The office of Dr. Roberta Rosenbaum was full of books, possibly numbering in the hundreds. There were books about depression, anxiety, self-esteem issues, anorexia, alcoholism, and drug addiction: it wasn’t too hard to realize that a therapist occupied this space. Stacks of legal pads were in the areas one was not likely to walk, and folders full of notes on people Dr. Rosenbaum saw were piled onto the chair of a desk, also cluttered with magazines, unread mail, and more legal pads and folders.
A coffee maker sat on a three-legged table next to the large leather throne-like chair that Dr. Rosenbaum sat in. What good was it discussing your problems, the things that pained you, and your innermost secrets if you couldn’t have a cup of coffee to drink, too? Across from the chair in which Dr. Rosenbaum sat was a fairly long couch, though more of the variety that one would imagine as sitting behind a coffee table, and not as much as one would see in films when a scene would take place in the office of a psychologist. Dozens of different people sat, sometimes cross-legged, on the couch: It was Jean-Michel Pinot who occupied the couch at the moment. He had been sitting rather quietly for a few minutes, thinking about strawberry preserves on scones with clotted cream, and how it was possible that his close friend had never told him that he wrote poetry until this point, when it dawned on him that he had been asked a question. Now would probably be a good time to ask for it again.
"I’m sorry, Dr. Rosenbaum," Jean-Michel quietly said, "what was it that you said?"
"I was just asking if you wanted any coffee."
"Oh, well, yes, of course… thank you. You know, tradition being what it is and all." His voice trailed off a little at the end. Jean-Michel had been seeing Dr. Rosenbaum for close to three years now: had there been any progress? Was he, in fact, in a better state of mental health? Had his self-worth improved at all? Was he, on the whole, happier as an individual, and not so reliant on others to boost his ego? Were these questions even appropriate, given that he had merely been asked if he wanted coffee? He had always wanted coffee, shouldn’t she have known by now? Perhaps not. How much coffee had he drunk since he started treatment? Dr. Rosenbaum would probably object to it being called "treatment." She would have a more casual term.
Roberta rose from her chair and started to measure out the coffee grounds. One little scoop for every cup – half caffeinated, half-decaf. "Tell me about your week" she said, as she poured some water into the coffee maker and switched it on. This was, essentially, the routine they went through just about every week, except for those weeks in which they carried over a topic from the previous week.
Seems Like Old Times
Jean-Michel related that it had not really been all that interesting a week, with him merely researching a couple of articles, working on writing a couple of others, writing the occasional story or two, and seeing friends. He mentioned having seen his friend Klaus, and how he had gotten the opportunity to see the poetry that nobody else had seen. Hearing of this, Dr. Rosenbaum picked up her pen and legal pad. "How did this make you feel, that your friend was sharing something with you that he had never shared with anyone else?" She often did this, taking a phrase that he had uttered and paraphrasing it, asking him how he felt about it.
"Happy." Jean-Michel replied. Then, after some consideration, and clearing his throat, "When I asked him if he would show me some of the poems, I was expecting an immediate rejection." The therapist asked for more detail, more description. What were his emotions at the time, what were they now as he sat and described the situation, and how was the coffee? Jean-Michel told his therapist about how overwhelmed he had been reading the beautiful poetry, that he really felt it should be submitted somewhere for publication, and that, though a bit strong, the coffee was wonderful, thank you. Perhaps a second cup was in order? Nothing wrong with a little more coffee now and then – though sometimes it was good to finish off ones first cup before starting on another one.
But I Want to be Happy
Dr. Rosenbaum then intoned that she wanted to change subjects to something they had been discussing for the past few weeks. Jean-Michel groaned at this idea, but consented to do so. It was a topic he was rather uncomfortable talking about, but Dr. Rosenbaum insisted that this was exactly why it was important that it be talked about. Intimate relationships with people of the opposite sex. What was going on, was he seeing anyone, was he going out to find people, how did he try to attract women, and other such questions.
Jean-Michel insisted that he was not a hermit, that he really was trying to meet people. He was succeeding in meeting people, but they most often fell below his expectations of how a person should be, the kind of behavior they should exhibit, how smart they were… in short, Jean-Michel blamed himself for having standards that were too high. Dr. Rosenbaum stopped him at that point and said that it was important for a person to have high standards, relative to the person of course, for if they did not, they would most likely end up with someone that would disappoint them in many a way.
"I don’t want to turn into my parents." Jean-Michel added, finally.
"What’s wrong with your parents? They brought you into the world, didn’t they?"
"Well sure, but look at them now. Neither of them is really happy, I think. They’ve been separated or divorced for however long it’s been and that’s just not the kind of contract I’d want to enter into with another person – giving up after the going gets rough so to speak."
Fifty Minutes a Blink of an Eye
Just then, Dr. Rosenbaum looked at her watch and said that their time was over. Had it already been fifty minutes? Would next week at the same time be all right with him? Of course it would be. Jean-Michel wished her well, and left the office. As he left, Dr. Rosenbaum told an exceedingly thin teenage girl with bluish blonde hair that she would be with her momentarily.