by Sascha Goluboff
My therapist Dr. Cy called the night he went on a bender. I was studying in the campus library with Jill, my best friend and roommate.
“I thought you broke it off,” she whispered when his number flashed across my screen. Our phones were out on the table.
“I did. Don’t worry about it.” I turned off the sound and slid the phone into my back pocket. I opened my religion book and highlighted intensely. She finally returned to her chemistry flashcards.
Jill means well but suffers from acute naivete. When she’d discovered Dr. Cy and me making out on the couch two weeks ago, she’d accused him of breaking the Hippocratic Oath. He’d attempted to talk her down (he’s used to dealing with girls gone crazy, like me at my first session), but she ran off and locked herself in her room. After three days of the silent treatment, I cornered her in the kitchen and vowed on our sorority’s founding mothers that I’d find a new therapist if she would talk to me again. She agreed but only if I would stop dating him. From then on, she’d acted like he didn’t exist.
“Katie?” Jill asked, looking up from the molecular formulas scattered across the library table. “Just out of curiosity – he’s like fifty years old. And bald.”
It’s so like her to believe that attraction relies on good looks and youthfulness.
“He’s brilliant,” I said. “No more panic attacks.”
“Yeah, but…” she blushed.
“He introduced me to a new way of healing. It’s a higher-order kind of thing.”
“Sounds like a load of garbage.”
“No, really. Intimacy’s all about soul connection.”
“Come on, Katie. You literally couldn’t get out of bed for weeks after what happened with the guy-who-shall-not-be-named. You know how many classes I missed to take care of you? And then you hook up with the doctor who’s supposed to help you get out of this mess? What were you thinking?”
“You make it sound so terrible. You’ll never get the true nature of our relationship.”
Her face soured. “You didn’t break it off, did you?”
I picked up my book and pretended to read.
She swept up her notes and stuffed them in her backpack.
“You’re not as smart as you think you are,” she said and walked away.
I don’t know how long I stared at the clock on the wall (each tick a hammer to my skull), but by 11:00 p.m., I decided to text Jill and tell her that Dr. Cy was the only one who had ever successfully dealt with my anxiety. I’d had panic issues way before college. The frat party incident made them far worse.
I pulled out my phone. Dr. Cy was calling again.
“Why didn’t you pick up?” he asked, his words slurred.
“Have you been drinking?”
“I fell and cut my head. There’s blood on the floor. The bed too.” His breath knocked against the receiver.
“Oh my God.” I tried to stay calm like he’d taught me.
“I need you. Come over,” he said and hung up.
I had seen Dr. Cy drunk before. He’d taken me to dinner at an out-of-town Chinese restaurant after we’d confessed our feelings for one another and kissed in his office. I flirted with him over wonton soup as he expounded on his theory about the transmutation of souls towards a higher unity. He ordered one Tsingtao after another, his explanations becoming frenzied, until he almost passed out at the table. I drove his car back to his apartment while he slept, his face planted against the passenger’s side window. When he came to, he explained that he’d received a DUI several years before but promised to get sober for me.
It was past midnight when I arrived at Dr. Cy’s apartment from the library. I found him in the bedroom stripped down to his tighty-whities and lying on the green comforter – one of the few things his wife had left after she walked out with the kids. Bottles of Coors lay helter-skelter across the bed and floor.
I sat down next to him. A swollen gash on his forehead pulsed purple.
“I’m lit,” he said.
“Let me find some ointment and Band-Aids.”
He grabbed my arm. “Maybe I crossed a line.”
“You said it’s a miracle when two souls like ours meet.”
“You wore that pink miniskirt. Your panties played peek-a-boo.”
He propped himself on his elbows, took a swig from the nearest upright bottle, and offered it to me.
I remembered the night when the guy-who-shall-not-be-named (the one whom I’d thought was my friend) had spiked my drink at the party and pressed himself inside me. Even though I went in and out of consciousness, I still blamed myself for not fighting back.
“Don’t be coy,” Dr. Cy said when I pushed the beer away with trembling hands. He went for the zipper on my pants.
Anxiety revved full force. My ears buzzed, my head throbbed, and I felt like I was going to pass out.
“You promised you wouldn’t drink,” I managed to say.
“So now you’re too good for me?”
He pulled me down on top of him. I yelled at him to let me go, and when he held on tighter, I rammed my fingers into his wound. He howled and threw me off the bed.
I lay on the floor for a long while staring at stains snaking across the white ceiling tiles. By the time he began to snore, the panic had evaporated, and I was sure that something entirely new had taken its place.
I decided to text Jill and apologize. I’d tell her she was right about Dr. Cy. I’d explain that I saved myself this time. I’d swear it would never happen again.
* * *
Sascha Goluboff has a PhD in Anthropology, and she is a Professor of Cultural Anthropology and the Director of Community-Based Learning at Washington and Lee University. She obtained her MFA in Writing from Pacific University in 2021.