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Sexus, Page 37

Henry Miller

  In the case of my two young friends one of them was later to become dissatisfied with every solution to the problems of the day except that offered by Communism; the other, who would have pronounced me crazy had I then hinted at such an eventuality, was to become my patient. The music master forsook his music in order to right the world and failed. He failed even to make his own life more interesting, more satisfying, more ample. The other abandoned his medical practice and finally put himself into the hands of a quack, yours truly. He did it deliberately, knowing that I had no qualifications other than my sincerity and enthusiasm. He was even pleased at the result, which was nil, and which he had anticipated in advance.

  It is now about twenty years since the period I speak of. Only the other day, as I was strolling aimlessly along, I ran into Arthur Raymond on the street. I might have passed him by had he not hailed me. He had altered, had taken on a girth almost commensurable to Kronski’s. A middle-aged man now with a row of black, charred teeth. After a few words he began to talk about his son—the oldest boy, who was now in college and a member of the football team. He had transferred all his hopes to the son. I was disgusted. In vain did I try to get some inkling about his own life. No, he preferred to talk about his son. He was going to be somebody! (An athlete, a writer, a musician—God knows what.) I didn’t give a fuck about the son. All I could make out of this effusive gush was that he, Arthur Raymond, had given up the ghost. He was living in the son. It was pitiful. I couldn’t get away from him fast enough.

  “You must come up and see us soon.” (He was trying to hold me.) “Let’s have a good old session together. You know how I love talking!” He gave out one of those cachinnating snorts as of yore.

  “Where do you live now?” he added, clutching my arm.

  I took a piece of paper out of my pocket and wrote down a false address and telephone number. I thought to myself: The next time we meet it will probably be in limbo.

  As I walked away I suddenly realized that he had evinced no interest in what had happened to me all these years. He knew I had been abroad, had written a few books. “I’ve read some of your stuff, you know,” he had remarked. And then he had laughed confusedly, as if to say: “But I know you, you old rapscallion . . . you’re not taking me in!” For my part I could have replied: “Yes, and I know all about you. I know the deceptions and humiliations you’ve suffered.”

  Had we begun to swap experience we might have had an enjoyable talk. We might have understood one another better than we ever had before. If he had only given me a chance I might have demonstrated that the Arthur who had failed was just as dear to me as the promising young man whom I had once idolized. We were both rebels, in our way. And we had both struggled to make a new world.

  “Of course I still believe in it [Communism],” he had said in parting. He said it as though he were sorry to admit that the movement was not big enough to include him with all his idiosyncrasies. In the same way I could imagine him saying to himself that he still believed in music, or in the outdoor life, or in jujitsu. I wondered if he realized what he had done by abandoning one road after the other. If he had stopped anywhere along the line and fought his way through, life would have been worth while. Even if he had only become a champion wrestler! I remembered the night he had induced me to accompany him to a bout between Earl Caddock and Strangler Lewis. (And another occasion when we had gone together to witness the Dempsey-Carpentier fight.) He was a poet then. He saw two gods in mortal combat. He knew that there was more to it than a tussle to the finish between two brutes. He talked about these great figures of the arena as he would have talked about the great composers or the great dramatists. He was a conscious part of the mob which attends these spectacles. He was like a Greek in the days of Euripides. He was an artist applauding other artists. He was at his very best in the amphitheater.

  I recalled another occasion, when we were waiting on the platform of a railway station. Suddenly, while pacing back and forth, he grabs my arm and says: “By God, Henry, do you know who that is? That’s Jack Dempsey!” And like a shot he bolts from my side and runs up to his beloved idol. “Hello Jack!” he says in a loud, ringing voice. “You’re looking fine. I want to shake your hand. I want to tell you what a real champ you are.”

  I could hear Dempsey’s squeaky, piping voice answering the greeting. Dempsey, who overtowered Arthur Raymond, looked at that moment like a child. It was Arthur Raymond who was bold and aggressive. He didn’t seem the least bit awed by Dempsey’s presence. I almost expected him to give the champion a pat on the shoulder.

  “He’s like a fine race horse,” said Arthur Raymond, his voice tense with emotion. “A most sensitive creature.” He was probably thinking of himself, of how he would appear to others should he suddenly become world’s champion. “An intelligent chap too. A man couldn’t fight in that colorful style unless he possessed a high degree of intelligence. He’s a fine fellow really. Just a big boy, you know. He actually blushed, do you know that?” On and on he went, rhapsodizing over his hero.

  But it was about Earl Caddock that he said the most wonderful things. Earl Caddock, I think, was even closer to his ideal than Dempsey. “The man of a thousand holds,” that’s how Caddock was called. A godlike body, a little too frail, it would seem, for those protracted, grueling bouts which the ordeal of wrestling demands. I remember vividly how he looked that night beside the burlier, heftier Strangler Lewis. Arthur Raymond was certain that Lewis would win—but his heart was with Earl Caddock. He screamed his lungs out, urging Caddock on. Afterwards, in a Jewish delicatessen over on the East Side, he rehearsed the bout in detail. He had an extraordinary memory when it concerned anything he was passionate about. I think I enjoyed the bout even more, in retrospect, seeing it through his eyes. In fact, he talked about it so marvelously that the next day I sat down and wrote a prose poem about two wrestlers. I brought it with me to the dentist’s the following day. He was a wrestling fan also. The dentist thought it was a chef-d’œuvre. The result was that I never got my tooth filled. I was taken upstairs to meet the family—they were from Odessa—and before I knew what was happening, I had become engrossed in a game of chess which lasted until two in the morning. And then began a friendship which lasted until all my teeth had been treated—fourteen or fifteen months it dragged out. When the bill came I vanished. It was not until five or six years later, I guess, that we met again, and then under rather peculiar circumstances. But of that later . . .

  Freud, Freud. . . . A lot of things might be laid at his door. There is Dr. Kronski now, some ten years after our semantic life at Riverside Drive. Big as a porpoise, puffing like a walrus, emitting talk like a locomotive emits steam. An injury to the head has disregulated his entire system. He has become a glandular anomaly, a study in cross-purposes.

  We had not seen each other for some years. We meet again in New York. Hectic confabulations. He learns that I have had more than a speaking acquaintance with psychoanalysis during my absence abroad. I mention certain figures in that world who are well known to him—from their writings. He’s amazed that I should know them, have been accepted by them—as a friend. He begins to wonder if he hadn’t made a mistake about his old friend Henry Miller. He wants to talk about it, talk and talk and talk. I refuse. That impresses him. He knows that talking is his weakness, his vice.

  After a few meetings I realize that he is hatching an idea. He can’t just take it for granted that I know something about psychoanalysis—he wants proofs. “What are you doing now . . . in New York?” he asks. I answer that I am doing nothing, really.

  “Aren’t you writing?”


  A long pause. Then it comes out. An experiment . . . a grand experiment. I’m the man to do it. He will explain.

  The long and short of it is that he would like me to experiment with some of his patients—his ex-patients, I should say, because he has given up his practice. He’s certain I can do as good as the next fellow—maybe better. “I won’t tell them you
’re a writer,” he says. “You were a writer, but during your stay in Europe, you became an analyst. How’s that?”

  I smiled. It didn’t seem bad at all, at first blush. As a matter of fact, I had long toyed with the very idea. I jumped at it. Settled then. Tomorrow, at four o’clock, he would introduce me to one of his patients.

  That’s how it began. Before very long I had about seven or eight patients. They seemed to be pleased with my efforts. They told Dr. Kronski so. He of course had expected it to turn out thus. He thought he might become an analyst himself. Why not? I had to confess I could see no reason against it. Anyone with charm, intelligence and sensitivity might become an analyst. There were healers long before Mary Baker Eddy or Sigmund Freud were heard of. Common sense played its role too.

  “To be an analyst, however,” I said, not intending it as a serious remark, “one should first be analyzed himself, you know that.”

  “How about you?” he said.

  I pretended I had been analyzed. I told him Otto Rank had done the job.

  “You never told me that,” he said, again visibly impressed. He had an unholy respect for Otto Rank.

  “How long did it last?” he asked.

  “About three months. Rank doesn’t believe in prolonged analyses, I suppose you know.”

  “That’s true,” he said, growing very thoughtful. A moment later he popped it. “What about analyzing me? No, seriously. I know it’s not considered a good risk when you know one another as intimately as we do, but just the same . . .”

  “Yes,” I said slowly, feeling my way along, “perhaps we might even explode that stupid prejudice. After all, Freud had to analyze Rank, didn’t he?” (This was a lie, because Rank had never been analyzed, even by Father Freud.)

  “Tomorrow then, at ten o’clock!”

  “Good,” I said, “and be on the dot. I’m going to charge you by the hour. Sixty minutes and no more. If you’re not on time it’s your loss . . .”

  “You’re going to charge me?” he echoed, looking at me as if I had lost my mind.

  “Of course I am! You know very well how important it is for the patient to pay for his analysis.”

  “But I’m not a patient!” he yelled. “Jesus, I’m doing you a favor.”

  “It’s up to you,” I said, affecting an air of sang-froid. “If you can get someone else to do it for nothing, well and good. I’m going to charge you the regular fee, the fee you yourself suggested for your own patients.”

  “Now listen,” he said, “you’re getting fantastic. After all, I was the one who launched you in this business, don’t forget that.”

  “I must forget that,” I insisted. “This is not a matter of sentiment. In the first place I must remind you that you not only need analysis to become an analyst, you need it because you’re a neurotic. You couldn’t possibly become an analyst if you weren’t neurotic. Before you can heal others you have to heal yourself. And if you’re not a neurotic I’ll make you one before I’m through with you, how do you like that?”

  He thought it was a huge joke. But the next morning he came, and he was prompt too. He looked as though he had stayed up all night to be there on time.

  “The money,” I said, before he had even removed his coat.

  He tried to laugh it off. He settled himself on the couch, as eager to have his bottle as any infant in swaddling clothes.

  “You’ve got to give it to me now,” I insisted, “or I refuse to deal with you.” I enjoyed being firm with him—it was a new role for me also.

  “But how do we know that we can go through it?” he said, trying to stall. “I’ll tell you . . . if I like the way you handle me I’ll pay you whatever you ask . . . within reason, of course. But don’t make a fuss about it now. Come on, let’s get down to brass tacks.”

  “Nothing doing,” I said. “No tickee, no shirtee. If I’m no good you can bring suit against me, but if you want my help then you’ve got to pay—and pay in advance. . . . By the way, you’re wasting time, you know. Every minute you sit there haggling about the money you’re wasting time that might have been spent more profitably. It’s now”—and here I consulted my watch—“it’s now twelve minutes after ten. As soon as you’re ready we’ll begin. . . .”

  He was sore as a pup about it but I had him in a corner and there was nothing to do but to shell out.

  As he was dishing it out—I charged him ten dollars a session—he looked up, but this time with the air of one who has already confided himself to the doctor’s hands. “You mean to say that if I should come here one day without the money, if I should happen to forget or be short a few dollars, you wouldn’t take me on?”

  “Precisely,” I said. “We understand one another perfectly. Shall we begin . . . now?”

  He fell back on the couch like a sheep ready for the ax. “Compose yourself,” I said soothingly, sitting behind him and out of his range of vision. “Just get quiet and relax. You’re going to tell me everything about yourself. . . from the very beginning. Don’t imagine that you can tell it all in one sitting. We’re going to have many sessions like this. It’s up to you how long or how short this relationship will be. Remember that it’s costing you ten dollars every time. But don’t let that get under your skin, because if you think of nothing but how much it’s costing you, you’ll forget what you intended to tell me. This is a painful procedure, but it’s in your own interest. If you learn how to adapt yourself to the role of a patient you will also learn how to adapt yourself to the role of analyst. Be critical with yourself, not with me. I am only an instrument. I am here to help you. . . . Now collect yourself and relax. I’ll be listening whenever you’re ready to deliver yourself. . . .”

  He had stretched himself out full length, his hands folded over the mountain of flesh which was his stomach. His face was very pasty; it had the blanched look, his skin, of a man who has just returned from the water closet after straining himself to death. The body had the amorphous appearance of the helpless fat man who finds the efforts to raise himself to a sitting posture almost as difficult as it would be for a tortoise to right itself when it has been capsized. Whatever powers he possessed seemed to have deserted him. He flipped about restlessly for a few minutes, a human flounder weighing itself.

  My exhortation to talk had paralyzed that faculty of speech which was his prime endowment. To begin with there was no longer any adversary before him to demolish. He was being asked to employ his wits against himself. He was to deliver and reveal—in a word, to create —and that was something he had never in his life attempted. He was to discover “the meaning of meaning” in a new way, and it was obvious that the thought of it terrified him.

  After wriggling about, scratching himself, flopping from one side of the couch to the other, rubbing his eyes, coughing, sputtering, yawning, he opened his mouth as if to talk—but nothing came out. After a few grunts he raised himself on his elbow and turned his head in my direction. There was something piteous in the expression of his eyes.

  “Can’t you ask me a few questions?” he said. “I don’t know where to begin.”

  “It would be better if I didn’t ask you any questions,” I said. “You will find your way if you take your time. Once you begin you’ll go on like a cataract. Don’t forget it.”

  He flopped back to a prone position and sighed heavily. It would be wonderful to change places with him, I thought to myself. During the silences, my will in abeyance, I was enjoying the pleasure of making silent confession to some invisible superanalyst. I didn’t feel the least bit timid or awkward or inexperienced. Indeed, once having decided to play the role I was thoroughly in it and ready for any eventuality. I realized at once that by the mere act of assuming the role of healer one becomes a healer in fact.

  I had a pad in my hand ready for use should he drop anything of importance. As the silence prolonged itself I jotted down a few notes of an extratherapeutic nature. I remember putting down the names of Chesterton and Herriot, two Gargantuan figures who, like Krons
ki, were gifted with an extraordinary verbal facility. It occurred to me that I had often remarked this phenomenon chez les gros hommes. They were like the Medusas of the marine world—floating organs who swam in the sound of their own voice. Polyps outwardly, there was an acute, brilliant concentration noticeable in their mental faculties. Fat men were often most dynamic, most engaging, most charming and seductive. Their laziness and slovenliness were deceptive. In the brain they often carried a diamond. And, unlike the thin man, after washing down troughs of food their thoughts sparkled and scintillated. They were often at their best when the gustatory appetites were invoked. The thin man, on the other hand, also a great eater very frequently, tends to become sluggish and sleepy when his digestive apparatus is called into play. He is usually at his best on an empty stomach.

  “It doesn’t matter where you begin,” I said finally, fearing that he would go to sleep on me. “No matter what you lead off with you will always come back to the sore spot.” I paused a moment. Then in a soothing voice I said very deliberately: “You can take a nap too, if you like. Perhaps that would be good for you.”