Feeling debauched after one of his weekends of play, David arrived at the office on a Monday needing regimen and regular people to straighten him out. Gene Gatzo was at work early as usual, almost as early as the boss.
Gene approached and asked if he had enjoyed his days off.
“It was pretty quiet. Had some letter-writing to do. Hiked around a little,” David fabricated.
Gene brightened. “H-Hiking’s-s something I used to do a lot of. Where’d you go?”
David was both annoyed and sorry for Gene. Annoyed because he, David, had to listen harder and suppress a superior smile at the labored speech, and sorry because Gene was embarrassed when he stuttered.
“I like to hike up around Muir Woods, Mount Tam and all that. One problem is that I don’t have a car.”
He hadn’t counted on Gene having one. The new clerk asked through his thick glasses if David would like to trek over to one of those places on the next weekend. With reservations and an attitude of we’ll-try-it-once, David agreed. He put on a smile for Gene as they parted. In fact, the smile wasn’t all false.
The hike went better than David expected. Gene’s stutter almost disappeared and there was a certain buddy-buddyness in walking side by side along the roads and trails of the Point Reyes area. Fog persisted most of the day and the pair passed wet berry bushes set between plain, high, rounded hills. At one point they encountered a gray ocean surf coming out of the mists which David photographed in every possible way.
In casual clothes and with knapsack Gene looked more human. He was shorter than David and seemed like a younger brother. Their talk meandered, with Gene saying that he’d stuttered from pre-teen days and that he’d tried almost everything to lose it. David mentioned the time in high school when he was talking to a stutterer and found himself unintentionally imitating the fellow. The stutterer, thinking he was the object of a joke, threatened to hit him. The story made Gene genuinely laugh for the first time.
They’d had some of the same experiences — trying out for sports in high school without much success, hitches in the military, and an early love for science fiction. Eventually the talk got around to women. Gene was saying in a sudden pique, “Women. How the h-hell do you meet them around here anyway? I’ve been going to this country bar in Albany — and so far the only lady I’ve gotten interested in me was 55 and drunk.”
David laughed. “Maybe you ought to check out some other places. You live in San Francisco, right? It’s a mecca for women. You mean to tell me you can’t find any women here?”
“Where should I go? I mean, you’ve been around here a lot longer than me.”
“You just need to circulate. Go out and do things you feel like doing. Take classes that women go to. Join the Sierra Club and go on group hikes.” David realized he should be following his own advice.
“One thing I did — I saw fliers about a group called Ron Johnston’s Saturday Night Experience. It’s this guy who teaches seminars on how to meet people. You know, ten steps to meeting a woman and getting a date. Then Ron and his partner have parties on Saturday nights for meeting people. I went to the class — cost me $50 — then to the party. Thirty eligible men, three foxy ladies and a dozen old maids.”
“So, which one of the foxy ladies did you get?” kidded David. “But seriously, maybe you shouldn’t try to start at the top of the heap. Just go out with someone.”
“Yeah, maybe so,” allowed Gene, looking down absentmindedly and digging his toe into soft, moist earth. “I’ll bet you have a lot of girlfriends, huh?” He had heard about Corky.
“Put that in the past tense.” David went on to describe in a censored version his disappointment with Corky.
“But look at you, David,” said the little hiker, “you’re what the girls all want — tall, handsome –”
David pictured himself with a bra on his hairy chest.
“All of those things, naturally,” quipped David. He lectured lightly on how personality and soul counted the most.
“But you have to get in the front door,” insisted Gene.
“Just pull down her zipper. Just kidding. Really, don’t worry so much. With all the gay men around there’s tons of extra women to choose from.”
Gene wanted to know how David’s camera worked, and their hands touched while fiddling with the controls. David said he’d give some instruction if Gene ever bought a decent SLR. Then he regretted his promise. Maybe Gene would get too attached to him. He didn’t want any funny stuff happening.
While riding back home David probed Gene for more information about transactional analysis. He had always shied away from EST and Esalen and their devotees but he decided to look at TA. Later, Gene lent him his introductory paperback I’m OK, You’re OK. Also, Gene had mentioned how he liked his TA analyst, a Mrs. Osaki. David cautioned himself that Gene was the kind of guy who might exaggerate things but maybe he would check out this Asian woman. He would do it without telling Gene, though. Gene didn’t need to know he wanted to see anyone. He started to read the paperback with its yellow-highlighted passages.
David ended up consuming three TA books. He remembered that he’d read Games People Play some time before without connecting it to a therapy, but skimmed it again anyway. Then it was I’m OK, You’re OK and finally What Do You Say After You Say Hello? He read the three at about the same speed he’d read a novel.
Finally David worked up the courage to call Dr. Osaki’s office.
At the appointed time one evening David arrived at an imposing, tree-shrouded house in the middle-to upper-middle class Richmond District after walking three misty blocks from a bus stop. He double-checked the house number and found an embossed business card thumbtacked to the heavy wooden door –Maria Ollswell Osaki, Ph.D. Transactional Analyst A.T.A.A., A.P.S.
David rang the doorbell. What sort of venomous man-eating creatures would be inside to dissect him? Or would there be some lithesome, beautiful lady-creatures to tell him how unique, brilliant and attractive he was?
Finally the door opened and he was invited into a crowded, warm interior. The rooms were quite comfortable, with dark-hued wood paneling, ancient floor lamps, ferns, muted Oriental rugs and glistening hardwood floors. The house was the sort where murder mysteries are filmed, with secret sliding panels.
David stood in the front room taking in all of this as the host went to find a chair. He made an effort to look at the others in the room. There were several men like himself, painfully quiet. To David the women seemed at ease and talkative while the men were rough-edged and quirky.
David asked a woman if Mrs. Osaki was there.
“She’s not here yet. She’s usually late, anyway — a very busy lady, you know.”
David nodded and began looking at faces again. But the woman, who said she’s been in the program for three months, continued talking endlessly about Osaki’s abilities. David was irritated, yet figured that being seen talking with this woman would make him appear more sociable. Finally the woman excused herself. David grabbed a magazine, and, while pretending to read, imagined telling a fictional Maria Osaki that he was a transvestite. She would have the others grab him and hold him down while she would hold lingerie against his genitals and give him an embarrassing erection.
Maria Ollswell Osaki hustled in a half-hour late with loose-leaf binders, books, a strong leather briefcase and an air of take-charge. But rather than the spare Japanese woman with chopsticks in her belt that David expected, the overweight fiftyish Caucasian woman came in wearing bright and discordant polyester. David told himself that he didn’t need to return after this first gratuitous meeting.
Mrs. Osaki, matronly and dignified facially, spoke in a non-nonsense way and was accorded an obvious respect. She began by asking a woman and her lover when they would pay their account. Working that out, Maria, as she was called by the regulars, greeted David and another newcomer.
The session began with the kind of bloodletting David had seen at a past encounter group. There was an alcoholic, a violently jealous lover and a man who couldn’t offer affection to his wife. A man who seemed gay told intimate things about himself but never mentioned his sexual inclination. The words child, adult, parent, permission and script were often used by Mrs. Osaki. David remained silent and watched the people around him reveal themselves. He sat poised on his chair as though ready to spring into the air at the first opportunity to confess his sins.
All through the session the eminently practical Osaki kept the discussion relevant. She was a woman of some experience. Her favorite comment was “That’s bullshit.” She came on like a Jewish mother and never failed to make fun of those who took themselves too seriously. Still, David harbored doubts about her.
At the end of the meeting the atmosphere quickly changed. Those souls who’d seemed so wounded and over the edge appeared to heal themselves instantly. The conversation went back to jobs and “How are you and Chris doing?”
David was given a ride home by the other first-timer, a comely woman who also couldn’t say enough good things about Dr. Osaki. He gave her a peck on the cheek as a good-by, then went up into his apartment and straight to bed. New people, new thoughts and new feelings rattled his brain. Alone again and master of his space, he quickly drifted off to sleep.