The doorman at Fifth Avenue’s Regency Arms Hotel gave Myra a lascivious wink as she went by. “Dipshit,” she muttered under her breath as she stepped past him into the lobby.
“Have a nice day,” he said with a fleeting smirk.
To anyone but the hotel workers who were routinely greased by her employers, the Potentate’s Pleasure Escort Service, Myra Dimmick, aka Maura Diamond, aka Jewel could have passed for a businesswoman on her lunch break, albeit a spectacularly beautiful one. Her long, blonde hair fell softly to the shoulders of her mauve, conservatively cut Ann Taylor suit. The Prada briefcase at her side brushed its brushed leather gently against one of her tanned calves as she strode toward the elevators. Beneath the suit she wore nothing, and the briefcase’s contents were dildos of varying size, condoms, and other items as might be necessary for her $1,500 one-hour business meeting.
She liked these afternoon quickies whenever she got them. Minimal talk. No pretending to be fascinated by the client’s wit, charm, and intelligence. Pretending to be fascinated by fucking him was enough, thank you.
Although she had to admit, she was very, very good at it. She had the ability to reach deep inside, to find an endless variety of orgasms that sounded absolutely real. And no two were ever the same. Let’s see some “legitimate” actress try that.
She knew she had great acting talent; it was a gift she’d had all her life. Doing this made money, but it was only a brief stop on the road to eventual fame. No amount of bad auditions could affect her confidence. It was just a matter of time. She was only 24, well, 25.
The elevator door opened. She kept her eyes straight ahead as the disembarking three men and a woman gave her the once-over. Then she stepped inside and hit the button for 17.
As the car rose she considered her day. After this one there was nothing ’til 11 o’clock tonight, an orgy at a hip-hop producer’s place that would probably go on until morning. Be great if she could catch a couple of z’s this afternoon; she could sure use ’em. The Ambien wasn’t working anymore. Maybe she’d skip dinner and try and get some sleep. She didn’t need to eat, anyway.
The elevator reached her floor, and she stepped out into the plush-carpeted hallway, heading for 1715, a room she’d been to on several occasions. She wondered idly if they’d cleaned up the minibar refrigerator since the last time, when the client had insisted on ejaculating into it. People were amazing.
The door was unlocked, as expected, but she knocked softly anyway. “Come on in,” said a man’s voice.
As she pushed the door aside, the familiarity of that voice was just dawning on her. Then, with a jolt, she saw why.
“Hi, Myra, glad you could make it.”
Dr. Daniel Potter, her former shrink, was standing next to one of the easy chairs, smiling shyly. He was slight of build, in his late fifties, with a corona of wispy brown hair encircling his otherwise bald head. His glasses were large and round, making him look a bit owlish. He was wearing the same beige corduroy jacket she remembered from many of their sessions, which had lasted nearly a year and ended three months ago, when she told him she was quitting.
His arm outstretched, he was indicating the other chair. “Please, sit down.” He had a self-conscious smile she’d never seen on him before. “Make yourself comfortable.”
She stood in the doorway, dumbfounded for a moment, and then couldn’t help it. She just cracked up laughing. People really were amazing!
“Oh, man,” she said between giggles, as she turned and shut the door behind her. “Daniel, I never would’ve thought it of you, but this is wonderful. This is perfect.”
She put on a serious expression, moved quickly to the other chair, and sat down. Her eyes intently found his, as though deeply troubled.
“Daniel, I’m so screwed up.” Her voice was soft and fragile. Her delicate fingers began to undo the buttons on her suit top.
“There’s so much I need to tell you.”
He was looking away, covering his eyes for good measure. Her fingers paused tentatively above her semi-revealed breasts.
“I’m sorry,” he said, his face reddening. “That was a natural misunderstanding. I should have realized.”
She waited, not sure what to do next.
“Would you please button up?” His eyes were still averted.
“Okay,” she said uncertainly, complying.
“Good. Thanks.” He uncovered his eyes and sat down in the chair opposite her. “Can I ask you something?” he said. “When you first saw me here, before you started to laugh, what was your immediate reaction to it? How did it make you feel?”
She smiled mischievously. “That’s a real shrink’s question.”
“Just indulge me. What was your first thought?”
She chuckled. “Indulge you, huh? Okay, I don’t remember thinking anything. I was just surprised, that’s all.”
“Only surprised? Not disappointed?”
Ah, now she knew his thing. “Oh, no, Daniel, how could you think I’d be disappointed?” She looked at him adoringly. “Couldn’t you tell? All the time we were together, I used to fantasize about…”
“Myra, stop!” He was waving her off, moving the air in front of him like he was trying to clear away smoke. “Just be honest,” he said. “When you thought your ex-therapist had become one of your johns, were you disappointed?”
“No,” she said slowly, still trying to figure out the deal, “why would I be?”
“Well, as I recall, you had a pretty low opinion of your customers. In fact, we’d established that you despised them. ‘Hated their fucking guts’ is how I think you put it.”
She felt stung. What right did he have to come here and rub her nose in it like that? Suddenly, this ceased to be funny.
“Oh, yeah?” she replied. “What made you think I didn’t have a pretty low opinion of you, Doctor? As I recall, the reason I came to you was ’cause I had trouble sleeping, and you didn’t do diddley squat for me.” She rose from the chair, standing over him. “Now, are we gonna fuck, or what?”
It didn’t seem to faze him. He stared up at her benignly.
“Please sit down, Myra,” he said gently. “I’m paying for this hour, and I’d like you to sit down, okay?”
It was logic she couldn’t fight. She glared at him and then sat back down in the chair, eyeing him warily.
“Thanks,” he said. “I know you weren’t ready for this, and I’m sorry. I don’t blame you for being angry with me. How is your sleeping problem, by the way? Any better?”
She gave a petulant shrug and looked down at the floor.
“I’m sorry about that, but it’s not surprising. We were talking about a lot more than your insomnia, if you remember. We were getting to the real causes of it, and that’s what scared you. That’s why you left.”
She set her mouth in a thin line, not wanting to think about any of this. Maybe he was just talking to try and get up the nerve; she’d certainly seen that before. She hoped that was all this was, because it was making her pretty goddamn uncomfortable.
“It bothered me that our work ended that way,” he said, “and I got to thinking. You’d once mentioned the name of your employers, so I went to their Web site and found you there. I pretended to be a new client and requested you in particular. They made me pay a lot of cash up front, as you know, but I did it gladly. That’s how much I want us to continue our therapy, Myra. Could we try it, just for this hour?”
It left her speechless. She’d seen some bizarre shit, but this was totally beyond her experience. Finally, she found her voice.
“What if I say yes? Is that gonna be it, one hour?”
“I’m hoping,” he said, “that after that hour, maybe you’ll want to come back to therapy.”
“I seriously doubt that, Daniel. So what happens if I don’t?”
He shrugged. “Then I’ll have to keep paying to arrange these sessions until you do.”
She stared straight into his guileless face. He wasn’t kidding.
“Why,” she asked, “would you do something like that?”
“Because I can help you, Myra.” He leaned in toward her, entreating her with his eyes. “And I think you know that, and you want me to. At least that’s what I’m counting on before I go broke.”
It made her smile, despite herself. “Don’t you have a wife and kids, or something better to spend your money on?”
He smiled in return. “I’ll bet you say that to all the guys. Believe me, it’s all been taken into consideration. Now, can we talk about you, not me? Would that be okay?”
She mulled it over a moment, then gave a husky laugh.
“Hell, why not? It’s your dime.”
* * *
“I wonder,” he said, “if we could talk about your father.”
Forty minutes had gone by. She hadn’t said much at first, but then kind of got into it. She told him how one of her clients was an internist who wrote her scrip for Ambien, but it wasn’t working. Still, she felt compelled to keep taking it, and it was starting to worry her. She talked about how hard it was getting to perform her work. “I’m having problems putting it on autopilot lately. Now, I’ll be on top of some jerk, and I’ll have this strong urge to punch him in his stupid, goddamn face. I don’t know why this is happening.” She figured stuff like that would fill up the hour, but here he was, bringing up her father.
“What about him? I told you everything in the other sessions. I don’t even think about him now; he’s a dead man to me. I don’t want to talk about him.”
Daniel said nothing, which is what he always did when she told him she didn’t want to talk about something. Invariably, she did start talking about it, to fill the vacuum and because, now, it was all she could think about.
“Shit, all right. You want me to go over it again, how he abused me?”
“I think it’s important.”
She sighed, and then launched into the story. Her mother was a sickly woman, stuck in her room most of the time because of various ailments and illnesses. From her earliest memories, her father would put her to bed at night, and then he’d get in with her. He’d hold her and kiss her, all the while fondling and probing her with his fingers. Sometimes he’d tell her he was sorry, that he had to do it because her mother couldn’t love him enough, and then he’d cry. Occasionally, he did it during the day, pulling her into her room and saying he couldn’t help himself. She’d learned to go numb during these encounters and send her mind far away, as if the horror were happening to someone else. It went on for years, until one morning when she was 13, he left home and never came back.
“And all this time,” said Daniel, “you never once told your mother.”
“No, we’ve been over this; how could I? She was sick and weak; what could she do about it? Besides, if I told her it probably would’ve killed her.”
“And you felt it was your duty to protect her.”
“Something like that,” she said, gazing off abstractly.
“You and your mom were both victims of this man.”
“Yeah.” She was still looking away.
“I notice,” said Daniel, “that when we talk about your mother, you become distant. Why do you think that is?”
She shrugged, starting to get annoyed again. “I don’t know. You’re the shrink; why do you think it is?”
“When did she die?” he asked.
Suddenly, the annoyance was anger. “How did you know she was…?” She stopped herself. What the fuck was the matter with her? It must be this lack of sleep. “My mother died when I was nineteen,” she said, recovering. “You remember me telling you. She was in a car accident; it was horrible.”
He stared appraisingly at her through those owl-like lenses.
“You were starting to ask me how I knew she was dead. Why did you do that?”
She shrugged again and tried to meet his gaze, barely managing it.
“She didn’t die when you were nineteen, did she? You made that up in our therapy, but just now the truth slipped out. Why do you suppose that happened?”
She felt the tears coming; she couldn’t help it. She wanted so much to trust him. From the first moment she walked into his office, there was something special about him. She didn’t know what it was, but it made her stay with him much longer than any of the other shrinks. He was right; she’d quit therapy because she was scared. She was plenty scared.
Had she been “disappointed” to find him in this room? Shit, she’d been devastated. But she shoved it aside, like everything else. She’d laughed and then switched over to her hooker persona and its unfeeling protection.
But he wasn’t one of those assholes. He hadn’t come there for Maura, or Jewel. He’d come there for her. Not for her body, not to get his rocks off, only for her. Had anyone in her life ever done anything remotely like that?
“You’d really keep on paying fifteen hundred dollars a pop, week after week,” she asked him again, “just so I could stay in therapy?”
“I said I would, and I will.”
The need to tell him was overpowering. She’d almost told him before, but instead, she’d chickened out and quit. Maybe she was just so tired, but she finally needed to get it the fuck out of her. For once and for all.
“My mother did all that to me,” she said quietly, tears beginning to make their way down her cheeks. “I never knew who my father was. I made him up because I wanted to tell you, but I didn’t want you to know…” She started to weep.
There was a box of tissues on the table. He reached over, grabbed a handful, and gave them to her. She snatched them up and buried her face in them, moaning.
After a time, she went on, although the words came out haltingly. “She got in bed with me every night and did these horrible things. She kept saying it was for my own good, so that I’d never want anyone to touch me there, wouldn’t even want to touch myself. She told me the desire for sex was the most evil force in the world, and she had to purge me of it.” Myra gave a bitter laugh that was more of a sob. “And it worked, all right. Now I can’t feel anything. Oh, God!”
She wept, and he gave her all the time she needed. Then he asked, “When did your mother really die?”
She dabbed at her eyes. “Two weeks ago,” she said. “It’s funny, I can tell you this part without crying. I hadn’t seen her or spoken to her in years, but one day around that time, I don’t know why, but I got a little shit-faced and decided to go over there and surprise her. I told her how much money I was making these days, and what I was doing for it. I threw in every lewd, depraved, and obscene thing I could think of, because I knew what it was doing to her. I thanked her for making me so dead inside that I could fuck anybody, all day and night. I told her that I owed my successful career to her. She didn’t say a word, just sat there. Then she got up, went into the bedroom, and shut the door. I left her place, and then got really shit-faced. It was probably the last time I slept.”
She looked at him pleadingly. “But I didn’t want her to kill herself. It wasn’t my fault, was it? The woman led the league in crazy. She was a world-class lunatic. It could’ve been anything. Tell me it wasn’t my fault,” she begged him. “Please, Daniel.” She began to cry.
“Your mother had serious problems that you had nothing to do with. That’s how it sounds to me,” he said. “But it’s natural for you to feel guilt, and that’s what we need to talk about, among many things. But for now, I’m afraid our time is up.”
She blinked at him in confusion, then looked over at the clock radio next to the bed. “Ohmygod, it is.” She managed a weak smile through tears. “I’m supposed to tell you that.”
“I know,” he said, standing up. “What do I do now? What’s the proper protocol?”
“You leave, I stay.” She shook her head in wonder. “Man, I’m gonna have to make up a whole lot of shit to tell them when I report about you as a john.”
“Well, I hope you’ll say I wasn’t too bad. Now, where do we go from here?”
She stood up as well. “Oh, I’m coming back to therapy; that’s for damn sure. I can’t let you go on paying like this.”
“Don’t do it on my account, Myra, please,” he cautioned her. “That’s not what this is about.”
“No, no.” Goddamn it, why was she crying again? “It’s entirely for my own selfish reasons.”
“That’s good.” He took out his card and gave it to her. “Here, in case you lost my number. Give me a call later and we’ll set up a schedule. And, of course, you know you can call me anytime, day or night.” He moved toward the door.
“Thank you, Daniel,” she said, “for doing this. For everything.”
“Nothing to thank me for.” He opened the door.
“You know,” she said, smiling through her sniffles, “in my business, you get a full hour.”
“I’ll have to work on that.” He smiled, too, as he stepped out into the hallway and softly closed the door.
* * *
As he got into the elevator, his hands were shaking so much, he had to jab at the Lobby button twice before he hit it. He’d gotten his breakthrough all right, sooner than expected, but it gave him no satisfaction. The hard part was just beginning.
It had been many years since he’d heard the voice on the other end of that 2:00 a.m. phone call he’d gotten. Not since his faculty days at Barnard. But it did more than jog his memory. It shook his world to the core.
There are some who believe there are no coincidences, that everything happens for a reason. He’d never been one of them, but now he had to wonder. Eloise couldn’t have known the full effect of the venomous information she was spitting out at him after all those years. For his part, maybe he could have realized she was revealing it all as a prelude to her suicide, but he’d been too much in shock. Especially when he remembered her last name.
It had all come back to him, the end-of-term party he’d given his grad students one year, and the beautiful, inebriated young woman who’d stayed afterward, and how he’d been pretty shit-faced himself.
He’d have to refer Myra to another therapist; he knew that. But before he did, he had to let her know he loved her, and that he’d be there for her as long as he lived. As any father would.