Dr. Orenstein was a small, bespectacled man with a bald head, and he
always wore expensive suits, which he purchased from Brooks Brothers near
As far back as I could remember, he had been concerned with appearances. Even my grandfather, who was a banker, said that he was the “soul of conservatism.” But his articles on the psychology of Carl Jung were bold and original, and in Jungian circles he was considered something of a radical.
I was sunk in the deep leather chair in his study, facing him. As usual during our sessions, we drank tea. He looked down at my hands and I said, truthfully, as I had planned, “I was in a fight.”
His face reddened and his eyes glistened, but he didn’t say anything. He was a champion wrestler in college, and my grandfather had told me that, in spite of appearances, they had an “adventurous youth” together.
I said, “I’ve had some rather odd experiences in the last few weeks....”
“It would appear so.”
“Even though I’ve never accepted Jung’s concept of Synchronicity, I...”
He finished my thought; “You are in another crisis ... a crisis brought on by a coincidence?” His eyes twinkled with irony. He looked at my hands again. “And you’ve gone over the edge for this young woman.” He paused, for dramatic effect, and looking steadily into my eyes, he asked, “Do you love her?”
“I don’t think so. I have strong feelings for her. Maybe I want to save her.”
“And the Synchronicity?”
“Well, for one thing, Marlo and Candy look so much alike.”
“That isn't Synchronicity.”
“No, but finding them in the same hospital room, one raped and the other beaten, on the same night, is.”
“But you said Candy asked to be moved into Marlo’s room. After they met in the hall and got to know each other. That at first, they had placed her in another room down the hall.”
“True. But the fact that I discovered them there. And that they were both...”
I looked up into the sea of books over his head.
He said, “You have shown me many times that the laws of probability explain coincidence very neatly. You sat in that very chair, a few months ago, and told me that it is only Western man’s need, I think you put it, ‘to eradicate the eddies of disorder that threaten the current of his existence,’ that causes him to pretend that these unexpected events are extraordinary and not the stuff of everyday life.” He paused and smiled like a man who can barely contain his glee. “And I believed your proofs. Almost.” He raised his index finger and wagged it. “Jung told me himself, on several occasions, that it was precisely this sudden, inexplicable appearance of the unexpected amid the mundane and trivial events of daily life that forced him to hypothesize the principle of Synchronicity, with or without scientific explanation.” He asked, “What do you see in Candy?”
“She’s beautiful and intelligent and....”
“Yes. She is very intelligent and high spirited. But she has shown herself to be a rebel, and eventually, she will taste all the forbidden fruits and commit every sin. Going down that path with her would be suicidal.”
“Can’t I help her through a rough time? A crucial time?”
“It would be dangerous. And probably futile.”
He got up and walked to an aluminum ladder that was standing near a row of books.
I answered my own question. “Marlo is different. Her innocence has been taken away from her. But Candy performed the operation on herself.”
He picked up the ladder and moved it across the room. “But there was the provocation of hitch-hiking after dark. You seem to have forgotten that. Marlo is a very beautiful girl, and she got into a car full of strange young men, after dark.” He climbed the ladder and began searching for a book.
From the ladder, he said, “Be clear about it Brad. If you try to save her, then it is for yourself, for your own pleasure. Don’t forget that she is one of the most beautiful women that you ... how did you put it?”
“I said that she looks like a Playboy centerfold.”
“Remember your experience with Mary Anne, last year. She was beautiful and schizophrenic, and you thought you could steal some honey without getting stung. But when she went back to her English professor, you transformed her into the love of your life, and suffered the Sorrows of Werther. We spent too many months working that out.”
“Why can’t I love Anne?”
“Love is mysterious.” He pulled a white paperback from between two leather bound books, and descended the ladder. “We make a judgment on another human being in an instant, sometimes after only a few words have been spoken, or after a glance. And occasionally, we are wrong. But a finely tuned young man like you won’t often be wrong in a judgment of the heart. Your judgment will be beyond words and logic, but it will be sure. We don’t have the right to question such things.” He walked towards me with the book in hand. “All of this has been known for a very long time.” He held the book out towards me. “Among the moderns, Stendhal has written well and entertainingly about it, and I believe you should read his book.”
I took the book from his outstretched hand, and studied the cover. A small picture of the author, Stendhal, a happy man with a bright, ironic smile was in the center, and under the picture was the title: “On Love.”
“I loved Anne, in a way.”
“But we don’t love, ‘In a way.’ We love unconditionally. And we love the same person each time.... Ah, but that is another story. I think Ortega y Gasset has had the last word on that. Also, he is a good antidote for the Shakespearean excesses of Stendhal. ” He walked back to the ladder.
“You are young and handsome, and you have a strong sex drive. Women feel it. You like them and so they find you irresistible. And it’s normal that you want to experiment with sex. You are only 22 and you are not yet ready for marriage. But experimenting with either Marlo or Candy will be dangerous for you.”
“Why can’t I just love them and enjoy being young? Just ... experiment?”
“It is imperative that Marlo learn to trust a man. The rest of her life is at stake. Remember what happened to her. You can’t experiment with that.” He climbed the ladder and retrieved another book.
I shifted in the big maroon leather chair, uncomfortably. I said, “She can trust me. I won’t hurt her.”
He continued, as if he hadn’t heard. “Being a fatherless child, it is almost certain that she had little sense of phallic sexuality before her brutal awakening. She honored you with her deepest secret: the shocking truth that she experienced the strongest sexual ‘pleasure’ of her life during the rape, and that she cannot stop thinking about it. It was only possible for her to admit that truth to you and even to herself, because she loves you.”
He took off his glasses, and rubbed the bridge of his nose. He put them back on, and looked across the room, from the foot of the ladder, into my eyes. He said, softly, “It is, unfortunately for the human race, an all too common reaction to rape.”
I had studied the writings of Freud’s daughter, Anna Freud, and of his disciple, Melanie Klein, and Dr. Orenstein’s words seemed almost like quotations from their books. “It sounds so academic,” I protested.
“It isn’t theoretical. My 40 years of experience as an analyst tell me that she is in danger. She might become a lesbian or worse, a prostitute.... And Candy is, well....” He didn’t finish his sentence. He climbed the ladder again, and retrieved another paperback. From the top of the ladder, he said, “Let me explain and you can argue with me later.”
I said, “Explain.”
He descended the ladder and walked towards me with a book in his hand. He sat down in the chair facing me, holding it to his chest. “Candy has never known a mother’s love. She has had her father all to herself, but his love was hollow. Robert Hollyfield isn’t capable of love. He loved a picture on the wall, a picture of his imaginary Madonna-prostitute wife. Tragically, to win her father’s love, Candy has become a prostitute, like her mother.” He paused. “Her pimp, what was his name?” He paused, rhetorically, but didn’t wait for an answer. “He loved her, at first, and that is why she stayed with him. But his withdrawal into alcoholism and drug addiction was a repetition of her father’s withdrawal into Fundamentalism and the fantasy relationship with his absent wife.”
“How do you know so much about someone you’ve never met?” I asked, skeptically.
He said, irritated, “Brad. You are afraid of commitment because of your mother. You were overwhelmed by Rhonda’s great passion for God and her great passion for your intellect.”
I wanted to push away his “truths” with anger, but pride silenced me.
He said, “It isn’t wise to think that you can escape from a relationship with a woman who is your equal, by playing with these two ... girls.”
“My equal?” I said, in a too loud voice. “Look, I’m not playing with them.” I was ashamed at my sudden anger. I added, softly, “You aren’t helping me.”
He watched me, and I knew that he would wait until I said something. I said, “They’re both beautiful. I’ve never seen a more beautiful body than Candy’s.” He looked at me with compassion. I was suddenly sad. I said, “OK. Here I am again. I’ve got myself into a mess and I feel like a fool, and you know that I won’t do it, but I feel like shooting myself.”
He brushed aside the Vaudeville suicide threat. “Brad. Graham was not a father for you. Do you understand that?”
“Of course. He was an ‘Old Man’ Archetype.” We had been over this ground many times before.
“You know Jung’s theory, but you don’t feel it.” He waited. “Was Graham ever in competition with you for the love of your mother?”
“And you slept with your mother, when you had bad dreams, until you were thirteen.”
I stared at him. “Yes.”
“Rhonda is a beautiful, sensuous woman.”
“So I am still running from her, is that it?”
“Brad. It’s true that you’ve had a difficult life. The things your mother has put you through would have crushed most young men. But you are stronger than she is.”
He paused and looked into my eyes. “Graham and I were delighted with your development as a young man: your athletic ability, your large circle of friends, your wonderful memory, your mathematical gift…. He was deeply disappointed that damnable bankruptcy forced him to work past retirement age. He wanted desperately to devote himself to you. He hated the bank. But he knew that it was more important to leave you money so that you wouldn’t be at her mercy.”
“Earl,” I called him by his first name, as I had when I was a child, “I loved my grandfather more than anything on earth....” My sadness was strong and I had to wait for it to pass to finish the sentence. “And I have never recovered from his death. ” I was silent for awhile, until I regained my composure. I said, with a burning sadness in my throat, “Is it my vanity? Is it their beauty?”
“You have had all the success you could possibly want, Brad. You were the captain of every team in high school, and the boys made you into a hero. No. Your vanity has been satisfied and you’ve seen to the bottom of that. The real danger is that you will fall into the abyss along with these twin Anima figures, waste yourself in pleasure and expose yourself to the dangers of disorganized living.”
“My vanity isn’t vanquished, far from it. If anything, my successes have made me more susceptible to vanity than other people.”
He laughed the way he did when he thought I was being charmingly obtuse, and held out the second book he had retrieved from the shelf. It too, was entitled ‘On Love,’ and the author was a Spanish philosopher, the one I'd never heard of, called Jose Ortega y Gasset.
“Get your Ph.D. Brad. It doesn’t have to be in mathematics. It could be in any one of the sciences or even in one of the humanities. Or, reconsider becoming an analyst. You would be a great one.”
I was still sad. I was thinking of my grandfather.
“Search for a woman who is your equal. You won’t become serious again until you find a woman to love and marry.”
“I don’t want to marry until I’m at least thirty. I’ve told you that.”
“You don’t need experience Brad.” His eyes sparkled. “Remember what Oscar Wilde said about experience.” A humorous tension played about the corners of his mouth
“I don’t remember. What did he say?”
“Experience? We leave that to our servants.”
I didn’t understand.
He continued, “My granddaughter, Marilyn, is beautiful and intelligent.” He added, jauntily, “She is the best of the litter...” Then he said, meaningfully, in a soft, caressing voice, “Stop running from her.” When I didn’t answer, he said, and his voice was raspy and petulant, “You’re doing this for simple pleasure Brad. It’s tawdry and....” He didn’t finish the sentence. His eyes met mine and they were apologetic. His voice softened. “You want to be in control. It was your problem with Anne.”
“You wanted to control your sexual feelings that night. You said you didn’t want to ‘feel like you had to.’ But then, ironically, you forced yourself on her.”
“Forced myself? I didn’t force myself. I was asleep. And half stoned and drunk.”
“Are those excuses?”
“You violated her trust, you violated....”
I interrupted, “You’re being absurd. I didn’t violate anything.”
“Both Marlo and Candy will need to be dominated.”
I was speechless. I stammered, “I can’t believe you said that.” He was an artist and often introduced his truths like a boxer exploiting an opening with a quick jab.
“Most of my young female patients report fantasies of domination. They revolve around being dominated sexually by men or women. In one way or another, in their fantasies, many of them are coerced into having sex. It is by no means universal but it is far more common than most people imagine. The fantasy of rape can give a woman absolute assurance that she is desired, without any responsibility or guilt. Marlo and Candy will need ... ”
“I don’t believe that.”
“Civilized people achieve the same intensity through grand passion, through love, and civilized women don’t resist the towering passion of love, but at bottom, at the instinctual level, it amounts to the same thing. One is poetry and civilization, and the other is, well…. bestial. And that is what I am trying to tell you about Candy and Marlo.”
He interrupted me and his voice rose with passion, “Fall in love with a woman who is worthy of you.”
I remembered kissing the long lash mark on Candy’s back when we had made love the night before, and the ecstasy I felt.
“Candy will dominate you with your desire and she will despise you because of it.” He paused and looked inward, as if he doubted what he had just said.
I scratched my head, like a bewildered ape. My knuckles still ached.
He continued, and his eyes were blazing. “Above all, beware of your desire to help. It is only your selfishness, masked. Face it honestly, and you will prevent the damage to these two women and yourself that must follow.
I was silent for a long time. Finally, I asked, “Is it my Christianity?”
He didn’t answer right away. “Yes, I think so. At least partly.”