Your therapist and I have this arrangement. Call it a “relationship.” Your therapist tells me she uses that word even if, to her, it seems inappropriate. At best it’s a kind of “grey area,” a term she also uses. Your therapist says a lot of words she doesn’t like herself, would never apply in her life, but which her patients (you) hang on. Cling to. “Cling” is a word she uses so much it alarms her, kind of. That’s why we have a “relationship.”
Your therapist likes to call me sometimes. I guess it’s like being a therapist for the therapist. They need that. Imagine being your own therapist, narrating the nature of your own insanity in real time. Not pretty, I gather.
What I do is slightly different from what she does. Your therapist — a professional — establishes hard boundaries. There are certain parts of her life that are off-limits to you, any time before 10:00 AM and after 7:00 PM. She does not compromise on these boundaries. People who break these boundaries are rebuked and warned once, charged extra a second time, and charged and expelled from treatment a third time. I — an amateur — have no such boundaries. Your therapist calls me at all hours. Sometimes in-between appointments; sometimes very late at night. I have to keep my phone close by. In hindsight, some boundaries of my own would have been helpful. But your therapist knows all the tricks, so here we are.
You appreciate your therapist because she spends most of her time listening to you. For an hourlong session, she speaks maybe for 10 minutes, no more than 15. When she does it’s in a silky cadence that radiates kindness, empathy, and wisdom. Your therapist is your Terry Gross. A Terry Gross whose conclusions about your condition very much echo your own. What you don’t realize — or have long suspected but not confirmed yourself — is that your therapist talks. She loves to talk. She longs to talk. She talks so, so, so much. She’s not as eloquent by the time she gets to me. “This is my realest voice,” she says.
Your therapist — again, a professional — is bound by the code of patient confidentiality. “It’s more of a guideline, really,” she tells me at a quarter to two in the morning. “Like being quiet in the quiet car.” Your therapist will never divulge the intimate details of what you tell her. She will, however, use your name, your tics, your hang-ups (as opposed to your traumas), etc. for what I will call her fan fiction of your life. “It’s not as interesting as I’m telling it, I swear,” she always tells me. She has a great imaginative faculty and a very direct, almost pointed, cracker-barrel gift of gab.
Your therapist points to a yellow, crusty stain on the arm of her cardigan. “This is how I got this stain,” she starts. Every stain on her cardigan tells its own tale. Every tear is its own confession or admission of error that she carries with her until her dying day — or until she gets rid of the cardigan. Her cardigan is grey, oversized, and made of wool. It’s very much unlike the cardigan she shows you — black, form-fitted, rayon. It tells you nothing and absorbs everything you tell it, like a defensive fortification. Your therapist talks lovingly about a shawl, crocheted by a beautiful stranger on the side of a mountain in a very rainy, tropical climate, that she holds off until a special occasion that seems further off the more she insists it is happening any minute. She bought it at a flea market for six dollars.
Your therapist has a sharp sense of humor; though I wouldn’t say she’s very funny. Her jokes are corny. Her idea of fun is that she sometimes intentionally forgets to turn on the white noise machine in the waiting room. “You can hear most of it but not too much. My next appointment will come in like they saw someone get mugged. They feel bad, but they feel good it’s not them. Yet.” Sometimes your therapist stops bathing three or four days before your next appointment just to see if you’ll notice.
Your therapist feels things. She has desires. She likes the man at her bodega. She does not know his name, precisely how old he is, if he is married or otherwise taken, or if he dreams of a future beyond where he currently is. She wants to take him with her to Louisville. Also, she wants to go to Louisville to work on the sculpture she’s had in her head for years, that she describes in swooping hand gestures. “It’s mildly sexual,” she says. “But given my line of work, it will always be construed as being very sexual. When I finish it, I will take one photograph, with real film, and then I will destroy it with a hammer.”
I’m enchanted by, but not infatuated, enamored, or besotted with, your therapist.
Your therapist is sort of salty and meanspirited. She regrets this, and I encourage her to seek change and to be her best possible self; even, perhaps especially, if her best possible self might have less patience for you no matter what.
I — again, an amateur — am not bound by any code of confidentiality. I just prefer to tell you half the story. I find full stories disappointing. I’d explain more, but this is not about me, this is about your therapist.
Your therapist gets funnier by the day.