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Vivian's Disorder

By Risa Denenberg All Rights Reserved ©

Mystery / Action


Virgie was bored. Three years of therapy and nothing had changed. Nothing had gotten better; nothing had gotten worse. Things had actually gone better when she was working with Sylvie. That is, until she stopped dreaming, and their work together began to go stale. I’m drowning here, she thought ruefully. She glanced around the room— at Richard in his stained oatmeal-colored V-neck sweater leaning back in his black leather swivel chair; down at the worn brown wall-to-wall carpet; up at the Matisse goldfish, imperfectly matted and hanging slightly askew on the far wall. She would have far preferred Van Gogh’s ‘Old Man in Sorrow’.

“So. So, what are you thinking?” Richard asked finally.

“I’m swimming in circles. Like the goldfish.” And, after a pause, “I think I want to quit therapy.”

“Well,” Richard sat up and folded his hands together in a familiar gesture, one that always reminded Virgie of the church steeple in the children’s hand game. He touched the two joined index fingers to the tip of his nose. “We can discuss that. We can discuss that if you wish.”

“No. I don’t think I want to discuss it. I just want to quit.” She suddenly felt a slight twinge of excitement.

“We’ve been working together for three years, Virgie. Don’t you think . . . don’t you feel that we can process this together?”

“No. I don’t. Let’s face it, you’re not helping me. What I’m saying is, I guess I’m dumping you.”

“Dumping me? Hmmm . . . dumping . . . me? Now, that’s an interesting phrase to use, don’t you think?”

“Yes, it is. But you’re not.”

“Like Jonathan dumped you, I wonder?”

Virgie had to think a minute. Who’s Jonathan? she wondered. I guess I made him up, she realized. She was so bored she was making up people to talk about. But was she bored with her life or with Richard? Hard to say. “Look, Richard, it’s just time to stop. We’re obviously not getting anywhere. I really don’t think it will help to talk about it.”

“There’s something more going on here, don’t you think? You have a pattern of leaving relationships when you get too close. We’ve talked about this before.”

“I haven’t gotten close to you. I honestly have no feelings about you at all. And I haven’t gotten any closer to why I’m so stuck where I am. And if you know the answer to that one, you sure haven’t bothered to share it with me.”

Virgie’s mind wandered over the past three years. She hardly left the apartment. She hadn’t painted in months. Course catalogs had piled up among unopened mail spilling onto the floor in the foyer. Her kitchen was a ruin of uneaten meals. And the cats’ room was a mess she could hardly bear to enter any more.

“What are you thinking now?” he asked, inevitably.

“Ok,” she responded, feeling on more solid ground suddenly, an idea brewing. “I’m seeing someone else. I’m dumping you for a better therapist. Get it?”

He waited for a long moment and sighed audibly. Richard abhorred silence, and as usual, he broke first. “Well then, if you feel you must go, I suppose you must. I won’t oppose you. No. That wouldn’t be therapeutic. You know, it’s curious to me that this comes up now. I’ve just been reading R.D. Laing. You know Laing?”

“What do you think?” He knew quite well that she had read Laing. She was probably the only reason he was reading it, she had brought Lang up only a couple of weeks ago. What an idiot.

“Well, anyway, Laing was quite the heretic really. A true rebel in the field. Perhaps he would say that this is an inside-outside problem.”

“And that would mean . . . ?”

“You know, you’re split, ambivalent. To get closer or move farther away? We’ve done some good work, Virgie, but there’s a lot more work to do. So. Here’s the challenge. Do you want to do the work or not? Laing might ask, are you in, or are you out?”

“I guess we would have to call this an outie.”

“What I mean is . . . ”

“Richard, are you listening to me? I’m terminating this relationship. Could you come back to the present and just leave Laing out of it?”

“Well, that’s my point exactly. He doesn’t approve of the therapist telling the patient what to do. But now, of course, even Laing would say, that is, I think he would say, that termination is a process. Yes. Yes. We need a time period to plan a proper termination. Lets talk about that.”

“Try listening to me for a change, Richard. I’m saying bye-bye to you. Conclusion. Separation. Ending. So if there is something you want to say to me, some guidance, some truth about me or our relationship, or something that would help me survive in this godawful world, this would be the time.”

“Well, I don’t know what Laing would say about this,” he mused, distractedly.

“Laing would say that anyone as dumb as you should not be a therapist.”

“Now, it doesn’t really help, does it, to be so . . . so . . . hostile?”

“Actually, it helps tremendously.”

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