his seat in the plush and overstuffed arm chair as she flopped into her usual spot on the couch and stared at the floor.

 

He considered going to his desk for a writing pad, but his gut told him to keep this one off the books. They sat in tense silence for a moment with him watching her watch the floor. He felt a crazy urge to start laughing. Nothing about this situation he found particularly funny, but all the same he felt the laughter burning in the back of his throat.

 

“I can’t help you if you won’t talk to me,” he said after composing himself.

 

Slowly she turned her gaze to meet his eyes, and he felt himself locked into place, as if her gaze commanded attention. “Talking won’t help,” she said as she began to unbutton her blouse.

 

“What are you doing?” He asked simultaneously panic-stricken and aroused.

 

She cast her blouse aside and stood up so she could unzip her skirt. “We both know this is what we want,” she said standing before him in her bra and panties. She yanked on her ponytail and her long, wavy brunette hair came tumbling free, brushing against the soft skin of her shoulders.

 

He sat dumbstruck as she crossed the distance between them and climbed into his lap and took his face in her palms. She kissed him once, closed mouth, and then he found himself responding despite the accusations his brain was screaming at him from his subconscious. After a while that voice disappeared entirely.

 

Afterwards they lie on the floor, arms and legs entangled. She was beginning to doze off with her head resting on his chest when he spoke.

 

“I’ll have to erase the tape,” he said anxiety filling his voice now that the blood had returned to his brain, and the acrimonious voice of reason had begun shouting in the center of his head once again. She responded with a low sound like a throaty hum and nestled closer to his warmth. They had nothing to cover them but the clothes they came in so body heat would have to do.

 

“Are you happy now?” He asked bitterly. “You’ve compromised me.”

 

She turned her head up to face him, and those eyes caught him like a bug in amber. She smiled softly. “I’ll never be happy,” she mumbled and then kissed him.

Expression is Therapy

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.”

Therapy

Therapy

They sat in the office listening to the clock tick away the hour. She sat on the plush couch by the door, gently tapping her foot and fidgeting with her hands. He sat across from her with his right leg crossed over his left at the knee, casually leaning back into the armchair he sat in. He studied her over the tops of his eyeglasses. Her eyes were downcast so she could stare at the floor. There wasn’t a speck of dust or dirt, and she found this fascinating, but maybe that was only because she was supposed to be talking.

“We can spend the hour in silence, but the only way therapy helps is if you’re willing to talk,” he said.

She looked up at him slowly, her jaw tense against whatever she really wanted to say. He noticed this, noted it on the pad in his lap, but waited patiently. They looked at one another for a tense, silent moment—he knew she was weighing his words against everything life had taught her, especially about the usefulness of therapy. She looked back down at the floor and her feet before speaking.

“I don’t know where to begin,” she said.

“How about answering the question I asked you,” he said, pencil poised and ready to take notes. He was hopeful.

She glanced at him again, “that’s the problem; I don’t know where to begin with the question you asked.”

“It’s a simple question,” he said.

She shook her head as she looked back at the floor. “No, it isn’t.”

“I asked you to tell me about yourself,” he said, a little exasperated. He didn’t want to be, and he hated that he heard it in his voice, but he couldn’t help himself. Unlike his other patients she frustrated him. That was new.

She laughed, it was cynical and jaded, there was no real humor in it. “It should be simple, yes,” she said, and he could see her building steam. Maybe this wouldn’t be exactly what she needed, but it would be a start. “but it’s not simple; it’s never simple. Do you have any idea how many people, after twenty-five years, have asked me that question? That’s the basis of every first date; ‘tell me who you are’, and do you have any idea how difficult that is? I should know myself better than anyone else, but I’m the one who struggles with introducing myself. I can’t write an “about me” section on a dating or social website without agonizing over it first, and usually I settle for something basic: ‘I’m 5’3”, brunette, and I enjoy writing’ or something along those lines. And that only covers a few aspects of who I really am, but that’s the trouble isn’t it? That we can never succinctly describe ourselves, and we try so hard…” she said trailing off.

After a moment of silence where he studied her studying the floor, he said: “What do you think makes it so difficult?”

She pulled herself from her reverie and looked at him incredulously. A sad, humorless smile cracked her lips. “The most important things are the hardest to say…for want of an understanding ear,” she said, “I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the gist of what he said.”

“What who said?” he asked.

“Stephen King,” she said.

“You’re a writer, so of course you read a lot,” he said, “how do you think that affects you?” he asked.

Her face broke into another humorless grin. She was keeping eye contact with him now. “How should I know? You’re the therapist. You tell me,” she said.

He faltered at that. It wasn’t the first time a patient had been difficult, or turned on him. That was par for the course, but he found it difficult to find his usual response under her gaze.

“It’s only your first session, part of therapy is first getting to know one another, and learning that we can trust one another,” he said.

She barked laughter to the ceiling at that; it was as cynical and jaded and humorless as her smile. “I’ll never trust you,” she said.

Her laughter and her dead-pan response angered him. How was she getting such a rise from him when other patients couldn’t? “Then therapy will never work for you,” he heard himself say before he was even aware he meant to say it.

She smiled her humorless grin again. “That’s all I needed to hear, doc,” she said as she rose to leave.

“I didn’t mean that,” he said rising in response, absently casting aside his notepad (there weren’t many notes on it, she absorbed his attention and made him forget to write anything down), and reaching for her.

Her grin attached to her face like a lioness attaches to a gazelle that’s going to be dinner. “No, you did. It’s the first honest word you’ve spoken since I walked through that door, shook your hand, and you told me your name,” she said and walked out the door.

He stayed where he was listening to her discuss payment with his secretary. His knees felt weak, but also locked in place. He felt dizzy. It was odd. He couldn’t move until he heard the front door close behind her. Slowly, like a man waking from a dream, he went out into the lobby. His receptionist turned to him, expecting him to speak. When he didn’t she returned to her computer. He stood in the doorway of his office and stared at the glass front door through which she’d left.

“Did she set up another appointment?” he asked after a moment of silence.

His assistant turned to him, “No, she didn’t. She left early, as well. Is everything okay?”

“Fine,” he said automatically, and turned back to his office and shut the door.

 Author’s Note: Maybe I need to write about not writing in order to write. Hmm.