What was your childhood like, she said.
I looked at her incredulously. Do psychiatrists really ask that?
My father was a drunkard and my Mom left us before I was old enough to remember her. Gloria tells me this is a probable foundation for my insecurities. I wonder how much of my time in therapy is spent wondering whether these acute observations are worth $250 an hour. I wonder how many of these mind-boggling observations she can even make in an hour. I wonder if it’s value for money.
So you don’t remember your Mother, she said scribbling in a leather bound a4 pad.
That’s two in the first minute at least.
I was recommended to Gloria by Rachel, the HR manager at work. Rachel suffered from cyclothymic bipolar disorder. Rachel was crazy. Lovely, but crazy. She recommended Gloria after I confided in her about my love for Emily, before I had even met her.
It’s an irrational desire for something you can’t have, she had said.
I disagreed that I wanted Emily simply because I wasn’t allowed. I wasn’t the rebellious type; I had never been to a protest or broken a rule, just because it was a rule.
You’ll never go anywhere because you never fight for what you believe in, my father once told me.
True enough; I never fought against the tides. But I got to where I was because I flowed with the strongest currents.
It’s just a nice picture, Rachel said.
It was more than that. It was a sign.
I carried on seeing Gloria, I told her as things progressed. I told her about the first time I met Emily. I told her when we first kissed, when we first made love. Gloria told me I suffered from OCD, that I had sociopathic tendencies and mild depression. I told her I’d never felt happier.
Rachel Seabrook was the head of the HR department. I hired her so I didn’t have to deal with people. Rachel suffered from cyclothymic bipolar disorder. People with cyclothymia are described as having mild mood swings. I can assure you this definition is only relevant when comparing them to people with fully fledged bipolar. Rachel Seabrook could flip. Make a joke at Rachel’s expense and you would have thought you’d have kicked a Lion in the balls. The rest of the day would be a nightmare for anyone that came within a ten foot radius of her. The biggest problem was it was infectious. Her bad mood was like a parasite. Embarrassing your teenage daughter in front of her first date wouldn’t cause such a hormonally nuclear reaction.
It’s just a nice picture, she said.
Her parasite wriggled its evil little body into my Zen-filled, air-con-chilled, high-rise haven that day. Even the beautiful women on the wall wouldn’t quell the atmosphere, not that day.
Just a picture.
What’s your relationship like with your Father now, Gloria asked.
Really, I asked. Really?
My father was an alcoholic, a workaholic, a nymphomaniac. He would spend the days working, and in the evenings he’d spend the money on alcohol and hookers. For my 18thbirthday he paid his usual, ‘Candy’ an extra hour to spend with me, once he’d done with her of course. It was the most he’d ever spent on me for my birthday. I should have been more grateful I guess.
Gloria peered at me over half-moon glasses, pouting old cherry lips.
Now? I barely see him, I said.
She scribbled in the pad.
Gloria Solomon PhD. Read the bronze plaque on her desk. Gloria was an older woman, probably twice my age. Her hair grew through gray at the roots, thinning ever-so-slightly where it had been pulled back too tightly into a bun. Her mouth formed a pout that only ever changed for her to probe or point out the blatantly obvious.
So you’re relationship hasn’t strengthened, she scribbled.
My Father was retired now and he spent the extra time this granted him with fishing and drinking. If I wanted to, I could have found him any time from dawn to dusk sitting out on Heffley Lake, can of lager in his hand, fishing rod dangled in the water giving the impression that he had the intention of actually catching something.
Truth was I hadn’t seen my Dad for a couple of years. Last time I saw him he’d thrown a bottle at me mid-argument. Of course he had downed what was left in the bottle first.
I can’t even remember what the argument was about. He was a grouchy bastard, it could have been anything. It was probably to do with Emily, or why I wasn’t the CEO of the company yet. Because he’d done so much with his life.
My Dad was the owner of his own trucking company, admittedly he was successful and had set himself up for retirement, the company was still active and he lived off a percentage of the takings, but he was by no means a millionaire.
He never wanted me to take over his company. That privilege was left for my step-brother.
We never talked about that.
I had been seeing Gloria for three years.
Forty big ones later and we still hadn’t reached the bottom of my “issues”. According to Gloria we still had a lot of ground to cover, but we were making great progress. There was one problem I always passed up on, and it wasn’t my brother. I didn’t care too much about that. I knew that my problems with him were superficial. He was a prick and made me feel insignificant ten years ago, but now I was successful and had burnt my way through half a list of life ambitions. He wasn’t my problem.
I know you don’t want to, she said, but I think it’s time we talked about your wife.