Suggested Audio Jukebox ♬
 The Flirts “Danger”
 Ray LaMontagne “Trouble”
 Thomas Newman “Arose”
 Captain Sensible “Happy Talk”
 Glenn Frey “The Heat Is On”
 Beck “Wow”
God I’ve been dreading this. I’ve had some bright ideas in my time but agreeing to attend therapy sessions doesn’t look like being one of them. On one hand, it could prove a most enlightening and beneficial experience and I’ve always found it easier talking through my personal affairs with complete strangers as their impartiality makes opening up a far less obstacle-strewn proposal. However, I’m also mindful of the games they play to extract information from you and the faint whiff of superiority that accompanies them. I’m absolutely bricking it if I’m honest and haven’t been able to shake the sick feeling in the very pit of my tummy since taking a seat in the waiting room. You see, I’ve been cross-examined before, and don’t recall it being a great deal of fun. Granted, a police interrogation room isn’t the environment most conducive to relaxation, but at least there was a buzz about the place. I’ve been to funeral parlors with more personality than this place and feel even more depressed now than I did when I walked in here. If this is a taste of what’s to come, then I think I’d rather skip straight to the shock therapy. At least then, I’ll know where I stand.
That’s the thing about therapists from what I hear. They love nothing more than to utterly bamboozle you and do so with such an unflappable front that it’s hard not to suspect they’re getting some kind of sick kick from watching you squirm. I guess it all depends on the luck of the draw and Dr. Gracie Simmons has a Ph.D. in Clinical-Health Psychology and is reported to be one of the best in the business so that’s promising at least. That said, I’m not particularly keen on the idea of having her root around inside my head as it’s a bloody mess in there and even I’m not sure of my way around it. What concerns me even more is that I only have the sufficient funds for a single one-hour session and that’s barely enough time to meet and greet, let alone unlock the greatest mysteries of my psyche. Am I about to exit this clinic with less marbles in the jar than when I started? And how many home truths are too many? If someone you don’t know from Adam thinks you’re a deeply flawed individual, then what are my nearest and dearest saying about me behind my back? Actually it was them who put me up to this so perhaps they’re in cahoots. Oh God, it’s all an elaborate sting isn’t it? I’ll be in a straitjacket by suppertime while they’re selling off my clothes at a yard sale.
All this speculation isn’t getting me anywhere. I really am my own worst enemy and really should fire myself from my role as personal advisor the very moment this ghastly ordeal is over. They say that you’re never going to know unless you try and I’d much rather this than remain in the dark any longer. After all, I’ve been spiralling for some time now, steadily careering into madness, and with no idea where the hand brake on my dive bomber resides. Ignorance may be bliss but I’d take enlightenment any day of the week even if some of it smarts a little. The very worst that could happen is a complete and irreversible breakdown in communication; hardly a reason for my sphincter to gape so. Man the hell up Richard, take one on the chin for your own fading sanity, and find out where this rabbit hole leads dagnabbit. Now that I’m all pep talked up, I believe I am as ready as I’ll ever be to venture into the lion’s den and tame this cat. Winning personality will get you far in life and, if all else fails, I can make the most delightful farting sounds with my armpits.
“Richard Charles Stevens?”
“Dr. Simmons will see you now dear”
What did she mean “dear”? Do you think she was being sardonic? Maybe she’s perused my file and sussed out exactly how pathetic an excuse for an organ donor I am. The very second I vacate the building, she’ll no doubt be scuttling in there with a cup of tea to get the lowdown and have a good old belly laugh at my sole expense. How can she sleep at night? I can’t seem to work out whether there’s a vague hint of the unhinged about the mildly discomfiting smile she’s flashing me. Is it just me or does she resemble Pamela Voorhees to you?
Where’s Crazy Ralph when you need him most? Mind you, I have a fair idea what he’d say right now and can almost hear “you’re doomed!” ricochet from wall to wall as Pamela, I mean Doris, (I mean Pamela) eyes me up with that deranged glint like some kind of haunted oil painting. They should change her job title from Secretary to Sentinel as I could have sworn I just heard her warming up her retinal lasers. Now I know how they felt aboard the Nebuchadnezzar.
That said, I do remember The Oracle baking some dainty little cookies as a sweetener before telling Neo that he’d have to choose between the one true love of his life and fate of Zion. If Morpheus had the good mind to dress up in a PVC catsuit or Switch pulled her finger out then perhaps that wouldn’t have been such a no-brainer. I’m with Cypher, if it looks like steak and moos like steak then pull out its horns and wipe its ass as I’m having me some rump for dinner bitches.
“Dr. Simmons really doesn’t like being kept waiting and I’m growing a little nauseous from looking at your drab little face for so long”
Showing your true colors now Pamela, I get it. Hold on, drab little face? DRAB LITTLE…Why I oughta! Did I see fit to comment on her chubby ankles or the over-excitable hairy mole on her left forearm? No I didn’t because I’m an ordinary decent human being and that’s not what ordinary decent human beings do. Ordinary decent human beings hold in the laughter and don’t make snide little comments about your drab little face. Come to think of it, she didn’t even bother with snide, that was blatant and evidently intended only to needle. You tell me, does this face look drab to you?
Hold on, wrong picture. Slight little technical error here, that’s actually my second cousin Maisie-Jean Gaffney from Albuquerque. And yes she does have to wear the flannel socks as she suffers from acute athlete’s foot before you ask. No I haven’t ever slept with her. Yes she has given me a hand job but only once and it was Uncle Homer’s fault for marinating the wieners in whiskey.
Is it still incest if she’s twice removed? I mean, we’re practically polar opposites. She has breasts and I don’t. She could pass as Ugly Betty beneath strobe where I more accurately resemble Betty Ford. Where I come from that’s “no harm, no foul” territory and you know what they say – if the charges don’t stick then get your lips on ma dick. Therapy or no therapy, I’m fairly certain I’m heading for the cauldron. Speaking of which, I’ve found a shot of me taken just this very morning. Promise you won’t mock my turkey neck. I get very sensitive about that.
What do you mean “gobble, gobble”? I told mother no side profiles but she handles a Polaroid like Bobcat Goldthwait on uppers that one. Granted, the years may not have been particularly kind, but I do scrub up rather nicely and there have been no scarcity of short-order chefs willing to give me a good stuffing I’ll have you know. Besides, my legs really are to die for. Treat me nice and I may just give you a flash on the way out.
You like that don’t cha? Does Paula Abdul know you’re out this late? Filthy little greyhound sluts the lot of you. At least I’ve got some dignity. Admittedly not a tremendous amount but my grandmother taught me everything in moderation and she lived to a ripe old age of 94 so, if I keep on going at my current rate of knots, then I should make it to at least half that. However, before I start celebrating, I need to deal with some of these pesky demons in my mind and Dr. Gracie Simmons may well present my best opportunity to rid these petulant pixies once and for all. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and take that leap of faith and this would appear to be one such moment. I have my plan, play it cool, and have my very best face of indifference already rehearsed so this should prove a catwalk.
That said, these last-minute jitters are quite something. Part of me just wishes to slip off to the restroom and clamber straight out of the window but what do I stand to learn about myself then? That I’m a yellow-bellied bastard? Don’t need psychotherapy to suss that one out as I met cowardice once and it would be fair to say that we bonded. However, that was then and this, I’m assured, is now. I think I’m ready to head off into the unknown, open that door and step on in with my heart on my sleeve and my bowel teetering precariously at the gates primed for full excavation. One final deep inward breath, followed by measured exhalation, and it’s game time.
“Please come in. You must be Richard”
“Yes I believe I am”
“Good. That’s a start. Take a seat Richard and please remember to flick your ash in the tray provided as I only got these carpets shampooed last week”
Thank fuck for that, smoking is permitted here. Something tells me I’m going to be needing it. I mean, look at her, tell me that’s not a face to run from. It’s like Maurice Gibb and Sally Jessy Raphael procreated. Don’t even get me started on the pearl necklace as I have an illogical fear of anything that came from an oyster shell and that monstrosity would have looked dated back in the eighties. They say you can tell a lot about a person from their posture and hers suggests that all impetus will be on me, which is no great revelation at this point. However, I feel decidedly uneasy and have already started to regret not taking that lay-in this morning.
“Let’s just get this over with shall we?”
“What seems to be the problem, feeling tense are you?”
And we’re off. The one thing I do know about shrinks is that they have a tendency to throw question after question at you like emotional frisbees, probing for information at every available opportunity. Mind games I believe is the correct term and, while I have been known to enjoy a quick round of Trivial Pursuit from time to time, it’s her rule set that concerns me. That’s the good thing about doubt though as it comes with benefits I hear and I’m less susceptible to having the wool pulled over my eyes.
“Not particularly, I’m actually feeling rather relaxed”
Do you reckon she bought that? What is it? The total lack of blood in my face? The tears welling up in my ducts? Or could the fact that I’m shaking like Haley Joel Osment at a sleepover be giving me away? Whatever it is, this bitch has my number and I distinctly recall not giving it to her yet. She has to play her cards right before we even think of negotiating that second date and the pearl necklace will have to go, I’ll tell you that for free.
“So this is where you tell me why you’re here in case you were wondering how this transaction works”
I can already feel her going to work inside my head space; poking around like a senior citizen at a flea market, and primed to set her wristwatch by what makes me tick for the next sixty soul-destroying minutes. Resistance may well be futile but I can’t just blurt out all my trade secrets before first being made to feel at least mildly secure. I know, I’ll turn the spotlight back on her and see how she reacts to being scrutinized. Had I mentioned that Sigmund Freud was my great, great, grandfather? Make a fool out of me will you Gracie? If that is your real name.
“Actually I was hoping you might tell me a little about yourself before we proceed”
“How interesting. Of course Richard, I’d be only too happy to divulge. Now tell me, why do you wish to know about me when this is supposed to be all about you?”
“I’m a people person I guess. Fascinated by the human mind just like you”
“Uh-huh. Please tell me more. Where do you think this curiosity stems from?”
“I’m not altogether sure. As far as I’m aware, I’ve always been like this”
“Desperate to fit in you mean?”
“I wouldn’t say desperate. God do I look desperate?”
“I don’t know, do you think you look desperate?”
It just so happens that she has an ornate mirror over on the back wall. Perhaps I should play along just for now and it would be the ideal opportunity to check for any unwanted boogers while I’m at it. You see, if I’m going to slay this dragon, then I can’t be expected to get to the old coup de grâce with an enemy at the gates now can I? The thing is, I’m already aware that something’s lurking in the barracks as I attempted to dislodge it ten minutes back. Would’ve done so too if it hadn’t been for the nose hair that had latched on. I’m not a big fan of pain and the nasal variety is at the tippity top of my ouch list, right up there with papercuts, nipple clamps, and snagging a slither of sack skin in one’s zipper teeth. Anyhoots, better not keep the lady waiting.
Jesus H. Christ and all his apostles, is that some kind of optical illusion? Whatever happened to the fairest of them all? How many years of bad luck do I get once the glass shatters? On the plus side, there’s not a solitary bat in my belfry and, as long as her sole focus throughout is my nostrils, then I should make it out of this with sanity in tactish.
“Do you like what you see Richard? Does it please you?”
“Yes it does actually”
“Then what’s with the gag reflex?”
“I just ate a bag of popping candy”
“Well as long as you’re happy. You are aren’t you Richard? Happy I mean”
Delirious would be more accurate right now. Unless I’m mistaken, a winged shrew just performed a 360 rotation outside her window and you don’t have to tell me how preposterous that sounds as I’m quite aware that airborne vermin struggle with full revolutions. Barely three minutes in and already I’m feeling under the microscope; being emotionally dissected by the invisible scalpel she wields so cunningly. I hope I don’t end up like Lebowski. The moment this clapped-out clunge offers me a White Russian, I’m going bowling dagnabbit.
“Then why are your eyes so frightfully sad Richard?”
Well that’s just bloody great, not only do I possess a face that can only be described as the drabbest in existence and side profile of a game bird, but now I find out that my eyes are depressed too. Stick the boot in why don’t you? Tell you what, my elbows are pointy, why not just call me Terry Dactyl and get this over with? I paid for this session so let’s just cut to the chase so I can get back to being pond algae and cease holding in all this flatulence. Stomach cramps are no fun you know; I never had a date that didn’t end in tremendous relief and I could do with that kicker right about now.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about”
“What am I talking about Richard? Please tell me how this experience is making you feel and don’t feel obliged to pull any punches. Just tell it as it is”
“Okay well since we’re going there, I’m a little intimidated by you if I’m honest. Sorry”
“Sorry? Why is that? Why are you sorry Richard?”
“I don’t know. I just don’t really fancy sobbing my heart out in front of a complete stranger”
“You don’t cry much do you?”
“What gives you that idea?”
“Just a hunch. It’s my thing. If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say that you only release a solitary tear every time you watch American Beauty, while the end of Titanic traditionally gives you a lump in your throat. Other than that, no waterworks. Am I close?”
Well slap my calf and call me cowgirl, this bitch is from another planet isn’t she? You know, somewhere far, far away where they all listen to Miles Davis and knit polar neck sweaters from dried pig sweat. How could she possibly know that kind of sensitive information without a mole operating on her behalf or a complete blow-by-blow account of the last ten years of my life. It was around that time that my father died and something changed inside that day without question. It’s not that I cannot show emotion, more that I prefer not to do so when it’s downbeat. That said, two hours in the company of Lester Burnham and the floodgates open just sufficiently enough to prise out a lone trail. But she can’t be expected to know that. Something stinks in suburbia and, for possibly the first time in my life to this point, I cannot be held directly responsible.
“Can we just change the subject please”
“Absolutely we can. This is your time after all. Tell me Richard, what did you have in mind?”
“I dunno. Something that doesn’t involve digging up stuff from my past that I find deeply upsetting would be a good start”
“Of course. I do have one more question if you don’t mind?”
“Does that have anything to do with guilt?”
“Whatever would make you think that?”
“Just another hunch. They tend to come in threes you know”
I can’t shake the nagging feeling that I’m being dragooned into revealing more about myself than I’m at ease with. You see, the whole culpability deal is one can of worms I’d rather not pop the lid on as I’ve had enough of that shit in my in-tray over the past three years alone to make Charlie Sheen blush.
“I’ve got nothing to feel guilty about”
“Nothing Richard? Not a solitary case of accountability?”
“Well I may have walked out on my wife and three-year-old infant but only because of an outside party meddling”
“An outside party you say?”
“Yes. My mother-in-law. She was trying her level best to come between us from the start, and eventually, she got her wish”
“And how did that make you feel?”
Dag to the nabbit, I’ve been well and truly had. Not a day has passed since my voluntary departure when I haven’t felt at least one pang of regret for the way that things turned out. That’s a cheap shrink’s trick if ever I heard one and I walked straight into it like Mr. Magoo in a greenhouse. I do believe the term is “diddled” and all that’s left now is for Dr. Gracie Simmons to turn up the heat some and fashion a bouffant out of me.
“Interesting. Tell me a little about your process for working through these feelings?”
“Can it include masturbation?”
“Do you think it should feature masturbation?”
I’m 97% positive that’s a trick question. Regrettably it’s the other 3% on vocal chord duties today. What can I say? I’m short-staffed.
“Well I don’t feel guilty about wanking if that’s what you’re getting at”
“And what would make you think that was what I was getting at?”
My God, this is relentless. How long did you say I was supposed to withstand this battering? Sixty minutes? And how many has it been? NINE? Stone the crows and steal their laundry, there’s no way I’m going to be able to take another fifty-one minutes of this emotional steamrollering. I’ll be frothing from my maw like Ian Holm way before the cuckoo caws. This simply has to stop here. One quick thing, can anyone else hear that strange trundling sound that appears to be growing ever less distant?
“Prepare to suffer He-Man”
“I meant do you ever suffer from a feeling of self-worth?”
No she didn’t. I may not be the quickest on the uptake, but I know my Battle Cat and his back just arched when she said that, in a somewhat maniacal tone no less. I do hope there are no electrical storms brewing tonight as the last thing I need back at Greyskull is a power-cut. That place at night is more unsettling than the sight of Iggy Pop with his shirt off.
At any rate, where the bloody hell does she get off calling me worthless? That’s effectively what she did you know even if not quite in those very words. This is getting the old buzzard off isn’t it? She’s probably got one of those silent vibrators crammed in her snatch as we speak, which I presume is why she just turned around in her leather recliner. I mean, she hasn’t even got the decency to look me in the whites of my eyes as she basically pronounces me some sort of nickel-and-dime outfit with precious little in the way of dreams and/or aspirations. How double dare she!
“I do all right”
“Is that it Richard? You do alright?”
“Listen I know it may seem like I’m going nowhere fast in life but it’s not through any lack of blood, sweat, or tears on my part”
“Really? You may want to rethink the tears bit but you’re spot-on about the perspiration. Has anyone ever told you that you emit the vague aroma of soiled linen and horseradish?”
“I’ve bathed every day this week I’ll have you know”
“In what? Sparrow phlegm?”
“Only because my shower gel ran out and it has replenishing qualities I’ll have you know”
“I apologize, not sure what came over me there. Perhaps it had something to do with me chucking up a little in the back of my throat. Anyways, that’s not why we’re here. So it’s forward planning that’s your problem then?”
“I try but life has a habit of bitch slapping me at every conceivable turn”
“Is that to stop you whining? Sorry, it’s like a tick. Carry on, I believe you were at woe is me”
“Well it’s growing increasingly difficult to argue that it’s not if it’s okay to be totally blunt”
“Mmm. Yes. Please be blunt”
I just know she’s getting off back there. Her rampant rabbit may be untraceable but I know the sound of jiggling flaps when I hear it. Either that or she’s eating a Quiche, in which case, where’s my slice? Granted I may not exactly be Captain Flan but it would be nice to be offered at least. This session set me back forty bucks and, if that doesn’t earn me a slither, then I’m clearly being diddled here.
“I work my feathers to the sclerosis for the cause but it sometimes feels as though I’m treading water in a colossal vat of despair”
“And how does that make you feel?”
“How do you think it makes me feel? Seriously, are you trying to yank my chain or what?”
“Would you like me to yank your chain?”
“I’d like you to stop kneading me like a bad news baker. I’d like you to tell me why I wasted my time, money, and energy on being made to feel like a fraction of a quarter-wit. More than anything though, I’d just like you to stop asking me question after question after FUCKING QUESTION!”
Well this could be awkward. Don’t wish to sound like the birth mother of Shaquille O’Neal here but did that really just come out of me? What am I turning into or, more critically, what is Dr. Gracie Simmons turning me into? I entered this office feeling a little wayward but didn’t expect to leave strapped down to a gurney. This is all her fault. Sitting there in her caustic chariot, passing judgement on me without the human decency to make the most diminutive of eye contact. I’d love to know where she gets off just so I can tell the driver to pull away erratically at the precise moment she dismounts. Not that I wish any hardship on her, just a tooth through her lip and perhaps a busted collar-bone. She’ll still be forty dollars better off at the close of play while I’ll be thrown off at the next stop as I can’t afford my ticket to ride. It’s ultimately all about money right? I mean, it’s hardly like she’s doing this for the love. If it were then I’d be laid out on her couch with my pants around my ankles as we speak as opposed to standing here like a wilted willow, feeling ever more despondent with every poser she pitches.
“I can see I’ve struck a nerve. I’m dreadfully embarrassed. Please forgive me”
“It’s alright. I’ve had worse. Let’s just wrap things up shall we? I think I’ve taken all the intense scrutiny I can for one day”
“You’re upset with me aren’t you?”
“No honestly I’m good”
“Are you good Richard? Are you really good?”
“I don’t know what would make you think I was anything less than chipper”
“Let’s just call it my third hunch shall we? Okay then young man, well it really has been delightful but I’m afraid we’ll have to wait until next time to dig any deeper”
“But I’ve barely had a quarter of an hour by my watch”
“And how does that make you feel Richard?”
“Robbed quite frankly”
“My sincere apologies. Had Pamela, I mean Doris (I mean Pamela) explained to me how utterly nondescript you were in person, then I would have cried off with thrush but there’s no point crying over spilt milk is there Richard?”
“Semi-skimmed or pasteurized?”
“Get out of my office before I call security and tell them you just forced your hand down my blouse”
Message loud and clear. The gloves are off and I’ve been taken for an absolute patsy. Nary have I ever felt so short-changed, so much of a victim of decree, such an utter numpty nugget for trusting this deluded gut of mine. Forty big ones would have bought me a ton of licorice or the entire back catalogue of Hot Chocolate on Compact Disc. Instead, I’ve only gone and fed the monkey, lined the pockets of a shrivelled up old carp whose methods are so unsavory that she should have her license revoked right here and now. While she’s sucking on langoustines later, I’ll be tucking into a bucket of greasy chicken cellulite and anything else I can scavenge from the dumpster out back on my way out.
Actually, I suspect I may have just sussed her technique you know. You see, while she pretty much had me bleeding from every available orifice back there, I do feel a little like the dense fog around me has lifted somewhat. Could it be that I’ve exorcised a handful of my demons? That’s a negative, they all seem to be present and correct and there’s no change of personnel as far as I can make out. That said, at least now I feel like I can keep tabs on them. I heard it remarked once that you can lead a horse to water but not make it drink and suddenly it’s starting to hold some weight. Like The Pied Piper she played her somewhat less than merry tune and, unbeknownst to me, I marched to that shit. Granted, I currently feel like I’ve contracted the bubonic plague and, without a hit of Vitamin D soon, I may well come down with rickets too. But I’m forearmed at least and no longer feel like I’m paddling through tepid puke so I’ll take the chunky with the smooth I reckon.
First things first, I still have to make it past the haggard old wench at front desk without arousing suspicion as, the last time I clapped eyes on her, she appeared primed to unfurl like a triffid and shoot sulfuric sap into my eyes. Fuck it, who needs dignity anyhoots? That stuff is overrated and got knocked out of me way back at boot camp. Should I mimic a slug, then I can pass by right beneath her nose without so much as a “who goes there?” and there ain’t a damn thing she can do about it.
Okay so perhaps I could have been more shrewd with my getaway selection. I’ve seen paraplegic snot with more forward momentum and, at this rate, I’ll be pushing the ton before I reach those revolving doors. When I get out of here I’m going to ring some changes dagnabbit, after illegally downloading every rare track and B-side Hot Chocolate ever recorded of course. I guess, in some indirect way, Dr. Gracie Simmons has actually thrown me a bone here. I may not have always agreed with the approach she took and there appear even more obstacles ahead than previously, but at least now I can tackle them head-on. I’d even go as far as recommending the whole therapy gig to anyone looking to engage in a spot of mid-life rewiring. What’s that you say? How does that make me feel? Don’t you lot start on me. Have you ever heard of quitting while you’re ahead? Now bugger off will you, in case it has slipped your minds, I’ve got lettuce leaves to molest.