After hurling myself onto her couch I immediately begin to arrange my dress, compulsively checking to see if the roll of fat oozing from the edge of my Spanx undergarment is detectable. She notices things that, to others, would be imperceptible. I pick the stray cat hairs that cling to the fabric and find myself worrying if I smell like a person who hordes animals. I've worked with the stereotypical "cat lady" and do know that they almost always smell faintly of urine, even the ones who are diligent about hygiene. I also know that I detect things in others that I overlook in myself. I straighten the pleats of my skirt for the second time after shifting on her couch uneasily. There is an eerie feeling of moisture as my calves rub against the leather. I think of those moments when I take the last seat on a packed bus and feel the seepage of a cold wetness underneath me - "dear God I'm sitting in piss!" Despite my certainty of these horrors in the moment, I have come to understand that self-deception is a peculiarly human affliction.
The analyst is sitting behind me, but not completely - she positions herself within my peripheral view but out of sight just enough so that I cannot tell if I am boring her. If there is anything about her that drives me further into madness it is this. I cannot tell you how many times I have strained my neck muscles twisting my head to catch her in a stifled yawn or picking at her fingernails. Three years and I am still looking for a sign that I represent nothing more to her than an insurance reimbursement. Seated, she reminds me of a vulture perched atop a dying animal. I envy her. She clears her throat and I know then that she is ready to begin the session. The burden to begin always falls on me. The silence between us is crushing.
I reflect on my thoughts for a moment, my mind drifts back to the image of a cat, which leads to a momentary feeling of glee as I recall my recent splurge of one of those robotic "Litter Maid" boxes. It's something like a litter box all-in-one with attached fax machine and scanner. It combs the sand, vaporizing waste with lasers. I wonder why it would have all of these features but not come with a bidet. It resembles something out of a David Cronenberg film. Wait. Am I the cat lady? God -- I haven't said a word and I am already humiliated. My mind reluctantly drifts back into the room with the analyst; I passive-aggressively choose to further waste my time and hers in an awkward silence. My mind is now preoccupied with odd, decontextualized images of food. I will never allow myself to begin free association with the phrase "mashed potatoes".
Her apparent ease with the silence frightens me. The realization of the absurdity of most of my thoughts results in a barely discernible giggle. My laughter always indicates that I am terrified. "What is this?" she asks, referring to the incongruence. She senses my dread and probably relishes it. I quickly attempt to conceal my anxiety with a stab at humor. I tell her that I have been reading Freud -- this proclamation is itself a mark of my grandiosity. Why, though, would she care whether I read Freud, collect obscure German cinema, or pleasure myself while wearing a rubber clown mask? I proceed, recalling a short passage that stuck with me: "A clever young philosopher with exquisite aesthetic sensibilities will hasten to put the creases of his trousers straight before lying down for his first hour; he is revealing himself as a former coprophilic of the highest refinement".
"What?" she asks again, now with more urgency tinged with disdain. I repeat it, now certain that I either mangled the quote or mispronounced something. While I realize that Freud wrote this with utmost solemnity, I personally have found it absolutely hilarious until this very moment. I even used it as a Facebook status. (As an aside, I would like to note that the status received one "like", but considering that I only have eighty-eight "friends", only five of whom I've interacted with in the last decade, one "like" on Facebook is gold. The validation supplied me with my narcissistic fix for an hour or so then promptly returned to its usual deficit.) Again, my giddiness is met with silence. Damn, damn. She isn't finding the Freud quote amusing in the least! I nervously wonder if she is just exhibiting neutrality and laughing internally. My muscles almost snap as my head rapidly does an Exorcist-like turn 120 degrees to the left, trying desperately to catch her in a smirk. Nothing. "This was Freud at his finest, for Christsakes!" For a brief moment I delude myself with the idea that her seeming indifference is actually an unintended consequence of a botched Botox procedure.
Restless and agitated, I reach down to my dress, feeling compelled to rearrange my pleat - "oh, what the hell is this?!?" "What?" she repeats, as her lips curve just slightly in bemusement. My voice grows brittle. "You think I have some kind of shit fetish," I say, now despondent. I feel her eyes burning a hole through the side of my skull, she says nothing. Paranoia sets in. Moments pass. "Did I say this?" she finally asks. I give a half-hearted shrug, saying nothing. "You do have a fetish. It is for the 'shit' inside your own mind. You seem to insist on projecting these ideas onto me." I spend the remaining minutes of the session in silence - it is only because my mind has been momentarily stilled.
"The Analyst" by Nicole Ivins first appeared in The Journal of Microliterature, February 2013.