After the largess given him by Diane, David was more confident when he attended his third meeting of Maria Osaki’s TA group. And just in time, as he had agreed to be one of those on the hot seat for this session.
Maria was late and her clothing atrocious as usual, but David was getting used to her. He worried about how he’d behave in front of everyone. Maybe he’d break down and cry. They probably wouldn’t be satisfied until he’d belched up some heaving emotion. Most of all, would he finally have to say in public that he had a continuing love affair with women’s underwear?
When it was his turn, Maria asked David why he was in the group. Why did she have to be so direct? He wasn’t prepared to go so simply to the core. He preferred the indirect route, the mystery, the drama.
“I guess I’d say that …” he ventured hesitatingly.
“Yes, go on. You don’t have to be shy here.”
“It’s my dad and I. We don’t get along. We have a mutual hate society. We’re not communicating. My mother tags along with him. I should say that they’re back in Ohio.”
“How do you hate each other at such a distance?” asked Maria, pointing her ballpoint at him. “By telephone? Does he come out here much, or what?”
“Right now it’s by letter,” said David in a little voice.
“Sounds like you put some distance between the two of you. Just what do you fight about?”
“Could I break the flow a moment?” asked David. “I brought these photo albums with me. Since I’m a photographer I’m really into pictures — and I thought that people here could get a better idea of where I’m coming from if they saw them. Pictures don’t lie.”
“I’m not so sure about that,” said Maria. “Most pictures are posed. Besides, what we’re interested in most is the here and now — what you’re feeling now — not what happened twenty years ago when you were being potty trained.”
There were a few titters. David had to smile. But there he stood with albums in hand, embarrassed, silently asking. Maria, grumbling, finally assented and while the albums circulated, argued with an attendee about not paying on time.
There were murmurs and pointing fingers as the albums changed hands. At one point, Rae, a woman whose obvious beauty had begun to fade, came in with her boyfriend, both slightly tipsy from wine. Maria calmly said she could stay if she toned down and her partner waited in his car. Rae went to look at the photos while Maria asked for comments. No one seemed eager to speak. David at once suspected that his life was so featureless that no one had an iota of interest in it. If only they knew. Or was the verdict so bad that they didn’t want to hurt him?
Then Rae spoke up with the brazenness of a woman who knows she’s speaking for the masses. “You want to know what’s here?”
Maria began a motion to silence her but before she did, David said “Yes … please.”
“Why, this is Anytown, America,” pronounced Rae. The others in the circle nodded their heads, relieved that there wasn’t an esoteric explanation. “This is like the family next door when I grew up. A typical all-American family in the forties and fifties. High school graduation, birthday parties, dad in his Army uniform holding a baby –”
“How does my dad look like to you?” asked David in a quivering voice.
Rae squinted pointedly at several pictures. “A strong man. Seems kind of like a he-man the way he sticks his chest out. He seems very proud to be in a picture with his baby.”
David was flabbergasted. This he-man was the guy who’d generated such hates that David thought he could write a book of atrocities.
“Hmmm,” he responded. “That’s not the way I see him at all. I thought he was a real bastard a lot of the time. He could be mean.”
Maria was becoming interested. She shifted to one side and looked up from the notes she’d been taking. “Like how was he mean to you?”
David put a bullet in his gun, picking his grimiest cartridge. He described the time his father had taken his brother and himself down in their basement and ordered them to rub mud all over their naked bodies because they’d kept playing in mud puddles. Maria told David to relive the episode.
“I feel debased, as though –”
“Talk about everything as though it’s happening to you now.”
Talking to the group was like standing naked again. David worked to prevent his voice from disappearing altogether. “I … feel debased. My body is so white and skinny. My Dad is making us rub cold mud all over our naked skin in the cold basement, like in a dungeon. I can feel the cold floor under my feet. I feel like a Jew in a concentration camp being forced to do something that would take away my last ounce of self-respect. Why isn’t my mother coming to stop this? She just peeked down the basement stairs at us and left without saying a word.”
David noticed that no one in the group was shedding tears or running over to comfort him. And this was his worst story? Shouldn’t this episode explain his being so fucked up?
“All right,” said Maria, “here’s what I see happening. The adult part of you, the part that makes plans, et cetera, is saying, ‘I feel small and naked — my penis is small and naked.’ The child part of you, the part that has feelings and emotions, says ‘I hate my father.’ And finally the parent part of you, which in TA means the instructions recorded in your head by your parents, is saying ‘Rub mud on yourself’.”
Maria continued — “Now I want you to act out your feelings against your father.”
David was in an embarrassed daze — he had to come up with something. Recklessly he said “I’d tie my father to an overhead beam in the basement so he couldn’t see me and I’d whip him. After that maybe he’d be tied to a cross and would rise up into the heavens or whatever.”
“Yeah.” David’s mind was clearing. “Then I could be friends with my mother again.” His eyes rimmed with tears he fought to hold back.
“Now try to act out the whipping of your father. Try to feel that you’re actually doing these things to him.”
Fearing that he’d become a spectacle, he said he couldn’t go further. He sat wearily down while Maria complimented him on his progress. After a few seconds he found enough courage to look at the others. They — with the exception of a woman who smiled sympathetically — sat calmly as thought this was their standard cup of tea. The next person stood up. David slowly let all the pent-up air out of his lungs.
Before he went to bed that evening he bloated himself with a huge hamburger and butterscotch ice cream. He was miserable the next day and nearly called in sick.
David became engrossed in what Maria Osaki could tell him about himself. In his personal transvestite alchemy of man and woman together, did his father play a part, this Zeus-like father who’d thrown lightning bolts down from the heavens? David developed enough interest to call Maria’s office to try to set up private sessions with her. She was telling him new things and, as with his earlier fascination with Freud, his intellect was being prodded. Besides, as he wrote in his diary, he needed some attention from someone who cared a little.
When David entered the Sutter Street Medical Building on his first visit, the lobby resembled the foyer of a forties movie palace. Its slow elevator transported white-skinned old patients with vacant eyes. The plants in Maria Osaki’s office were struggling too, and her receptionist had bad teeth. As he waited, he looked out the window of the 39th floor and saw a grayish, smoggy city.
The meeting with Maria proved to be disappointingly short to David, who expected to spill his guts. Instead, she asked that he prepare a contract describing what he wanted to accomplish. Then she mentioned her fee. David nodded mildly, though he hadn’t thought the bill would be so high. At the next meeting a week later, David unemotionally handed over a contract. When she finished reading, Maria looked at him with some surprise as a small smile played around his lips.
“What are you smiling about?” she asked.
“I smile this way sometimes when I get nervous.”
“I read here … Suddenly you tell me you’re a transvestite?”
“The contract you’ve given me covers too much territory. We need more specific things to work on. We should chose between your relationships with women and the transvestite thing.” She looked up at David. The smile was still there.
He looked away quickly. “I suppose we should.”
He was a little boy again, being obedient, agreeable and nice. “Well, what’s most interesting to me is my transvestism. It’s made me feel like an outsider. So maybe that’s the part we should work on.”
“OK. You’re a transvestite. That means you get pleasure out of dressing in women’s clothes.”
David nodded solemnly.
“Are you gay?”
“If I seem way out in left field on this subject it’s because I’ve never had a transvestite in my practice. Or at least one who said he was. How long has this been going on?”
She chose the same words — going on — that his parents might have. “Back to the beginning of puberty, even a little before.”
“And in the contract you mention liking to be punished and tied up. What do you want to be punished for?”
David fit comfortably with the detached, clinical way they were talking. They may as well have been two engineers talking about electronic circuits. He took his time formulating his answer.
“For being bad, for having broken the rules. Maybe for dressing up as a woman — I’m not sure. Also, hmmmm. There’s something in the back of my mind. I guess I like to feel helpless before a woman, to have a woman lord it over me. To feel under the total control of a woman, to have a woman hurt me.” He wonder if Maria was appreciating his honesty. She must have very few patients who are so self-perceptive.
Maria drew the now-familiar three-circles — the ones labeled child, adult and parent — on her blackboard. “Let’s look at this from the TA point of view, OK? I get the impression that it’s the child in you that enjoys dressing. Your child is saying, ‘I feel good when I dress’.”
David looked on with a touch of skepticism while he fantasized having sex with her.
“Now, your parent here,” said Maria as she pointed to a circle, “is saying, ‘Bad, bad. Boys don’t dress like girls.’ Did your actual parents ever say that to you?”
“Just once, the only time they discovered me dressed. They didn’t say ‘bad,’ though. It’s just the way they handled it. My father talked to me in the basement. After that I did everything secretly.”
Maria looked satisfied. “That gives me the clue I need about your adult. Your adult says, ‘I can enjoy this if I keep my parents from knowing. I’ll just protect myself from my parents’ prying eyes and disapproval.’ So what we have here is quite a conflict between your adult and your parent.” She drew arrows between the adult and parent circles. “Your adult protects your child from your parent.”
Maria continued with more circles and arrows. What had begun as three circles rapidly became complicated by smaller additional adult and parent circles and many more connecting lines and arrows. Maria’s explanations became more involved and confusing. David made a mighty effort to understand but the air in her office was stuffy and he had been farting. To make her think he was smart, he said he understood.
Soon the half hour was over — too quickly, when he considered the money he’d agreed to pay. As he waited for the elevator he again remembered vividly his father and the mud incident. There was a whole string of things his father had done. The trouble was that it was getting harder to hate him in his advancing years. David remembered his father’s stories about his father, who’d treated him unfairly. Where would the chain of ill feelings end? Was hate burned into David too, to be passed on to a son of his own? David snorted when he thought of the possibility of getting married and having children — about as possible as strawberries on the moon.
Stepping out of the elevator into the strong light of day, David became immersed in street life — women with their provocative hair and dresses, men with their business suits and darting looks, fat and thin people, and always the rush of traffic. Somehow Maria’s explanations, which had seemed so reasonable on the 39th floor, began to fade. Everything was so alive and vivid outside. He passed the window of a lingerie shop and stopped. Images of red lace and slender straps flooded his cerebrum, forcing all the data that Maria had given him to crash with a resounding thud. As a warmness passed through his veins, he went home and gloriously masturbated, then was depressed. In that state he called Diane.