I never liked the anteroom of my analyst's office,
all those Indian relics against beige, an
ashtray from Harrah's in Reno, swag light
on dim, and piles of old New Yorkers,
which I flipped through furtively for the captions
under the cartoons, for any kind of humor.
The quiet was palpable, and I could feel the weight
of the San Francisco fog lean against her office door.
Once she fell asleep in a session. I did not
wake her. Compliant, complacent, I allowed her to dream
her own Jungian dreams --- dark men in four o'clock shadow;
a red hibiscus opening; anima, animus. I merely
sat there in the leather chair, studied the bones
in her wrists, and yammered rhythmically on and on,
mantra-like, about sex, death, and my pathological
tardiness. The Navajo rug as a backdrop,
her cocked head could have been the perfect
Andrew Wyeth; Helga lines around the eyes.
When she woke, I did not mention that she'd dozed,
nor for how long, because of (you know) the transference-
counter-transference thing. I merely said at the end
of the session: My dead father stands each night
at the foot of my bed. Every day I walk through
a different Bay Area shopping mall in a tennis skirt.
I hate summer. Things die. And just last week
I put my sleeping infant on a cot inside a display tent
at Big Five, and left her there. Am I having a nervous
breakdown? "No," she said, standing dim and fatigued
next to her shelf collection of cactus and succulents,
"You are experiencing what we call a personality disintegration."
"Oh, good" I said, "I feel so much better, and what
do you advise?" Be good to yourself, she offered,
take a friend to lunch, long walks to the beach,
hot baths, and go to a good Chinese restaurant. So I did.
That hour. I walked back to my car, and drove along
the panhandle of the park, along the boulevard
of churches, down into the Tenderloin, past Macy's
and the flower carts on the corners of Union Square,
down into the financial district. I parked the car
in a tow away zone, phoned Mary on the 16th floor
of the Transamerica Building, and while waiting for her
to descend, watched a stunt man scale the outside
of the pyramid, as if it were one of the high peaks
in the Himalayas. Mary emerged through the double
glass doors wearing a fabric of roses. She looked like a
Queen Anne chair, and I needed to sit. She insisted
instead that we walk through Chinatown. The walk would
do me good, so we strolled up Grant --- windows of whole
chickens and cheap silks, back alley smells of wet garbage,
fried won tons and dim sum, tables of trinkets and souvenirs:
Chinese pajamas, carved elephant tusks, flimsy flip-flops,
until we came to the restaurant. "This is it," Mary said.
I half-expected an epiphany. We sank into a red vinyl
booth, unwrapped our chopsticks. I fingered the chrome
napkin holder. "Mary," I said, staring down at the sweet
and sour, "I am experiencing a personality disintegration."
"A what?!" she asked, cupping her tea. "Just shut up,
and open your fortune cookie." So I did. But nothing
was in it, not a single strip, and my purse was gone.
Mary picked up the tab, and when we walked back to the car,
it was gone, too. I looked up. The gray sky was immense.
The man on the outside of the building was a mere speck.

After that day, I quit seeing my analyst.
Summer was summer, and her rates went up.
But two weeks later, a man phoned to say he'd found
my purse. It had been left on a bench in Washington Square.
He was calling to return it. Imagine! to return it!
I drove into the city to meet him, stood on the corner
of Columbus and Broadway with a hand-scribbled sign
that read: The missing purse lady. A man with a pink
face, a cherubic smile, and a bottle in his jacket
pocket shuffled up and handed it over. Of course,
I expected everything to be gone, a sign of further
disintegration. Instead, when I unzipped the oversized
bag, everything was there. Everything --- and more:
white finger bowls, spoons, fireworks, rubber snakes,
Chinese slippers, a deck of cards, three watches,
and a jade snuff bottle. A shoplifter, a purse-snatcher,
crafty as hell, moving right up through Chinatown
with my purse! How propitious! I kissed the wino,
handed him two of the watches, the snakes, the snuff
bottle, a full deck, and slapped down in his palm
the only twenty I had in the bag. He smiled and slurred
abundantly. We embraced on Broadway "Thank you,
I said, "thank you." The late afternoon sun bounced
off the windows of the distant office buildings.
Light fell over the pyramid. Someone switched on
the neon, and I felt fine, just fine.

--- ©2009 Kathy Evans
From Don't Leave Hungry
Fifty Years of
Southern Poetry Review

James Smith, Editor
The University of Arkansas Press
Go to a
of the book

Send us e-mail


Go Home

Go to the most recent RALPH