The Shoebox Ch. 02bySusanPSharpPHD©
Chapter 2: A Late Night Discussion
I don't know how long I sat there. It could have been 5 minutes or 5 hours. Time had no meaning. Looking back I now understand what Joe meant when he said that his mind was in a "loop". That's exactly how it felt. The same thoughts replaying over and over in my head. "It can't be. I don't believe it! How could she?"
After I slid the rubber band back on the stack of pictures and closed the box, I sat with my hands folded on my desk deep in thought. How must Joe Powell have felt when he first saw those pictures? The trauma. The anger. The disbelief. Poor man! It's bad enough to be told that your wife has been unfaithful – but to see that! One picture after another. One worse than the other, until . . . . I closed my eyes but all I could see was a deck of pictures being shuffled.
I heard the doorknob to my office rattle and a familiar face appeared around the door.
"Well, are we going to eat tonight?"
It was my husband, Sid. I gazed at his round face and thinning hair. He flashed me a smile. Always smiling, always my rock.
"I'm sorry honey, I just got embroiled with a new client and lost track of time!"
"No wonder! I saw him leave! Quite a "hunk". What were you two doing in here?"
"Sid! Will you stop with the couch jokes – please! You know, I am a professional, and I really don't think it's funny when you say things like that. . "
"Just kidding, just kidding, calm down." Sid held up his hands in surrender and smiled. Then he plopped on the couch with a sigh and gazed at me with a look of loving concern.
"Zu-Zu, what's bothering you?"
I got up and sat next to my husband. He wrapped his arm around me as I looked up into his eyes.
"This new case - I'm afraid it has really gotten to me!"
Sid raised his eyebrows:
"Zu-Zu, what could that young man have possibly told you that you haven't heard a hundred times before. What's his problem? He can't get an erection? Found out his mother doesn't love him? What?"
I looked mournfully into my husband's eyes.
"Infidelity. His wife is unfaithful."
"Oh, surprise, surprise, Zu! How many times have your heard that complaint? I would estimate that about every fourth couple that comes into this office has some sort of infidelity issue! It can't be only that!"
"Well Dr. Weisberg, this time there are pictures, very explicit pictures. Very DISTURBING pictures of a Sunday school teacher and young mother engaged in some pretty sordid stuff!"
"Are we sharing the pictures?" Side whispered with a conspiratorial grin.
"You pervert! Those photos are confidential and part of my file. You know I can't show them to you! Sidney, you are thinking with the wrong head!"
"Ok, doctor, have it your way. But you know, I am a medical doctor AND your husband. And I will also remind you that there is still a law in this state protecting spousal communications, as well as doctor to doctor confidentiality . . ."
"You are still a dirty old man and a pervert Dr. Weisberg . . ." I said teasingly as I purposely laid my hand in his lap.
"and you are getting an erection, which proves to both of us your strictly professional interest in my case."
"My dear Dr. Sharp, I may be a medical doctor AND the husband of a clinical psychologist but I am still a man and I make no apologies for my erections – particularly at my age."
"Nor are any apologies required."
I reached up and kissed Sid tenderly.
"I do love you!"
"And I love you, but you know I hate to see you take these cases so much to heart. I mean you give these people your time, your sympathies and your professional advice. Do they have to take our diner away from us too?"
"Oh, don't start with that old complaint, mister. I don't see you wasting away in front of me. How about if a pretty girl takes you out for a nice meal? I'm treating."
"Sure, neglect your wifely duties and make it up by taking me to a restaurant. I'm taking notes Dr. Sharp which I intend read to our marital therapist when the appropriate time comes."
"And for which I will gladly give you a referral, Dr. Weisberg. I was thinking of Leslie Marks actually."
"Dr. Marks, isn't she the lesbian? The one that hates men? The one with the castration fixation?"
"The very same. So you watch it buster."
* * *
To make up for the late diner I took Sid to his favorite Japanese restaurant even though there was not much on the menu that I was willing to eat. I wasn't feeling very hungry anyway so the small bowl of miso soup seemed just perfect for my mood. Sid was sitting in front of a colorful bento box of assorted sushi and sashimi and attacking it like it was his last meal.
"So what's so disturbing about this new case of yours Zu-Zu? Incest? Rape? Pedophilia?"
"No just an unfaithful wife!"
"So then, what's the big deal?"
"Well Sid, the pictures WERE very graphic. And the wife, she looks so . . . normal. Then to see all those pictures. I don't know - I was disturbed."
"So did she do anything we haven't done?" Sid gave me a mischievous wink.
"Sidney Weisberg, I know your tricks. And yes, LOTS of things that we, at least I, have never done. If you think . . ."
I looked furtively around the almost empty restaurant and lowered my voice.
"If you think that I am going to describe those pictures to you, forget it. First of all this is a public place. Secondly, my cases are confidential . . ."
Sid waived his napkin in front of my face in surrender and then wiped his mouth.
"OK, OK I get the picture. Or rather, I guess I don't get the pictures."
"No you don't get the pictures!" I whispered. "Not unless you are a good boy."
Sidney raised his eyebrows.
"So doctor, you think you might need a second opinion? A professional consultation might be in order you know. My couch may be available tonight."
Sidney winked at me as I pushed my empty bowl away.
"Why don't you finish up and I'll see what I can arrange."
* * *
Later that night we were both sitting up in bed reading, as we do almost every night.
"Susan, were you serious about showing me those pictures? You really have piqued my interest."
Sidney looked earnestly over his glasses at me as he put aside the medical journal he was reading.
"I don't know, Sid. They really were pornographic. I don't understand why I was so horribly disturbed by them. Maybe you should look at them. Maybe I need a man's opinion."
Despite my earlier protestations, this would not be the first time that I asked my husband to review one of my files and give me his opinion. True, he is not a psychologist, but I genuinely value his opinion and sometimes he has insights that I just don't see. Besides, my reaction to the shoebox had been so extreme and no one knows me better than my husband. I thought that maybe he could help me see why I had such an unprofessional reaction to this case.
I scurried out of bed and padded downstairs to my office. The shoebox was sitting in the middle of my desk right where I left it. The lid was closed, silently guarding its contents. For some reason I was apprehensive, no scared actually. I hesitated to pick it up. It seemed evil. For a brief moment I imagined the vines curling around my hands and trapping me as I picked up that vile box.
I realized that a knot was growing in my stomach. I really did not want this shoebox to enter our bedroom. I froze and felt my heart beating fast. For some reason I sat down at my desk, switched on the desk lamp and dialed the extension that rang next to our bed. Sid answered.
"Sid, I'm in my office with the shoebox. Could you come down here please?"
"Zu-Zu, for God's sakes! Can't you bring it up here? Why do we both have to go down into that damn chilly office of yours?"
"Sidney, I would prefer if you looked at the contents in my office. I don't know, maybe I'm being silly but I just feel more professional doing it that way. Please dear!"
"Oh all right then." Sid gruffly hung up the phone.
* * *
When Sid entered my office he was wearing his brown silk robe. I could see the curly gray hairs on his chest through the opening of the robe. Since only the desk lamp was on, I was in the shadows. There was an eerie feeling in the room. Sid came around to the back of my desk chair and put his warm hand on my shoulder.
We both stared at the glowing yellow shoebox without either of us speaking a word. I gingerly removed the brightly ornamented cover off of the box. The deck of photos lay on top of the contents of the box where I had found them. The first picture I had seen was back on top of the deck.
I slid off the rubber band and held up the first picture.
"Quite a little vixen!" said Sid quietly.
I shuffled that picture to the back of the deck.
"Oh my" said my husband softly.
"I thought you said we never did anything like that."
"Be patient!" I responded in a nervous voice.
I continued to shuffle slowly through the deck, making sure Sid got a good look at each picture before I slid it to the back. Sid's breathing became more labored with each picture and I swore that his body heat started radiating from him, warming up the room.
After going through about seven of the photos, Sid spoke:
"Bingo, we never did that!" Sid was joking but there was no humor in his voice.
"Let me see that!" Sid took the picture from me and examined it closely.
"My, my! She is quite a woman. Sunday school teacher you say?"
I turned to retrieve the picture from his hand. As I looked up from my chair, I noticed Sid's erect penis was parting the folds of his robe. Sid is a big man and his size is proportional. I looked into his eyes and then down at the offending member.
"Excuse me!" my husband muttered apologetically, as he tried unsuccessfully to coax his erection from parting his robe.
"Seen enough?" I asked raising my eyebrows.
"Yes, for now at least." Sid answered with a sigh. "Let's go to bed Zu."
For some reason, I reassembled the deck with the original picture on top and slipped the rubber band back on. I guess it seemed too obscene to leave any other picture exposed on the top of the deck. I closed the shoebox and stood up. Sid put his arm around me and warmed me in his masculine frame as we headed back up to our bedroom. For some reason, I had to turn and look at that shoebox one more time before I turned off the light and closed the door to my office.
As I turned Sid was waiting for me. He took me in his arms and starting kissing me passionately. His robe was open and he took me in. I felt his warmth and his hardness and felt a hunger for him that I hadn't felt in a long time. Our tongues entwined as both my hands grabbed the back of his head, hungrily pulling him down to my small frame. My God, where did that come from? I pushed away from my husband and tried to catch my breath.
"We better get a room!" Sid whispered as he looked lovingly into my eyes. I pulled him up the stairs and into our waiting bed.
* * *
For the first time in a long time, I felt a cool sheen of sweat coating my naked body. Content and satiated, I was lying on top of Sid basking in the love of my husband of many years. I am a petite woman and my husband is quite large. I secretly admire large men and find Sid, even after all these years, very sexy. Large, hairy, masculine, I love lying on top of him. It's like he is a big shaggy dog, my cheek on his fuzzy chest, although by now that hair is mostly gray. After lying motionless for a while, Sid groaned under me.
"Zu-Zu what the hell has gotten into you? I swear you are trying to kill me!"
"Me? I can't help it if you are so virile!" I crawled up his body, kissed him and said with a smile:
"Twice in an hour. You haven't done that in 17 years!"
"What!" said Sid in mock protest, "Do you write it down in your little diary for posterity?"
"No, but I remember. It was 1973, the party doctor what's-his-face threw when you were a resident. You remember, the guy who does the boob-jobs now!"
"I will have you know I did it three times that night! And Sinclair IS a boob job."
Sid ran his fingers lovingly through my hair. He sighed and muttered in tired but theatrical voice:
"I've got your number Dr. Sharp. You and your boyfriend, Mr. soon-to-be divorced Stud Muffin, are planning to kill me with sex. If you don't succeed, he will send his insatiable wife to finish me off! Then you will be free to analyze him for the rest of his young life."
I played with the hairs on Sid's chest as I thought about what he just said in jest.
"I don't think so."
"What?" he asked groggily. I could tell he was drifting off to sleep.
"I don't think he will divorce her. He says he doesn't want a divorce."
"My new client, Mr. Stud Muffin."
"Go to sleep Zu-Zu."
I sat up in the dark and tried to look into Sid's eyes.
"Would you divorce her if she were your wife?"
"Of course I would! How else would I be able to marry you?"
"Sid, I'm serious! Listen, I have to meet with this guy tomorrow afternoon and I don't have the slightest idea how to deal with what he is going through. I probably shouldn't have opened that shoebox because now there are a lot of judgments going around in my head. Jesus Sid, I can imagine someone going homicidal under these circumstances."
There was silence in the room except for Sid's regular breathing.
Sid fluffed up his pillow and sat up slightly in bed. I still had my head on his chest but I was deep in thought.
"OK! I can see you are not going to sleep until we thrash this thing out. How can I help you doctor?"
"What should I do, Sid? What tact should I take this poor guy? I just don't understand where he's coming from. What do you think?"
"I think he discovered something about his wife that he never, in his wildest dreams, thought could happen. Maybe he discovered something that he secretly wished would happen. You know what they say; "Be careful what you wish for because your wish may come true." Now he is frustrated, angry, sexually aroused and very, very confused. It's your job, Dr. Sharp, to straighten the poor guy out!"
"But how, Sid? How?"
"Well I think for one thing, you need to get him to admit how aroused the pictures made him feel!"
"Sidney, think about what you are saying. This isn't a Jackie Collins novel. It's a young family with two children."
"Susan, never underestimate the power of the male libido! What other answer is there? He told you he doesn't want a divorce. There are only two other options sweetheart - kill her or grovel in her kinkiness. Quite frankly, I admire him for selecting the latter."
"Spoken like a true male! My God Sid, don't you guys think of anything but sex?
"Of course we do - sleep for one. Now, go to sleep Zu, please."
I rolled off Sid and let him spoon me. As he wrapped his large frame around me, I felt sheltered and protected in his arms, safe from any harm. I thought about how passionate Sid was tonight. "Never underestimate the power of the male libido!" How many times had I done that? But what about the female libido? What about Beth Powell, the Sunday school teacher? Who is underestimating whom? Sid's words were echoing in my head. Maybe he did have a perspective that would let me understand Joe Powell.
I was getting annoyed at myself lying there half awake. I should have known that Sid's suggestion was at least a possibility, but the shoebox had poisoned me. It's one thing to listen to someone explain infidelity. You sit there and think, "Well we are all human!" or "I guess you are perfect and had absolutely nothing to do with this!" or any number of things that softens the impact of the revelation.
But nothing prepared me for the raw emotions I felt when I saw Beth Powell groveling in such filth! Would I be able to look poor Joe in the eyes tomorrow and confirm to him that I had also witnessed his wife engaging in the most disgusting behavior?
I began doubting myself. "I really cannot take this case!" I thought. It would be totally different if Joe Powell had been fuming and seeking revenge - if he was insisting on a divorce or demanding child custody. I could easily deal with that tomorrow afternoon. But forgiveness, shit, how do I keep my own emotions in check?
Then again, I thought, it was just sex. We all do it. Hell, I had just enjoyed quite a raunchy night of it myself. Am I that myopic that I can only judge the behavior of others by some unattainable standard that I don't apply to myself? Of course behavior must be understood in context. I never did what Beth Powell did in those photos - at least not with those men in those places! Maybe with my own husband - but that's different, isn't it?
As these thoughts rolled around in my head I drifted into a fitful state, a twilight sleep. I dreamt that I was flipping through a deck of glossy photos. First there was a picture of handsome Joe Powell, dressed as he was this afternoon. I flipped that over to reveal a picture of little Hannah, then Bethany, then the picture of Beth from Joe's wallet.
In my dream, I started to put the rubber band around the deck when a hand reach out and stopped me. It flipped Beth's picture over and there it was! The picture of her naked, very pregnant and on her hands and knees looking over her shoulder with a wicked smile on her face! As I studied the picture I suddenly realized that my Sid was on his knees in back of her, his large penis erect and poised to penetrate! In my dream, I quickly flipped that picture to the bottom of the deck, but the same picture was next in line. Only this time, the face on the pregnant woman was mine!
To be continued in Chapter 3.