Buck’s wife, Tanita, sits across from her longtime therapist, Dr. Merkel. “I tell you, he’s crazy. I sleep all night long, like a rock, in our bed, and he accuses me of sneaking out to have an affair. Why would I do that? I don’t even like sex. And what does he care? He gave up touching me in that way years ago. All we do in bed together is snore and fart, and that’s just fine by me. I don’t need to seek that elsewhere.”
Dr. Merkel nods her understanding and glimpses at the clock strategically located on the wall behind the patient’s chair. Twenty-five minutes passed ten, only five more minutes of this and then her escort stud of the week will arrive to roger her back to life after being drained by Tanita’s deeply depressing outlook on life. If a negative spin can be put on an Easter egg, Tanita is the woman to do it.
Dr. Merkel notices Tanita looking at her like she should be saying something, so she nods her head some more, then poses with her pencil eraser against her chin and says, “You need to ask yourself if you want to be with Buck or go out on your own. You need to resolve your relationship ambivalence before you can move passed this.” Her favorite phrase. Clients love to move passed things.
She speaks on autopilot while her thoughts are on the approaching encounter with the escort, Ricardo, a new one she hasn’t had yet. He has his own exercise channel on YouTube. She was sold after watching the first few minutes of a video where he bounced a silver dollar off his ass.
The irony of being a therapist to mostly married people when she has never married, nor ever wanted to, amuses her everyday. She wears a ring with a rock on her ring finger and has framed family photos on her desk, but it’s all Photoshop and stagecraft to create empathy and trust. Dr. Merkel is a realist and knows she’s not much more than a human placebo, there to listen and to prescribe the illusion of progress, of moving passed.
Tanita pulls on a strand of hair and checks it for split ends. “But how can I get passed my ambivalence if all I feel is ambivalence?”
“Did you try the meditation technique I suggested?” Few patients did.
“It was awful. I don’t know how anyone can sit still like that.”
“You do every night when you sit in front of your television screen.” Dr. Merkel gave up watching television years ago. It was too much like visiting with her patients but without getting paid. She may have started out as a therapist to help people, but she soon “moved passed” her early dedication and it became about making money. She helped where she could, but she wasn’t going to be naive about it.
“Is it? You simply watch the thoughts of your mind as if they are one of your television shows. They’re quite similar, really.” But Dr. Merkel knows it’s pointless to attempt to convince Tanita of this. Tanita insists on constant distraction from exactly what she’s suggesting she face, herself. She decides to bring up the regression therapy she’s been considering for her. “Are you familiar with hypnosis?”
“Like the Mad Russian who hypnotizes people to quit smoking?”
Dr. Merkel smiles at the notion, or bark like a dog. “Yes, something like that, but deeper. With you in the proper state, we could ask your unconscious what it is that you truly want to do with your life. It may even share what your life’s purpose is. Please consider this for your session next week.” At the very least, Dr. Merkel thinks, I’ll hypnotize her into an hour long nap and be spared her negativity for a session.
The intercom on Dr. Merkel’s desk beeps and her receptionist, Johnny, a nice piece of man himself, says, “Dr. Merkel, your ten and a half appointment is here.”
Ten and a half, that wicked boy, she thinks, mildly frustrated that he doesn’t swing her way.