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Knitting Fiction

The Psychoanalyst's Couch

Published on: February 26, 2023

Pete’s heart is thumping like a snared rabbit trying to throw himself free, but instead with each plunge, the trap wire cuts deeper. He has snared himself. I put myself here, he thinks. He is tied in place, on a couch, with taut wires made out of his own free will. He has decided. He is not going anywhere. It is his will that put him on this couch and it is his will that will keep him here for the 50 minutes that constitutes a therapist hour. No matter what happens in this room, I am staying on this couch, he thinks to himself.

     Sitting perfectly still, he turns all of his attention to his left hand. He wills that hand to move. First, he imagines the pathway it will take. Currently his two hands are resting, palms down, on his thighs. Right hand on his right thigh. Left hand on his left thigh. His two feet are placed flat on the floor, his newly polished brown leather shoes 16 inches apart. Any mathematician can see his feet are 16 inches apart, because each foot is placed precisely within one square of the carpet design, with an empty square between them. 

     When he first stepped into this room, his mind immediately and reflexively analyzed geometric spaces. He noted the subtle square shapes in the carpet. His eyes traveled the carpet, across the room to a rectangular block of space against the back wall. He noted the couch was burgundy and the only solid color in the room. He had to  restrain himself by planting his feet hard into the carpet as he stepped into the room. He forced himself to focus on the raven in the print that hung above the couch. The raven roosted in a dark wood. Behind it were swirls of northern light green. More than anything—with every fast and slow twitch muscle of his body—he wanted to stride across the room and push the off-centered couch six inches to the right. But instead he joined the raven in the dark wood. What is the raven clutching with his foot? Some sort of glowing object. I bet it’s a raven’s treasure. Then in the back of his awareness, from a far away cave hidden behind an alder brush of neurons he heard a voice. It was Dr Waldt, “Please come in and have a seat,” he said, motioning them to his burgundy couch. Pete steadfastly kept his eye on the raven’s treasure as he made his way across the room. He was aware that Cindy, his wife, followed along behind him as he walked to the couch while simultaneously avoiding stepping on the subtle lines in the carpet. She has my back. Without having to turn to watch her, he already knew, Cindy stepped where she damn well pleased. She allowed her feet to have their way with the carpet. Rolling the dice, stepping on lines, between lines, and in spaces. Wherever the hell her luck and fate dictated. Oh how I love her. He stopped at the couch, turned first toward Cindy. She gave him what he called her be brave smile. Then he turned the remainder of the way and made eye contact with Dr. Waldt. “Please, have a seat,” Dr Waldt said as he, himself, sat down across from them in a black leather rocking chair. Pete and Cindy sat down simultaneously. His legs too long for the couch, lifted off of the cushions at the knee and eventually met up with his seated backside. 

“It is very good to meet you both.” Dr. Waldt looked first at Pete. Then when he moved his gaze to Cindy he added, “Thank you for joining us today, Cindy.” “Let me begin,” he continued, “by letting you know that I did receive your records from your previous therapists and have reviewed them closely. Your therapist, Melissa and I have also spoken. I want to be clear that I am very impressed by the progress you have made. You have both worked very hard and your work, thus far, has entirely paid off. Would you not agree?” Despite his encouraging words and his lively, interested eyes, gravity had pulled his hollow and empty cheeks downward into perpetual sadness. Already a small man, each passing decade had left him more diminutive than the last. 

      He could easily fit into the trunk of his Porsche. No sooner had this thought dropped into Pete’s head than he rocked forward, made fists with his hands and one fist above the other, he pounded the bottom of his right fist against the top of his left fist. He pounded twice and rocked back and forward once before he stopped himself. STOP! This is just a thought. A thought does not make anything real. You are in zero danger of stuffing Dr. Waldt into the trunk of his car. Not going to happen. The thought is just a sign of nerves. It means nothing. He returned his hands, palms down to their positions on this thighs.

He focuses all of his attention on his left hand. He breaks his symmetry by lifting his left hand off his thigh and placing it down flat on the couch. The palm of his hand has scarcely registered the cool leather of the couch, when the top of his hand feels the weight and damp heat of Cindy’s hand. She curves her fingers over his hand and moves her hand once—forward and back. In an instant he turns his head toward her. He did not first have to will the movement, nor imagine it. His regard of her is instant and unplanned. He sees her face is white, her blinking eye lids are pushing back tears. He feels so very, very sorry. This is all my fault. He opens his mouth to tell her so, but he is interrupted.

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