“So, why do you feel like you have to buy people’s love?”
I hate therapists. They are always asking questions like that.
“Strange question, given that I have to pay you to talk to me,” I say in response. He smiles, faintly, but won’t be deterred. He continues to look at me, fixedly.
“I don’t think I’m that different from many people, many men. My value to people is in what I can do, or provide. No one’s every liked me for my looks; I was never the guy women wanted to meet just seeing me. I had to impress them somehow. With age, though, I’ve gotten less impressive, so, money works better.”
He continues to look in my direction, encouraging me to keep going.
“My mother asked me the same question when I was nineteen. I had just bought a friend of mine an expensive going-back-to-school dinner. ‘Why do you feel the need to do that?’ she asked me. ‘He’s already one of your best friends.'”
“What was your answer?”
“I don’t remember really having an answer.”
“And you still feel the same way?…”
“Yes, and no. I’ve learned that no one gets appreciated by others quite the way they might want. That people with good looks want to be known for their minds. That people with steady loves want flaming inconstant passion instead; that people who play the field want permanence. We’re all insane, really.”
“Do you really think that last part?”
“That we’re all insane? No, I suppose not. Only if you compare our actions with our stated beliefs about what constitutes a good life.”
“Do you have a good life?”
“Yes, absolutely,” I say.
“Which brings me back to the original question: why do you feel you need to buy people’s love?”
Now it’s my turn to look at him. I take a long sip from the water bottle I brought with me.
“If I can help people, I will. It’s not so much buying love as showing it. People did it for me, when I was younger, and when I couldn’t possibly pay them back… Look, I know myself at heart, and I am as selfish as the next guy. All of us work from the same set of motivations, at least in part… I’m not trying to gain anything; I’m not trying to get in women’s pants, and I’m not trying to buy affection or whatever it was you said.”
He looked away from me, clearly unconvinced.
“Do you feel your illness makes you lesser than other people?”
“At times, yes.”
“Are you willing to accept help as easily as you give it?”
I could tell he thought he had me with that question by the slight smile on his face.
“Yes, actually. I don’t mind people doing for me, or giving to me. It’s not a power thing.”
“Hmmm,” he said, frowning slightly. “I think we’re at the end of this session.”
I take my keys and water bottle from off his table and rise to go.
“I want you to think this week about ways people show love,” he said, walking across to open the door. “Determine for yourself if you feel like you are always acting the most appropriate way for how you are feeling.”
“I’ll try,” I say, walking out into the reception area as he closes the door behind me. The receptionist looks up at me from the desk outside, her bright eyes showing even through her glasses, her dark hair shining under the fluorescent lights.
“What time are you coming by tonight?” she whispers.