Blue Blue Sea

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Chapter 20

Howard

Mr. Lee

When Howard and Annemarie went out next, this time to a movie and a bite to eat, he asked, “Now that you’re wealthy don’t you go to those super deluxe dinner parties and charity balls and all of those events I read about in the Styles section of The Times?”

“Nope,” she answered brightly. “The money makes me feel secure, but it’s not who I am. I’m still that same girl who worked her way from the Ozarks to New York City and can appreciate the simple things in life. I don’t run with that fancy crowd.”

“Aren’t you interested in meeting other people? A man perhaps?”

“Aren’t you a man?”

“I mean a rich man, a man of prominence.”

“Rich men don’t want middle aged women. They go after the young, beautiful ones with firm muscles and big boobs. Besides, I was married to a wealthy man for 30 years.”

“Do you think Mark married you because you were so much younger than he was?”

“I’m sure that was one of the reasons.”

“And that became a problem in your marriage.”

“Not the major one.”

“That was your not wanting to live in Arizona.”

“Yeah, and the fact that I married Mark for all the wrong reasons. I did love him and he was wonderful, but when he asked me, the first thought I had—I can still remember the words in my head and how I felt—my first thought was ‘This is the daddy who will really love me and give me everything I want.’”

“So, he was a father figure.”

“Yes and no. He was good looking and exceptionally virile. We screwed three and four times a day at the beginning, and he was great. But, yes, when I cooled down and looked at him, really looked at him, I thought of Father.”

“That’s what you called your father, right?”

“That’s what everybody had to call my father. Mark didn’t look like or act like Father—thank God for that—but since I sometimes thought of Mark that way, I thought of the only father I knew.”

“I can see where that would have been a problem.”

“Yes, but it was also that Mark was so wealthy and so used to people seeing him as powerful that he sometimes treated me like a child or an employee or a young colleague, that is, when we weren’t balling our brains out.”

“Why do you keep bringing up sex?”

“Does it bother you?”

“Yes, but not for the reason you probably think.”

“Which is?”

“I’m not jealous. I have no reason to be. I’ve told you I don’t think about sex very much. Even now, when I’m finally becoming more of a human being, I don’t think about it, but. ...”

“My talking about it turns you on, right?”

“I don’t want that—to become involved with you—which is why I asked you why you don’t find some man who’s in your financial class.”

“I’ll take that as an insult—that you don’t want to become involved with me,” Annemarie quipped. “Okay. I’m going to be serious now. At one period of time, when Mark and I were just existing in the house together, before he became really ill, I went to cocktail lounges at night, where I met men and had sex with them. I don’t think any of those guys had two nickels to rub together. On a few occasions, I paid for the room. I wasn’t interested in any of them and I wasn’t looking for rent money. I was trying to convince myself that I was free and not married to an older man who was becoming an old man. I was returning to my old life, which, as shitty as it was sometimes, in some ways it had been better than living in that cold, empty house.”

“I can understand that, but it doesn’t explain why you’re here with me, and not some hedge fund manager or millionaire.”

“I’m not concerned with money. I don’t want a rich snob who’s in love with his possessions, especially at this advanced point in my life.”

“You’re not old, and you’re still pretty.” Howard thought for a second, and then he asked, “What did you mean when you said you weren’t looking for rent money when you went to bed with those men you met in cocktail lounges?”

Annemarie searched Howard’s face in an attempt to assess how he would react to what she was about to say. She remembered times in her life when she wished she had held her tongue. Then she said, “There are things I did, had to do—I’m talking about before I met Mark.”

Howard sensed that she wanted to tell him more. He was pleased that he was finally developing that—that ability to understand people, or at least Annemarie. He nodded for her to proceed.

“Like when we met, when I shoplifted from your store, I wasn’t working. I had just a few dollars to my name and I owed back rent.”

“I think I remember that.”

“And so, I sometimes asked guys for money, for help with my rent after I—sometimes before—I agreed to go to bed with them.”

“Oh.”

“Oh? Is that your reaction?”

“I don’t think that was so bad. It wasn’t conducive to a long-term relationship, but it’s not like you solicited men like a prostitute.”

“Yeah. It was basically the same thing, except it had to be a guy I thought was nice looking and not sleazy or scary or a slob, and once I had the money I needed for rent I stopped asking for money.”

“Oh.”

“Until I needed rent money again.”

“Why didn’t you just hold onto a job?”

Annemarie looked down. She sighed. Then, looking up again, she said, “All I could get were crappy waitressing or clerk jobs or working in little sweat shops. They were so bad I wanted to die. Most of the time, you owner of the place would try to corner me and put his hands on me.”

“Why couldn’t you get a better job?”

Annemarie’s face reddened. Then she said, “It’s that I never got past the tenth grade in school. Father kept me home. A lot of things happened. I don’t want to say anymore, at least not now.”

“I understand.” After a moment, Howard said, “Who knows why people do the things they do? You know, one of the ways that being your friend has helped me is I see I’m not the only one who has done self-destructive things. I’ve begun therapy again with my old psychiatrist. When I used to go, I didn’t think he was helping me, so I stopped. I’m asking different questions now and trying to move forward.”

*****

Howard sat up straight, looked Dr. LeMane directly in the eye, and said, “I want to talk more about my childhood.”

“That is good, Howard. Do you know why that is good?”

“I suppose because by doing that I’m unmooring myself from what has been my only topic of conversation.”

“Which has been?”

“Going back to my time with her ... with ... uh, Faye.”

“Was it difficult for you to acknowledge that?”

“No. Why?”

“I asked because it seemed that you were unwilling to say her name. It is good that you were willing to say it—her name now—even though you want to talk about something else.”

Howard looked up at the ceiling and then back to Dr. LeMane, and said, “I’ve begun to think something happened to me when I was a child. I feel ... I can almost feel something dark and hurtful.” Dr. LeMane wrote in his notebook. “I am ... I’m not really sure.”

“That is fine, Howard. This is therapy, not an investigation.”

“It’s ironic that you say that, investigation. I’ve been—ever since I ended my retreat in my apartment and have been attempting to understand why I am the way I am—I’ve been remembering things, fragments, scraps of memory. I’ve been investigating my past. I think I sort of remember that when I was little, somebody did something to me.”

“Go on. Do not be reluctant to delve into your long-term memory. Take your time. Close your eyes. Think.”

Howard closed his eyes. Then he said, “You know, for the longest time—for years—when I wanted to think of Faye and return to her, I would do that: close my eyes and try to bring myself to that time. I imagine other people do that: close their eyes when they have deep thoughts or try to imagine things.”

“You must decide what it is you want to remember, your time with Faye, which would be counterproductive, or what may have happened to you when you were a child.”

“I want to remember what happened to me, because I think that’s why I am the way I am: cold, uncaring, alienated from people, and odd. I’ve thought about this on and off for years, but much more so in the past couple of months.”

“Good. Relax. Clear your mind of stress and worry, and think.”

“That’s just it. I’ve tried, but I have so many ideas and thoughts and worries that I can never relax enough to remember what happened.”

“Hmmm. Let us try this: since it is early in today’s session and since you are my last patient of the day, would you like to try hypnosis?”

“I ... I don’t know.”

“Of course, you would say that. Too much nonsense about hypnosis in movies and books over the years.”

“Yes, like Thomas Mann’s Mario and the Magician.”

“You are very literate, Howard. You are widely read. Do you know what hypnosis really is? Let me tell you; it is merely a very relaxed state of mind in which a person is able to think without interference. Shall we try it?”

Howard thought for a second and then said that if it would help him to understand himself, he would be willing to try. Dr. LeMane instructed Howard to remove his shoes, loosen his clothing, and lie down on the sofa with his eyes closed. He asked Howard to relax his muscles and clear his mind and then picture a very long, very plain staircase—to slowly look at each step and riser as it ascends to a high place, maybe into the clouds. After a full three minutes, Dr. LeMane asked Howard to think of his earliest childhood memory, and not speak until he was able to remember it. All was silent as Howard slowly drifted into a state of ultra relaxation. He was in a foggy netherland between wakefulness and sleep when Dr. LeMane asked in a whisper, “What do you see? Even if it is just a fragment, say it. Tell me what you remember.”

Howard thought his voice sounded odd, as if it came from the bottom of a well or a deep mine, as he said, “Water. Blue blue water.” Dr. LeMane waited. “The ocean. I see the ocean, but it’s not the Atlantic. It’s not the ocean here, where New York is.”

When Howard did not continue, Dr. LeMane asked, “Where is it?”

“It’s very blue. The Pacific or the Indian or the Caribbean Sea.”

“What else?”

“I’m on a boat with a man. He’s urinating off the side of the boat. I’ve remembered that before. It’s clearer now. I’m embarrassed. No, I’m not embarrassed. I’m ashamed. I’m urinating too, but the man is holding me. No. He’s holding my penis.”

“Who is the man?”

“I don’t know him.”

“How old are you?”

“Very young. Seven. Eight. Nine. I’m not sure.”

“Why are you ashamed? Think.”

“I don’t know. I can’t pee. Maybe that’s why.”

“You mean you don’t have to urinate?”

“No. I don’t have to.”

“Was it your idea to urinate off the side of the boat?”

“I’m not sure. I don’t think so.”

“Describe the man, Howard.”

“He’s big and I know him.”

Dr. LeMane waited. Howard was silent. Then, when Dr. LeMane realized that Howard had fallen asleep, he gently touched his arm and asked, “Do you remember anything else?”

Howard stirred, opened his eyes, and said, “No. That’s it.”

When he got home that evening Howard did as Dr. LeMane had suggested: he took down from a shelf in the hall closet a large cardboard box filled with old family photographs. He scanned through albums and envelopes filled with photographs, most of them black and white. His mother or father had written on the back side of each one who was in it, where it had been taken, and the date. There were photographs of him as a baby, bald-headed, fat, and smiling. That surprised Howard. He did not remember being happy or smiling when he was a child. He looked at photographs of himself as a toddler, at birthday parties and family events, going to kindergarten, being held in the surf at Coney Island by his father; that also surprised him, because he did not remember ever having gone to the beach. In all of those pictures he was smiling. Then there was a photograph of Howard sitting at a table behind a large birthday cake alit with candles. It read “Happy Ninth Birthday, Martin.”

He was not smiling.

There were several other photographs of Howard after that. In none was he smiling. There were photographs of other family members, all of whom, as far as he knew, were long dead, and there were pictures of cars and furniture and scenic places which Howard vaguely remembered. He put them all back in the box. Then, after thinking for a moment, he took all of the photographs of himself out of their albums and from their envelopes and dumped them onto his kitchen table, after which he scrupulously laid them out according to his chronological age. He studied them. It was striking: before age nine he smiled; never after that. He picked up a photo taken on the day before his ninth birthday. It showed Howard, his father, and a boy identified as Robbie Santorino standing on a dock that he recognized as being in Sheepshead Bay. There was a small boat behind them. He remembered the boy. As he stared at the photo he became flushed and uncomfortable. He forced himself to remember. The name of the boat was Mr. Lee. It was his father’s boat, a little thing. Yes, my father loved to fish. He took me out a few times, but I didn’t like it. Then he had a different thought: not correct. He had liked the up-and-down motion of the boat as it rocked in the water, along with eating sandwiches and drinking soda as he and his father fished. They had gone out on it many times. Generally, it had been only Howard and his father. Then, when he started the fourth grade, he no longer wanted to go on the boat. Howard was not able to remember why that was.

During his next session he handed the array of photographs that contained his image to Dr. LeMane. After slowly examining them, Dr. LeMane asked, “Quite a nice array of family photographs. Do you see anything of significance?”

Howard told Dr. LeMane how he appeared to be smiling in all of the photographs before the one of his ninth birthday party. He said that the boat, Mr. Lee, in front of which his father, Robbie, and he were standing, must have been the one from which he had urinated. “I remember it was a little boat. It did not have a head, a bathroom, so I must have urinated off the side lots of times.”

Dr. LeMane waited. Then he said, “So, you remember the boat and you believe you urinated from it, assumedly, many times. What else?”

Howard thought. Then he said, “Something about urinating upset me. I actually feel quite upset each time I look at the image of Robbie and the boat.”

“What about your father?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know? Think, Howard.”

Howard closed his eyes. Then, avoiding Dr. LeMane’s glance, he said, “Yes. I’ve been thinking about that. I’m upset when I look at him in that picture in front of that boat. Something happened, maybe more than once.” Then he took a deep breath, rubbed his eyes, and plucked a tissue from the box on the table between the sofa and Dr. LeMane’s chair.

“I think. ...”

“Before you say anything else, before you push the limits of your memory, understand this: you may remember the incident correctly, but you may also, without meaning to do so, project, that is, ascribe to an individual or more than one individual an action or an incident or a feeling about which you feel guilt but which has nothing to do with any of those individuals. Understand me: I am not saying you are likely to do that. I am simply asking you to tread carefully and be sure about what you believe occurred on that boat.”

“I think my father. ...”

After a few seconds, Dr. LeMane said, “Tell me, Howard. Say what you think may have happened.”

“I ... I think he touched me or Robbie or both of us.”

“He may have. You were only nine. That is still young. It is possible you needed help with the zipper on your pants.”

“But why do I feel such dread? Why do I feel ashamed? Why did I stop smiling after that boat trip?”

“Are you sure you stopped smiling as a result of that boat trip?”

“I don’t know.”

“What do you know?”

“I keep remembering a word or a phrase, something like ‘Don’t share,’ and I think I was ashamed that my father said that to me.”

*****

That night, as he Googled Robbie Santorino, Robert Santorino, and Rob Santorino, his phone rang. Of course, it was Annemarie. No one else called him. He listened as she told him what she had done during lately. Then she was silent. Finally, Howard said, “That sounds very nice.”

“What sounds very nice? The part where I said I went to a doctor and he said I had leprosy?”

“What? No. No. I mean the rest of what you told me.”

“You weren’t even listening. Are you okay?”

“Yes and no. It’s a long story.”

“Tell me, Howard. I’m your friend, and I care about you.”

He told her about his attempt to finally understand why he was the way he was. In a choking voice, he talked about the images that he remembered: the blue blue sea and urinating over the side and the black dread that he felt. He told her about organizing the photographs in terms of chronological order and the picture of Robbie and his father and him in front of the boat. He did not mention his suspicions about his father.

“You said ‘blue blue sea’?”

“Yes.”

“Well, then, it could not have been here—New York—the waters around New York. They’re green, not blue.”

He said he knew that. Then he told her about the first chapter of Infinite Journeys, Infinite Possibilities, where Antonin Renard wrote, “When I was nine years old, I told my parents that my earliest memory was of the limitless expanse of the shimmering blue blue sea.” He told Annemarie about his visit to Renard and the electric shock he had felt when he first spoke to him on the telephone and later that day in his office. He said he wondered what had happened to Renard, saying, “Each time I went back, it was as if he never existed or he did exist but did not belong there.” Then he told Annemarie that he was trying to find Robbie Santorino, the boy who had been photographed in front of the boat with him and his father, saying that seemed to be the last picture in which he was smiling. He promised to call her back later that evening.

After a number of searches he found five Robert Santorinos on Facebook, two of whom seemed to be the correct age. He set up a Facebook account using his actual name, Martin Fox, because he had not begun to call himself Howard Roark Fox until he had graduated from high school. Many years before that point he had stopped having contact with Robbie and just about everyone else he had ever known. He sent out “friend requests” to both Robert Santorinos who were his age. Hours later, when neither one had replied, he called Annemarie to tell her what he had done, and then he went to sleep.

The next morning, Howard saw that one of the Robert Santorinos had accepted a friend request. Howard wrote, “Hi. I’m Martin Fox. We knew each other as boys in Brooklyn in the late 1960s and early 1970s.”

He checked his computer at work to see whether Robert Santorino had replied. He had not. Throughout the rest of the day Howard checked his Facebook account. He saw that Annemarie had sent a “friend request” to him. He accepted. Then he went back to his tasks. As he was closing up for the night, he saw that Robert Santorino had written to him: “I think I remember you. Long time ago.” Howard wrote back, “Very impt. I speak to you. Here’s my phone number. Please call.”

On the way home, his cell phone rang. He had never wanted one, but Annemarie had insisted, so he had bought it.

“So, did you hear from Robbie What’s His Name?”

“Robert Santorino. Yes. I hope he calls.”

“That’s good, Howard. I’m proud of you. A lot of people would hesitate to confront problems from the past.”

“I want to know my story and become a whole person.”

“Don’t be so grim. I’ve wondered about my birth story all my life. The good news is there’s still a lot of good years ahead of us.”

“I guess.”

“You are tough. I keep dropping hints and you keep ignoring them, or are you just being polite as you keep your distance from me?”

“I wasn’t aware of that being a hint.”

“Well, if you weren’t aware, then it wasn’t. When are you going to take me out again? Tomorrow maybe?”

“I have to wait to hear from this man, Robert Santorino, first.”

“Okay. Keep me informed. Good night, Howard.”

As Howard waited to hear from Robert Santorino he thought about his journey through the fifty plus years of his life and how he had evolved. For the first time since—he did not know when—he was feeling good about himself and his emotional growth. He was sure that this investigation into his childhood and what may have happened on that boat was a central element, an important puzzle piece. He wanted to know what had happened and how it had affected him and how to finally become a whole person.

He wrote out on a legal pad the major passages of his life:

I was a child who was seemingly happy and normal; I turned into one who was morose and cut-off from others.

As an adolescent and then an adult I cared about only books and had no real contact with people, including my parents.

I graduated from Columbia and became the owner of a bookstore; out of the blue, I had a fiery one-night stand with an attractive woman, Annemarie, but I did not feel anything for her. Then I pursued and became involved in a deep, if pitifully flawed, relationship with a beautiful woman, Faye. Because of my alienation from others I caused her brother Peter, a man who depended on my kindness during a time of trouble, to run away, causing Faye to suffer and then leave me.

I returned to my former solitary state.

Following 9/11, I realized how much I missed Faye. I began thinking of her and our time together, until all I wanted was to be back with her. I believed—I sometimes still believe—I did go back to her to that time and that place, but I always returned to my empty, lonely, joyless life. I made myself sick and dysfunctional. I couldn’t eat or sleep. I began to be consumed by strange ideas and fears and thoughts. I went to Dr. LeMane. He helped a little.

I searched for alternate ways of reaching Faye and that golden time in my life, including reaching out to Antonin Renard and the Infinite Levels of Existence Society. I read and was inspired by Renard’s book Infinite Journeys, Infinite Possibilities. He disappeared. I spoke to literary characters who seemed to be right next to me. I met Mr. Wilcox, who gave me a book called The Errors of Bobo Ashanti. I isolated myself in my apartment and put my life on hold for three months, hoping that my retreat from life, my attempt to embark on a spiritual journey, would bring me to Faye.

I returned to real life (this version of my life) when I became hungry and was questioned by the police. I understood that my isolation had been pointless. I have spent months attempting to be satisfied with my life as it is, although I still think of Faye. Annemarie returned, became my friend. I reached out to her; I’m trying to understand why I am the way I am. Photographs. Mr. Lee. Robbie Santorino. My father. Blue blue sea.

Blue blue sea! Antonin Renard. Strange that he just disappeared. Electric shocks when I was in contact with him. Howard shivered as he tried to understand his connections to the people in his life. Very few people: Annemarie, Faye, Peter, Renard, and now Annemarie again.

The next day, Robert Santorino called. After just a few seconds of preliminary small talk, Howard got right to his questions. Robert said that he remembered going out with Howard on his father’s boat. His memory was clearer than Howard’s. He said, “Peeing over the side of the boat? Sure. We always did that. We had contests all the time.”

“Did anything else happen? My father was there. He was always keeping an eye on me, so he had to see us. Did he ... do anything?”

Robert was silent for a moment. Then he said, “There was the time something did happen. You don’t remember?”

Howard felt sick. He closed his eyes and forced his fluttering stomach to relax. Then he asked Robert to wait for a second, explaining that he was at work and had to take care of a customer. He took a sip of water, wiped his sweaty face and hands on a paper towel, and returned to the phone. “Sorry. I shouldn’t have to do that again. The store’s quiet now.” When Robert did not reply, Howard asked, “Robert. Rob. Are you there? Are you still there?” He waited. A few seconds later, Robert came back on the line, saying, “I took advantage of the break to grab a cup of coffee. I told you my wife and I moved to Florida. I’m sitting out back—beautiful morning. Actually, every morning is beautiful.”

“What did you mean when you said something happened?”

“It’s pretty rough. You sure you want me to remind you?”

“Yes. I need to know. What happened?”

“Well, it was a long time ago, so it’s not totally clear, but I remember we were docked, peeing over one of the gunnels of the boat and we were competing to see who could shoot it the furthest into the water. We did that a lot, as I remember. This one day, you were rubbing yours, and I asked you if you were jerking off. You didn’t know what that meant, so I began to demonstrate. I’m sure I had never actually done it yet, but my older brother talked about it all the time.”

“And? Is that it?”

“I guess you began to imitate me. I’m not sure. Then this guy stepped on the boat. I remember he was a big guy, and when he got on, the boat rocked.”

“What happened?”

“He looked at us and smiled. He had missing teeth and messy red hair and, I think a beard, and when he came near us I held my nose. He smelled. You don’t remember that?”

“Actually, I think I do remember the man. He told us his name and he asked our names. Right?”

“I don’t remember that part.”

“What else?” Howard asked, beginning to feel frantic.

“He unzipped and he began ... you know—to stroke his.”

“Did he touch us?”

“He didn’t touch me. I put mine away and zipped up and ran off the boat and onto the dock. I tripped and almost got dunked in the bay.”

“I think the man touched me, but I’m not sure,” Howard said.

“Then your father jumped down, onto the boat from the dock.”

“Where had he been?”

“He had a paper bag in his hands. He threw it at the guy. It had soda cans in it. I was on the dock, watching. The guy swung at your father, but your father tackled the guy. They hit each other a few times.”

“I don’t remember any of that,” Howard said.

“The guy ran off and your father screamed at you and told you to zip up, but you just stood there, so he did it for you.”

“Did he say anything?”

“He said we had done a bad thing. He had seen us from the dock, before the man got on board. He said you and I were doing dirty stuff. He blamed us for the guy coming on the boat and he said something about privacy or being private and keeping things to yourself.”

“Did he say something like ‘Don’t share’?”

“Maybe. That’s all I remember.”

“So, he ... he didn’t ... do anything wrong, my father?”

“You mean like hit us?”

“That or any other kind of touching.”

“You think your old man was a pervert? Naw. I knew about that stuff. My parents had warned me—not about your father—just in general. That’s how come I ran from the guy. He was the pervert. I guess nowadays you call that kind of guy a child molester. No. Your father never touched us, except to zip you up because you were frozen, kind of traumatized. I think he was upset with us because what we did seemed to attract the man. I guess he thought you and I were actually jerking off together. I never went on the boat again.”

Howard thanked Robert Santorino and then he said he had to go, because the store was becoming busy again. He called Dr. LeMane and asked to see him the next day.

The next afternoon, Dr. LeMane listened as Howard explained what Robert Santorino had said. After tapping his pen against his pad, he said, “You have said that your father was a prudish, private man. It is possible, assuming this scenario actually did take place, that he mistook the situation. He may have misinterpreted a situation involving a combination of ordinary boyish sexual experimentation and bonding, and believed that your behavior had encouraged the red-headed man to join you. Your initial behavior—before the man came onto the boat—your childish imitation of older boys—is very natural at that age. You did not do anything wrong, Howard. Your father may have believed that you and Robert and then you and the man were engaging in mutual masturbation, although you and Robert were, most likely, too young to be able to masturbate. Even though the man who jumped on the boat was the only one who had committed an offense, your father, in an overzealous attempt to protect you and keep you innocent, reprimanded you because he thought that what he saw as he approached the boat—your genital touching—was a prelude to you and Robbie or you and the man touching each other. He yelled at you and Robbie. That frightened you and led you to believe you had done something wrong, sinful, dirty. He may have said something such as, ‘Don’t share,’ meaning ‘If you’re going to do that—masturbate—it should be done alone and in private.’ Does any of that make sense? Do you think that is what happened?”

“Yes. I remember feeling ashamed and dirty. In fact, I did not want to urinate after that. When I had to, later on in the day, after holding it in for a long time, I did it without touching my penis. I think I spilled some urine on the bathroom floor and my mother was cross with me.”

“And—now—this is important: Do you think you stopped sharing with people as a result of your father’s words, ‘Don’t share’?”

“I’m not sure. I remember I always hated sharing. I created fantasy characters and talked to them and developed scenarios in which those characters and I interacted. I do know I refused to play or spend time with other children after that incident. I wanted to be alone.”

“So, after this traumatic incident you retreated into a shell in which you not only did not share with other children, but hid from all contact.”

“I guess.”

“Perhaps, after a while, you decided you should not care about others at all. Does that sound right?”

Howard nodded. Then Dr. LeMane asked Howard about his love of books: “Did that result from this episode?”

Howard did not know, but he said he remembered seeing a photograph which his mother had labeled “New bookshelves in Martin’s room,” adding, “It’s dated a month after my ninth birthday.”

“I see. So, your father, the enforcer of family morals, may have blamed you for doing something that encouraged the advances of a predatory adult. He may have thought that, despite your age, it was a consensual sexual encounter. His outraged reaction caused you to experience feelings of shame and guilt and perhaps anger toward your father, as a result of which you hid from association with others. At the same time, your mother, always looking for an opportunity to help you to excel and achieve greatness in your life, rather than persuading you to socialize, encouraged you to stay indoors and read so that you would be able to feed your mind and, at the same time, remain near her.”

“Yes. That seems possible.”

“This may at least partially explain why you have kept yourself from others. You felt soiled and unworthy of friendship and love, and so you remained apart. And, in terms of sexual encounters, on that one night with Annemarie and during your years with Faye, you engaged in sexual intercourse and other normal elements of sex without allowing yourself to love. You divorced sex from all emotions, other than physical sexual desire for a woman and its end result, orgasm. Perhaps you associated sex, which you enjoyed—as is natural—with sin, and that prevented you from loving those with whom you were physically intimate.”

A combination of relief and sadness swept over Howard. He said, “That makes sense. And so, my father’s reaction to my peeing over the gunnels of the boat and what that man wanted to do may have helped to turn me into what I am ... what I have been my entire life.”

“My interpretation of what you have told me may not be correct or it may be only partially correct. However, if you feel good about my analysis and if it helps you to understand the genesis of your neuroses and it assists you in reference to being able to live your life in a more satisfying way, you need not dig any deeper. It is not always possible to get to the root of every neurosis or other psychological or emotional problem, and sometimes it is counterproductive to do so. Live with this insight for a while, a week or two. Decide whether or not it satisfies you. Perhaps it will help you to evolve and, hopefully, enjoy your life.”

Howard liked the sound of those last three words.

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