My shrink's office is dark, like a cave. She thinks it makes people feel more comfortable, but darkness always made me look around for creepy old men.
I can spot a lecher a mile away.
Doctor Hopewell always sits in the shadow, trying desperately to draw the attention away from herself. She thinks this is about me, about what I believe, and not about what's real, but she's wrong.
I'm not a girl, and that's all there is to it.
Someday, she'll figure that out.
But she thinks it's a game she can win, so I played along.
"How are you doing, Dani," she asked leaning into the feeble light. She was wearing thick makeup, and held her face in a solemn mask. She looked like a corpse, with her eyes swollen purple, her lips red but not motionless and slack. She had a bit of a mustache.
She opened her eyes and looked merely tired, the pale globes sinking into the black recesses under her brow. Her smile was forced, or looked to be, with her pointy teeth gleaming in the light of the sad lamp and her skin drawn taught over her high cheekbones like scumble on canvas paper.
"Do you want a soda, Dani," she asked politely, pointing to the fridge in the corner. I had one last time, so I'd better not.
"No thank you," I said, and sat before she could ask me to. It made her nervous when things don't go according to plans.
"Now Dani," she said with a slight tremble in her voice. "The last time you were here, you said you had no vagina. Why do you think that?"
What kind of question was that?
"Do you have a penis?"
She gaped, but didn't speak. Finally she said no.
"Why don't you think you have a penis," I asked her with all the innocence of a bear in a bee hive.
"Because," she said tersely, trying to retain her composure, "girls don't have penises. You are a girl. Have you ever been to a gynecologist?"
"No, have you?"
"Of course I have, but this is not about me, Dani. Why must you see this as a contest of wills?"
"Because you will not listen to me."
"I understand what it's like..." she began but I cut her off.
"No you don't. Everyone you meet every day of your life is either a boy or girl, a man or a woman. It's the first thing you learn about somebody and the most important fact of their life. But I'm not like that. I don't have the parts. What I need from you is for you to believe that I'm not crazy."
"I don't think you're 'crazy', Dani; we've been over this."
"Then tell it to the judge!"
Doctor Hopewell got up and tried to calm me.
"No one thinks you're insane, young lady, we just think you're confused. You should go to a specialist. I will give you the number of mine. I highly recommend him. Now calm down, or I'll tell Judge Marcus anger management is what you need."
I didn't want that, so I changed my tune.
"So what's her name, this hoo-hoo doctor?"
The good doctor's maw was gaping. Whether it was because I shocked her silly or she didn't understand I don't know, but it got the intended result.
"What is your gynecologist's name? She does have a name, right?"
She hesitated before answering "Hammond," and touched her rolodex.
"...Greg Hammond. I've got his number right here. Let me find it."
"Wait, your doctor for female problems is a male? Why?"
This really seemed to fluster her.
"I," she started, and hesitated for a long second. "I just don't want another woman looking at me down there."
"Down there? You make it sound like a safari to deepest darkest Africa. Doctor Livingston, OB/GYN, I presume?"
That last crack just happened; I couldn't stop myself.
Now she was bright red with embarrassment, and I was afraid she was going to cry.
"This is not necessary, Dani. What would your mother think if she heard you talking like that? Besides, it's none of your business why I have a male gynecologist. He makes me feel safe."
Point, score, and match.
"My mother would laugh her ass off."
"If that's true, then she's as insensitive as you are. You ought to be ashamed of yourself." She paused for a while, almost hyperventilating and then seemed to have an idea.
"Does your mother have a gynecologist?"
"Then why don't you see her?"
"Nadine," I replied trying to match the register of her voice as closely as I could, "we've been over this before. My mother has a full set of reproductive organs, otherwise I wouldn't be here. But I don't, not at all. Why don't you admit to yourself that you enjoy being fondled below the waist by steady pair of rough old hands? Or is he younger than you?"
Thar she blows...tears of frustration. I knew I'd won when she sat back down and blew noisily into a Kleenex, like a congested elephant. She grabbed another, and another, until mascara was staining her hands and her tacky face paint was smeared across a mass of tissue scattered on her desk.
I stood up to leave and noticed her makeup smeared on my chart. Some people would feel sympathy for her in this situation, but I didn't. The stupid bitch wasn't listening.
After I left I started to feel bad. My father wasn't picking me up, so I went for a walk in the park.
My folks were paying for her time, and now she would surely give the judge a harsh opinion of me. Not that he needed a reason to dismiss me further.
Maybe I'd better play along.
I found a pay phone and called Doctor Hopewell to apologize, asking for the name of her doctor. She was still crying and it had been for almost two hours.
Later, her secretary told me she'd cancelled all her appointments that afternoon and went home, still crying.