“This happened fast!”
“I bet you didn’t have time to think, did you? There was an opportunity and you had to make your choices quickly? You’re really ready, aren’t you?!”
“I guess – ”
Dr. Weiss was proud of me. His eyes gleamed. He grinned. It was a huge win for him. And me, of course. He couldn’t say he was proud, but he wanted to and stopped himself for professional reasons. And I wished I could have given him permission to be proud, but I guess boundaries were important.
Dr. Weiss was short and wiry, with a long, curly brown afro indented by a massive bald spot. He dressed in casual outfits, with hippie and disco accoutrements, always in earth tones. And he wore brown leather boots – not Western – but the more discofied kind with zippers on the sides, giving him a mod, hipster look, which is pretty much what he was.
He was divorced. No kids. I had quizzed him about it a few times:
“Why don’t we talk about you for a change?”
“What would you like to know?”
I considered myself a pretty good deal for Dr. Weiss. I’d been seeing him for over two years now and I suspected I was one of his more successful patients. Week after week, I watched a parade of depressed, middle-aged women going in and out of his office. Few teens. Fewer single men. Occasionally, a beleaguered, beaten-down couple arguing as they came and went. Beleaguered and beaten down was the typical look of just about everyone who came to the office. Few, I thought, were as pleasant and upbeat as I was.
“What am I, anyway? A client?”
“You’re a patient. I’m a doctor. So, you’re a patient.”
“I don’t feel like a patient. I mean I don’t feel broken. I don’t feel sick. Am I sick – ?”
“I wouldn’t put it that way.”
“But I’m still a patient?”
“Couldn’t you call me a client?”
“I can call you whatever you’d like.”
“But – I’m really a patient?”
“Well, I don’t know that we need to label you, per se…”
In the two plus years I’d known him Dr. Weiss had moved offices several times. The first – a colorless Clifton high rise apartment – had only lasted the time it took to give me enough Rorschach tests to find out whether I was psychotically imbalanced or just intensely, dysfunctionally bored.
The day I met him, I noticed that he had a set of Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robots on a shelf.
“What are those for?”
“Some patients like to use them.”
“Yes. Would you like to?”
“I don’t think so.”
The next office was on a residential side street off the main drag in Clifton. The waiting room was small, cozy and hip with dark brown shag carpeting and wooden benches with orange and purple cushions instead of chairs. And it was littered with New York magazines. My mom had subscribed to New York, but I’d never read it until I was in Dr. Weiss’ waiting room. Over a period of months, I became engrossed in tawdry New York urban night life adventure stories – particularly 24 Hours on 42nd Street – a lurid account of a writer cruising pre-Disney 42nd Street for drugs, peep shows, pimps, psychics, hookers, religious meetings, food, and usable bathrooms. Waiting in Dr. Weiss’ office became almost as enjoyable as talking to him. And I was pleased when patients before me ran over, giving me more time to read.
A few months later, Dr. Weiss moved again, finally settling into a small, sterile office at Bethesda Hospital. Still in Clifton, but a longer walk from all the action.
Therapy had had a residual effect: it bonded me and my father. Not in any review of my therapy sessions, but in our trips to and from the doctor’s office. Dad would drop me off on Saturday mornings and head to work. I’d meet up with Dr. Weiss then walk – or hop a bus – a few blocks to Phantasy Emporium (not a sex shop – Phantasy Emporium was Cincinnati’s sole comic book store. I worked there the summer after I was kicked out of camp, and George, the grumpy owner with a mile-long beard would pay me in comics) then walk to Little Vine to Mole’s, the Cupboard (Cinti’s pre-eminent head shop), and finally Jupiter Rising, the arcade next to Bogarts.
Dad would meet me at the arcade, and then we’d head to Zantigo’s (precursor to Taco Bell) for lunch. It was an extremely pleasant routine. In fact, Dad never asked what Dr. Weiss and I discussed, even when I prompted him.
“Do you want to know what we talked about?”
“No. Should I?”
“I mean – if you want to tell me – ”
Sometimes I did tell him. But more often than not I said nothing. Because, ultimately, what did it matter? It was just another uneventful moment of the week.