SHRINKING • by Lorette C. Luzajic

The sky was pissing sheets of slate and my umbrella was ludicrous armour that did nothing at all to keep me from getting drenched.  By the time I got there, any artful maquillage I’d attempted was a joke. Fuck.

It would have been nice to have a different chance to leave a first impression, something less skewed and rattled looking, but we’re at the mercy of the temperaments, and as my shoes squished foamy street water onto the ivory shag carpeting, all I could think was Gawd, who buys this kind of impractical crap?

Dr. Cohen sat there, high and dry, a sleek silvery pen tipped against his lower lip. I felt downright Dickensian, sloshing in like some sort of urchin from the overflowing gutters. My eyes surveyed the place quickly, adjusting to the beige-ness of this world.

“You must be cold,” Dr. Cohen said, and gestured toward a folded towel on a side table. “You could dry your hair a bit if you like.” I felt surprised to see that his expression was warm and kind. My heart skipped a little bit, wondering could this be ‘the one?’ The real reason people don’t go to therapy is because it’s traumatic and lonely to find the right fit, or even any fit, right or not. It’s tougher than finding a significant other, or a trustworthy business partner. Or a friend. Most of the relationships are not exactly long term. Most are one hour stands.

Every now and again I get that determination to “get help.”  In the past three months I’ve had one shrink who used the words “emotional constipation,” one who told me my issue is that I’m 35 and have not yet submitted to the “male headship” of marriage, one who leaned so close I could smell celery and red wine on his breath, plus the Listerine strip to kill off the evidence. His eyes were lecherous and greedy.

Up, down, turn around, please don’t let me hit the ground…

“Do you like your job, Dr. Cohen?” I ask. “Is it everything you wanted it to be, or did it turn along the way into something you hadn’t wished for?” This is the “precocious” thing they’re always jotting in notebooks. If a woman is curious about whose hands, whose heart, her mind and trust will be in, they jot something down. He doesn’t, though.

“I actually love it,” he says. “But I have to admit that if I knew then what I know now, I would have just stayed with research. I’m not sure any amount of faith I have in my experience and expertise can justify the fact that I’m supposed to be giving advice to people, and I’m not so sure anyone is qualified to be a guide. I was more arrogant after graduating, certain I could rescue, certain life’s problems were meant to be solved. Now I… I believe they are meant to be experienced.”

I’ve never heard this “naked shrink” approach before.

“Maybe hopeful,” I suggest. “Maybe you were hopeful, not arrogant. But now you’ve seen it all.”

We wade through all the tiresome preliminaries, mantras I’ve repeated so often that I’ve wished I could just tape the intro meetings. Medical history. Briefing on significant relationships and work history, aspirations, stress indicators. Sexual relationships, issues, frequencies, concerns, diseases. Marital stats, significant losses. Meds, drugs, alcohol and any family correlations.

I ask him if he thinks he’ll ever get off of Xanax and white wine. I’m waiting for either shock, disdain for my inappropriateness, or denial. But he tosses the notebook and expensive shiny pen onto the ivory shag and leans in. “Never, and you?”

“Sometimes I question why I even bother coming,” I tell him honestly. “When those things work perfectly fine.”

Lorette C. Luzajic has been called “the worst writer in the world.” But other critics have said, “Luzajic, like Wonder Woman, is her own institution.” She is the editor of Goodbye, Billie Jean: the Meaning of Michael Jackson, and three other books.

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