talk therapy Week 18: Nocturnal Admissions
By Robert Ringtail
Waiting for my appointment.
He’s late … as usual.
At least the waiting room is empty. Nothing worse than a room full of mental cases breathing heavy and staring at each other.
Every one of us calculating the others:
“Lady in red looks like a manic-depressive.”
“Fat guy in the corner, definitely depressed.”
“Emo-looking kid with ‘SLAYER’ carved into his forearm? Generally bugshit.”
And god help us if anyone was to realize they’re the nuttiest mope on the couch.
Been almost two weeks since we last met, me and Dr. Nussbaum. I like that name “Nussbaum.” Sounds like an expensive chocolate bar or a four-star hotel.
“Please enjoy your stay at the Royal Nussbaum,” says the British concierge. “We have six kinds of caviar, bath towels made from baby seal fur, as well as hot and cold running fanciness.”
Last time, Dr. Nussbaum asked me if I was Jewish … again. That makes it like 17 times now.
Perhaps he thinks his faith will rub off on me. Then again, maybe he’s just trying to unload an ugly daughter.
Our last session got kind of weird. I told him I didn’t have my first wet dream until I was 29. Well, it was one week before my 30th birthday.
In the dream, I was riding a giant sea turtle, bareback. The creature wreaked of Winston cigarettes and rosewater perfume.
My therapist looked as stunned as I felt.
In fact, I’d never seen him pour a second glass of scotch during a therapy session before.
His diagnosis was penis envy.
“But, doc,” I said, “I thought only women suffered from that.”
“Me, too,” he said, sipping his hootch.
He said I was subconsciously working through some unresolved teenage sexual frustrations.
“Have you ever fantasized about your mother?” he asked.
I was mortified.
Dr. N said he had, and asked for her number.
He asked me a lot of questions last week about everything from my personal hygiene, hobbies and hopes to my favorite foods.
I told him everything he wanted to know … except for directions to my parents’ house.
Dr. Nussbaum decided I “hold private counsel” with myself “too much,” which, he said, is not to be confused with “too often.”
While occasion of my intimate monologues is seldom (lest insomnia be present), their duration—while unproductive—borders the pathological.
While conscious fruition has never been reached, I do tend to pass out quite frequently.
My inability to handle certain recreational equipment, says Dr. N, stems from my having also been chosen last in sports throughout both childhood and adulthood. All that pent-up potential energy would manifest itself in stalled kinetics—what Freud called “Blau Balle.”
Anyway, Dr. N suggested that, from now on, when I get the urge to vigorously knead my shame, I should practice the coping exercises he taught me until the urges pass. I asked him when I might be ready to try the dating scene but he just exhaled loudly through his nostrils and poured a third glass of scotch.
My coping exercises are as follows or follow. (I’m not really sure which. I’ve never really been that good at grammar. Dr. Nussbaum attributes that to my having a dominant mother and an artistic, though passive, father. By “passive” I believe he meant “wore dresses and lipstick.”)
Step 1. Find a quiet, open space in the basement
Step 2. Take off all clothes (he said flip-flops are OK)
Step 3. Neatly fold clothing so as not to disrupt the basement’s natural harmony.
Step 4. Scuttle back and forth with hands in the air like crab claws while reciting the “Meditative Prayer of Forbearance”
Meditative Prayer of Forbearance:
Oh, Universe, sweet Universe, cold unfeeling Universe … your unworthy guttersnipe calls upon the vast emptiness to remind him that I am but a lowly meat bag with a second mortgage and occasional erectile dysfunction.
Lo, hear the call of this pig-butt worm (which surprisingly is a real thing) and know that I know that you know that I know I am undeserving of even the disgust reserved for people who leave take-out menus under windshield wipers and who take multiple free grocery store samples with no intention of ever buying the product itself. It’s just shameless.
And yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of debt, I shall fear no creditor, for thou art with me for 52 minutes every other Thursday, reminding me to reality check my anxieties and to stop playing those “old negative tapes” to which you keep referring.
I also promise to buy all six of the books in Dr. Nussbaum’s series on self-help entitled, “Kvetch to Kvell in 52 Shabbats: The Goy’s Guide to Good Living” … and leave him five stars on Goodreads.com.
Finally, I admit that I do not visit my mother nearly enough and that she worries and that she nearly killed herself raising me and how hard is it to pick up the phone once in a while?
(NOTE—Before doing any more of Dr. Nussbaum’s exercises, be sure the basement door is locked. Sorry, kids.)