She is sitting in the chair across from my desk, and she's crossing her legs. Creamy white
knees peek out from beneath her short, white skirt. She is blinking at me as though she has
never seen a man before, or at least a man in a suit. Or a man in a suit who is speaking to
her respectfully. Her long hair, the color of caramel, hangs a little sloppily around her face
as though she didn't have time to comb it because she was rushing to get here on time.
This is, after all, her first session with me. Maybe she wants me to see that she is at least
prompt, if not psychologically stable.
"Hello, Doctor. I'm Amber Woods."
Her eyes almost match her hair color, and a shy smile is living deep inside of them,
wishing it could figure out a way to break free. That look brings me back to my high school
days, where the quiet girls with no friends ate lunch alone and watched the rest of the world
go by, wishing they could only be a part of it.
I try to put her at ease with my own smile, a little forced though it may be. "Hello,
Amber. I'm Dr. Steven Moody."
She nervously shifts in her chair as she tucks her beige bra strap under her top. "I'm
sorry. This is my first time...seeing anyone."
"No need to apologize. Take your time."
She breathes deeply as she wipes perspiration from her forehead with the back of her
hand, her breasts swelling slightly underneath her plain white cotton top.
"So, Amber. Talk to me. Tell me what brings you here today."
"It's a dream I've been having for several months. A nightmare. When I wake up from it,
Doctor, I can't get back to sleep. I pace the floor. I read, but that doesn't help. Neither does
watching TV. Nothing helps. I find it difficult to wake up on time for work the next day."
"What happens in the dream?"
"Well...I'm lost in a wooded area somewhere. It's not an area that I recognize. It's miles
away from my home. I'm alone and I can't find my way out. This is not your usual forest,
Doctor. Nothing in it is green. Not even the grass or leaves. Everything is in shades of
yellow. The sky is the color of lemonade. The trees and branches are mustard. The leaves
are the color of a taxi cab. And the grass is amber. It's transparent, like a lot of amber
stones are, like I can almost see through the ground I'm standing on. It frightens me,
Doctor. I feel like I'm standing in a bottomless swimming pool, and I'm going to drown!"
Her hands are squeezing her purse in her lap so tightly that you would think a mugger
was trying to snatch it. She fidgets in her chair again, uncrossing her legs just for a moment
before crossing them again. Now she's letting go of her purse and running one hand over her
damp neck, her wooden bangle bracelets clanking against each other. A marquise-shaped
amber ring graces her index finger, and she admires it briefly before pulling her skirt down to
a more appropriate level. She's got the demeanor of a virgin on her wedding night, but only
a virgin in body. In her mind, she has done it dozens of times with maybe a hundred or more
men. And she hates herself for it, as pleasurable as it felt. That's why she hates herself.
Now I'M shifting uneasily in my chair as I feel my own body temperature rise. How old is
this woman? About twenty-five? Hmm...she's half my age. And I am married. And I'm her
doctor. How much worse can this get?
"Interesting," I tell her, trying to keep the conversation going, while getting my mind off
of things I should not be thinking about. "Is that when you wake up?"
"Oh, no! At that point in the dream, the leaves start to shake violently. Suddenly the
branches come to life and start twisting about. They reach toward me and try to grab me. I
scream, but there is no one around to hear me. I feel torn, Doctor." She pats her forehead
again as she releases a heavy, almost orgasmic breath. "Part of me wants to escape their
clutches, but the other part of me wants them to grab me and save me from the bottomless
swimming pool. That's when I wake up."
Lord, I've been in this profession too long. I sigh quietly as I take off my glasses and rub
the corners of my sore eyes with my index finger and thumb. Between my nine A.M. session
with Julian the sexaholic and my eleven A.M. session with Amber, I had forgotten to put in
eye drops. I'm also just now noticing how misty the lenses of my glasses are. It's a wonder
that I could see all morning. When was the last time I ran a cloth over them?
Seems I've been forgetting a lot of things lately. My wife's birthday last week. My Monday
afternoon appointment with Jonathan, the man who is afraid of the color blue. I can't
remember how many years ago I first started to lose my patience with my patients. Ha ha!
No, I shouldn't laugh. It sounds funny but it's rather pathetic. They are all starting to look
the same to me anymore. Obsessive compulsiveness, irrational fears, addictions, recurring
dreams--they all seem like the same disorder after a while. It's almost like the endless
parade of patients who have sat in that chair have melded into one person. The only thing
that sets Amber apart from the others is her virginal beauty and repressive sensuality, and
even that is something I've seen hundreds of times before.
So what is really so different about Amber Woods? Presumably nothing. Twenty years
ago, when I started practicing, I would have found her obsessions fascinating and her
nightmare entertaining--whether that nightmare was real or just a ridiculous story that she
fabricated to get through lonely nights. But now...hell, what was I thinking back then? These
people are not here to entertain me. They desperately need help, and will they ever really
get it, to the extent that they will be able to live reasonably normal lives? Have I basically
been stealing their money all these years? I think I can just barely remember a few years
during the early stage of my career when I actually did feel some compassion for my
patients. Now I look at them, and all I see is a sizable paycheck and a brand new BMW
waiting in the wings.
So what now? Is it time to change careers? Take a vacation? Take a stroll down the
Yellow Brick Road and ask the Wizard of Oz for a heart? Who knows?
As I put my glasses firmly back on the bridge of my nose, I look at Amber as she waits
patiently for me to speak. She's waiting for me to utter the magic words that will ease her
pain. Poor dear thing. The corner of her mouth is twitching as she tucks her hair behind her
ear, revealing a naked ear lobe. The lobe doesn't even have a hole through it. It's never
I clear my throat. "Okay, Amber." I lean forward and rest my hands on the desk, slowly
folding them together. Her full lower lip quakes as she watches me. "Why don't you tell me
what your REAL name is?"