My husband stole my psychotherapist from me. It’s true. She was mine first except I stopped seeing her when my depression cured. But six months later, when the blues came back with a vengeance, I called to make my usual appointment and was told due to privacy laws; she could not see both spouses separately. It was some sort of conflict of interest, she stated professionally.
“Both spouses?” I inquired, taken aback.
“Yes, unless you need to work on your marriage,” she added.
I was silent then because I didn’t need to work on my marriage. Just my personality. Besides who wants to be in a marriage when it’s work? The only unresolved issue we have in our relationship is that I’m a pacifist and he keeps a gun in the house. That must be it. He obviously wants a second opinion on the weapon thing so he chose her.
“But why is Raymond coming to see you?” I asked Dr. Darlington after I recovered from my surprise, in what I hoped sounded like an offhand, casual tone.
“Oh you know very well I can’t divulge that information, Nancy. Privacy laws,” she said even more professionally. I wondered if she’d keep that goody-two-shoes ethic in mind when they started discussing me. And my housekeeping skills and my cooking skills and my math skills, and my bedroom skills…and…
“But I can refer you to a reputable colleague of mine if your despair is back,” she continued. I hated how she tiptoed around the word ‘depression.’
“Oh, you knew very well it was just a matter of time until I was sick again. I guess you don’t believe in curing a patient. That’d be bad for business,” I said and hung up the phone. I thought I heard Raymond clearing his throat in the background before the loud, angry dial tone droned in my ear.
The gun. Raymond says I’ve thought up two fairly intelligent reasons why he shouldn’t keep a gun in the house and if I just come up with a third, he will acquiesce to my desires and sell it. Ray likes things to come in threes. He wants us to have three children. He points out “buy two, get the third for free” sales and he’s fond of saying, “Three is a charm.” I’m Jewish and he’s not, so I figure the three obsession must have something to do with the father, son and the Holy Ghost.
I’m very close to a valid third reason, I can just feel it. My first argument hinges upon newspaper articles I’ve methodically clipped, reporting all the unarmed prowlers who have broken into homes, wrestled away the owners’ guns (that were bought for protection) only to use them against the residents themselves.
The second is an obvious and important rationale. We have one precocious and inquisitive child. Katie. She’s seven. Enough said, right? But Raymond says it isn’t enough at all. Not nearly. He believes that first of all, girls aren’t fascinated by guns like boys are. Secondly, he maintains Katie isn’t tall enough to reach the empty Nike shoe box on the top shelf of his closet. And third, he keeps the ammo separate in a locked file cabinet and he’s the only one who knows where the key is. See, he even likes to refute me in threes. And I must admit I am perplexed with this particular logical rebuttal. I wonder if that’s the kind of stuff he’ll now be telling Dr. Darlington, “Yep, that’s my wife. Easily stumped.”
As I go about my daily errands, it occurs to me to ask Raymond why I don’t know where this key to the locked file cabinet is? Shouldn’t I be privy to that sort of thing? But I get distracted when the dry cleaner is rude to me, accusing me of not emptying suit pockets and ranting about small metal objects that could damage his machinery. I apologize profusely, assuring him it will never happen again and then my cell phone rings. It’s the psychic confirming our appointment later on. Before we hang up she tells me to drive safely and I wonder what that could mean? I’ve never gone to a clairvoyant before, but two friends have sworn by this woman. They say she’s legitimate and even helps police find missing children. I imagine her staring intently at the back of a little face on a milk carton, eyelashes fluttering. Or maybe you don’t blink during a trance, I don’t know. But I speculate as to what she will soon tell me. I’m not a firm believer in stuff like this. In fact, before I fall asleep at night, I read that day’s horoscope to see how wrong it was. But there’s something quite alluring about people who offer predictions about your life.
I meet my longtime friend Rita in a Chinese restaurant for lunch. She opens and reads my fortune in her nasally voice, “You will find the key to happiness today.” I snatch it from her hand to confirm she read it correctly. But it’s accurate to the word. I wonder if this is also something they’ll talk about—my husband and Dr. Darlington. My intense need to verify things. Certainly she’ll label that as a trust issue. And he might describe that one occasion when I pressed him for details about his first lover. Was she blonde? Was she thin? Busty? Was she…?
My thoughts are interrupted because Rita is excited about my visit with the psychic and chatters continuously over the won-tons, priming me on certain questions I should ask. “Remember,” she says, “these people are experts on body language and facial expressions. Don’t give anything away and don’t offer extraneous information.”
“Oh I won’t,” I reassure her. “And I certainly won’t mention that while I’m talking to her, I have a husband who will be sneaking around with my old shrink.
Rita’s eyebrows rise, her mauve lipstick crinkles, and I know she’s bitten. “Raymond is seeing Dr Darlington? Professionally?”
“Yes, but I’m sure it’s only to get a second opinion on something.”
“An entire sixty minute session just to get a second opinion?”
“It’s sort of a loaded issue,” I say, giggling at my own private gun pun. Next I smirk about rhyming ‘gun’ with ‘pun’ but Rita obviously surmises I’ve lost my marbles.
“A lot of talking can take place in an hour,” she taunts, crackling her own cellophane cookie wrapper. “Or at least you better hope it’s only talking.”
Shut up, I think, or do I say that aloud? I’m not worried about them doing anything physical, even though certain types of women seem to find Raymond enormously appealing. But Dr. Darlington wasn’t impulsive and certainly wouldn’t violate whatever ethical oaths they made her take. No, it’s the talking. The confiding, the intimate little things that couples are only supposed to tell one another that disturbs me. Like will he disclose how I’m scared to stay alone overnight so he can’t take business trips? That I incessantly worry I’ll get toxic shock from tampons. Or will he reveal to her where he’s hidden the key to the filing cabinet for those bullets? That kind of stuff is far worse than sleeping with someone else, if you ask me. The true definition of betrayal. In fact, from what Dr. Darlington already knows about me from my own sessions, and now that she’s met Raymond, she may wonder why he’s settling for this? A man like Ray can do far better, she’ll think. Are therapists allowed to offer advice like that? Isn’t there some law about slander?
“Did you hear what I just said, Nancy? My Nick wouldn’t be caught dead in a therapist’s office.” Rita’s muffled voice reiterates. Is it my mind, my hearing or is she talking with a full mouth again? “Caught dead,” she repeats for emphasis as I pay the check and leave.
The psychic looks nothing like the gypsy I envisioned, and so far she’s told me nothing accurate. She even pronounces me pregnant which is a joke since you need to have sex to accomplish that. I finally can’t stand it anymore and ask about my husband and myself. Our future together. What can she tell me? She makes a few vague proclamations about trust and love and then closes with a cryptic statement, “You will find the key lies in being well-suited.”
As I write her a check, I think about putting “Fraud” in the memo space. She advises me to name the new baby Rosemary as I stomp off.
When I leave, I know exactly where I’m headed—Dr. Darlington’s office. I feel jittery, edgy and all keyed up. Raymond’s appointment should be long finished by now but I want to verify that his car is not still in her parking lot. And if it is? I reach over the back seat to pull up the freshly cleaned suits that have fallen to the floor in their slippery plastic casings. Raymond hates it when his wardrobe gets wrinkled. “And if it is?” I repeat the question again aloud but let it linger there unanswered, a persistent itch that needs scratching.
And it is! Ray’s BMW is parked behind some bushes, like someone trying to conceal their weapon. I creep up to the back entry of Dr. Darlington’s office. It’s been a long time since I’ve been here and she’s had it painted purple. I press my ear to the door and hear quiet female murmurings, almost sounding like two different women. But that, now that is definitely Ray’s distinctive cough—he’s been sick lately. Is he in there with two women? Is this group therapy? Or a threesome? I think of Raymond’s fondness for that particular number. A soft giggle and then a female advises authoritatively, “that’s not really a good place to hide an important key.” The voice instantly lowers to a whispered hush. To keep everything private. And personal. And intimate. To keep everything from me.
My chest tightens a bit, but it all makes perfect sense now. I scurry to my car thinking of fortune cookies, psychics, and dry-cleaners. “The key lies in being well-suited,” I repeat over and over, frantically ripping through the plastic wrapping that covers Raymond’s gray tweed suit. Inside his left breast pocket, I firmly grasp the small metal object that will open the locked cabinet for the ammo and will surely release many other things as well.
Yes, the time has come for Raymond to bite the bullet, I chuckle uncontrollably with this final pun. Because I have just come up with the third, final and absolutely irrefutable reason that a husband shouldn’t keep a gun inside his own home. A jealous wife.