Point of view

“And then what happened?” he asked. He had an exasperating habit of eating during these sessions. The sandwiches he ate were always the same. Peanut butter and strawberry jelly: hardly a diet of a mature person.
“Well, I went up to her and introduced myself. I got the feeling she liked what she saw and I was hoping things would go forward.” Sam was amazed at his own honesty. This was a straight answer that he could not even admit to himself before this. Maybe there was something to this therapy thing. Therapists eased the atmosphere so much that talking about things became easier. They could then ask seemingly ordinary questions and cause these internal repressed feelings to diffuse to the surface.
Sam continued, “There was something about her that made me notice her from the outset. It wasn’t her long flowing black cocktail dress, nor was it her sensual walk. It wasn’t her amazingly picturesque face either. She had a face fit for a sculpture. But what made me take notice was her poise, her measured steps, every movement of hers was in complete control. It was feminine but not in the scatterbrain way, which attracts most guys. It was a confident feminine charm that I could not stop looking at. I just had to talk to her.”
“Yes. Well, you said all that. What happened next?”
Sam groaned. Of all the psychologists who are famous for making people express their feelings ad nauseam, he was the only one to get a guy who was a real page-turner. He wanted to get to the destination, and not appreciate the drive there. “She looked at me. It was a calculating look, and I immediately got the feeling that I should never have got up. She then looked at the magazine she was reading, took another casual sip of her martini and looked at me again. You won’t believe this but she stared at me for a whole minute. I felt stripped naked of all my guile. I was placed in front of her, plain and simple; and she knew why I was there. She smiled. I had no idea what that meant either. There was an irony in her look, condescension with some amusement. I was so out of my league with her.”
“Look, as your therapist, let me tell you one thing. I need you to be as colloquial and narrative in your account. Do not try to be the shrink here. Stop with the medical jargon. Put it out there. It is the only way I can get a measure of what happened.”
Sam had an impulse to get up and leave. He almost did so. But something in his knees refused to straighten, and he sat there. There was no indication of time passing. There was one clock, and it was over and behind his head. It was just for the psychologist to note the billable hours, he thought with some cynicism. Ok, let’s try what he says. Let me tone it down a bit, he thought.
“She smiled and said her name was Ashley. Nothing more, just Ashley. Sometimes girls don’t give out their last name, I guess I understand. She then motioned to the empty stool next to her. I sat there and ordered a Bud-lite. I asked her if I could buy her a drink. She nodded and asked the bartender for another Long Island iced tea.”
“That is a stiff drink. I bet you thought you could get her drunk and…” he left the sentence open for the sake of propriety.
“Ordinarily, that would have been my strategy. In this case, I knew that there was no way this woman would relinquish control of the situation. I did not even bother to think carnally. To tell you the truth, I was more intrigued than anything else. I wanted to study her, to know the source of that fortitude.” Sam smiled. Again, he acknowledged his clear agenda to the psychologist, who was now brushing bread crumbs off his suit. It was an Armani. Why he would want bread crumbs to spill on it was anybody’s guess. Sam guessed he had so many; this was not a big deal. Private practice brought a kind of affluence with it that Sam knew only too well. Again, this psychiatrist was getting out some very insightful responses from Sam while doing something really mundane with his own person. It was a gift, or a great education.
Sam continued, “I could see her eyes now, cold grey eyes. Normally, I would never be attracted to someone with unemotional eyes like hers, but the package was so appealing, that the cold eyes seemed like an asset here more than anything else. We started making small talk. She told me something about a divorce and a settlement, but all I could concentrate on was her smooth skin. It was flawless, pearlescent…divine. She then said something about Project Innocence.”
“Wait a second,” the therapist said, with his penchant for interrupting the smooth flow of thought, “Project Innocence, you mean that organization which clears inmates on death row using DNA testing? What the hell was her involvement with it?”
“What kind of therapist are you? Shouldn’t you be gently pushing me to express my feelings, instead of conducting some interview?” Sam was beyond irritation.
“I am sorry; it seemed oddly out of place in the situation I was imagining as you were narrating to me. Tell me, did you ask her to elaborate on the Project Innocence?”
“No. I found out just now what it meant. I was not really listening as intently as you think I might have. I admit that the physicality of her beauty precluded me from focusing on the content of her speech. She had finished her second drink by then. I ordered a refill for her. I was still sipping my beer, embarrassingly slow in my alcohol consumption. She asked me what I did for a living. I told her I was the chief oncologist at Mass General. She did not bat an eyelid. I was shocked. That was supposed to be my ace-in-the-hole. This line works with most women. She was remarkably unfazed. So much so that I thought she had not heard me. I was about to repeat it when she said, ‘Were you always interested in cancer or was it the case of losing a close relative at a young age which motivated you?’ “
The therapist looked at the clock and said, “Our time is almost up. Tell you what, I will extend this for another hour, so that it won’t interrupt your train of thought, and we can cancel your Thursday meeting. Is that okay?”
“Yeah sure”, said Sam. He suspected that Dr. Marks was slightly titillated by this account and wanted to hear it in its entirety. Anyway, it would be better to talk now than to repeat this some other time. “I told her that my interest in cancer was motivated by my years of volunteering for the cancer facility near my high school. ‘So, while guys your age were dreaming about hot girls, you actually devoted some of your adolescent time to cancer patients? That is commendable’, she said. I felt strangely vindicated. I mean, I have saved people in terminal cancer cases, with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, but her words somehow summed it up. All those weekends when I could have passed out having beer and dope, I was languishing with my radio-ligands and old patients missing arms and legs. I became a doctor at age 23 and an oncologist at age 25. It was a record, but I always felt like I sacrificed too much…”
“Hey, you are digressing…” Dr. Marks said, “Get back to the scene, and tell me more of what you did.”
Sam was distracted by the constant interruptions and manipulation of the conversation. Well, it was pretty clear who was flying this plane, so he imagined the situation in his mind’s eye, and continued narrating, “She walked over to the jukebox, and selected ‘Strangers in the Night’ by Frank Sinatra. She did not bother asking me to dance; she was moving with the song on her own. I knew she was getting tipsy and I went to her myself…I mean come on…what better chance would I get? I clasped her left hand with my right and slid my left hand around her smooth hips. She was even more beautiful to hold than behold. Her perfume wafted over to me. It was tantalizing. She never spoke a word; we just danced, slowly. Occasionally, she smiled, more to herself than me. I am pretty sure I did not mean anymore to her than just some company. Anyway, I mustered up all my courage and asked her if she would accompany me to my hotel room. It turned out she stayed in the same hotel. She collected her purse from the bar and we went up to my room.”
Dr. Marks’ interest was piqued. “You say you just met this woman; and she was willing to accompany you to your hotel room? From your account of what happened so far, I would never have guessed that you made such a favorable impression! Tell me, what did you think will happen?”
“Come on doctor, we both know exactly what I had in mind. She obviously had the same in mind. It was a connection that neither one could understand, certainly I was more in the dark than she. As we entered the room, she fixed us a nightcap, and we kissed. It was amazing. For a woman whom I just met and then brought up to my room, it did not feel tawdry at all. Things took their normal course and I remember drifting off to sleep.”
“Now wait a second. Don’t you think you have glossed over an important part of this story?”
“Hey doc, I am willing to discuss my feelings as much as you want, but you are not getting any lurid details from me. Anyway, when I woke up, I had a bad hangover. I fumbled around the bed in the dark, but I could not feel her. Either she had gone to the bathroom, or to her own room. I was up anyway, so I went to the bathroom. I opened the door…and that’s when I saw her.”
Dr. Marks was confused, “I thought she had left?”
“I thought so too, but there she was, lying on the floor, motionless. I tried to shake her awake. I even did CPR and chest compressions. She seemed to have a very faint pulse.”
“Sam! Don’t tell me you could not revive her!”
“No doctor, the thing is I could not get her help without attracting attention. Come on, you know how that would look. I am a respected oncologist; I have a wife and two kids. There was no way I could let myself be caught this way. I had to leave.”
“Wait a second; did you just leave the hotel? I mean, is she lying in that bathroom even now?”
Sam’s cheeks flushed. He knew there was no danger in telling the therapist the truth. “I had no choice Dr. Marks. I had to leave. I switched off all lights and packed quietly. I checked out in ten minutes. She did not wake up all that time. I had no choice.”
“Sam, as your psychologist, I am telling you. Anything you tell me is strictly confidential. I will never reveal the details of any discussion we have. You know that. So tell me, is she still there. Do you think she is dead?”
“First of all, Dr. Marks, you are not permitted to reveal if I told you that I killed someone. But if I tell you that a girl was dying and that I ran away from the scene, that is an ongoing crime and you are free to report it. Anyway, I don’t know what happened to her. My professional opinion is that she is dead, and will soon be discovered by the authorities. This happened two nights ago. This thing will get out for sure.”
Dr. Marks considered this for a second. He then said, after some thinking, “I would never reveal, no matter what. If you say she is dead, I believe you. Did she give you her last name, or just Ashley?”
“No last name, all she said was Ashley.” Sam now wondered why a woman willing to sleep with him would not give her last name. It was too convoluted to make sense. Anyway, he was out of it, at least temporarily. The bar was dark and it was likely no one saw them go up together. Also, he could always argue that she probably came into the room after he checked out. So, he was safe.
Dr. Marks stood up. “As intrigued as I am with this event; we really need to conclude our discussion. I have another patient scheduled in five minutes. Don’t worry; your secret is safe with me.”
Sam walked to the door, and said, “I did not do it, you know that right…I mean if she is dead, which I think she is, I did not do it.”
“Yes Sam, I do know it. Goodbye.”
The door closed.
Ten minutes later, Ms. Peters walked in, her blond hair gleaming. “I am so sorry I’m late. Things have been crazy with me for a week or so.”
“That’s ok, Ms. Peters, tell me, how are things with you?” Dr. Marks could not help staring at her.
“Things have been wild. This weekend was upside down. Anyway, please call me Ashley.”
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