Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Therapy Like Soliloquoy

Brillant morning light

He honestly didn't think anyone knew. For as long as he could remember, he'd had the feeling he was living in a kind of one-way bubble that allowed him to see out and prohibited others from seeing in. He could take on any role, changing his demeanor with the evolved skill of a chameleon, and no one would be the wiser. Privately, he laughed at the naivete, the gullibility, of people who were easily taken in. They have no idea, he thought, what's happening right before their eyes.

Women posed a particular challenge. Too attractive and they'd be more interested in themselves; unattractive, they were of no use. Besides, his mother taught him well. She was beautiful, he told me, like no other. Long, wavy hair he described poetically as the color of a desert morning (photo), that brushed against his face when she kissed his cheek. The scent of her cologne -- Chanel -- sank into the fabric of his shirt and he smelled it for hours afterward.

Her pride and joy, she called him, he could do no wrong. But neither could he do anything quite right. His best efforts to please always seemed slightly shy of the mark and "You could do better" was her highest praise. No, beautiful is too much trouble, it requires too much effort, it's too much like her. Pretty is good; pretty enough to get attention, but just a little insecure at the same time. Responsive to flattery and his was always sincere.

It took some doing, investing his time and energy in someone, but like Donald Trump in The Art of the Deal, when he found a winner, he stuck with them. The payoffs could be huge. He remembered the day a so-called friend asked him about love. "Oh, sure, I love so and so," he said, reassuringly, "isn't it obvious?" And of course, he lied like he always did. "Doesn't everyone?" he asked. Love wasn't something he really understood and he knew it, but it didn't matter because getting what he wanted was the best thing of all.

I hesitate to call our time together "therapy," because that implies a two-way conversation. This was more akin to soliloquy. I almost felt guilty taking his money, since it's the audience who should pay for a seat, but if I didn't, there was no way I could have justified our arrangement. I mentioned this to him once and he brushed it aside magnanimously, telling me I underestimated my abilities. He smiled and winked, "Everybody plays some game," he said.

Sometimes, he'd look away and talk to himself, like an actor who draws the audience in with a stage whisper, sharing a secret just between them. Then he'd turn back to me and continue as though nothing had happened. If I hadn't known better, I'd have called it a psychotic lapse -- it certainly felt like reality had suddenly whistled for a cab and headed downtown without me -- but it was mostly evidence that, for him, I didn't exist as a separate person. I was just one more prop he felt he needed to prop up his world and, for a while longer, keep on going.

(Creative Commons image by CFBSr via Flickr)
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