The Psychiatrists: Marriage, Sex & Identity in the District of Columbia

Man and a Woman. Oil Painting. 1907-09, Pablo Picasso, Artist

by LJ Frank

Long piano fingers grasped the thick steering wheel of the black, luxury pick up truck. The truck served as a conservative political posture and statement. As the driver weaved his way on Pennsylvania Avenue, text messages were exchanged between the Passenger with that of a spirited intellectual, known existentially as Silhouette, who was at that moment standing in a tinted room peering out of a hotel window at the traffic below, with a casual glance back at the man asleep in the bed. 

The Passenger and Silhouette decided it was best to meet at a quaint, inconspicuous coffee shop in Georgetown, known for its shabby mixture of exterior hues. Upon arrival, the Passenger waited until Silhouette’s taxi arrived. The Passenger then dismissed his driver noting he would take a taxi back to his office.

Passenger and Silhouette entered the shop together. The fragrance of fresh brewed coffee infused the air with a savory consistency as they sat down at a small table near a covered patio, located on the side of the building.

Passenger: Thank you for meeting me. I wanted to elaborate about a predicament I think I may be in.

Silhouette: Oh? You don’t know for sure if it’s a predicament or not?

Passenger: It sounds strange I know. It’s more than a gut feeling.

Silhouette: Fair enough. So, what’s the predicament?

Passenger:  I’m having an existential identity issue. I look in the mirror and recognize the voice but that’s it.

Silhouette: Not unusual. Have you seen a psychiatrist?

Passenger: I’m a psychiatrist as you are. A colleague said I needed to take an alternative path. I thought of you.

Silhouette: Oh? Well, we were sort of married at one time. But we have both moved on. I have my own practice. Most of my patients are mere survivors.

Passenger: My patients are sending me photos of where they are vacationing. Generally, from some remote exotic place. I received a multimedia text message from a woman wearing only a lavender lingerie veil standing on a patio with the ocean in the distance behind her. I could only see the outline of her face. The message indicated she was experiencing second thoughts about sex and marriage in the District of Columbia. And that was it.  Nothing more. No location. No identity. Telephone number listed as unavailable.

Silhouette: Expectations? I have a remarkably narcissistic client who is in conflict with a world that’s mostly in a survival mode and he knows it and occasionally feels guilty that he doesn’t feel guilty. People share images seeking affirmation and perhaps invoking envy – “look at me, aren’t you happy for me” or something else altogether…innocuous or perhaps a deeper and blurred meaning that they are not even aware of?  Fuck it. I’m trying to get up, go to work each day, have an affair here and there, and maintain my sanity with people who need my help but really can’t afford my hourly fee.

Passenger: False hope? Is hope a parasite? The well-heeled feed nonsense into others they don’t see on their level? Control? Let’s change the subject.

Silhouette: If that helps.

Passenger: Are you still into watercolors?

Silhouette: I prefer oil. Thick and textured abstracts, filled with expression. Watercolor is flat in comparison. Are you still getting your toenails painted?

Passenger: Did you ever see the opening scenes of the 2005 film The Matador?  That will answer your question.

Silhouette: No, I didn’t see it. I assume…colorful?

Passenger: You could say that. You’d enjoy the film.

Silhouette: And?

Passenger:  Listen, regarding the predicament, my second wife left me.

Silhouette: Your second wife? I didn’t know you remarried.

Passenger: I didn’t either, that is, until I received a letter from a lawyer and former congressman last week stating my wife wanted a divorce. .

Silhouette: What? Mistaken identity? I’m in the dark.

Passenger: So am I.

Silhouette: Is that why you looked in the mirror and said you didn’t recognize yourself?

Passenger: The following morning after receiving the letter I got out of bed, took a shower and then looked in the mirror and something clicked in my brain. I looked different. What if the person in the mirror staring back at me, wasn’t really me? But if not me than whose reflection…was it?

Silhouette: Hm. It’s actually gets more complicated.

Passenger: What do you mean?

Silhouette: If that’s not you in the mirror to whom was I married to for ten years? And another thing, why didn’t you recognize the naked woman wearing only a veil?

Passenger: That was you?

Silhouette: April Fools’.

Passenger: It’s not April.

Silhouette: Exactly. And perhaps I’m not the person you think I am.