Daughters of the Dirt / Sarah Higdon

Saint Therapy
by Diane Fleming

Therapists have ONE solution to every problem: more therapy. I confess to my latest therapist that my son recently shoved me against the refrigerator door, put his hands around my throat, and screamed, "You fucking bitch, you fucking whore, Iíll kill you." And I said, "I think itís time he goes and lives with his dad." My therapist says, "Do you think thatís a good idea? What I think you both need is MORE THERAPY."

And I say, "Iíve been in therapy, for well, YEARS, and do you really think therapy is WORKING?"

I think we need vacations -- the Caribbean for me, the spa with the lithium baths for my son. Or we need new running shoes in preparation for our mutual escapes. Or we need to build a chain-linked fence between us. But, more therapy?

And, doctors must prove they cure diseases; carpenters must prove they build houses -- before you pay them. But therapists never need to prove that they save marriages or lives, or make this world a safer place.

And how exactly can you tell when this stuff is working? Itís like the first time you smoke pot. You smoke and you wait and you wait and then you just start laughing. Well, I sit before an altar -- before a Ph.D. in the palm of a large black swivel chair -- and I smoke and I wait and I wait and now I am laughing because suddenly Iíve become aware of how truly fucked up I am sitting here looking at him for answers. But I still believe.

I think all I need is a money-back guarantee. Any more suicide attempts in my kitchen and my therapist, he gives me back 50% of the money if the victim lives, 100% if the victim dies. I think that is fairly reasonable.

I gaze at my saint. I tell him about my ex-husband chasing me around a parking lot screaming, "Iím going to blow my brains out, but not before I blow out yours, bitch." The therapist looks at me and instead of doling out three Hail Maryís and five Our Fathers, he asks, "How did that make you feel?" I say, "Not good."

Is his aim to make me happy? If so, all heís got to do is laugh at my jokes, and give me back all my money so I can hire a hit man, and when I ask him what it is that I need, heíll look at me and say, "Fuck, how the hell do I know?"

But I BELIEVE because I look at myself -- former agoraphobic, recovered wife, former person scared to death -- and I know it does work. I just donít know how.

And my therapist asks me, "Well, what HAVE you learned after all these years?" And I answer, "Well, the truth -- it ainít pretty. Thatís all you need to know." And I write him a check for $90 and I admire his new suit.
Diane Fleming
has published a book of poetry, Trip to Normal, and recently won first place in The Austin Chronicle's Short Story Contest (2001) for her story, "Valium."  She is currently a technical writer at Vignette. She is grateful to her writing teachers from SWT and Austin Community College, to her writing group friends, and to her once and future therapists. Originally from the Northeast, she found her true home in Austin six years ago where she lives with her son, her boyfriend, and her hairy dog, Buddy.