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I finally cried tonight.
I have had a dream of eyebrows.
In my excitement over my first friend, and after revisiting my description of finding her, I realize that I did not adequately explain the circumstances that lead to our meeting that Friday on a public bus. I must confess, I did not make this discovery myself. My mother, of all people, is to thank.
I found my friend this Labor Day weekend.
All last week I was plagued with a recurring nightmare.
The first evening of the nightmare, I had been listening to Joni Mitchell’s Blue album. I am quite fond of this album; my mother detests it as my penchant for eras I never experienced. As I listened, my ear caught a particular line.
When I think of your kisses, my mind see-saws.
That lyric rang out so clearly to my ears that evening in a way it had never done before. I think it was all the more particular to my mind because I had, up until that moment in the lounge, believed the line to be –
When I think of your kisses, my mind sees stars.
After hearing this line for the first time, for what it is, I also had the first occurrence of my nightmare.
I am unaccustomed to fitful sleep. I have always, as a rule, enjoyed the average eight hours of sleep each evening. I have, over the years, developed something of a bedtime ritual. I begin by taking a hot shower, making sure to both shampoo and condition my hair. I take extra care to lather my underarms as I am disgusted by my armpit's ability to accumulate deodorant clumps; these small white masses have a manner of metastasizing and becoming hopelessly bonded to my underarm hair. I typically pee in the shower as well; in truth, I feel as if I have skipped a step on those evenings when I do not need to. I also brush my teeth in the shower, but more for convenience than a sense of habit. Unlike with urinating, I would still feel a sense of completion if I were to brush my teeth out of sequence.
This ritual is important to me because I enjoy the feel of clean sheets as I fall asleep. The highlight of travel with my mother is hotel sheets. They are always pristine, crisp, and industrially clean. Taking a shower just before bed helps me to keep my sheets as fresh as possible.
The therapist my mother sends me to asked why I don't simply change my sheets daily. I told my therapist that I have been banned from approaching the laundry machine after an incident with a number of mother's table linens and gelatin. I told my therapist that I have also been banned from making undue work requests from our housemaid because, as mother describes her, she is an unfortunately constructed woman on the brink of the lower class. I told my therapist that, in light of my mother's edicts, I thought it wise to limit myself to changing my bed linens only once a week until such time as we have a more sightly housemaid.
In the meantime, I explained, I recognize my evening bathing ritual.
On the night of Blue anew, I was able to complete my bathing ritual, but was distracted by a lingering sense of shock.
The therapist my mother sends me to asked me what was so shocking about the shift from seeing stars to see-saws. I told him that it likely made quite a difference to an astronomer or a child.
Each night I would wake from my nightmare entirely dampened. I would refer to it as having a cold sweat except that there was nothing cold about it. I would wake each night in such a humid state that I would need to get out of bed and stand with my limbs akimbo and swinging to cool myself. My hair along the scalp would be wet, giving my hair an athlete's volume as he breaks a sweat. The back of my pajamas would feel thin as the fabric clung to my skin. Worst of all, there would be a damp imprint on my linens and pillow as if a great anthropomorphic sponge had been laid and pressed onto my bed.
The therapist my mother sends me to asked me to describe what happens in the nightmare. I told him that I wasn't upset about the nightmare. I was upset about the state of my bed after the nightmare. I asked him if he knew of any methods to make the effects of nightmares less destructive on one's laundry and linens; after all, I am uncertain of what brought on this recurrent nightmare, but I would like to be prepared if it is to recur again. He told me that it would be necessary to analyze the contents of the nightmare if I was ever to understand why it caused me such troubled sleep. To sleep, he said. To sleep, perchance to dream. Aye there's the rub.
I reminded my therapist that Hamlet was speaking of death, not nightmares. In any case, I failed to see how discussing the electrical impulses of my brain would prevent them from causing such violent sweating.
We spent the rest of the session identifying Rorschach blotches.
I have always loved Joni Mitchell's Blue. I have loved it from the first time I came across the record at a small flea market near a farmer's market where my mother was searching for a particular type of honey that is meant to bring renewed luster to the skin. But, more to the point, I have always understood what I meant in saying that I loved Joni Mitchell's Blue.
I have loved Joni Mitchell's Blue the same way I have loved funeral processions, loved the smell of tension in a room after the meeting of a deadline, loved Magritte's Empire of Light, loved cornbread. For each of these things, I have enjoyed their strengths and weaknesses, neither celebrating those things that made them superior nor castigating those things that made them inferior. What is the good of emphasizing that perfect way that cornbread absorbs butter, only to turn about and criticize the way it disintegrates at the slightest nudge? These are both characteristics of cornbread and, so, reasons to love cornbread.
I have always comfortably loved things because of their entirety. Perhaps this is why there are so few people whom I love, the proclivities of people being so less suited for balance. Their motives and abilities are so much more difficult to understand, to even ascertain.
But this shift from
When I think of your kisses, my mind sees stars
When I think of your kisses, my mind see-saws
changes everything about loving.
See-saws are unstable. It is their nature. If the mind see-saws, it becomes this teetering thing, capable of anything. Kisses may lead to laughter, to embitterment. It would all depend on the weight of the players on either end. And what of days when a player has had a large lunch?
The therapist my mother sends me to told me that my interest in this lyrical shift is merely a diversion. I asked him what he felt I was trying to divert attention from. My therapist told me that that was precisely the question he wanted me to answer.
In my nightmare, I have finally found my friend. We are on the dirt track of a dog racing course. My friend takes the place of the rabbit on a track at dog races, but I am cemented to the starting line. As my friend races away, I am forced to watch as he slowly grows smaller with distance. Then, when he is out of sight, I must wait for him to come up again behind me. I cannot seem to even turn my head to anticipate his approach. I am forced to stare straight ahead, as if awaiting the starter’s gun, and wait for my friend to pass through my field of vision again.
While last week I lacked imagination, this week I possess it in abundance.
This, at least, is the position of the therapist my mother sends me to. The two of them held some sort of forum together, a parent-analyst conference. The topic of discussion: Harold’s Progress. Despite a number of protestations from my therapist, my mother assured him that her complaints regarding my progress would remain strictly beyond the confines of my therapeutic sessions; and, afterall, she was paying for these little chats.
According to my mother, my therapist feels that I am a liar and that my inability to tell him the details of my life accurately is the only blockage between my current state and psychological wellness.
According to my therapist, my mother is concerned with my interpretations of everyday events and that she would like our therapeutic sessions to focus on these issues for the next month or so.
I await the pending judgment as to whether or not my previous description of their meeting qualifies as a lie or as a misinterpretation.
In either case, the therapist my mother sends me to focused our entire session this afternoon on the nature of truthfulness. He explained to me that, in general, truthfulness is regarded as presenting an accurate representation of events or beliefs to another. He added that there are, of course, matters of perspective such as explaining one’s side in an argument. However, beyond these exceptions, truthful representations of events is generally an easily agreed upon matter. I asked how, then, truthfulness is to be determined in the case of arguments. The therapist my mother sends me to said that I shouldn't focus on these exceptional cases. But, I told him, disagreements are a fairly common exception.
I am fairly certain that the therapist my mother sends me to ended our exception with a request to continue this line of questioning with my mother; it was hard to be sure as he muttered to himself and made a note in my file.
Getting back to the point, my therapist began again, truthfulness is an easy state to achieve. As a simple demonstration, he asked me to describe his desk.
I have spent many hours examining the desk of the therapist my mother sends me to. There is no couch or comfortable armchair. There is a moderately uncomfortable mahogany colored chair for the patient that sits just out of arm's reach of the desk's edge. This distance has always made examining the details of smaller or obliquely-angled objects more difficult. I began my description.
The desk is sturdy and broad, made of a real, dark wood, I told him. All of its legs have been raised by several inches by lifts, giving the desk a more authoritative presence in the room. The high back, burgundy leather chair is also elevated to its maximum height, a fact that is evidenced by its slow but audible exhale when my therapist sits down. Together, the effect is to make my therapist seem more ominous and established presence at his desk than when meeting him standing up.
The therapist my mother sends me to interrupted me, instructing me to actually describe the desk. For instance, he suggested, what was on his desktop.
Beginning again, I described the landscape of the desk's surface. A computer monitor sat at a forty-five degree angle on the left corner of the surface. The screensaver was always running its photo slideshow whenever I had been in his office, but I had noticed that all of the images were of famous works of art. Also, I added, these images were all clearly labeled Christie's and, therefore, downloaded from the internet. At the opposite corner of the desk is my therapist's coffee mug. I have never seen him drink from it, but it is a fixture of the desk landscape. It is a glass mug with the emblem of the American Psychological Association etched into it.
The therapist my mother sends me to let his pen drop onto the desktop and began to rub his temples. Despite my best efforts to describe his desk, my therapist informed me that he has a simple mahogany desk set with a computer monitor, papers, and coffee sitting on it. I asked if it shouldn't be 'setting' on it, but he did not answer. He told me that my muddled description of his desk was untruthful because it was made up almost entirely on my own conjecture and contained very little fact.
I told him I think we have different understandings of what it means to be truthful. He asked if I thought it was possible to have different meanings of truthful. I told him I obviously did believe it was possible because I believe it is the case between us. The therapist my mother sends me to only sighed and motioned for me to continue.
I told him that I believe that truthfulness can be in seeing the meaning in things without regard for their labels. By way of example, I asked my therapist if he had ever read the poem Ballad of Orange and Grape by Muriel Rukeyser. He said he had not. This, I told him was likely the reason why we have different understandings of what it means to be truthful.
My therapist said that truthfulness is not decided by poetry, but by accuracy. My description of his desk was untruthful because it was laden with all of my interpretations and assumptions about him, giving an outside listener a wrong understanding of his desk. His own description, on the other hand, was accurate and factual, detailing the objects on and around his desk so that any man on the street might recognize this office from a photo array. His description was truthful because it was specific and unbiased; my description was untruthful because it was vague and subjective.
I mentioned that my description in no way implied some sort of conscious effort, that I was in no way suggesting that he had consciously tried to make his office communicate these sorts of messages. The therapist my mother sends me to told me that all this had been enough for the day and said he would see me next week.
I still do not understand what was wrong with my description. Why is it untruthful when the desk of a therapist, a healer, is designed to bolster only the man who sits behind it and not the one who sits before it? Why is it truthful to describe the objects in the office, which are not particularly dissimilar from any other office in the world, without giving notice to those aspects of the office which make them uniquely owned?
The therapist my mother sends me to has implied that there is something wrong with the way I see the world. This is precisely why my mother sent me to him in the first place. It would appear I've made little to no progress over these many months. At least my therapist already has a topic to discuss at the next progress meeting.
I still believe a friend would help, a friend who believes in the difference between orange and grape.
Ballad of Orange and Grape