Vive la Maman! (Story by R.C. Peris)

The therapist shifted in her seat, smoothed her skirt, crossed her legs, and then adjusted the pad of paper she had been writing on. Her pen was poised in the air like some Parisian smoking in a cafe who was in the middle of a conversation about existentialism.

I looked away and stared at a painting of colorful wildflowers with effusive squiggly lines that hung below her diploma from Northwestern University.

“You were talking about her?” The therapist’s voice was slightly gravelly. She might have been recovering from a cold.

“Her?” I looked away from the painting. I frowned. “Oh yes, her. Mother. Maman. The Great One who wrung my soul like a sponge.”

The therapist suddenly looked impassive. Uninterested. I imagined this was how Meursault from The Stranger might have looked during his trial for murder. I decided to mirror the therapist. I tightened my mouth into a strict line.

“Your mother…sarcasm does not help in therapy. It’s a form of resistance.”

“But resistance can be so compelling and effective. Imagine what might have happened to France without the French resistance tirelessly impeding the Nazis.”

“Resistance in therapy demonstrates a lack of commitment to change. So…your mother. Tell me good things you remember.”

“Uhhh…I can’t remember anything.”

“Nothing?” Her face was starting to wither. Impassivity was being replaced by irritation. I looked at her bookcase, woefully depleted of books, but filled with silver and gold frames of what I believed was her children, cocker spaniel, and husband.


The therapist wrote something on her notepad. “I see.”

I could detect, like a dog sniffing the air, growing hostility. She looked at me. Her eyes were brown like chocolate.

“I think I might not be a good fit for you.”

“I asked for a female therapist. I wanted a female therapist so I could be a daughter again and you could be my mother. At least, for fifty minutes once a week.”

“I don’t think so.” She uncrossed her legs and walked to her desk. She walked back and handed me a business card. “This is a referral to another therapist.”

“I’ve been through six therapists. All female.”

“Then try a man.”

I shrugged. “Okay.”

I left and threw the business card in the lobby trash can. I would find another female therapist. Maybe I find one who doesn’t get offended when I speak ill of the mother who devastating me. I keep getting therapists who are mothers and none seem willing to speak ill of mothers. Ha. Not a single therapist seemed to realize they were engaging in countertransference. Or maybe they did and that’s why they ended things. Damn it. I went back to the lobby and dug the business card out of the trash. The receptionist eyed me with a frown. Maybe the male therapist had feminine qualities. Maybe he was gay. I don’t know. All I knew was that I needed a substitute mommy so I could tell her all the things I didn’t say while she was alive.

Or maybe I was resisting. Resisting is so glamorous. Berets, bicycles, and bombs on train tracks. Vive la France! Vive la Maman! Or maybe I just surrender and let dead mommy dictator walk all over me for the rest of my life. Life is choices. You only mature when you accept the choices. That’s also when you find freedom.

I withdrew from my purse a picture of mommy and me from years ago. I took my cigarette lighter and burned it. The ashes fluttered in the wind and my soul grew just a little.


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