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oedipusy



This will sound like a joke, which is to say, untrue, its narrative structure a little convenient, its punchlines suspiciously punchy, and I guess you could make the argument that it is, in a way, a joke, that although the events very much happened, I might have been functioning, at least to some degree, with an audience in mind, making decisions based on how entertained this imagined audience might be rather than letting self-oriented instinct be my guide, but I promise that, at the time, in the moment, although I was well aware of how, for lack of a better word, “funny” it would be for me, the son of a single mom therapist, to have sex with my new therapist, a woman with the same first name as my mother—Lisa—who looks a little like my mother—tall, thin, blonde hair—and considers my core clinical issues to be classically Oedipal—that’s most of what we talk about in sessions—I maintain that my motivations for sleeping with her did not feel like they had much to do with story arc, but were, from what I can tell, a product of authentic libidinal lust. In other words, I did not have sex with her for laughs.

In the introductory consultation, I figured I would get it out of the way and admit that part of the reason I wanted to work with her was that I was pretty sure that a lot my psychological problems stem from issues I have as my mother’s somewhat neglected only child, and that, rather than dancing around those issues, I wanted to face them head on, wanted to dive right into the proverbial belly of the proverbial beast, and I thought, maybe, the most direct and even courageous way to do that would be to not ignore the fact that as I scrolled through thousands of therapists on PsychologyToday.com’s classifieds, the profile that caught my eye, the one that I seemed to be, to some extent, unconsciously drawn to, was of a woman who, superficially at least, shared several uncanny similarities to my mother, and I recognized that this too, this grand idea to ameliorate my inner maternal conflicts by leaning into them and working with a therapist who would, unavoidably, serve as some kind of maternal stand-in, might just be another symptom of the very disorder that had me pursuing therapy in the first place, but even if that were the case, I hoped it was OK because, well, that seemed like pretty rich material to mine for insight and realization. In other words, if I had “mommy issues,” I wanted to get to work.

Our first handful of sessions were relatively normal, I think, and we discussed all of the above, the potential benefits and pitfalls of seeing a therapist with whom I might be performing “maternal transference,” and we concluded, together, that this experiment of ours was worth a shot, as it was possible that there were conflicts and resentments and desires I was simply unable to process and negotiate with my actual mother that I might feel secure enough to process and negotiate in the vacuum of a therapist’s office, but she made it very clear that this kind of clinical work would require a kind of “radical transparency,” that I would have to disclose, as best I could, everything, especially my feelings and intentions while we were in session because we needed to closely monitor when we might be stepping into sticky territory, when I might be trying to circumvent the clinical relationship and manipulate her into engaging in “countertransference,” trying to win the attention, affection, and love my mother never would or could give me, and I promised her I would try to be totally open with her, telling her whatever popped into my head whenever it popped into my head, and I wanted to take this moment as an opportunity to practice “radical transparency” and disclose that I was drawn to working with her not just because of all the potential therapeutic benefits of having a therapist similar to my mother but because I thought she looked cute in her PsychologyToday.com profile picture and have always harbored vague sexual fantasies about the therapist-patient power dynamic, which I was not too blind to see might be somewhat informed by my aforementioned “mommy issues.” In other words, I would be a good patient so she could be a good doctor.

It wasn’t until she recommended that I revisit Oedipus Rex, which I then read in a single sitting, that things began to shift, as after that, our discussions turned existential, to the subject of fate, specifically, the idea that a future, once named, has a certain gravitational pull to it, and although in Sophocles’ magnum opus, the protagonist, in theory, didn’t know he was killing his father or fucking his mother, and although in Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund was mostly interested in the sexual connection children feel with their opposite-sex parent and competition they feel will their same-sex parent, what Oedipus, one of western culture’s great conceptual characters, really signifies is the fact that there is some fundamental pleasure to be had in fulfilling one’s destiny, especially if one believes in free will because then they are, in a sense, exercising their freedom to surrender their freedom, choosing to function as if there is no choice, and in a world where God has been dead for centuries, we both agreed there are few more deliciously transgressive acts available to our species than this. In other words, we were sealing our fate by talking about our fate.

It was not long after that session that I told her I had a dream about her, a dream I was nervous to articulate because it was sexual and embarrassing and I didn’t want to make her uncomfortable, but she encouraged me to divulge it anyway and do so because, as we’d discussed, my sexual feelings for her were an important part our work, fair game, and in some ways, the key reason we were engaged in our therapeutic dialogue to begin with, so I took a deep breath and began explaining that, in my dream, I walked into her office and sat down, as usual, and after a long silence in which she just stared at me for a while, she matter of factly told me to undress, and once my brain caught up to my ears, I asked her if she thought that was a good idea, if she thought my undressing would help or hinder the progress we’d been making in my therapy, but she didn’t answer those questions, and I remember, in my dream, liking that, as it showed she knew me well, knew better than to indulge my neuroses, so I stripped down to my underwear and stood in her air-conditioned office as she took me in with her eyes, inspecting me like a doctor, and then she told me to take off my underwear as well and lie face down on her couch, but at this point in the dream, things get a little hazy and surreal, and the next thing I remember she was asking me which parts of my body I’d like her to kiss, and I told her, one part at a time, and then she kissed that part, one part at a time, the back of my knees, the arches of my feet, my Achilles tendons, where my buttocks meets my thighs, the spine of my lower back, underneath my shoulder blades, my armpits, the palms of my hands, behind my ears. In other words, the dream escalated quickly.

I paused for a moment while recalling the dream, unsure if I had gone too far, but she told me to keep going, so I continued, telling her that, in the dream, when she was done kissing all the spots, she told me, enunciating her words very clearly, that she was now going to lick her index finger and very gently, very slowly, begin tracing a straight line from the tip of my penis, down my shaft, down my testicles, down my perineum, to my anus, and after I nodded in consent, she began drawing the line, her finger the pen, her saliva the ink, over and over and over again, until eventually, I arched my back in a way that made it clear I wanted more, and she slid her finger into my anus, and while this was happening, I started moaning, probably moaning in real life too, in my bed, but in the dream, she leaned forward and began whispering stuff into my ear, stuff like, here we are, you’re my patient, I’m your therapist, and here we are, I have the same first name as your mother, same profession as your mother, even look like your mother, and here we are, we have spent 45 minutes a week for the last three months talking about your Oedipal issues, your attraction to me, how the two are related, and here we are, in the very moment that we have been steadily moving toward since you walked into this room for the first time, since you were thrust out of your mother’s pussy, since I was thrust out of my mother’s pussy, since Freud wrote his theories, since Sophocles wrote his plays, and here we are, fulfilling your most base desire as closely as we can without having you commit some kind of incestuous crime, my finger inside you, my hot breath tickling your ear, telling you exactly what’s going on, telling you exactly how we ended up here, making you understand that your climax, both literal and metaphorical, both micro and macro, is drawing near, and I won’t let you have it until you accept that the story of your life is all you have, that the peace you claim to so desperately be seeking is right in front of you. In other words, my dream was both hot and strange.

Sitting in her chair, she seemed unfazed by the kinkiness, the obscenity, and she asked me if, when I woke up, there was evidence I had experienced a nocturnal emission, and I told her, no, much to my surprise, my underwear was dry, and she nodded, seemingly satisfied, and said time was up and we could continue this line of discussion next week, and I thanked her for making me feel safe enough to tell her about the dream, and said I really appreciated how good she was at her job and how open she was to pushing the limits of her profession with me, and I remember walking out of her office feeling wonderfully unburdened by having put all my cards on the therapeutic table, so I hope, I really do hope, now that you know all this, you can imagine how I felt when I returned to her office the following week for my usual appointment and sat down in the chair opposite hers and waited for her to begin the session by asking how I was feeling or what I would like to talk about but was greeted by silence instead, the kind of silence that nauseatingly cliché writers sometimes describe as “loud,” and at first, I felt confused, and thought, okay, doc, you’re tired today, I’ll get things going for us this week, but before I opened by mouth to speak, I noticed a strange look in her eye, a look that nauseatingly cliché writers don’t try to describe, and noticed her right index finger slowly flexing and unflexing, rubbing the fabric of her armrest, going with the grain, then against it, and suddenly I realized, oh, ohhhhh, here we are, and I smiled the first real smile I’d smiled since I was a child and started to undo my belt. In other words, she didn’t have to say a word.

Gideon Jacobs  is a writer who has contributed to The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Artforum, Bomb Magazine, and others. He's currently working on a collection of short fiction.

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