"Why are you here, Mr. Bardem?" she asked scribbling something therapeutic (I supposed) on a notepad, sitting in her lap, rubbing up against that filthy garter belt.
I raised an eyebrow; she raised one back. I liked her, I decided. Maybe she wasn't a whore. Maybe she had on granny panties and a white cotton bra, support hose, maybe even a slip. Maybe I could talk to her. I cleared my throat. She leaned forward in her seat. I frowned at her eagerness. No, maybe not. Maybe next week. I held up my hand to say goodbye, grabbed my messenger bag and walked out the door.
"Roger, I don't know what you're getting out of these sessions by not talking. If you want to waste your money that's fine with me. I get quite a bit of work done while you're here," she spoke thirty minutes into my hour long session. She was trying to break me. I thought that was funny. I was creating her. I wasn't ready to talk yet.
I rolled out of bed at seven thirty on the dot. I frowned down at the naked body next to me. Why did she have to stay for so long? I had work to do. I liked my own space. Whatever; she'd be gone in a couple of days. I dressed quietly so as not to wake her and get caught up in some trivial and useless morning after conversation. I knew her by now, but wasn't quite done changing her into something else. I closed the door silently behind me and crept down the hall.
I had decided today would be the day I spoke. Even if she did something dumb like threaten me or try to trick me again, I had made up my mind. It was time.
I walked through the glass doors of the office building and headed towards the elevator. When I was in high school I had this psychology teacher who told us that it was a learned behavior for people to stare at the doors on an elevator, to not make eye contact with anyone else. He challenged us all to face the opposite direction some time, just to see what would happen, just to know how it would feel. I hadn't done this yet, but was tempted every time, especially in this building, with all the crazies walking around. I'd probably give someone a nervous breakdown. I hit the button to floor twenty three.
The receptionist made me wait the obligatory ten minutes before letting me in to see Ms. Howard. Not Miss or Misses, just "Ms." Kind of a mind–your-own-fucking-business sort of thing. That's how I took it anyways. I liked it; worked with my creative process. During this time, she offered me water, coffee or tea. I think her name was Joan or Joanne. I shook my head no and picked up a copy of Golf Digest. I didn't golf.
I looked at my watch and cleared my throat. Joan (or Joanne), with her mousy brown hair and glasses (typical) looked up, startled. I wanted to roll my eyes at her but didn't. We played this game every time. I always looked at my watch after exactly ten minutes, she jumped every time I cleared my throat. Oh yes, she said softly, Ms. Howard will see you now. Go on in.
"Hello Roger, and how are we today?" She looked up from her planner absentmindedly. I hid a smile. She was assuming today would be like all the others. Good.
"I'm doing well today, Ms. Howard, and yourself?" I hated it when people asked how 'we' were doing. I was doing fine; I didn't know how she was doing. We were not a 'we,' we were two separate entities. If I knew how she was I wouldn't have to ask. What if I had multiple personalities? I would be offended by her question. How very un-PC of her in her line of work.
She looked up in surprise, then masked her face quickly with that bland therapist look. Reminded me of a statue in a wax museum, dead eyes and all of that. I wondered briefly if they taught you that look in school or if you only got licensed if you had it already.
"Oh, can't complain. I'm doing well. Anything in particular you'd like to talk about today, Roger?" She was trying to remain casual. She must have learned her lesson the last time, I thought. I looked again at the name plate on her desk. J. Howard, it read. J, maybe Jane? Julie? Janet? I liked Janet. She looked like a Janet.
"Yes. There are a few things I'd like to discuss if that's all right with you." I looked her dead in the eye.
She blinked. She was intimidated by me. "It's your time. We can discuss anything you'd like. Go on. Oh, wait. Would you like something to drink, coffee or tea or anything?"
I smiled broadly, "No. Thank you Ms. Howard."
"Julie, this guy sounds like a real weirdo. All kinds of psychos out there, it's a wonder why I even try to date anymore. Why don't you just tell him you know he's full of shit and he should get another therapist? I have to go. My cousin Sadie's in town and I promised her I would meet her and this guy she's dating for drinks. You'd think she would take some time off of men after getting divorced five months ago, but guess not. Hope he's not an asshole." Tamara stood up and grabbed her jacket.
I smiled at her, even though I sensed she was annoyed by yet another one of my clients, rather than just at her emotionally unintelligent cousin. I wasn't breaking any confidentiality agreements by complaining to her; it wasn't as if I told her their names or anything like that. Sometimes I just needed to sound off, vent. And this new guy was really working me over. I picked up my glass of red wine and took a gulp, on a prolonged lunch break at a quiet café. I needed more of this; the wine, myself, Tamara telling me to quit my day job.
Roger had been seeing me for just over a month, and his last session was the first time he'd ever spoken. He talked non-stop for the entire session, practically. Whenever I opened my mouth to comment, he would rush on with yet another dramatic detail to his story. I knew he was full of shit, though, just like Tamara said. He'd woven this story about how his father was an abusive alcoholic, shot his mother right in front of him. He told me he'd lived in seven different foster homes before he turned eighteen. He used to cut the hair off all his sisters' dolls in these foster homes, had sexual fantasies about all of them; the sisters, not the dolls. He told me he'd joined the army on his twenty first birthday, but changed his mind and allowed himself to get caught giving another soldier a blow job so he wouldn't have to go over seas. He wasn't gay, he said. He just didn't want to go anymore. Changed his mind. Developed Multiple Personality Disorder. The story began to wind down when he claimed to have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, because of the war, he said. I told him he never served in the war (when I could get a word in), so that wasn't a realistic diagnosis, but that yes, it was possible he could have it from all his time spent in foster homes. Oh, yeah, he said. That sounds better, I mean, makes more sense. Actually, one of his other personalities had served in the war, in Vietnam, though, not in Desert Storm or Iraq, he told me. After that, he asked me for the coffee Joan and I had offered him earlier. What an asshole. He wasn't abused, a victim of anything, other than being a pathological liar. Maybe slightly sociopathic, as well. I could tell he was a spoiled brat a mile away. Didn't matter; it would be good material for the book. That was the only reason I was still in private practice. All I really wanted to do was write. I'd had it with all these fucked up people; I had my own problems. Most people think therapists are so quiet because they're good listeners. Really, we just don't give a shit.
"Roger, can we talk?" The blonde began. What was her name again? Sally? No, Sandy. Sadie, that was it, Sadie.
"What's wrong, baby?" I feigned concern and sat down on the edge of the bed. Good, finally. It had been five months and she still hadn't broken up with me. I wouldn't break up with her; I didn't do that. That wasn't how this worked. But, I was tired. I had done new things this time, but still I had done them, so I didn't understand what she was sticking around for. Didn't she have any self respect? Like I said before, though, I knew her. Sadie believed in true love, soul mates and all that crap. She was a bleeding heart. I couldn't stand her. At least she lived out of state, though, so I only had to see her once a month. I'd flown out to see her the first time, to get her hooked; she'd been here all the times after.
Turned out I was wrong. She wasn't breaking up with me. She wanted to apologize for the night before. She'd wanted me to go out for drinks with her cousin at some trendy shithole in the East Village, but I managed to persuade her into staying in by saying all the right things, something that came naturally to me. Then we'd had sex and she didn't come. Like I gave a shit. I thought it was funny. Every time I had seen her before, I'd made it all about her, worshipped her, fawned all over her, made insane love to her. This time I was tired and this was one of the new things I was trying. I made it all about me. I made her feel guilty, dirty. She felt like she owed me, I could tell. She'd gone out and bought all this dirty lingerie, danced for me, gave me blow jobs, let me tie her up and twist her around like a rubber band. Then when the bitch didn't come, she got all upset about it. I feel like you don't even care, she'd cried the night before. I was so annoyed I rolled my eyes. Good thing she was face down and I was on top of her at the time. I couldn't be too obvious, that wasn't part of the game. I stood over her naked body and did what I do best, turned it all around on her to make her feel like shit. Every other time has been all about you, hasn't it? Can't it ever be about me? I asked her. Well, yes, haven't I made you happy this time? I did everything you wanted. She was so pathetic. Yes, I liked it baby, couldn't you tell? I grinned at her. She'd smiled back shyly; she was too old to pull that, it was just annoying. I wanted to slap her most of the time. I just feel like you don't care if I'm happy or not, she whined. I feel like nothing I do will make you happy, I'd exploded and went to sleep, content that I'd broken her.
I figured this morning she would end it, like any normal woman would do, but I should have known she wouldn't. I'd picked her after all, chosen her specifically. She never saw me coming. I was out of town at a wedding with some co workers, and I'd overheard her telling her girlfriend how she'd sworn off men since her divorce, how she was going to write a book about it. She was perfect; wounded, naïve, beautiful in an innocent sort of way. A bird with a broken wing. I would use her. I would know her, then recreate her, then she would leave and I could start all over again. That was the game. That was my art. Like I said, all she wanted was to apologize. She flew home a few hours later. I would have to figure out a new plan for the next time I saw her. Oh well. There was time.
"Hey, I'll fly out to see you in a few weeks," he promised as he pulled me in for a kiss.
I pulled back for a moment and looked into his eyes. Would he really? Did it matter? Sometimes I felt like I didn't even know him.
"Sadie, you've flown here three times in a row, it's only fair. Besides, I'm going to be so sad when you leave, I always get used to you being here when you visit. And Oscar misses you every time, too. I keep telling him you're my woman, but he likes to argue," Roger joked and kissed me between the eyes. Oscar was his cat. I let out a deep breath. He loved me. I knew it even if he didn't yet. That was okay... me knowing was enough for now. There was time.
I wished we'd made love that morning, but he'd been quiet since our fight the night before. He'd gotten a little rough with me and I was angry. It wasn't like him to be so insensitive. I woke up feeling silly for overreacting. I also didn't want to go home without having an orgasm, but he said he didn't want me to think he only wanted me for sex, or that every time we saw each other we needed to sleep together. He said he cared about me so much he wanted to try to make this a real relationship. I was moving out there in a few months and he said we could have sex all the time then. What an odd thing to say, I thought.
I cried the whole way to the airport. I don't know why I was crying. The cab ride to Roger's house, I had been so nervous he was going to break up with me I thought I was going to puke. I almost called my cousin Tamara and asked her if I could just crash at her place instead, but wanted to see what would happen when he opened the front door. He told me he sensed my nerves and didn't understand them. He told me it was silly for me to think he would break up with me. He said he was in this thing; that we were doing a great job at this long distance relationship, as good of a job as anyone could do, and that he couldn't wait for me to move so we could be together whenever we wanted to. I guess I was crying because I didn't want to leave him. That first night after he said those things, I cried, too. I was usually the person who had it all together, but since my divorce I just felt so vulnerable.
I wanted to trust him. I wanted to believe in him. I'd told him that it was hard to believe all the good things he said to me when I had been married to someone who said the exact opposite. He asked me why I didn't think he could love everything about me. I told him that my ex-husband told me he didn't like me, didn't like the person I was. Said he felt sorry for himself that he had such a stupid wife. I should consider myself lucky that Roger saw who I really was. I should just let myself be loved. I was trying so hard to trust him. I'd even sent him my book to read.
She told me she was leaving the country. She said she was going to Europe for a while, to write a book. I liked Europe. I met a girl from London once. Dated her for three months, I think it was. Said she didn't have her heart in therapy anymore, but that she would refer me to someone who could help me if I wanted. J. Howard. Jane, Julie, Janet. Too bad I didn't have time to change her. I wondered what the next one would be like. Probably a whore, just like Ms. Howard. That's okay, I still had Sadie to finish anyhow.