By Harrison Abbott
I dreamt about Rosa for the first time. I lay in the dark and I think that was when I first realised I had mixed emotions for her. Or new ones, rather, that unsurfaced from my subconscious. I went back to sleep and tried to forget about the dream. It was risky to desire a client. More than risky. It could ruin me. But I kept thinking about her after I remembered the dream in the morning. I relished our next appointment later that week. I told myself that I simply enjoyed her company because she was such an interesting client. That nothing else magnetised me.
Then she walked into my office and I grew dizzy. She’d put her curly hair up and she wore tights and a skirt. I smiled and invited her to sit. This was bad. Perhaps I should cancel our rapport and tell her not to return. But of course I just sat down in the opposite armchair and awaited Rosa’s monologue.
Rosa had had a bitter childhood and its trauma was still freshly revolving in the present day. Her brain was an explosion of consciousness, a celebration of language and the labyrinth of memory. As she spoke she would dip in and out of time periods and hint at violence and sexual assault and the cruelty of her parents. With such a convoluted frenzy that I stopped trying to make coherent notes out of what she was saying. I only listened. But I was fascinated.
She would often repeat story premises, then veer off and give them new plots and endings. There would be an assault which didn’t actually happen – it was just a dream. But then she dreamed about it so excessively she wasn’t sure whether it did in fact occur and she’d repressed it. She would despise her father and the memories of his raging temper. Then start crying when she narrated how much of an inspirational, creative man he’d been.
She wouldn’t look at me as she spoke. She just delivered the monologue, winding through these houses of shame, despair and mayhem, finding her way through each room whilst narrating her journey. As a psychiatrist with thirty years’ experience, I knew that Rosa was mentally ill. She showed many signs of severe mental illness. And that her condition was so advanced that our therapy sessions would be of little help. Some minds are so damaged that intervention is impossible. But I loved her sessions. She was incredibly bright and had a colossal vocabulary. Her stories would reach the most bizarre climaxes that they went beyond anything I’d heard before in my career. She was the most enduring wreck I’d ever encountered.
And yet she was not a wreck. She was wealthy and successful. She was married to an equally successful man with whom she’d had two kids. There were no issues of substance abuse or suicidal thoughts. Rosa was not a threat to herself or anybody else. She was merely banished from a neurotypical grasp of reality. What I could do was provide umpteen prescriptions of anti-psychotic drugs. There were so many pills that would deaden her erratic mood and disable her memory. Or at least not make these memories so extreme. But I knew that that would evaporate her intelligence. It would numb rather than cure her. And I did not want her cured. I wanted her to remain in my lair.
She returned in my dreams again and again. Then invaded my daily consciousness and work pattern. I only saw her once a week and there was a dreadful diminuendo when our sessions ended and I had to wait for the next one. The dreams got so bad that I could not sleep well. I had a few nights of poor sleep. Then I couldn’t sleep at all for two nights. It was then that I turned to my own stash of pills to help me rest. And they worked temporarily. They forced me into sleep. But it was incredibly hard to get up in the morning. And I had a mammoth workload from other clients each day.
I began to lose concentration and my vision was often blurred. Then one morning I slept in completely for work and did not show up for my first appointment. I called my client and lied that I had been in a minor car crash on my way in and it had delayed my journey. It was so ludicrous a lie but my client believed me and I felt ashamed that he was concerned for me. I had to stop taking the pills.
My insomnia worsened. My obsession with Rosa intensified. I saw her on the Wednesday mornings and they were the only periods where I felt alive. Her words reached unbearable intensities and all I could do was stare at her luscious mouth as she dealt them. The withdrawal from her presence maddened me. Once, after she left the room, I collapsed in my office. My secretary came in and found me on the floor. She wanted to call the doctor but I waved her off. I saw my other clients that day and pretended I was well.
I needed to delve into this infatuation. I figured that I had to wade deeper in rather than slip out with wet limbs. It was the only way to understand what was happening to me. Rosa and I had naturally exchanged letters as clients. I knew her address. One night I drove across the city to her house. I just wanted to see where she stayed, to be close to her. She lived in a rich neighbourhood. Her house had three storeys and a lavish garden of arching trees. I stayed in the dark and watched the windows, wondering which might be her bedroom. I imagined what she looked like sleeping. Rosa’s husband was a lucky man.
If I could learn a bit more about Rosa’s life then I could make further steps towards gaining here. I had to have her. Perhaps I was wrong all along about her condition. Maybe I could save her mind. And if I could do that then it would make her love me. That is the ultimate basis of attachment. People cling to others who are capable of aiding them. People are selfish animals who stick to minds that support them for their own benefit. I am not different. I wanted Rosa to supplement my own ego.
Or maybe I wanted her to save me. I was 57. I had no children or wife. I had a long relationship with a woman which had failed a long time. And I hadn’t experienced sexual intercourse since that era. A fury still dabbled in my thinking whenever I thought about her. I wondered whether it maddened me because I thought about her every day or because I hadn’t stopped thinking about her since it ended so long ago. And that I, as a supposed doctor of minds, could not heal myself or understand why I was troubled. I was still a famous psychiatrist. I had a villa in Spain and another huge house here in the suburbs. I was psychically fit and healthy. Yet mentally I was pathetic.
Rosa could be my antidote; she could cancel all of that pain.
I went back to her house one Sunday. There was a little hill which overlooked her home and the road led up there. The neighbourhood houses were far apart with plush gardens and fancy cars. All surrounded by pockets of woods. I parked my car in between the woods on the hillside. I saw Rosa come out into the garden with her children and husband. I wanted to murder her husband through envy. Whenever Rosa spoke about Fred in our sessions the words scarred my esteem. I already knew he was a good man. But I hated him. Jealousy is among the most childish of emotions and therefore one of the most powerful.
Fred was very handsome as well. Of course he was – to be with a woman as luscious as Rosa. I saw him when I brought my binoculars to the hill. I unwound my car window and went back there in the evenings. It was summer time and Rosa’s family would come out almost every night. I knew that what I was doing was perverse but I enjoyed it. And the hillside was deserted. Nobody knew I was here and I wasn’t harming anybody.
On one of the spying escapades, I saw the whole family leave in the daytime. Leave the house and drive away. The house was empty. I drove down the hill and reached their back garden. The neighbourhood was spacious, as I said, and there would be nobody around to see me if I climbed over the fence into their garden. What would it be like to be in her garden? I climbed up the fence and I jumped over. Glorious. Rosa’s flowerbeds were wonderful and the lawn ripe. I walked up to the dinner table and the family had left the plates out. I could smell the cigarettes and alcohol from the parents and saw the candy wrappers from the kids. This was what a family was like.
I happened to look up at the patio doors leading into the house. One of the doors was ajar. I couldn’t believe it. She’d left her house unlocked for me. I crept up to the door and went inside. This is what I’d wanted for weeks. To be inside her abode. And I explored.
I ventured into her kitchen to see what diet she followed. I went into her study and looked at her books. I cherished the fabric of the carpets and when I went up stairs admired the photographs of her family members. Perfection. She had a son and daughter both under the age of ten. I went into the son’s room. It seemed classically messy. Videogames and posters of rock stars. The girl’s room was filled with drawings and play dough sculptures. I knew I shouldn’t go in to the parents’ bedroom because it would enrage me but I went in anyway. And it did.
There was a brief desire to annihilate this house. I could leave all the gas knobs on in the kitchen for when the family got back. But what I ended up doing was going back down stairs. And I robbed the key to the patio doors at the back garden. So I could return here when I liked. I took the key and I locked the door behind me. Climbed back over the fence and drove home, with a jumping zeal in my breast.
I was so giddy with excitement that I sent out a message to all of my clients that night. That I was ill and could not attend work tomorrow. And I drove back to the hill above Rosa’s house in the early morning. I needed to get back inside and feel that relish again. Rosa drove her kids to school, after Fred left for work. I was about to head down to the house after she left. But then she returned. I saw her drive up and enter the house. And then there came the inclination to go in and confront her. I wanted her alone. The curls of her hair bounced around. Her legs shifted like swords neatly in the sunlight.
I waited until Rosa left. I entered her house through the patios. The living room had a pleasant smell and a humungous television. I sat on the sofa and turned the TV on. They had Sky and I watched the tacky news. Then I went up to the fridge and I took out the pasta that they’d had from last night. Rosa had cooked it, I knew, and every pasta shell was a delight. I pioneered in their alcohol cabinet and then adventured through their DVD collection. They had surround-sound speakers all across the walls of the living room to make it like a cinema. I watched two movies throughout and continued to drink and eat. And I fell asleep on the sofa.
I woke up with a flicker and flash of noise from the front door. And the kids ran into the house. I jumped up from the sofa. The patio doors were ten yards ahead of me and the only option I had was to run and flee.
I ran, and I slipped on my sock feet and fell over. I landed on my face. And then Rosa came into the living room. She screamed.
Fred rushed to her side and held her. They stood in the living room doorway. The kids came to the door and Rosa told them to stay away. To stay where they were.
“Dr Versteeg?” Rosa said to me. “What are you doing here?”
“Who is this, Rosa? You know this man?” Fred said.
“He’s my psychiatrist. That’s Dr Versteeg.”
Fred went silent.
“What is up with you, Dr Versteeg?” Rosa said. “Why are you in my house?”
Rosa had her hair up again. I loved the way her curls could not be curtailed by hairbands. Throughout our sessions she had always been scared of the past. Her problems were based on history. Not on the present. And what I saw now was that Rosa was afraid of me. I was afraid of myself. I had ended my love. And I was beyond the possibility of saviour myself.