My First Therapist

I took this photograph while leaving my first therapist’s office. It was my last appointment. I went to her for 11 years. The first stretch lasted six years, then I took a much needed three-year break, and finished off in what felt like a five year stretch. I only stopped because she retired.

I remember the bronze figurine in her office from day one. It’s a reproduction of an ancient Greek dancer (3rd–2nd century BCE) in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, though I didn’t know that at first. I think I initially wondered if it was a work by someone in her family because she let it slip once that her dad was a sculptor. Considering that she was tight lipped about everything else that detail seemed significant. I also assumed she told me because she was trying to relate to me as an art critic.

I once asked her about the veiled woman and she how it appeared to shift and move between layers, each of which appeared to envelope her. I’d never thought of it that way, because I always saw it more theatrically, like an exaggerated pose that evokes a type of ephemeral splendor. That disagreement felt significant at the time. I learned the history of the object, but she wasn’t as interested in the backstory. I also knew in many ways we were both right.

The mini kimono and Hillary doll were more recent additions to that shelf which sat across the room behind her large comfy chair.

She also had a giant vermilion kimono hanging high on the room’s largest wall, while across from it were two small pink and purple flower oil paintings. She never told me where all these objects came from, and I’m sure I asked, probably more than once. Most of the things in the room were incongruous. The building was built in the 1910s and it didn’t look like it had been renovated in a very very long time. Her office was perched on the fifth floor of a narrow plain-faced commercial edifice that overlooked West 34th Street. But if truth be know, I always missed the cosiness of her previous office half a block away at the New Yorker hotel.

One of the most important things a therapist could teach you is to move on when you’re done, so I did. I asked her if I could take this image with my iPhone as I was walking out. It reminds me of where I’ve been.

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