Why Ellie should never have slept with her therapist


Ellie didn’t see it coming but should have. Arianna’s shock at the exhibition when Jeremy Seitman of New York Magazine announced that her austere images of solitary people are what Edward Hopper might have captured had he used a camera. And her rage when she read Christian Vincenti’s review in the Village Voice that praised Ellie for capturing the fleeting movements of couples seated in cafes – a toe unconsciously grazing a naked ankle, an elbow brushing the others forearm – how she caught the richness of their mingled narratives in her pictures.

          “You deceitful bitch!” Arianna screamed. You stole it from me!”

          “Oh, Arianna, I didn’t mean to,” Ellie pleaded as if she’d actually done something wrong. “I did get the idea from your paper. After you asked me to read it, I had a dream about how hard it is for me to show my deeper feelings. Then I started taking pictures of people, in restaurants, sidewalk cafes, Washington Square Park. It thrilled me when I realized I could capture couples revealing their emotional connections to each other. At last, I had something important to say in my pictures!” What Ellie didn’t tell Arianna was how wearisome it had been to read her paper, a chapter in her doctoral dissertation on emotional intimacy. The redundancies and stilted language. The clotted academic descriptions meant to pass as prose. She dices and homogenizes her patients’ stories, Ellie thought as she trudged through the paper, pours them into her concepts as if they were casserole dishes and bakes them until they’re dead. Ellie could never say any of this to Arianna.

It started the night before when they were having sex.

          “You think I didn’t know you were faking it!? Arianna shouted. Ellie, exhausted from too much sex with Arianna, overcome by the smell of her and needing desperately to sleep, slipped out of bed and retreated to the living room. Arianna drove after her.

          “Did you really think you could fool me?

          “Why ask when you already know the answer?” Ellie said wearily.

          “I know damn well when you fake an orgasm! It’s what you do, isn’t it. Seduce them, get them hot for you, then move to another planet while your ass is still there in the sheets.”

          By now Ellie had reached her breaking point. “Ever heard the old adage about finding the best therapist?” she asked sarcastically. “You’re always better off with a social worker because they think with their hearts. Forget about a psychiatrist because they’ve never been in therapy. And avoid a psychologist at all cost because they’re always trying to be so fucking smart!”

          “You’ve always been a no brainer for me. You’re daddy issues have poisoned our relationship, all of your relationships.”

          “Ellie, if you’re so smart why did you wind up sleeping with your patient?”

          “I believed I could help you”

          “Like Carl Jung helped Sabrina Spielrein and Toni Wolff, by sleeping with them?

          “I thought we could be happy.”

          “Arianna, Jung was a genius. What’s your excuse? And it doesn’t take a genius to see you’ve got mommy issues coming out your ass. Ten minutes of watching you and your mother at dinner is enough to convince anyone she doesn’t gave a shit about you and never will.”

It ended in a stalemate of the abusive mother imago versus that of the deficient father. At least that’s what Arianna concluded. But Ellie had never felt Arianna was like her father. She’d always been openly tenacious, doggedly persistent, the exact opposite of her father. The week after their blow up, Ellie came home to find Arianna’s furniture and personal belongings gone from their apartment. As she examined the empty rooms she was struck by their bleakness, except for her photographs arranged unevenly on the walls. For the hundredth time her eyes scanned the photographs. She took in the subtle gestures of her subjects, their emotional nuances and receptiveness to each other and tried to recapture the feeling of reassurance they normally gave her. A violent hunger suddenly welled up inside her. She proceeded methodically to pull each photograph off the wall, smash it on the nearest table and slam it to the floor. By the time she finished, her hands and arms were sprinkled with blood from the shards of glass. The following day she collected the lacerated pictures and locked them away in a big wooden box that she buried under cartons of old school papers and suitcases in the back of her bedroom closet.



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