“The doctor will see you now,” the receptionist said.
I put down the magazine, levered myself from the sofa and moseyed through the heavy door into the doctor’s office. I plopped down in my usual chair and looked around. The room was empty. Where was the Doc? My stomach churned. I didn’t like change.
Seconds later, a young, very curvy woman in a dark business suit and heels entered the room. She had very light skin and black hair fixed in a bun. My immediate impression, not unfavorable, was Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, conservatively dressed and without the big 80’s hair and makeup.
She stood across from me. “Hello, Mr. Pulver,” she said, her voice a bit hoarse, “I’m Dr. Cummings.” She extended her hand. I rose to shake it and sat again. “Dr. Grant feels that at this point in his relationship with you, he can’t help you any further, so I’ll be taking over for him, unless you object.”
Old Dr. Grant had been my therapist for the last ten years. In all that time we had managed to do almost nothing. That was the way I liked it. Immediately an objection lodged itself in my mind, but stuck in my throat.
She lifted a business card from a stack on the table and extended it to me. I put it in my shirt pocket. She sat down opposite me and crossed her shapely legs at the ankles. She put on a pair of half-frame reading glasses and got busy flipping through a file on a clipboard. When she started the recorder on the table between us I saw that her hands were accented by a nifty French manicure. Maybe change was good. I swallowed my objection.
“So you’re 32 years old,” she said, ticking off a list. “You don’t have a job. You live in your grandmother’s basement—”
I was busy checking her out but the word ‘basement’ caught my attention. “Actually it’s my basement now,” I said.
She glanced up at me over her glasses, a question in her beautiful brown eyes.
I shrugged my shoulders. “Well, she’s dead.”
She grimaced. “Sorry for your loss. I didn’t know.”
I wondered what Dr. Grant had told her. Probably not much. I waved my hand. “No problem, it was months ago and not unexpected.”
She put the clipboard and the glasses on the table. “So, how’s it going with the diabetes?”
So she knew about that. I absolutely hated my diabetes. I tried to ignore it. I wished it would go away.
“It’s only been a month since I was diagnosed and it’s a pain in the ass.”
“Going to the support group?” she asked.
I shook my head no.
“No, why not?”
“It’s not required,” I said.
“So you only do what’s required?”
“More or less. You’re aware of my situation, my Uncle Carl’s will?”
“A bit, tell me about it,” she said.
“Well, my uncle was a mad scientist. Alzheimers put him in an institution about twenty years ago.
“That’s too bad, but really,” she said, “a mad scientist?”
“Maybe not crazy, but definitely a sociopath,” I said. “I don’t hate him exactly, but I never saw him. He was a poor substitute for my parents. Before he lost it he made a bundle of money with patents, something to do with genetics, I think. He said he couldn’t associate with inferiors. He shut himself off from the world, from everyone, even me and Grandma.”
“Doesn’t he provide for you and your grandmother even now?” she asked.
“Yes, money, okay,” I said. “He took me in when I was a kid and my folks were killed. He supports me now. I’m grateful for that but he and Grandma were two of a kind. Both cold, emotionless.”
“So what’s required?” she asked.
“In order to stay on the gravy train after I reached eighteen I’ve had to visit him at least three days a week, take care of Grandma, although not so much anymore, and I have to go to therapy until I’m thirty-five or until he dies, when I’ll inherit everything. Oh, and I have to keep out of trouble.”
“And are you happy, Mr. Pulver,” she asked, “doing only what’s required?”
I wasn’t happy. Who’s happy anyway? I stared at her legs. I felt like I was being captured somehow but I didn’t care.
“Are you attracted to me, Mr. Pulver?” she asked.
I felt a blush rise up my neck. How did she know what I was feeling? “Please call me Frank,” I stammered like a love-struck teenager.
“Well, Frank, acting on an attraction would be inappropriate given our expected relationship but it’s not inappropriate to be attracted. At least you’re interested in relationships. That’s a big deal. It says something about your worldview and self worth.”
I looked up into her eyes. “I’ve talked with a lot of therapists over the years, Dr. Cummings. They all told me they were being honest with me. How can I be sure of you?”
She uncrossed her legs, leaned forward and flipped off the recorder. “Would you like me to say something honest to you?”
I sat back and crossed my arms over my chest. “Very much, say something honest to me.”
“You know if you lost weight that diabetes would probably disappear, oh, and you stink of pot.”
Wow, that took the polish off the romance. The honeymoon was over.
“Although I notice that you don’t appear to be stoned,” she said. “Thanks for that.” She paused again for few beats and looked at her watch. “Shall we give therapy a try Frank?”
After the session I got in my car and looked in the rearview mirror. I saw something odd, a smiling face. I said to myself, “You’re in love Frank.” I agreed to see her again in a few days and was actually looking forward to it. I took her card out. First name Karen. I liked it.
I cracked a window and lit up a nice joint. This was my reward and antidote for therapy. I broke out my blood sugar meter and took a sample. I was a newbie, still not used to the importance of checking, constantly checking, a complete pain in the butt. My sugar was low so I fished around and found a smashed honey bun that I knew was rolling around in the car. I finished it and the joint and went to see Uncle Carl.
“How is he today, Doris?” I asked the receptionist at the desk as I signed the visitor’s register.
“Not so good, Frank,” Doris said, not looking up from her monitor.
I tapped the pen on the book. “So the log says Tony James was here yesterday,” I said, “for almost an hour.”
Doris just looked at me and shrugged her shoulders. Tony had been a protégé of Uncle Carl’s more than thirty years ago. He visited more than I did. It was hard for me to believe someone would volunteer for this. We crossed paths once in a while but I tried to avoid him because he always wanted to tell me what a genius my uncle had been.
“Your uncle’s really not here this week,” Doris said.
I continued down the hall. “This week!” I snorted. “He hasn’t been here for decades. Elvis has left the building!”