M. and I recently started seeing a therapist that specializes in parental guidance. Which is fabulous since we can’t afford date night anymore and the sessions are covered by our health care. So I put on a nice buttoned down shirt. M rocks make up and jewelry. My mother in law comes over to watch the little hell raiser and off we go to that land of head-shrinkery. But life is never quite what it seems. And neither is our forty five minute session in that calm little room in Givatayim. I can’t help but look around at the walls. At our therapist. At my wife. And I am disappointed. Not necessarily by my wife but rather by the unfortunate events that have unfolded in our lives that have brought us here.
Our therapist wears crocs. With socks. White socks. Every session. I don’t know why this bothers me but it does. Growing up I always imagined therapists wearing suits and speaking in a German accent. Or running their hands through their beard while they ask me about my mother. Or my father. I mean we all know they’re to blame. For everything. Nor has he made any attempts to hypnotize me. Or has he?
Our therapist kills spiders. It’s no secret that I’m afraid of spiders. They creep me out. Especially the big hairy ones or the ones with long thin legs. But they serve a purpose in society. They catch flies and mosquitoes. And so one day M. is telling him all about how difficult it’s been for us to fight the bureaucracy of the board of education and get our son the proper treatment and I see a small spider crawling on the couch. I feel a certain camaraderie with my arachnid friend. We’re both trapped in this awful room until the universe sees fit to release us. And so I shoo it on to the floor and my therapist grabs his aforementioned croc and shoes him to his untimely death. M. stops crying for a minute and tells our therapist that it’s bad luck to kill spiders. He replies: Yeah, it was bad luck for the spider. And smiles. “Go on.” As if nothing happened. But that carcass remains there on the floor between us as a stark reminder of the destiny that escapes no man. Or spider.
Our therapist lives with his mom. It’s a well known fact that only stoners and serial killers live at home. We brought D. along on one of the sessions and he had to go to the bathroom. Seven times. And each time I would walk through his living room and pass his aged (and extremely kind) mother and her care taker. I was like Dorothy finally seeing behind the curtain. Could this professional ever indoctrinate us in the secrets of successful parenting when he himself still lived at home? I contemplated this as D. urinated all over his bathroom floor.
Our therapist graduated Tel Aviv University. I see the two framed diplomas on his wall right next to the cracks and the extension cord. I hate Tel Aviv University. Hate it. They rejected my application when I wanted to get my Master’s in Film. And I am no stranger to rejection. I’ve spent a decade getting rejected from film festivals, book publishers, jobs. You name it and I’ve been rejected by it. But there’s something so pathetic about getting rejected by a sad little place like Tel Aviv University. It’s like that time in high school I felt sorry for this skinny little girl with braces who wasn’t very popular. So I asked her out. It’s not that I was some big shot. I was pretty lonely too. And fat. But that’s beside the point. And she shot me down. She wasn’t interested. And it hurt worse than if the most popular girl had rejected me. So when I see those diplomas in that five shekel frame I feel like taking off his crocs and smashing them on the floor and then letting them sit there throughout the session.
Our therapist has approximately fifty books on his shelf. Only one of them is fiction. Chaucer. Canterbury Tales. Which is a classic. But if I could only have one fiction on my bookshelf it would not be Chaucer. And a ceramic cow from a Dutch airport tourist shop. And a Kokeshi doll from Japan. And a box of tissues. Which, I’ve found, needs to be restocked after every one of our sessions.
Our therapist doesn’t believe in mood lighting. Or mood music. Which kinda sucks since this is our date night. I wish he’d make more of an effort to make us feel more romantic.
Our therapist never offers us anything to drink. Even though he spends the entire session nursing a transparent coffee mug full of sparkling water. And we’re doing all the talking. And all the crying. And not once has he offered us anything to drink. Maybe a glass of chilled Moscato. Or a Stella Artois. That would be nice. And we’d sit and get drunk and I wouldn’t care as much about the dead spider or the smashed diploma. Or the fact that my son doesn’t seem to be developing as rapidly as his peers. Or that I don’t have the tools and the patience to help him.
Our therapist’s email address has his name followed by a condiment. You’d expect your therapist to have a less comical and more professional email address. Like Freudlover109 at gmail dot com. Or cigarsmoker24 at walla dot co dot il. Or whatever. And when I asked him one day why that particular condiment he responded that he absolutely loves that condiment. Loves it. To which I replied, you know sometimes a (condiment) is just a (condiment). And he didn’t smile.
Our therapist never takes any notes. I always assumed that this was a thing. Therapists with clipboards taking notes. After all how is he expected to remember, say, that M. hates taking D. to the playground and I use candy and chocolate to bribe him into doing everything? Maybe he has a photographic memory. But I doubt it. Otherwise he wouldn’t have forgotten to tell us that he’d be out of the country and miss our session.
M. says that she feels much better after each session. It has a real cathartic effect on her. I fought it at first. Now I’ve come around. It’s helped us a great deal, despite my stubbornness and cynicism. But my therapist is a keen observer. And every once in a while he catches my eye wandering. To the books. Or the diplomas. Or the spider.
And he asks me where I’ve gone off to.
And what I’ve been thinking about.
And I say, “nothing, really”.