I went to see the gypsy the other night
She looked in my palm, looked me in the eye
And said “you’re a lucky man”
“some folks got fortune, some got eyes of blue
What you got will always see you through
You’re a lucky man
Bruce Springsteen, “Lucky Man”
Daniel checked the bottom of his shoe for gum or shit. He was sitting in a cramped waiting room at the counseling clinic, very aware of how cramped it was. Trying to appear comfortable, he thumbed through a 2-year-old Car and Driver magazine.
Comfortable was not the only appearance Daniel was worried about. He carefully chose this magazine. Cosmo…no, they’ll think I’m a sex addict. Probably am. Parenting…I know Ash would approve, but come on! Sports illustrated…any swimsuits? No. Seventeen…no, they’ll think I’m a sex addict and a pedophile. Car and Driver…hmm. Looking at cars is acceptable for men. I like cars. People will think I’m pretty normal looking at this. Daniel quickly checked the bottom of his shoe again. There’ll be a hole in this one soon. Well…no one will notice if I keep my feet on the floor. That’s right…nice and easy…just uncross your legs and put your feet down…perfectly normal thing to do. Of course, Daniel would never use the word “shit” to describe any fecal substance on the bottom of his shoe.
Daniel doesn’t use curse words. His parents never approved of foul language. What Daniel didn’t know was that his parents used just as many curse words as anybody else. He would be very surprised to discover that his mother could probably out-curse a short order cook at a truck stop. They just never cursed in front of him.
There was, however, one man that Daniel’s mother could not out-curse: Dr. Roger Collins, PHD. Dr. Collins was Daniel’s therapist and had been for the last four weeks. Daniel had endured four one-hour sessions of some of the filthiest language he had ever personally witnessed, and he was preparing to endure his fifth. Is this part of the treatment? Daniel had thought Or does he talk like this to everyone? Daniel had never been to a therapist before seeing Dr. Collins. He had nothing to compare him to except what he had seen on TV and in the movies.
The outside door to the waiting room swung open and Daniel observed a large woman and a small child entering. Daniel was amazed at how casually this woman entered the room. She just walks right in here as if this is all totally normal! You can’t just open a door like that in a place like this. It’s gotta be nice and easy.
The woman, some 250 pounds dressed in faded stirrup pants and a t-shirt that said “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful”, hummed as she waited for the receptionist to return to the counter with the sliding glass window.
The little boy was looking right at Daniel as if entranced, carefully inserting his middle finger into his snotty nose and then smearing it across his upper lip. There are other people waiting with Daniel, Too many people, thought Daniel. Although he would never put it this way, he felt as if the closer these people were sitting to him, the more likely they were to glean his thoughts and problems. He was very aware of how cramped it was in this dimly lit waiting room with the narrow windows at the top of the north wall. What’s with these windows? Do they put them up high so that people can’t escape or cut themselves with the glass? This is just one step away from the loony bin! Jesus Chr–I mean– Geez! Geez isn’t the same as Jesus Christ is it? More of a civil man’s adaptation…
The other door opened partially and a short, stocky middle-aged man peaked out. Daniel had been casually eyeing this door ever since he sat down.
“Ready?” intoned the man, eyebrows raised.
Dr. Collins ushered Daniel through the door and into the hall. Collins was a good eight inches shorter than Daniel. He wordlessly gestured toward the coffee pot. Then wordlessly gestured toward his office still with his eyebrows raised Like a mime Daniel though. Like a foul-mouthed little mime.
Then Collins walked on down the hall turning back and saying “Go on in, Daniel. I’ll just be a minute.”
Daniel poured himself a cup of coffee thinking I’d have to be some kind of cool player to turn down a cup of coffee. Men who are in control don’t take coffee if they don’t really want it. Men of power. For a moment, he hesitated. Then he took his coffee back to the now familiar office of Dr. Roger Collins, PHD.
The lights were low. Leather chair with an end table. Leather couch. Desk with a computer. Shelves full of books. A big poster of a soaring eagle with a caption that said “Until you spread your wings, you’ll have no idea how far you can fly”.
Daniel always sat in the chair.
Daniel sipped his coffee, too watery, and set it down on the table. Once again, he checked his shoes for shit or gum, noticed the worn spot, put both feet flat on the floor. It’s definitely time to take these in to the shoe guy. He pictured the little Korean man that resoled a pair of his shoes over ten years before, dimly knowing that he will never take his shoes in. He thought of the strong smell of leather and shoe polish in the little shoe shop. As was his custom, he also recalled an NPR editorial complaining of the lost art of the cobbler and how people don’t buy re-solable shoes anymore, just rubber soles, disposable really. But before he got a chance to think better of himself for wearing shoes with leather soles, he heard the obligatory physicians’ and counselors’ knock at the door. What? Does he think that I’ve undressed or something?
“Hey there, compadre! How the hell are you?” Dr. Collin’s voice was like a chainsaw tearing through Daniel’s acoustically sensitive mind.
“Great,” offered Daniel with a smile. This was the point in Daniel’s session when he always thought the same thing. Is this when I answer for real or is this where I just answer like a normal person? Because if I was “great” I wouldn’t be here would I?
“No shit!?” returned Dr. Collins as he sat down at the desk. He raised his eyebrows, nodding and frowning that kind of No shit kind of frown and nod. “How’s the checking?”
“Ok,” said Daniel glancing at his right shoe. “It’s getting under control,” glancing at his left shoe. Daniel returned the variation on the No shit nod-frown-eyebrows that said No, really.
“Sexual thoughts?” queried Collins.
Daniel grimaced and cocked his head a little from side to side and said, “So-so.”
And with that, Collins was off!
“You know, when I was about your age, I was a real goddam ratfucker! I would dip my fat little wick in anything that moved. You’ve never really screwed until you’ve done it with a goddam stranger!” Collins’ eyes go far away for a moment, as if he were relishing some past alley-way love affair. “I bet when you’re at work and you see some cute little bitch walking down the hall you think ‘Christ! I’d like to bend her over and fuck the shit outta that bitch!’
Collins was grinning and nodding as if to say Am I right? You know what I mean you bastard!
Daniel gave Dr. Collins a nervous laugh and said, “Yeah,” and then looks at his shoes. “You see… the thing is…(swallows)…I don’t think that that’s a good thing. One of the reasons I came here is to try to get this kind of thinking under control, and…”
“For Christ’s sake…” Collins slowly shook his head and looked down for a moment. “Are your parents religious? What are they? A couple of goddam Puritans? You know, I see a lot fucked up people in this office, but–why just the other day I saw a guy who can’t go twenty fucking minutes without shoving his hand down his pants and squeezing off a goddam fireworks show!–but I’ve never seen people as jimmy-fucked as religious people. These people, with their….
Jimmy-fucked? What does that even mean? What went wrong? Why am I here? I used to be happy all the time. I used to lay under the tree in my parents front yard and be happy. I used to just decide to be happy and I was happy…wasn’t I?
Daniel felt lost.