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Susan Shapiro

How I Got My Shrink Back


Susan Shapiro | Longreads | February 2020 | 28 minutes (7,036 words)

Rushing to see him that Friday evening in August, I turned the corner and was shocked to catch Haley leaving his brownstone. What the hell was she doing here? I prayed my eyes were wrong and it was another tall redhead, not my favorite student. Inching closer, I saw it definitely was her — in skinny jeans, heels and a pink blouse, her unmistakable auburn hair flapping down her back as she flounced away. I froze, so crushed I couldn’t breathe.

Darting inside, I shrieked, “I just saw Haley walk out of here. You lied to me!”

“I never lied to you,” he insisted, quickly closing his door.

“Don’t tell me you’re sleeping with her?”

“Of course not.” He looked horrified.

He wasn’t my lover, cheating with a younger woman. He was the long-term therapist who’d saved me from decades of drugs, alcohol, and self-destruction. I couldn’t believe that right before our session, Dr. Winters had met with my protégée, whom I’d loved like a daughter. For the past three years, she’d sat in my classroom, living room, beside me at literary events, and speed walking around the park. She was the only person I’d ever asked him not to see, and vice versa. I felt betrayed from both sides.

Earlier that day, Haley had emailed to see if I’d recommend my gynecologist, housekeeper and literary agency. “Want my husband too?” I’d joked. In the spring, when I’d first sensed she was ransacking my address book and life, I’d asked Dr. Winters about the eerie All About Eve aura.

“She sounds nuts,” he’d said.

“That’s your clinical assessment?” I asked, adding “Don’t be flippant. She’s important to me.”

He’d sworn he wouldn’t treat her, laughing off my paranoia.

Now I could barely speak as I realized she’d broken her vow. And he’d let her in, giving her the slot directly before mine, then ran late, as if he wanted me to catch her. Perched at the edge of his leather couch, I imagined Haley sitting right where I was, leaning on the embroidered cushions, spilling secrets she’d previously shared only with me to my confidante. His plush work space morphed from my safest haven for 15 years into the creepy crawly Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

“Then why was she here?” I couldn’t process her so out of context.

“That woman is not my patient,” he insisted.

His technical wordplay sounded like Bill denying Monica. I craved a drink, joint, and cigarette.
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