By: Shawn Davis
Scene: Early-afternoon on an unseasonably mild day towards the end of the winter; dogs are being walked by their masters as the sun shines brightly on the pavement. Inside a therapist’s office, we have MAN lying across an antique, yet, comfortable couch talking to DOCTOR (Dr.) who is seated a few feet away in his chair. The drapes are slightly drawn to keep out most of the sun’s glare.
Dr: So she left and you stood there?
Man: Yeah, I did.
Dr: You didn’t do anything?
Man: (exhales) Not at all.
Dr: And you feel…
Man: (exhales) Well…our communication improved to the point where we were able to talk about getting back together and so we did.
Dr scribbles in his notepad while looking at his notes intently; Man adjusts his pillow before placing his head onto it.
Man: And we had our rough patches but we seemed to weather them.
Dr: Did you really? You told me about the night she told you that she loved you and you didn’t bother to respond. How did that go over?
Man: We talked about it the next day.
Dr: What answer did you give her?
Man: (visibly uncomfortable) I couldn’t really give one that made her feel any better.
Dr: A problem I’m seeing is that you’re failing to be honest without realizing it; with yourself and with her. It’s not about “making her feel better.” It has to be about you being honest about why you didn’t have a response. Only through honesty can you find the truth – whatever that happens to be. Be honest.
Man: I am, doc.
Dr: (loosening his tie) Are you? It sounds like you’re trying to be. Do not try…do.
Man rises to sit upright and looks his therapist in the eyes before putting his head back on the pillow and mumbling to himself.
Dr: (continuing) You are restless because you fail to be honest.
Man: Okay, okay doc, can you take it easy on me?
Dr: You’re paying me to help and that’s what I’m doing. Didn’t she say that she didn’t want you to make her “feel better” either?
Man: Yes, sir. She was just looking for some clarity on why I held back.
Dr: Did you give some?
Man: I did tell her that I loved her the next evening.
Dr: That’s not answering the question I posed.
Man: No, I guess I didn’t give her clarity. But if I told her that I loved her the next day, I don’t see why it was such a big deal.
Dr: You’re being evasive; take ownership for being unable to respond. Since you say it wasn’t a “big deal” how would you have felt if you were in her shoes?
Man: What do you mean?
Dr: How would you respond to silence after expressing your love for her?
Man: (smirks) I’d feel confused…
Man: (reluctantly)…want clarity.
Dr: Okay, we seem to be progressing but a breakthrough will prove elusive until we can find an answer as to why you couldn’t respond.
Man: And I am trying.
Dr: What did you say?
Man: I will do.
Dr: Your money is being spent well today, I must say.
Both men laugh.
Dr: (continuing) Now since we’re hitting a wall, we’ll progress to another topic.
Man: (feeling calmer) Okay, I’m ready.
Dr walks to the window to open the drapes and takes his seat before writing more notes on his pad.
Dr: (looking towards the window) Intimacy.
Man: Uh, yeah.
Dr: Before she left, where you two able to be intimate?
Man: You want to discuss sex?
Dr: It’s important to flesh out everything that was going on with you two.
Man: (rubbing his cheeks with his hands) Sex wasn’t the problem, although at first it was.
Dr: How so?
Man: We’d kiss and that would be fine but as we progressed to undressing she would be more reserved than I would. She would be hesitant.
Dr: How long did that phase last?
Man: A few weeks once we, officially, were a couple again.
Dr: As you were having intercourse was there a difference?
Man: Yes there was. She always liked to kiss while we were in the middle of it but she wanted, or maybe needed me to kiss her more.
Man: Uh, alright well when we’re really into it she likes to kiss deeply; with passion and really hard like she would push her tongue deeply into my mouth, which I’ve always loved because I like to kiss the same way but she wanted those kisses for longer moments.
Dr: What else?
Man: She would also stare deeply into my eyes when we did kiss during sex. For some reason I keep my eyes open slightly when I kiss – she noticed it very early in our relationship – and it became a way for us to connect, I guess.
Dr: How so?
Man: Since she knew my eyes would be open, our eyes would lock and it was like we were making love on another level. It sort of felt like we were transferring souls and it was otherworldly.
Dr: Wow. Anything else stand out?
Man: Yes. She and I had always been very adventurous and curious in regards to the positions we would try but once we got back together she only wanted to make love in positions where we could keep eye contact. That was an adjustment for me but I understood it – and I didn’t miss them to be quite honest.
Dr: Well you know the eye contact was a way for her to stay connected to you, right?
Man: Yes, I’m aware of that doc.
Dr: You’re doing great! How about afterwards?
Man: Like when we finished?
Man: She would cry, a lot; not like hysterical or sobbing but a constant stream of tears and she’d bury her head into my chest while I cuddled her.
Dr: Did she do this before you broke up?
Man: The cuddling? Yes. The crying was totally new.
Dr: Did she say anything while she was crying?
Man: Not really but when she did speak, she’d say how much she loved me and how she missed being apart; mostly though I would hold her until she cried herself to sleep because she just wanted me to be there with her.
Dr: How did you feel about the crying?
Man: It didn’t bother me all that much.
Dr: “All that much…”
Man: There was only a few times where she got that emotional after sex – before the breakup – and then once we got back together it was a normal occurrence so it got the wheels spinning in my head as to why this sudden change. We’ve always had a healthy sex-life and it wasn’t outside the norm for us to make love at least five times a week so I thought the crying would die out and it didn’t.
Dr: As you were thinking, did you come up with anything?
Man: Not at all, doc. I did wonder about the guy she was seeing over our hiatus and if the crying had something to do with him.
Dr: You were apart for a year and you were seeing someone as well, correct?
Man: True…on both points.
Dr: Did you ask her about it?
Man: She said it had nothing to do with him – it was just her emotions coming to the surface over losing a year and not wanting to go down that road again.
Dr: I see.
The Doctor’s secretary knocks on the door to briefly interrupt the session; she enters the room and talks to the Doctor for a few minutes while Man contemplates the conversation he’s had up to that point. He digs in his backpack and checks his phone to see two missed calls and a voicemail alert. The secretary leaves the room and the Doctor takes a seat; Man places his phone back into his backpack.
Dr: (continuing) Do you have to make a call? I can go in the other room if you need some privacy.
Man: (wearing a strained look on his face) No, sir. That’s not needed at all.
Dr: You sure? You look upset.
Man: I’m ok, it’s not important.
Dr: Only you know if that’s true or not.
Dr: Did you two speak at length about her relationship with him?
Man: A few times.
Dr: What came out of those conversations?
Man: She said that he didn’t mean “anything” to her – most of the time. He treated her nice and they had some fun together but she said she was still tied to me and her heart wouldn’t allow him past a certain point.
Dr: Did you believe her?
Man: Not totally.
Man: I know he means something to her, how much though, I cannot answer. I didn’t dwell on it because she’s not the type to be dishonest but I’m sure he matters to her in some way.
Dr: Did she ask about your relationship during your break?
Man: (closing his eyes) Yes she did.
Dr: How did that go?
Man: Not so well I have to say.
Man: (opening his eyes slowly) When we first started dating, a few years back, it basically came down to a choice between two women – and I made the right choice. Once the relationship ended, I ran into the other girl, we connected again and that’s how we began dating. Once I got back with my girlfriend and I told her who it was that I dated in the interim it was a point of contention because my girl always felt – for whatever reason – inferior to the other girl.
Dr: Why is that?
Man: Got me! It was just some weird female competition thing that never really existed, I think.
Dr: Was the decision difficult? When you made the choice, did you regret it?
Man: Not once, not ever. I entered a great relationship and I didn’t ponder the “what if.”
Dr: It is funny how you dated her after the first breakup though.
Man: Yeah it was. It was like the dating gods pushed her back into my life knowing my girl would have a real problem with it if we ever got back together…
Dr: …and you did.
Man: Yeah, talk about a cruel reality.
Dr: Or a cruel irony?
Man: Yeah the first conversation didn’t go so well when we were on the path of getting back together this past time. She was so upset over who I was with and I had to do some major construction work to smooth it over.
Dr: Did she give you a hard time?
Man: She didn’t give me a hard time, per se; she just wanted to know why it had to be THAT girl.
Dr: Interesting. Ok then, why was it her?
Man: I was attracted to her, doc. I’m not going to lie about that and I don’t feel bad about it. I liked her; I mean I had to choose between the two. My girl stopped dating the other guy she dated casually to commit to me – and I had to do the same. I never doubted the choice but then I found myself single…and we got back in touch so why not, right?
Dr: I see.
They both sit in silence for a few moments. Man shuts his eyes and loudly sucks his teeth.
Man: I don’t know what to do.
Man: I miss my girl so much. We lost a full year and I’m not ready for her to be out of my life again.
Dr: Have you told her this?
Man: We haven’t talked much, almost not at all in the month we’ve been apart.
Dr: Have you called her?
Man: Yes, but she’s very curt and dismissive over the phone when she answers.
Dr: Have you seen her in-person?
Man: No. She wants her space; she was adamant about that.
Dr: Well you need to tell her that you feel this way. I’m not sure if you’re considering this at all but she’s going over the fact you didn’t respond when she professed her love for you – and you were silent as she left; you’re not faring well.
Man: I know.
Dr: Do you think it’s salvageable?
Man: (defensively) Do you?
Dr: (smiling confidently) I am happily married (pointing to his wedding band). You act as if time is on your side. Can you save it?
Man: I don’t know.
Dr: You better find a way to figure it out or you’ll regret this for a good portion of your future.
Man: Maybe even forever, you think?
Dr: It’s very possible.
Man: I remember how it felt over that year.
Dr: Tell me about it.
Man: It was like there was a pause button pushed on my life and everyone around me was experiencing new things but I couldn’t move.
Dr: That had to be tough.
Man: Yeah it was probably the most difficult time of my adult life.
Dr: Ok, so take that feeling and imagine having to live with that your entire life.
Tears stream down the side of Man’s face and into his ears; he does not wipe them. Dr offers tissue and his patient politely declines. He wants to feel himself cry.
Man: Did you make mistakes with your wife?
Dr: We’re not discussing my life but, yes, I made many. I also realized that my mistakes could be corrected – and I did the work. I’m fortunate she gave me the chance.
Man: This is just SOOOOO hard.
Dr: I know it is. Now let’s get back to how you felt during the year off.
Man: Sorry. I would be out with friends – and I was still able to have a good time – but I just felt incomplete, like lost even. They were going home to their wives or girlfriends and I was going home to an empty bed. I just was in pain all the time – even if I didn’t show it. I’d be going about my daily business, you know, having a cool day but once I’d see a couple being affectionate, my day was shattered.
Man: I also cried, A LOT. My heart never let her go.
Dr: Why didn’t you show her that emotion when she walked out the door a month ago?
Man: I’m not sure, I just locked up; I was numb as she was leaving.
Dr: You’re playing a very dangerous game, my friend. Talk about the day she left.
Man: We were arguing pretty consistently for over two weeks, mostly pertaining to our communication issues and we were both exhausted. I would ignore her which would force her to do the same.
Dr: A vicious cycle there.
Man: We tried to eat dinner together on a Friday night – at one of our favorite restaurants – and got into a minor argument which led us to tune one another out.
Dr: Can you recall the disagreement?
Man: Not at all. I spent Saturday afternoon hanging out with my friends at my place while she was at her apartment. Sunday afternoon she came over, packed up her clothes, gave me my key and walked out the door. I can still see the hurt in her face as she touched my cheek before she left.
Dr: Yet you stood quiet in all of this; how?
Man: I wish I knew. I wanted to speak, I really did, but I could not find the words anywhere. She sat beside my on the bed and there was nothing but a cold and sad silence. I ran my fingers through her hair (he inhales as if he can pick up the scent of her hairspray); she touched my cheek and was out the door.
Dr: You have to find out why you’re unable to express yourself, verbally, in these key moments.
Man: You’re right; I have to figure something out.
Dr: Unless you really want to experience those terrible feelings again…
Man: I know I don’t have a choice.
Both men glance at their watches knowing they have gone over their allotted time.
Dr: You need more time? I can push my next appointment back.
Man: No because I’ll just use the time as an excuse not to examine myself and figure this mess out.
Dr: Very well.
Man gathers his things, wipes his tears and shakes hands with his therapist.
Man: Can I fix this? Truthfully?
Dr: It’s possible but either way you have to be honest with yourself – and with her.
Man solemnly nods and heads out the door. As he gets out into the warm sun he drapes his jacket over his shoulder, checks his phone for the missed calls and the lone voicemail. He dials a number and disappears into the crowd of people.
– For Act I click here.