Eye contact is a powerful thing. Empathy, love, passion, confusion, distress, panic and a plethora of other emotions can all be conveyed between our nose and eyebrows. Pure disdain is another one of those fun emotions that eyes can send from one person to another. That message was coming over loud and clear from Mr. Johnson to Dr. Lewis from the moment he had walked into the office. But, to ensure the message wasn't lost in translation, Mr. Johnson sent it over and over and over again. The forced presence of husbands in their office was something every marriage counselor was accustomed to, but in his experience with Mr. Johnson, this usually was exhibited in simple indifference. No, something was clearly on the man's mind beyond just his disintegrating marriage and the regular contempt any man has for another man who keeps asking him, "How does that make you feel?" No this was clearly something more. As Mrs. Johnson told a story about how Mr. Johnson totally ignored her during their last assignment, which was to discuss why she was originally attracted to him, Mr. Johnson did a very good job of reenacting his indifference to her and instead was focused completely on the doctor. Dr. Lewis himself was usually a very conscientious listener but it was hard to focus on Mrs. Johnson's words with Mr. Johnson’s glare demanding so much attention. Dr. Lewis tried to press on, "So, Mr. Johnson, why do you think Mrs. Johnson feels you weren't listening?" Mr. Johnson paused and, in a rather supercilious way, remarked, "I'm not sure. Does your wife ever assume you're not listening?" Dr. Lewis was used to clients trying to get him to interject his personal life as an example, some were innocent, but increasingly they were less about curiosity and had more of a sinister nature. From the tone, Dr. Lewis feared this was more likely the latter. But, treating it as innocent, he calmly said, "It's important we focus on your situation. There is no value in looking at mine." "Oh, okay. Well, since you don't want to talk about your situation," Mr. Johnson's tone had not improved, "we will only talk about mine. So, why didn't she think I was listening. I may have not had good eye contact. Isn't eye contact important?" His eyes continued to pierce into Dr. Lewis, proving that at least under certain motives, Mr. Johnson's aptitude for eye contact left nothing to be desired. "Yes that is important, but could it have been more than that?" The doctor was doing everything in his power to avoid what he knew would turn into an awkward situation, but deep down knew what was coming. "Or maybe I was stressed. You ever have a stressful day?" Dr. Lewis at that particular moment was very prepared to answer this question, but before he could tell himself to hold his tongue, Mr Johnson added. "What do you do when you get home all stressed and your wife wants to talk?" "Again, Mr. Johnson lets focus on your situation." "Good, I want to know what you do when you are in my situation." Directly trying to maneuver away from his personal life was clearly not going to work so he tried the old, answer the question they should have asked, "Your wife deserves open, honest conversation. So if you need a break to de-stress be open about it." Mrs. Johnson at this point began to interject, "But this was on a Sat.." "How would you know?" Mr. Johnson cut her off, demanding all the attention the little office could offer.
"What?" Dr. Lewis was beginning to expect some confrontation but this was more aggressive than he could have imagined. Recomposing himself a little, Mr. Johnson clarified, "How would you know? Have you tried it?" Dr. Lewis was now getting a bit defensive and his response was not his usual tranquil tone, "I have a doctorate from the University of Connecticut, worked for one of the most prestigious clinics in America, counseled hundreds of couples. I am very qualified to discuss these situations. Mr. Johnson was pleased to see he had gotten under the Dr's skin, and it was with a smile that he sat back in his chair and said, "And yet with all that, no real experience. Come on Jen, lets get out of here." He stood and did the only thing he ever looked forward to doing from the first day he had walked into this office, walked out for the last time. Mrs. Johnson was conflicted, she looked at the doctor in a panic, but the heap of mangled ego that was left of him was far from the pillar she would have needed to help secure her decision. The only strength was leaving the room and she followed it. It was not the fact a disgruntled client walked out that left Dr. Lewis in such a worn state. He had faced it before and would face it again. It was the increased frequency of such occurrences. It was no mystery to Dr. Lewis where Mr. Johnson had discovered the fact that in manners of love, the Dr. was a bit of a novice. A client several months ago,who blamed Dr. Lewis for his failed marriage, had used his knowledge of Dr. Lewis's bachelorhood to flood the internet with scathing reviews like, "Why does a man who has never said, 'I do' get to tell me what to do in my marriage." If Dr. Lewis hadn't been so devastated, he would have had to admit that one was pretty clever. Since these had picked up, his clients had dropped off. There were always men who were looking for a way to get out of counseling, but Dr. Lewis had always prided himself on the fact that if they just gave him a little chance, he could help. He had saved so many marriages that had started their counseling with reluctance. Now he was worried no one would give him a chance. They had their out. Inaction was not something Dr. Lewis ever accepted. Every problem had a solution, and suddenly it was crystal clear. The solution was easy. "Yes, it wasn't mainstream, but that doesn't make it wrong," his mind quickly countered. He always counselled his clients not to make life changing decisions under the duress of hurt feelings, and although that same counsel echoed in his mind as he now found himself rationalizing what he would have described as an irrational life choice in a counselling session, he felt himself dig in his heels against his own good advice for the same reason many others had ignored his counsel: because he wanted to. The only question was the method to deliver the message. The internet made the options and reach almost unlimited. Foreign market was fairly good. No, better keep it close to home. It took only a few minutes to create a new hotmail account and, surprisingly, no one had taken the handle firstname.lastname@example.org. Next, to the Gazette Classifieds. Local professional seeks wife.
Here is a link to Chapter 2.
Here is a link to Chapter 2.