The Psychotherapist
Is Always Late

Chloé's Triangles
For the twenty-first consecutive week, I am losing patience in the waiting room of my therapist. Doctor Imemi. It's Monday. I have an appointment at three o'clock, as usual. And, as usual, he's late. He has not been on time, even once, since our first appointment.

Today is my last visit. I plan to announce this to him, in my own way, when he receives me. I've had enough. There! A sign of cure? No doubt. It happened just like that. My desire to become independent again has been stirred. And my decision is firm. Today really is the last time.

I have already been marinating for ten minutes in this waiting room full of nothing: no magazine to leaf through to kill the time (as if nothing should distract one's attention, but from what?), no interesting conversations to join (each person enclosed in oneself, feeling watched like a guinea pig through a one-way mirror), no remarkable person to reflect the light (each patient looks more ordinary than the next). Nothing pleasant to think about.

One single object attracts all the attention: a solitary canvas on the naked wall. It is an abstract painting with no frame, no title, no apparent signature, isolated between two lamps and reflected in the glossy surface of the adjoining wall. For twenty-one weeks, I have had nothing but this split crust to contemplate in this waiting room.

I detested this picture from the first glance. With time, I have come to abominate it even more. So much more because the very same picture hangs in my therapist's office, before my eyes for the entire course of the session. The more I look at this painting, the more enraged I become. Why did the therapist choose it? And especially why use it to decorate both his waiting room and his office? And even, according to the secretary, his entire clinic?

Why an abstract canvas? In the interrogative idleness of the wait and the therapy, this question tormented me a lot. After a number of silent explanations, I arrived at the conclusion that it served to stimulate the patients' imaginations.

In this canvas, one recognized cloudy and dark blue forms, arranged in wide swaths of obscurity separated by thin nets of light. Between these strata, light could hardly open a passage in the thick layer of darkness. Only a few glimmers were able to pass through the triumphant opaque masses. One could certainly discern in it the work of a vitality struggling to assert itself against death or against a negative form. But instead I saw a representation of unrelieved suffocation.

The picture oppresses me.

On its repulsive background there appears, finely traced in white, the exact contour of a triangle. This geometric figure leaning lightly to the left occupies the foreground, clutters up the center-left of the canvas and disturbs the perception of the whole. It accentuates the coldness, the inhumanity and the angular character of the picture.

I especially abhor this triangle and I think I know why. I came to consult this therapist in order to get myself out of an infernal love triangle that made me suffer atrociously. And all that this clinic had to offer to nourish my thoughts for twenty-one weeks is this glacial triangle on a background of death. How could I appreciate this picture at its just value when the number three is responsible for everything gone wrong in my life? Often at home at night, I dream about it and, in my nightmares, I rip out the triangle in order to throw it far away.

Today, the triangle appears even more luminous than ever before, of an opalescence that detaches it from the picture and makes it more menacing, like a UFO that shoots out rays before disappearing. White-hot and intensified by the mirror, it blinds me to the point that I blink my eyes. This only strengthens my determination to be finished with this business.

When the therapist finally decides to come and look for me in the waiting room, all I see is his freshly trimmed grayish goatee. I seem to be seeing it for the first time. I really hate all triangular tufts that cling to the chin, which seem to me to reflect a narrow personality, exactly like that of my psychologist.

Arriving in his office, seated in my blue armchair, again in front of the inevitable picture, I tell him all the bad things I think about him as a psychologist and as a human being, and how his unhealthy little goatee reminds me of his awful picture. I reproach him for his bad artistic taste, I detail it with flaming urgency, all the repulsion that his canvas inspires in me. I don't mince words, and maybe laying it on a little heavy, because he suddenly cuts me off and announces that I seem to be cured for good and that he doesn't think it would be useful to see me again.

I am stunned to see him make the first move. I should be relieved however, since I too wish to stop these meetings that exasperate and exhaust me. But I wanted to be the first to express this decision. He took me by surprise. I have to live through this rejection. It only remains to me to leave without further explanation.

I feel frustrated. Back in the waiting room, I have to face the secretary. She is perfectly indifferent. The session, however, has ended earlier than usual. She obviously couldn't care less. She is conniving with the therapist against me. Again an infernal triangle!

Anger captures all my being. I can no longer control myself. I grab a letter opener lying on the secretary's desk. I rush toward the empty wall where the horrible picture is enthroned. I sink my weapon into the canvas with the joy of liberation. Once, for my husband that cheated on me, a second time for the woman that took him away from me, several more for my therapist, his secretary, my father, my mother. I lacerate the canvas without pity and especially the triangle.

To my great astonishment, the secretary does not react at all to my violent agitation: she remains immobile and mute.

Then I take the canvas from the wall, throw it on the ground, growling, stomp it with rage, rip it into shreds with the satisfaction of emotional release.

The secretary seems almost happy. At this moment, the therapist rushes into the room and I suddenly take stock of my vandalism. I'm afraid that he'll immediately call the police and I already imagine myself in court. But nothing like that happens. On the contrary, the therapist tells me nicely, smiling, with an air of complicity, "I can happily say that everything is finally finished for you!" This reaction leaves me astonished. He opens the door for me, shakes my hand and wishes me good luck. I think I am dreaming. "Don't worry; everything's going to be okay," he adds. My movements are now those of a sleepwalker. I leave the clinic as if transported by magic into a world that is finally light and happy again. After months of spiritual death, I live again.

I walk outside for a few minutes, then, suddenly seized with vague regret, I turn to go back. I would like to nevertheless make an excuse to Dr. Imemi, to offer to pay for the damage and express my gratitude. This courtesy seems to me to be necessary after the meanness, the incivility and the vandalism I caused.

When I open the door to the clinic, I am amazed to find the therapist in the act of replacing the destroyed picture with a new one that is in every way identical! And in the corridor, right next to me, a door slightly ajar allowing a view of an imposing pile of copies of the same canvas!

--- Les Triangles de Chloé Gaëtan Brulotte
David Tucker, Translator
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