On the Couch Excerpt

On the Couch Excerpt

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I woke up and discovered that the phone was ringing. I had the groggy impression that it had been ringing for some time, and that the call was probably urgent.

“Hello,” I said. It came out in a throaty whisper.

“God, you sound sexy. Can I come over right now and see you?”

I rolled over to check the clock on my bedside table, accidentally kicking my cat in the head. It was one forty in the morning, I was barely conscious, and at some point during the night I’d managed to put my foot through my black lace nightgown, ripping it down the middle.

Of course I was going to see him.

“I’m not sure,” I said slowly. “Did you have an appointment?”

There was a pause on the other end. “I thought I did. I mean, I think I do. Do I?”

I turned on the light and my cat glared at me before jumping off the bed. “I believe you had an appointment at just after one.”

“There was a problem and I just got off work this minute.”

I pulled my torn nightgown over my head. “Hmm. I don’t know about this. You’re not a cop, are you?”

“Do I sound like a cop?”

“You can’t always go by how people sound. Talking without having to look at someone is the easiest way to lie.” Rummaging through my lingerie drawer, I tossed aside twelve pairs of cotton bikini underpants and four beige brassieres before unearthing a black and pink thong and push-up bra set that looked appropriately whorish.

“So let me talk to you face to face.”

I cradled the phone between my shoulder and chin as I hooked the bra’s clasp between my breasts. “Are you willing to pay the price?”

“But you don’t even know what that is yet.”

“For you, I’ll sign a blank check.” I stepped into the thong panties and checked myself out in the full length mirror on my bathroom door. Should I clean up my sleep-smeared eye makeup? Nah. So what if I looked like I was taking a brief pause between sessions of inspired debauchery?

At least I didn’t look like a psychologist in private practice who was about to have sex for the first time in over a year.

As for what could motivate an attractive, financially secure woman with a Ph.D. in clinical psych to let a man think that she was a call girl, well, I could say it was just being a single thirtysomething woman in Manhattan.

Or else I could cite the fact that I’d been told that if I wanted to publish my dissertation, I needed to spice it up with some intimate personal revelations.

The truth, of course, was messier, more complicated and a lot less rational. Most people think that therapists are immune to the kinds of problems they treat, but the truth is, we’re all motivated by the pursuit of pleasure. Not to mention occasionally blinded by it.

If Joe were a client, I’d probably diagnose him as a high achieving, mildly obsessive type A personality with excellent coping skills and some deep, underlying insecurity. I’d also have a much better handle on what’s really motivating him, because he’s not the kind of guy who needs to hire a date by the hour. In fact, it’s not always clear to me who’s seducing whom.

“Marlowe? You still there, or did you fall asleep on me?”
“All right,” I said. “You can come over. But make it snappy.”
“I’m on my way.”
“Oh, and Joe?”
“Bring your handcuffs.”