The following is an excerpt from VHS, a literary novel by Pablo D’Stair being released in various e-formats, absolutely free-of-charge (and in limited edition print-editions-by-part through giveaways). Information on the project, including links to what is currently available, can be found at www.vhsbook.wordpress.com
“before, therapist, after”
I dressed casually, had hours before my appointment with my therapist so looked around to see if anyone was home. My little brother was, so I put my finger in his cereal bowl and he told me it didn’t bother him.
“Why aren’t you up to something?”
“I will be, I just wanted some cereal.”
I repeated Cereal like he’d said it funny, but he knew he hadn’t, so that was a draw.
Then I called my friend Vladimir and we agreed he would drive me to get coffee if I bought him coffee, too. Vladimir also agreed to drive me to my therapist session, asked me a lot of questions about it, asked me, most specifically, if I thought it was helping and I got really earnest that it certainly seemed to be, felt a little like I was trying to sell him on seeing a therapist, too, but he’d never do that because he was against talk as a cure for anything—if I broached the subject he’d rattle off a list of wars and find things to blame them on then would sum up by saying how everyone should “just shut up”.
The coffee he ordered was darker than mine, but neither of us knew why since it had come from the same pot.
As usual, my therapist told me about what she’d watched on television some random time to get me at ease, then asked me how things were with my girlfriend Lexi.
Pointless answer, but it was kind of necessary. We’d been discussing how I’d stepped out on Lexi after we’d had a fight about something insensitive I’d said—only it had taken two sessions for me to honestly see how it had been insensitive as opposed to just “something I shouldn’t have said”—how I’d, for some reason I could recall less and less, brought up how her nipples were brown and not pink and that it was odd because it kind of went against how I’d, just unconsciously, been brought up to think about breasts. This had escalated from there into me telling her not to be angry when she got angry and by an hour after it got catastrophic.
It had taken some convincing to get my therapist to understand that I honestly did like my girlfriend’s breasts and particularly her nipples and specifically that they were brown, but still it all got tied in to general thoughts of infidelity and that maybe I wouldn’t be satisfied, would continue to be hurtful and self-destructive in matters of the heart until I’d gotten the “pink nipple thing wholly out of my system,” something I said I couldn’t really do without defeating the point of therapy. Rightfully, my therapist had pointed out that “getting it out of my system” did not necessitate infidelity or, indeed, any kind of sexual activity at all, she had just meant that we talk about it and then about the underlying causes of it.
But, this session it all got off on the wrong foot because I’d said, and it was true, that I thought women could more easily get laid, in a random way, by an attractive member of the opposite sex than could men.
“You know that’s a very chauvinist thing to say, don’t you?”
I knew it was, maybe, but tried to explain what I’d meant in a non-chauvinist sounding way until it got all too complicated.
“What isn’t chauvinist?”
“Most things are, actually.”
“So what am I supposed to do about it, spend all day long thinking what may or may not be chauvinist?”
“Does that seem like a burden to you?”
“What’s the female equivalent of chauvinist?”
Wished I hadn’t asked, because she was very erudite in her explanation and it made me feel like a dolt, a feeling I kept to myself. I was uncomfortable because she was intelligent, but at the same time I wanted an intelligent person to disagree with me about pretty much everything I thought. Principally. I knew, smart as I might think myself, that pretty much every time I read or heard something said by an obviously really really intelligent person it was either in opposition to what I thought or else just way out in left field, as far as I could ever come up with, so I kind of needed to be put down on.
Again, I kept this to myself.
“Have you and your girlfriend been having sex?”
“No. We’re not to that point, yet, it wouldn’t be comfortable.”
“It would be comfortable for you, right?”
Her office was fairly makeshift, made me wonder about the other offices and things in movies set in therapist offices—realism in cinema tended to mean dull looking, drab, real equated to “not a lot of effort put into it.”
“You would be comfortable, having sex with her again?”
“Does she know that?”
“I think so.”
“Have you told her that?”
“Have you told her the opposite of that?”
“Yes. I tell her that I’m not ready either, that I think we need to get that unconscious feeling with each other again, comfortable and all.”
“Why do you tell her that?”
“You’re not tape recording me are you?”
She leaned back, seemed honest when she said she wasn’t, but really I didn’t care.
“Well, I tell her that because I think I’m ugly and not a good lover, I kind of feel comfortable, kind of feel more comfortable not having to have sex because I think I can’t please her, really, that I’m ham fisted and overall kind of middling and I don’t think she makes sounds like sounds in pornos and stuff not because people don’t do that, in reality, but because I’m not very good at pleasuring her—I think it’s gotten to the point that even in her thoughts she isn’t turned on by me, the idea of me even, she doesn’t see me as sexual so it’d just be awful for her to hear that I wanted to have sex with her again, I think she’s really waiting for the point that I tell her I’m fine with not having sex so that she doesn’t have to worry about it, not with me.”
“You think she’d leave you?”
“You want her to?”
But the push of honesty left me, I clammed up, made her promise she hadn’t tape recorded that or anything.
“I didn’t tape record it.”
“Or videotape it.”
“I didn’t videotape it.”
“Or have someone else tape recording it or video recording it or don’t secretly have Lexi in another room listening.”
“What do you think she’d do if she’d overheard that.”
“I don’t know.”
“No, tell me.”
“I don’t know. I guess I think she’d find me pathetic but she’d keep quiet about it because she’s not the sort who would admit to listening in on my therapy sessions and also she wouldn’t want you to get in trouble or something.”
“Why would I get in trouble?”
I tried to turn the tables on her by asking her if she ever had nightmares—the ruse being she’d either tell me “she was the one asking the questions” or else she’d think I’d suddenly brought up “nightmares” for some important reason and we could talk about the nightmares I had I never told her about, but she didn’t do either of those things.
Vladimir showed up wearing a new shirt which I told him I hotly disliked. There wasn’t enough time in the day to deal with Vladimir and all his new shirts, I decided, so I told him maybe he better just keep things like that to himself.
I just rode in silence and we wound up going to see a movie, but then after we’d bought tickets wound up talking to some people in the coffee bar and that went on for a long time. Vladimir did his best to get a refund, but came back saying they’d just given him free passes to see something else—we tried to sell these to people, but they all could see the blood in the water, offered us half price at best which was unacceptable, we would just use the free tickets, another time.