The latest online adult short story from Todd Levin explores why we’re so fucked up and other bullshit through the eyes of a drunk therapist looking for love.
John McManus was a therapist trying to date. He really tried. The problem with being a dating, divorced therapist is that everyone thinks; a) you’re going to psychoanalyse what they’re saying out loud compared to what they’re not saying or b) you’re going to try and psychoanalyse them in the way that they fuck. Alternatively they may think that you’d make a really good friend for when they inevitably get serious with someone who’s an arsehole and they really need to complain about them.
I have friends, good friends. Admittedly they’re mostly therapists but screw it, I can live with that. We’re all so tired of what we do that we gave up analysing each other a long time ago.
All I really want to do is meet someone normal. I’ve done what I’ve done for long enough, to have gone through the motions, to have convinced myself that no-one is normal and that normal is the real fantasy, the real fetish. But I’ve gone round enough circles to realise that that’s a lie. Normal is actually kind of boring.
My ex-wife, Leanne, she wasn’t normal and she wasn’t boring. I met her before I was a therapist and she drove me to being one. It wasn’t just that she was a damaged soul that wanted out until she met me, but it was the fact that when we laid together the first time we’d made love she told me that I should be one. I remember thinking that either she really was nuts or that was one hell of a fuck. Regardless we married a year later and I tied the knot to therapy four years after that. In a way it was like I was marrying destiny because one remained for better or for worse long after she divorced me. I’m not saying she didn’t have her reasons but she got pretty tired of me pretty quickly around the ten-year mark, like someone had dropped a pin in it when someone told her that we’d just passed the seven-year itch. By then we’d long stopped talking about things, and as for sex I was on year three of that particular itch.
I was in one of my patches where I was weary of what I did and I was waiting for; one patient that would blow therpapists away and make us realise that what we do is relevant again. I had this patient Amie. Beautiful girl, quirky visions, abandonment issues, false eye contacts, a little obsessed with Japanese cutesy shit and an infrequent self-harmer who had to keep her Kawai-themed Zippo lighter on my coffee table so she could ‘keep her eye on it’, who was afraid of everything except ironically her own shadow. I called her Kumiko. One session she was telling me about her sex life with her boyfriend and how different it was from that of her ex-girlfriend.
‘No shit’, I thought, ‘If the difference in genitalia didn’t come as some shock to you, then the lack of sensitivity in all aspects of life will.’
Instead I asked her why she thought that was and carried on wondering to myself. When had the world changed to a point where we were so open to our own sexualities, new places on our bodies to pierce and mutilate, organs and expectations that none of us really understand, no matter how hard we do fucking try. And yet the greatest of liberal freedoms we’ve had since time began fucks us up so much that we need to go and talk to someone like me about it behind the thickest of wooden closet doors. But Kumiko didn’t know who someone like me is. That is until my wife burst into the room and told me that my dinner was as burnt as the shirts that she had been ironing when she realised she couldn’t take it anymore. She went to see how many pills were left in the bathroom cabinet and failing that how many razor blades I had and that she was leaving for the store and I shouldn’t expect her back. Kumiko’s response was that it kind of felt how that looked. My response was to nod and ask her if she could really smell burning. I’d found the comfy part of the seat that I’d been moulding for years and I didn’t want to reveal the raging hard-on that she was giving me. There’s a reason your shrink wears those trousers with a little room at the top, we don’t just like the feel of corduroy.
I wear the same trousers for my dates on the off-chance that one of them might be pretty enough to interest me. But please be normal. Underneath all the slather that you’re wearing, underneath the red on your lips and the black on your eyes, the opposite to what my daughter wears thankfully, let there be a little dull soul to intrigue me for a while so I can fuck you. Tonight I’m waiting for Julia, a school teacher who grew up in the same neck of the woods as me and moved here for the same reasons as me.
“I can’t believe I’ve found another from the old home town!”, she starts.
“Thankfully you didn’t need to go anywhere near the old home town in order to do that!”
“I know, thank God, right?”
Spirit and understanding, perhaps even sympathy. Maybe there’s a dot of a chance that I will like her enough to suggest a nightcap or try to figure her out like my mind wants to. It kills the limited romance that already comes with online dating. We met through this new one where if you like the look of them, you push your finger right across their face to acknowledge that you think they’re fuckable and if they do the same you can actually talk to them. It’s just like dating was the first time around. You look at her drunken bar-happy face and ‘looking my best’ hair, or even the one of her drinking from a novelty three-foot tall pint glass that shows you how fun she is. She looks at you in your suit looking too obviously aloof, you offer each other a smile or a wink and you talk to each other. It just lacks every-fucking-thing else.
“So you’re a therapist.”, she almost asks.
“So you’re a school teacher.” I almost deflect.
“Yes! I do what you do in many ways, just to children.”
“Careful now. You don’t need that kind of reputation.”
She laughs heartily. The pervy shrink ‘joke’ usually tells the women from the girls, so-to-speak and her laughter is only a good thing. The trouble is she won’t let the shrink thing go, no matter how hard I try or how little I give a fuck about talking about myself.
“So…de-Freud me!” she almost asks.
“What?” I ask smiling.
“Surely, you’ve heard that one before?” “Actually no.” “Well there’s two types of people in the world; there’s the people who think that therapists are there to hear people say things they could say to someone else for way too much money and then there’s those that think therapy is a wonderful thing and that Freud is your hero.”
“Freud is a hero to no-one.”, I scoffed.
I’m not talking about fucking Freud. That’s what I remember thinking. I asked the barman to top our drinks up for the third time. We’d been sat there for hours, talking and laughing and living up to the expectations that we’d given ourselves from childhood and despite that this was a school night, literally in her case, I was enjoying myself too much to neither end this very well or fuck it up very badly.
“So which side do you sit on Julia?”
“I’m somewhere in the middle.”
“Really? That means you should probably get some therapy.”
“Oh really? Do you have a couch?”
“This might come as surprise…but yes, I fucking do. Don’t tell my patients though, they might actually want to use it.”
She laughed, and carried on laughing out of the door of the bar as we near tripped over bollards and walked into phone boxes and entered my apartment. Drunk and happy, it’s the ideal way to be going into a therapy session, though my patients never listen to me.
We needed to thread through a main hallway that I had built a few years ago so my wife could enter without having to walk past clients. She shouldn’t have cared if the clients thought she was one of the crazy ones, because she was.
Leanne stumbled into the therapy room and instantly started taking in all the books and intricate little toys I spread around my office. I could judge my patient’s intelligence on which ones they immediately went to play with. She doesn’t approach any particular one.
“So this is where the magic happens.”
“Some therapy from time to time too.”
She laughed and collapsed onto the couch and looked alluring on it. She was in red and white heels with makeup a little smeared but still looked like a little bit of perfection on a couch like that.
“You’re funny for a therapist.”
“And how would you know?”
“My ex husband was a therapist.”
I sat down in my seat and took off my jacket.
“Ah, it’s going to be one of those sessions, is it?”
“Who even said it was going to be a session?”
“You, by lying down on that couch.” It was the first time in a long time I’d sat in my seat and moulded right in without being concerned about hiding the hard-on. It actually felt natural.
“You’re so far away.” she said looking right at me.
“I am. I’ll do something about that shortly but I have to ask,”, I said putting on my mock-serious shrink face. “Are you telling me that I’m so far away or your ex husband…or maybe your father?”
She laughs a little more lightly and turns her eyes to the ceiling.
“I never knew my father. I guess that’s why I married a fucking therapist.”
I went quiet for a while as if really in session. Worryingly the hard-on remained.
“Why would you ask me that anyway? Are you trying to therapise me, Freud?”
“There’s so much apparently Freudian going on here, it would blow your mind.”
She sat up in her seat and looked at me.
“You’re a fucking arsehole. Stop analysing me.”
I sat forward in my seat, putting a cushion over my crotch.
“You’re the one who came to my place and planted herself on my fucking therapy couch. I’m the arsehole?”
“It’s called foreplay you moron. You should be climbing all over me by now, ravaging me, eating me out, making me scream with passion like I scream with laughter instead. Oh God, you’re just like Quentin. I should have run a fucking mile as soon as you told me you were a shrink.”
“You’re just like my fucking wife.”
She sat up from the couch and I lean forward in the chair staring down at the floor, like dolls in another wearisome play we’ve done since childhood, suddenly lifeless. I hear her shiver against the leather below her. I haven’t had the heating on in the therapy lounge for a couple of days, I had lost most of my clients a month ago and haven’t been advertising in the paper or the local campuses to replace them. I stand and head to the corner of the room and get hold of a blanket, a flask of whiskey and a bottle of water from the decanter in the fridge. I shuffle over to her slowly and sit next to her on the couch, moving her ‘looking my best’ hair out of her eyes. It looks just like it did on the dating thing on my phone.
“Here.”, I say quietly, handing her the blanket.
“Thanks.” she says with a sigh and a smile. I offer her the whiskey flask and she shakes her head. I offer her the bottle of water and she throws it on her face and gasps for air before drying with a corner of the blanket.
“Why’d he have to be a fucking therapist?”, she almost asked.
“Because she gave him no choice and now he can’t escape.”
She sat quiet for a few minutes and began nodding. “Yeah.”
She stopped shivering and took a swig from my whiskey flask. I laughed a little. She turned to me and looked me up and down then right in my eyes. Her makeup was running everywhere. She looked at me, not through therapists eyes but through those of someone else who just wanted to find someone normal.