Short fiction by Ron Merkin
The more therapy I got the more my interest in women disintegrated. Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t transfer to men. Call it asexuality, distrust. My libido began fading after the psychologist Dr. Bloomstuck began our eleventh session by saying she’d forgotten how we’d ended things the week before.
“You asked me what my mother was like and I you she was very destructive,” I reminded her.
“Oh. Well I don’t know how that’s relevant to your analysis.” Then she changed the subject.
By our fortieth session (yes, I counted them) I’d gained 60 pounds. That had never occurred before. Then happening to read a book of testimonials by members of Over Eaters Anonymous, I noticed every writer attributed excessive eating to repressed, unexpressed anger. “Unconsciously I imagined I was consuming my boyfriend,” one wrote.
So I asked Dr. Bloomstuck about that during our next session.
“Oh, have you gained weight?” she asked me.
“You haven’t noticed?” I answered.
“Eating more during therapy” (her voice tolerant, a “Look here, young man” sort of tone) “connotes gratification of the oral instinct. It’s healing, like a nursing baby sucking up it’s dependency needs.”
Thinking that a therapist would know better than me, I didn’t argue the point. On the other hand after gaining another 35 pounds over the next several months, I didn’t feel the warm nurturing effect Dr. Bloombstuck had pointed out to me.
As the sessions continued, I learned that Dr. Bloomstuck was a devoted Yankee’s fan. Little by little she shared so many historic anecdotes about baseball that once when her eyes were distracted I glanced at my watch. Nearly forty of my fifty minutes had been spent learning things like “Joe DiMaggio’s fifty six hitting record is to this day unbroken!” and “The number of consecutive games played by Lou Gehrig has never been equaled.”
As her commentary increased, I decided it must be some sort of “diversion” therapy. Instead of reinforcing clients’ obsessions with their problems and thereby perpetuating their neuroses, immerse – in other words distract and involve them – in someone else’s life and interests! I was convinced this must be brilliant when Bloomstuck interrupted herself near the end of our fifty sixth session by observing, “You haven’t been talking much. I think you’re avoiding. Exactly what, we’ll have to look into.” Then standing, “Think about that before our session next week,” she instructed me.
Confused, I decided not to spend the entire week brooding about this. Instead, I went skiing that Saturday. Half way down the advanced slope, I noticed her.
A beginning skier, Bloomstuck was snow plowing so cautiously from left to right that I couldn’t imagine how long it might take her to get to the bottom. Why she wasn’t on an easier slope was beyond my understanding.
Then an epiphany struck.
Why…wasn’t she… on an…easier slope!?!!
Symbolic. I had no idea what it referred to.
On the other hand a sudden unexpected enlightenment that appears incomprehensible at first can release a buried insight long struggling to be free. Distracted by this, I lost my footing and plowed directly into Bloomstuck’s back.
I did not.
Dazed, lying on her side with her back to me, she seemed to be struggling for breath. Finally catching it, “What kind of idiot? Asshole, you stupid “ she managed, then glancing up at me “Oh! My God! What are you doing here?”
“You what? Don’t just stand there. Help me get UP!”
“I…what are you…why are you…on an advanced slope?” I stammered.
“HELP …ME UP FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE!”
Of course! Why was I standing there doing nothing?
Extending my arm, I noticed she couldn’t extend hers. By now two skiers had stopped to ask if she was all right. “Try your other arm,” one suggested. But seeing the pain that caused her, “Just relax,” and he searched for his cell phone to call the ski patrol.
They arrived around ten minutes later. A broken collar bone, it needed a full arm cast for a month and a half.
Thinking that the awkwardness imposed by her injury might somehow compromise her effectiveness, Dr. Bloomstuck decided to cancel appointments until her injury healed. All this happened before the pandemic. Few people knew anything about ZOOM. Not having heard that Bloomstuck was willing to do sessions by phone, I thought it best not to call her. Then after a few weeks I noticed I’d begun losing weight. I hadn’t launched a diet, without thinking I was simply eating less. And if that wasn’t enough, three dates I’d had with a woman my age suggested we were moving toward a relationship….
Wow! Let nature take its course!
I never returned to psychotherapy.
But two years after this I received a notice sent by post office mail indicating that Dr. Bloomstuck had left me something in her will.
What, wasn’t specified. I hadn’t even heard that she’d died. So phoning her attorney, I learned that her gift was a full season’s pass to Yankee Stadium baseball games. Her motivation – “…my conviction that George needs this…” seemed so missing the point about what I needed that it helped ease the guilt I still harbored about crashing into her. The facts that I didn’t do that on purpose and it’s outcome freed me to have a life of my own clarified the meaning of that “epiphany” I had, also. In fact by disorienting me, the epiphany – not I – had caused the accident.
By the time I phoned Bloomstuck’s attorney I’d been married for a year. We were expecting a son; not only that, I’d maintained a weight between 140 and 145 pounds. And if all that’s not enough, I sold the Yankee pass Bloomstuck left me for a price exceeding her psychotherapy fees!
Fate! A happy ending!.
(What more could a psychotherapy survivor hope for?)
Ron Merkin is a retired psychiatric social worker, journalist, fiction writer and entertainer. He lives in Montpelier.