"Ive made up my mind, Dr. Urlan," said Arnold Travis. "I want the procedure."
He was speaking to Andrea by way of his small, office T-window. All she could see of him in her standard-sized office T-window, was his head and shoulders. Ordinarily, she would have objected to not seeing the whole picture. This was not one of those times. Whereas most people told one story with their faces and another with other parts of their bodies from time to time, Arnold was uncommonly consistent. Some portion of his face always told the complete story. His eyes said he was lying.
"I cant accept that, Arnold."
"For heavens sake." A contralto voice in Arnolds window broke into the conversation as the Bulldog of a face it belonged to nudged him to one side. "Move back so she can see all of us."
Andrea watched a momentary jostling of upper torsos as Arnold and two husky women flanking him mirrored themselves in their window to fit into hers. The scrawny man and his female companions reminded her of a thin-necked cartoon mouse trapped between two macho prison guards in drag. To the extent that people can resemble animals, Andrea was sure that ten people out of ten would identify the women as belonging to the same breed of canine she saw in their pugnacious features. To the extent that people 25 years apart could resemble each other, they did.
"Yes?" replied the older woman in a pleasant tone so different from the one she used to issue the order to move back, that she sounded like another person.
"Im his daughter," said the younger woman, pointing a contemptuous thumb at Arnold."
He cleared his throat. "Ive been"
"Oh shut up, you old jerk-off," barked the younger woman. "The only thing youve been all my life is an embarrassment."
Andrea had seen her share of verbal attacks by one family member on another. Normally they were accompanied by flushed faces and an attempt by the victim to either "cover up" or launch a counter-offensive. Arnold sat there like a target practice dummy serving the function for which it was created, with his wife nodding almost imperceptibly to her daughters words. One need not have been a trained psychologist to see that this was business as usual in the Travis household.
Andrea was appalled. Her troubled patient was like everyone else who saw themselves through the eyes of people who despised them. By looking at him, she should have been able to see the women as they were long before now. It wasnt that the true picture never came to mind. But, by Arnolds self-descriptions, no less than his reverent allusions to his wife and daughter, Andreas mental pictures of the women were too stereotypical to believe. She should have believed. Mr. and Mrs. Travis were the text-book Sado-Masochistic couple who had not learned to recognize and accept the sexual pleasure they received from pain and degradation. Nor were they ever likely to with a daughter involved and a moral code which allowed only the pain.
Andrea had made an error in professional judgment which could cost a man far more than his life. The effects it would have on his wife and daughter were unknown, but not necessarily as beneficial as the women anticipated. Mrs. Travis was as much a victim of her repressed sexuality as he was. She was a natural dominatrix who would have had all the control over men she desired without causing anyone permanent injury, if only she could see the truth. Yes, thought Andrea. The truth shall set you free.
"Mrs. Travis," she said, watching the woman lift her chin in response before continuing. "May I speak to you alone for a minute, one Christian to another?"
All three people in Arnolds office telewindow blinked at the same time, as if to say, you mean youre not an agnostic? They looked at each other. Mrs. Travis nodded. Her husband and daughter left the picture. A few seconds later, a door opened and closed with Mrs. Travis looking in the direction of the sound, then back again, at Andrea. Her crossed arms and hunched shoulders said that her guard was up.
"Are you really a Christian?"
"Yes. My father is an Episcopal priest in Madison Heights. My brother and I attend services there every Sunday. You and your family are welcome to join us."
"Were Baptists," said Mrs. Travis, flatly. "What did you want to say?"
Andreas insides caved in. The road shed picked to travel said, "Dead End." The only thing left to do was to make a U-turn as gracefully as possible. "I have an aunt and uncle who are Baptists. All Christians have more in common than"
"Oh no. Episcopalians are more like Catholics. They have everything the Catholics do but the Pope. They pray to Mary instead of Jesus...."
For the next ten minutes, Andrea listened to the differences between Baptists and Episcopalians, some of which were accurate and some not. She heard at least five reasons for rejecting any "so called" Christian faith but her own, and one or more statements of "proof" from The Scriptures for every reason.
"Im sorry," said Andrea. "Would you repeat that?"
"I said, Candy is married; why arent you?"
Mrs. Travis had asked so many rhetorical questions in her monologue that the real one slipped past Andrea. Now that she heard it, she also heard the accusation behind it. She had no idea who Candy was, and didnt dare ask.
"Mrs. Travis, my personal life isnt the issue."
"It most certainly is. You may be a therapist, as you call it, but youre human. If you could help my poor husband become the normal person he wants to be, it stands to reason that you would be married."
"I dont follow you."
Mrs. Travis sighed in exasperation. "A woman your age should be married. If she isnt, theres probably something about her that isnt right. Dr. Gidarb says psycho-therapists have too much influence over their patents to trust just because theyre doctorsif they are real doctors. She says a lot ofem are more perverted than their patients. And franklyWell...Arnold has been seeing you forwhat is iteight, nine months? And Ive caught him pleasuring himself five times! Just last week, I came in here and he was in the bathroom!"
"In the bathroom?"
"Thats where he does it, you know. No, you didnt know, did you? We have lock-outs to the X Channel on all the T-windows he has access to here and at home. But he watches the dirty disks, then uses the bathroom to spew his goo when he thinks he can get a way with it. Hes like a child. He has to be watched all the time."
"I dont think I understand."
"He drives down to a NEZ in Detroit or Highland Park, where they still have peep show booths. He does it in the booth, for heavens sake. Then hell buy a dirty disk to take with him and hide somewhere till he can watch it in a T-window when Candy or I cant watch him."
Candy? thought, Andrea. So the daughters name is Candy. It figures.
"You say, you watch himliterally?"
"If I didnt go to the bathroom with him at home so I could see what he was doing, hed stand in the shower or sit on the can masturbating twice a week. Cant you just see him? I can. Lord help him, its so pitiful and ridiculous. Hes always ashamed afterwards but he still does it unless somebodys there to stop him. When Candy is with him and Im not around, he tells her when he has to go. She stands outside the door till hes done. Then she checks to see whats in the toiletand there better be something!"
"Dont you think thats taking things too far?"
"No. Dr. Gidarb doesnt either. We dont like checking up on him like that, but we have to."
"Why? Because Estelle Gidarb says so?"
"Because we love him. We were doing it before we heard of the Gidarbs. Lots of women have had to do it since pornography was invented. All she did was write about it and assure the loved ones of people like Arnold that its the right thing to do."
"What about his privacy needs?"
"For heavens shake. I told - you - what - he - does - with - his - privacy. He watches porn and has sex with his hand. Hes an addict!"
"Pleasure is addictive. Our craving for it and our fear and anger of being deprived of it drives everything we do in one way or another. Its how all warm-blooded animals are made. We need a pleasure-fix on a fairly regular basis to avoid emotional stresses that can have dangerous physical and psychological repercussions. Its only when the addiction itself presents these problems that it becomes a clinical concern, because then its a matter of compulsive, self-destructive behavior. When that happens, we know that something else is involved, some bigger stick that makes the destructive behavior preferable to being hit with it. If that big stick isnt a side-affect of an invidious chemical agent that works directly on the pleasure centers of the brain, its almost invariably an intolerable social circumstance."
"Hes got a big stick, all right. And its coming off! What use is that thing for a 52-year-old man, anyway? For heavens sake, all it can do is cause trouble. You know what can happen when a man watches too much pornography. No woman is safe. Weve been lucky that it hasnt advanced to rape. Thats the next step, you know."
"I doubt that very much. Men who rape women have no more respect for their victims desires than an armed robber or any other criminal has for his victims. That is not your husband. Those men are committing a crime of violence which requires an entirely different attitude toward woman than his."
"Thats what pornography does. It gives men violent attitudes toward women. Its a documented fact. Dr. Gidarb has hundreds of case histories. They start watching this stuff and they forget about what the woman wants. They only wanna satisfy themselves except they use a woman instead of their hand. They see the dirty program. Then they see a woman they want and they get so excited they cant control themselves."
"You could also document the instances of kitchen matches used in arson. It wouldnt follow that matches cause arson. Were talking about the difference between lighting a match to warm a cabin and lighting one to burn the place down."
"Im talking about pornography and rape. I dont know what youre talking about."
"Okay. Sexual desire and the expression of that desire can take many forms, depending on the individuals genetic predispositions and early associations between desire and fulfillment, many of which are set in infancy. What Im saying, Mrs. Travis, is that it takes a hell of lot more than dirty pictures to make a rapist. Apart from a violent sexual propensity, it takes a willful intent to express it and a determination to do it against someone elses will. Your husband is so submissive to the will of others, specifically, strong-willed women, that he is more likely to be taken advantage of by women than the other way around."
"You dont know Arnold. He runs his own construction company. Hes got over a hundred men working for him and he cracks the whip."
"Ah, but those are men. Doesnt he have a female administrative assistant? Does he crack the whip on her? Or is it the other way around?"
"...I wasnt sure before, but now I can see youre one of those sick liberals. Youre making excuses for porn. And there is no excuse. Filth is filth. Perversion is perversion. I should have seen it when you started talking that rubbish about privacy needs. For heavens sake, nobody needs privacy unless theyre doing something theyre ashamed of. Or something they ought to be ashamed of. You probably need it to spread your legs for every man who comes along."
Andrea had no ready answer for that, so she didnt attempt to give one. "Im your husbands therapist," she said.
"You used to be. Youre not even a real doctor. Youre only a Ph.D. You told Arnold that you watched Dr. Gidarb and her husband on the Sharon and Louise Show. Me and Candy were right here. We heard you. You should have told him to get the procedure. You know its the best thing for him. I dont know why he respects your opinion so much. Thats the only reason we kept this appointment."
"The appointment was for Arnold."
"His decision on this thing affects me, his daughter, his son-in-law and his grandson. I dont know about you liberals, but the family comes first with us. We decided together what to do. Candy has talked to the vice-president of the Michigan chapter of STOPIT and arranged an interview for this afternoon. Shes a real doctor and she says he sounds like a good candidate."
"Mrs. Travis. You cant" Andreas telewindow went blank. For a while, her mind did too.
A gaggle of thoughts burst forth from the void, standing Andrea on her feet like a sailor on a warship in hostile waters hearing a call to general quarters. This was not a drill. She had to act quickly and correctly for Arnolds sake as well as her own. She blamed herself for his predicament, for no reading that goddamned book he begged her to read; for not seeing what his real dilemma was early enough to intervene forcefully when it might have done some good. She had to talk to somebody. Not another shrink. A friend, and someone with better contacts in the legal community than she had.
She pressed the voice command on her desk-top computer. "Telephone message: Call Leah. Urgent." When she saw her friends ELF on the pop-up T-window, she knew she had called at a bad time.
"Sorry," said the ELF, "I cant break away right now. "If you want me to, Ill call back in...five minutes?"
"Yes," said Andrea. "Thatll be fine."
While she waited for Leahs call, she made a computer search for the Michigan chapter of STOPIT and a list of its officers. She found the vice-president right away: Dr. Shannon Duwoniack, a 33-year-old surgeon in Ann Arbor, with the dark-haired, green-eyed, dimple-cheeked looks of a glamour queen and the personality of a death-camp commandant. She had her own T-window talk show. Whereas her affiliation with STOPIT would have been known to her regular viewers, Andrea knew her only for her strident anti-lesbian feminism. That was all she thought she needed to know until now.
A message flashed in her wrist-band T-window, informing her that her next two scheduled patients had canceled their appointments. She elected to fill in the time with a short walk to the Guardian Building where she hoped to meet Leah for a long talk. Though it was as likely that Leah was in one of the court buildings, or out on an errand for one of the lawyers she worked for, Andrea thought the walk would do her good.
Andrea was a block from the Guardian Building when she got the call from Leah inside. It turned out that Andreas concern about the Gidarb procedure converged with Leahs. It had become a gargantuan political issue overnight. The office was swamped with calls about its legality. The attorney general was backing STOPIT. His band-wagon was pulling out. Ambitious lawyers throughout the state were scrambling to get aboard.
Copyright © 1998 by Jasper Garrison
Contact the author: Jasper Garrison