Doctor Joseph Medina was one of the most acclaimed psychiatrists in the greater San Francisco area. He specialized in relationships, which in San Francisco meant that most of his clients had interesting things to say. While it was true that the only reason most people came to therapy was to talk about the worst part of their lives, it was positively thrilling to hear nonetheless.
It never ceased to amaze him how two woman of similar age and intelligence could be equally upset over two incredibly different sets of problems. While one may be in tears because her husband cheated on her, stole money from her purse and kicked her dog, another could seem equally upset about her husband watching too much television and forgetting their anniversary.
Of course, he was more than capable of analyzing this. That is, of course, what he is paid to do, but understanding the cause of such behaviors made them no less interesting.
Ever since he was incredibly young, Joe loved to listen to people’s stories. This was convenient since people seemed to love talking to him. Joe was a tremendous listener. He was attentive, but not unnervingly so, he never interrupted and he never judged. He could make a man feel at ease telling him about his darkest secrets, as easily as if they were talking about what he had for breakfast that morning. It really was quite miraculous.
Now after decades of honing this gift, along with a few years of psychiatric training, he had wonderfully comfortable office on the top floor of one of the tallest buildings, in one of the most famous cities on earth. He even had his own billboard near the bridge! Yes indeed, Joe had been doing quite well for himself. That is of course, what makes his tale all the more humbling.
It was a sunny but cold morning in San Francisco when Dr. Medina entered his office at the beginning of the day. He walked quickly over to his chair, took off his shoes, set down his brief case, cranked up the thermostat and then crouched over the vent. Immediately warm air began to funnel into the room. It shot up his pant legs and filled his clothes up like a balloon.
For several minutes he sat like this, enjoying the wonderful, dry heat and trying his best not to think about what he would have to do that day. Then as often happens when you’re enjoying something, it ended far to quickly. The clock rolled around to nine and his first clients arrived.
Mr. and Mrs. Jacobs. They were a nice enough couple, no serious problems to speak of. They sought therapy because they felt like they had grown apart in the past year. They had already worked out most of their difficulties. This visit was mostly just an oil change, to keep things running smoothly.
Mr. Jacobs had been paying closer attention when Mrs. Jacobs is upset and Mrs. Jacobs had been paying more attention to Mr. Jacobs’ needs in the bedroom. Cases like this were nice to thin out the herd of complex cases that Joe usually had to deal with. Still, the Jacobs’ may not have been his most desperate clients but Dr. Medina wished he had given them a better performance all the same. Today he was very distracted. He knew that his work suffered for it, so it was a relief when their hour ended and Mr. and Mrs. Jacobs left.
His next client was the recently divorced, Ms. Joan Kelly. She was a beautiful young woman that had caused Joe to wrestle with his oaths as a therapist for the first time since he took them.
He was fascinated by each and every one of his patients. He loved to listen but he never became emotionally attached. This is exactly what made him so good at his job, but for some reason the same rules didn’t apply with Joan. Despite his best efforts, he was quite taken with her. He had done his best to swallow these emotions and remain professional but at their last meeting, it was only the timely intervention of his ‘end of session’ alarm that had saved him from professing his love then and there.
So on the following night over many drinks, he finally made the decision that he needed to transfer her to a different therapist. This was to be their last session. Today would be a hard day indeed.
Joe nearly jumped out of his skin when his secretary told him Joan had arrived. She walked into the room smelling of wild flowers. She was wearing a sundress despite the cold. Small goose bumps dotted her exposed legs. Joe took her bag for her and showed her to the couch. She was one of the few people who actually liked using the couch to lay back and relax during therapy. Most people were rigid, at least for the first few minutes.
Once she had made herself comfortable, Joe made his way to the chair behind her. Despite himself he popped a mint from the desk drawer into his mouth before sitting down.
“So, what do you want to talk about today?” Joe asked, calmly as he could manage. He felt as jittery as a school child.
“Well, things have been good for me actually.” Joan began, her voice sounding nearly as soft as her skin looked “I think I’m finally over Mark. There’s someone else actually.”
Joe gulped in surprise and started to choke on the mint.
“Is that so?” he sputtered, “Go on.”
He tried to listen quietly and attentively as she described this mystery man, of whom she had never spoken before. He couldn’t seem to focus however as the mint was still lodged in his throat. He just couldn’t get it to come out quietly. He didn’t want to make a fuss and distract Joan from what she was about to say but soon he wouldn’t have a choice.
Finally when his face began to turn blue, the room began to spin and he could hold on no longer, Joe grabbed the edge of his desk, leaned way back and then threw himself forward giving a mighty cough. No luck, the mint still would not dislodge itself from his throat.
Now in real trouble, he waved his arms feebly and tried to cry out but it was no use. Joan was still lying on the couch and could neither see nor hear him. Dr. Medina’s body gave a few weak spasms before he finally relaxed back into his chair and died.
“I know!” Joan continued enthusiastically “I know you’re not supposed to and I know it’s not normal, but I think I’m falling for you Joe. I’ll change therapists, I’ll sign papers, and I’ll do whatever I need to do in order to be with you just please say yes…or if you can’t say yes, don’t say anything, just please don’t say no.”
Dr. Medina remained silent.
“Oh good!” Joan shouted springing from the couch and leaping across the room into Dr. Medina’s outstretched arms. She looked deeply into his earthy brown eyes, spread wide with shock, saw how his face seemed to be stiff with surprise. Then Joan leaned in close, eyes closed, breath baited and gave the longest and most intimate kiss to his gently parted lips.
“Yum,” she said leaning further into his embrace “I love wintergreen.”