Dr. F sat in a state of quiet anguish, beady eyes flickering behind wire spectacles. Perhaps it was the coca, Ida thought, detecting in the dilated pupils and sweaty brow a familiar whiff of paranoia. He’d prescribed it often to patients as an antidote for depression, and regularly availed himself of its restorative powers. But it was the way he held himself close, thin arms wrapped around an expansive waist, that Ida took special note of. That, and the cul-de-sac of cigars laid out on the skirted table to his left. Three pale brown tubes positioned end-to-end, a marble clipper at the top. The latter gleamed under the light of a small porcelain lamp, its sharp carnivorous blade waiting to sever its first head. Like an izmel, Ida noted, amused by the irony.
The doctor said nothing. Even an expectant look from Ida, coupled with a loud cough, elicited nothing but a flutter of new blinks. Nor did he move. When Mary, his wife, entered the room to remove a tea service from the ottoman at his feet, he remained still as stone in the shadowed curve of his high back chair. Ida watched with great attention as Mary moved in the minced steps of an awkward servant, silver spoons tinkling as she hastened her exit.
Determined that Dr. F initiate the session, Ida lay motionless on the couch. To pass time, she counted the upholstery tacks that ran along its border. Feeling kinship with the tiny brass army, she briefly imagined herself among its ranks: silent and enduring. It had been three years since she’d abruptly terminated her analysis, and she knew the doctor was uncertain about her motives to return. Best to appear as if I have none, she thought, and shifted her gaze across the room to trace the damask curtains that fell there in curvaceous swoops to the floor. Reflexively, she patted her own comely curls, newly set that morning. She hoped her efforts to look good would paid off.
“Father worries that my bouts are getting worse,” she blurted out, the stand-off now unbearable. “Certainly the coughing continues, but I find myself less bothered by it…” Her voice picked up speed. “Or by Herr K’s attentions, who at least finally stopped sending me flowers.” Ida studied the Doctor for signs of prurient interest. At first, he betrayed no change in his stoic countenance. Then those thin arms began to tighten their grip, squeezing back words that seemed to darken his moist nervous eyes. What the devil was he thinking? Ida wondered. And why was he holding back? She tried again. “Yes, so he stopped sending me things, and talks of moving his family away again. We’d all be much better off, of course, but either way I feel fine. I’m here only to appease father. Yet again.” she sighed for effect. The lies came easy; she’d rehearsed them for weeks. “Do tell me, though, have you finished your book?” Ida knew, of course, that he hadn’t. Everyone did.
The manuscript had been abandoned in the eleventh hour in the wake of controversy. A young patient’s claims of untoward advances followed by accusations of anti-Semitism, trusted colleagues entering the fray. Indeed, save the much coveted editorship at The Psychoanalytic, the doctor’s prospects for work had long grown dismally thin. Ida would approach both issues gingerly at first, but as these events had clearly deformed his professional ego it was imperative they be discussed. After all, she reminded herself, the purpose of my ruse here as patient is to gather firsthand accounts, not just behavioral data. And there were many questions to ask. Most importantly, why was the doctor so unwilling to discuss his Jewish identity? Had he tried too hard to assimilate, to “pass” as critics suggested? And was the constant cigar in hand symbolic of this effort; a kind of social pledge to the Gentile elite? Odd as the theory was, research showed that many well-known Jews who had similarly assimilated – Einstein, Benjamin, Arendt, and Svevo, among them – were avid cigar smokers as well. Mere coincidence, perhaps, but Ida found it too provocative to ignore, her overall theory on the role of anti-Semitism in the neurosis of Jewish males impelling her to pursue it. That the doctor saved his imported Don Pedros and Reina Cubanos for social outings with Gentile friends whilst consuming domestic brands at home, was proof of his desire to impress, if nothing else, she told herself.
Three weeks into their sessions, Ida came up with the title for her book: From Analyst to Analysand: A glimpse into the very mind that invented the neurosis, then succumbed to its forces! She imagined the scandalous reviews with great relish. The book could catapult her career if she played her cards right. In spite of her sex, she thought, and all the limitations the good doctor would like attend to it. Penis envy, my foot, she thought. Before bed that night, she dashed off a quick letter to her friend and mentor, Emma Eckstein, who’d agreed to help her publish her book.
I trust that you are well, and ask your forgiveness for my delay I response to your most recent letter. You questioned whether I felt remorse for my “subject” who remains unaware of my intentions, or if I might be entangling my previous tenure as the good doctor’s patient with the goals of my work. The answer to both questions is no. Just as the doctor saw fit to pursue his case study of me without my consent (for the sake of scientific integrity), I do the same. Moreover, I am convinced Sigmund’s neurosis is more evident by his lack of awareness about it as you shall read in my notes of today. In essence, he claimed he owed to the cigar the intensity of his work and as he put it “a facilitation of my self-control.” An unwitting admission of intemperance, my dear friend, no? One that bespeaks of a wanton, reckless nature that I intend to unleash in the next few weeks. My work depends on it. In closing, I remind you that you too were a patient of F’s, and it has not It undermined your objectivity, so why challenge mine? Let us move past this, then. My apologies for the rough tone of my words; but I am with great pressure as you know.
Doctor F selected a cigar from the table, snipped off its head, and drew out the lighter he kept in the pocket of his gray flannel trousers. They faced each other once more in silence.
“So you are interested in my writing, eh?” he finally spoke, expelling rich curls of smoke. “I can gladly lend you some of the journals where my work has appeared. But to answer the question you asked last session, I’m currently revising my book to incorporate a series of lectures I gave last year at the Institute...” The doctor paused, and put down his cigar. Manicured hands slipped between crossed thighs, and Ida read in the tiny gesture large thoughts. Cosmopolitan yearnings, she told herself, remembering the first time she saw him in her mother’s parlor, cupping a glass of sherry like a regular dandy.
The doctor cleared his throat now, and attempted to finish his sentence.
“...about left brain activity being, uh, concurrent with sexual sublimation.” His voice grew hesitant and raspy. “Ahem. Deliberate sublimation, of course,” he added. “But then there’s the uh-hem…”
“You’re referring to the reactive thought, and how it keeps the objectionable one under repression, yes?” Ida interjected, instantly regretting her outburst. She knew she had to maintain her role as naive patient, and risked exposure by carelessly quoting her subject. What a thoughtless slip! she chided herself. All those hours studying his writings in preparation for these sessions had led unwittingly to portions of it being committed to memory. To her great relief, Doctor F did not recognize his own text.
Doctor F methodically fingered the thick bristles of his beard, raking his broad cliff-like chin under the shadowed slope of his precipitous nose. Ida made a mental inventory of all his physical attributes, but was always drawn back to his feminine hands. Soft pink palms, long fingers, and buffed nails. With fat, rippled knuckles that made her think of trees knots. She recorded these observations immediately in her notebook upon leaving each session. She was a writer, after all, and such minutia was her stock-and-trade.
“It is never helpful to disassociate without intention or purpose, that’s true. But when did you grow so knowing, dear?” F gratuitously replied. Ida feigned a modest smile, and coyly lowered her head, pretending to study the Persian carpet spread beneath her on the couch. The consulting room they sat in was cluttered with ornate testaments to taste and travel. An aristocratic past in the making, Ida wryly mused. Even the Biedermeyer facade of Berggasse 19 was a bourgeois fiction, sprung from the eternal derivative, just like the doctor who had grown up poor. Such middle-class striving defined the Viennese analyst so thoroughly, Ida felt, she’d dedicated an entire chapter of her book to limning its influence. It was part of why the doctor distanced himself from his Semitic roots, she theorized, having already begun a search for the elusive female ancestor whose name the doctor’s family had mysteriously adopted in derivation. What could this woman have done to promote such an honor?, Ida wondered aloud in bed that night as she read her latest letter from Emma.
I’m happy to receive your notes and letter, both of which assure me that you are doing well. Still, I must confess that I remain concerned about your method. Do you not see the obvious difference between you and me? I would never have chosen the Doctor as a subject for a case study, to advance any theory, let alone one as explosive as yours. And I am just as invested in it as you are. Indeed, should I support it publicly, my reputation will be at stake.
Ida put the letter down, and felt her body warm with blood. She held the lavender sachet she kept under her pillow to her nose, breathing deeply to calm herself. She read on.
You will have to defend the choice to focus on a prominent member of our community, even one whose reputation has lost its shine (most of our colleagues still assume he’s in retirement). But still, my dear, there will be questions, pointed ones at that. You must be ready. Proving the relationship between the significant number of Jewish males afflicted by neurosis and the prevalence of anti-Semitism will be difficult enough. To use F as your case study by asserting he is the victim of his own devising suggests there is no merit to his work when there are many compelling ideas in his theories, particularly that of neurosis. I know we have agreed the latter is faulty, and too frequently ascribed to women as proof of our weaker proclivities, but we must be careful how we expose such deficiencies. Don’t you agree? If it appears that there is some sort of vendetta on our part, the book will summarily dismissed. And we as professionals right along with it! Hence, I strongly urge you to finish your “therapy”, and pursue an alternate path to research immediately.
“Do tell me more about why you’ve come back to see me,” the doctor asked at the beginning of Ida’s next session. “You terminated your previous treatment rather abruptly.”
“Well, as I said, father was emphatic. Either I return to you, or go to that spa you recommended. I’ve no intention of leaving Vienna. All my friends are here, and I begin school in the Fall. And…well, I’ve lost enough of my life to that man.” Here, Ida sat up, and nervously plucked at the ivory buttons that fastened the cuffs of her blouse. She pressed on. “And frankly, discussing the substance of a silly dream for an entire month seemed rather...well, pointless, I’m afraid.” She laid back now, and let the hem of her gray skirt slide up her calves. The doctor bit his lip, and clipped another cigar, oblivious to the one that smoldered in the ashtray. Ida watched the new cigar brighten under his tutelage, its red eye flashing against the dark room.
It was time to get the issue of the notebook out of the way. For several minutes Ida absently stroked the unexplained book, which she pressed against her chest. But her provocation elicited no response. Frustrated, she cautioned herself not to get angry, an inappropriate emotion she knew for such a situation. I must remain detached, she thought, the image of Emma’s disapproving face causing her anxiety to peak.
What man do you speak of, Dora?” the doctor eventually inquired, casting a timorous gaze across her shapely limbs. He lingered over her exposed ankles, and Ida worked to hide her mirth. Getting the lay of the land, she laughed to herself. Such sexual impulses appeared less embarrassing for the doctor than the prospects of responding without caution to her calculated questions. Ida informed Emma of this telling behavior, proof she insisted of his failure to see his theorizing as unconscious projections of his own neurosis. Not that he wasn’t still plagued by fears of impropriety. Every time Ida intercepted one of his lecherous looks, his remorse was obvious. The case against him by his former patient had been eventually dismissed, but the humiliation he’d suffered when the accuser went to the papers almost destroyed him. “He diagnosed the girl as a borderline hysteric, and here he is exhibiting the same symptoms,” Ida fumed to Emma over dinner one night. “And until he admits this, he will never recover his capacity for clinical engagement. Frankly, I hope he doesn’t. He’s no longer in control of his faculties.” In a strange show of defense, Emma shared an unpublished quote the doctor had given her cousin, a journalist, in response to the alleged transgression: “We may never discover a ‘No’ in the unconscious, but the formidable power of the conscious mind to quell the ID’s constant Yes,’ this we can always tap if we are honest with ourselves, though we frequently underestimate this power.” The object of his own lesson, she’d said, the matter of his guilt already resolved as far as she was concerned. Daily doses of coca, and the haunted sleep she imagined he had were evidence enough. Dreams, she hoped, that took monstrous shape in the darkest hours before ebbing into dour unease.
“Why Herr K, of course.” Ida coolly answered, her patience waning. Given how often he spoke of the benefits of free association, could the man not speak without premeditation? It irked her. A real indication of paranoia she observed in her notes that night: “He is like a trapped animal caged so long he rears up at the slightest threat; unable to distinguish fear from harm.” She’d included the observations in a new letter to Emma, though she worried that it might result in her friend questioning if Ida didn’t aggravated this tendency with her deception. Nonsense, Ida assured herself. Emma will realize I have no desire to harm this man. I only want for him to converse freely with me. For the sake of our work.
Ida tried to hide her frustration. She was running out of time, and the doctor had to be drawn out further. A hive blossomed on her cheek, tortured by a disobedient hair that strayed from another elaborate coiffure. She breathed deeply, and smoothed it back into place. Relax, she told herself, maximize the time you have left. She thought of all those idiosyncratic behaviors she’d witnessed during her first analysis, too overwhelmed in those initial consultations to consider collecting them for future reference. Even back then she’d played the convincing analysand. As she explained it once to Emma: “I became the key that fit his lock, letting him think he’d opened me up to myself so I could better escape his influence. How else does one survive unwanted therapy?”
She recalled now those initial sessions on his couch. How hard she’d worked to mimic the symptoms of hysteria she’d read about it in her books on ancient Greece. The fake coughing particularly taking its toll. She hacked so ferociously one afternoon, a thread of coagulated blood spew from her lungs in cathartic protest. All that strangulated breathing hadn’t been easy, either. But Ida was most proud of her “wandering womb” performance, that ridiculous pathology she’d read about in one of her father’s journals. Another gift from the Greeks, she’d joked to Emma. She would move her hand around her belly to show the doctor what organs her womb had pressured. She’d actually enjoyed the water spray therapy and vibrators he’d prescribed for her recovery, though she resented the weekly reports she’d had to deliver on their efficacy.
Thank you for your quick reply. Yes, it is true we must be careful in our evaluation of Sigmund’s theory on neurosis as there is much to it that I also find has therapeutic merit. But I do not agree that we should be intimidated by the potential retaliation of our colleagues for questioning the theory as a whole, or in elucidating its flaws, especially where the latter aligns with those of the doctor’s. Moreover, there is no vendetta on my part as you suggest. How can I reassure you of this fact? Let us please move beyond these worries and return to our mutual goals to publish my book, shall we? I would like to update you on my progress in person. Can you meet next week? Please send word.
The doctor re-lit his cigar, sucking with rhythmic savor. He daubed stray ashes from the perimeter of the ashtray, then obsessively wiped its rim. When he began to use his tie to repeat the action, Ida grew excited, and grabbed her pen. At last a neurotic quirk she could directly record in her book. She’d gained permission during their last session to record her thoughts “as they came along”, with the promise she would reveal what she saw fit. Feeling optimistic, Ida offered Doctor F the olive branch she’d held back until now: a recent dream. “I wrote it down immediately this morning when I awoke,” she enthused submissively. “Shall I recite it for you?”
“A house was on fire. My father was standing beside my bed and woke me up. I dressed myself quickly. Mother wanted to stop and save her jewel-case; but father said: ‘I refuse to let myself and my two children be burnt for the sake of your jewel-case.’ We hurried downstairs, and as soon as I was outside, I woke up.” She’d cobbled the phantom story from several news items she’d read in the morning paper. She knew the doctor would devise an entire corpus of symptoms from its banal vagaries. The Oedipal crisis, most likely, she laughed scornfully to herself. And Doctor F did exactly that, the rest of the session spent decoding her manufactured dream as if it held the secrets of the sphinx. Little did he know that all his overwrought analysis would form the basis of another chapter in her book.
During their next counsel, Doctor F took more initiative, directing his patient ô to discuss that fateful vacation her family had taken with Herr K’s two years ago. An early fabrication from their first go around together. One of her best, Ida felt. But she couldn’t recall the exact details of this holiday tale as she’d first spun it, so she focused instead on a tangent. How Frau K had pretended to dote on her, all the while planning her next rendezvous with Ida’s father. “In the servant’s cottage at the edge of the woods. Could it have been any more cliché?” she snickered in mock disgust.
Perhaps she was jealous? Doctor F suggested. Or angry with her father because she too had sexual feelings for Frau K?, he continued. Ida let her mouth twitch and gape, a frown of rigor mortis settling upon her face. Oh such scurrilous blows! The doctor watched his patient’s abreaction in visible pleasure. “You mustn’t get so defensive, Ida dear. There is nothing to be ashamed of. Do tell me more...” he said. But Ida’s lips remained a fortress.
No longer able to bear the strain, Ida let her facial muscles slacken. Slyly, she retrieved the emerald ring she’d pinned inside her blouse, and slipped it on her engagement finger. She pulled at the verdant stone as if it were the repository of all her revulsion, then with a violent twist sent it flying across the floor. To her delight, it clinked to a dull stop right at the doctor’s feet. She hadn’t noticed F’s feet before. Wrapped in Italian calfskin, she guessed. Black, hand-stitched oxfords as buffed and polished as his nails, she thought. This time she openly recorded her observations in her notebook.
Doctor F handed her the ring back. “A hochzeit, Ida...Are congratulations in order? Who is the lucky man? Why have you said nothing? ” Ida deliberately sidestepped the questions, leaving the doctor to his speculations, certain they would benefit her later. His ruminations had already entered their discussion in one overblown form or another over the last few weeks. Providing more neurotic fodder for her book than she could have anticipated. With only twenty minutes left in the session, she quickly improvised another flashback. Herr K’s sexual advances late one evening by the boat house where he’d touched her breasts. And pressed his loins against her dress. Worst of all, the shameful kiss, his thick eager tongue invading the depths of her virgin mouth. Oh, that fateful vacation. Her tone was carefully contrived to evoke hazy reluctance, details delivered with fuzzy distortion. She spoke bitterly of her father’s weak intervention, his disbelief in her story. How he had essentially condoned H err K’s advances in order to safeguard his relationship with K’s wife.
The doctor stood up, and paced about the room, pensively chewing on an unlit cigar. With sudden vigor, he sat down again, and exclaimed: “ You must tell it again! And again! The more you do, the less hold these memories will have on your unconscious! I can sense there are details you are repressing.” And so at his bidding, Ida repeated her tale, each version more elaborate than the last. The pressure was enormous, as if she were being interrogated, the doctor wearing her down in order to discover threads of inconsistency in her story. Amid her last recitation, her “recollection” began to fall apart, and in a rare moment of panic, Ida hastily turned to praise. “You know,” she said, “this really is helpful. This repetitive confessing...Talk therapy you call it, yes?” “Talking Cure.” he corrected her.
Yes, let’s meet to discuss the book as quickly as possible. I am growing alarmed at the tone of your notes...Can you come › on Sunday for supper? Please send a telegram to confirm.
Over the next several weeks, Doctor F began to speak more openly about himself. Compliments, she learned, had been key all along. That, and the coca she regularly fed him like offerings to a godless temple. He tried to refuse, saying he had plenty himself, but she held out her palm, anyway. The small vial lay there like a promise on a plate, and he could not help himself from taking it. Soon he was talking with little focus, hopping from one topic to the next. There was his love of artifacts, his difficult marriage, and his wishes for his daughter. One day he got very animated, and spoke about his fear of the prosthesis he would have to wear after surgery on his mouth, and of the cancer that prompted it, his voice in a near state of tears. I’m making remarkable progress, Ida wrote in her notes that night. In turn, Ida told the doctor how much she admired his writing, how erudite and powerful were his theories of the unconscious. “Thank you for explaining them,” she intoned obsequiously.
In truth, Ida was convinced many of the doctor’s ideas were indebted to the novels of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte. It was yet another unorthodox theory she intended to put forth in her case study, in a chapter devoted to the impact of women writers on F’s concept of hysteria. She had done her research unintentionally, the writing of these authors compelling pleasure enough. Both novelists had sifted through the psyches of their female characters with archeological veracity. Treasures and shards feted out with equal care and measure. Austin, particularly, equated emotional well-being with the willingness to examine and know oneself; a full century before the doctor! “Leave it to a man,” Ida testily wrote Emma, “to stab the flag of discovery into a territory others charted first, then claim it as his own. The sheer narcissism of it astonishes me!” To prove Bronte and Austen laid the groundwork for the doctor’s structural model of the mind – that ID, Ego, and Superego he endlessly blathered on about – would be a seminal contribution to her field. A professional coup that would make Emma jealous for once of her.
Not only did Ida get the doctor to admit to reading Pride and Prejudice, she soon had him lending her his copy, wherein she found in the margins of its pages proof of her suspicions. Underlined passages, exclamatory marks, copious notes and translations, all rendered in a shorthand she quickly deciphered. Dry, facile probing that failed to apprehend Austin’s fiendish wit, turning lively, complex characters into bloodless specimens. Nothing seemed to survive his clinical severity.
Plodding through her tedious transcription, Ida noted her subject’s intense need for recognition first displayed. She understood more clearly now how his pathetic pursuit to turn the human mind into a mathematical equation had fostered such displays of neurotic hubris. Fantasies of scientific omniscience.
In their final sessions together, Ida accelerated her efforts to further gain the doctor’s trust. She crafted ever more preposterous dreams for him to divine with his bag of analyst charms. About her father, Herr K, Frau K, even the good doctor himself. She left no one out. For his part, Doctor F harped on about Dora’s need to admit her arousal at Herr K’s kiss, her ardor for his wife, the concurrent shame and guilt. “For your own good,” he entreated her. “Confess, my dear.” The anger she’d transferred to her father, and that dreadful cough, he insisted, both stemmed from her denial. His desire to persuade her grew frenzied, mad talk increasingly peppered with spontaneous eruptions. Some quite bizarre in their assertions.
During one consultation, the doctor broke wind and to Ida’s surprise and delight, joked about the demons he’d let loose on their fragile psyches. His reward was another coca tablet. “You know,” he said, “whenever I’m depressed a small dose just lifts me to the heights in a wonderful fashion. I must write a song of praise to this magical substance. Ode to Uber Coca,” he chuckled. There were more manic revelations that day, and Ida recorded each with a greedy optimism. My book will surely be a success, she thought. That night she dreamed of a circus banner by a great tent where the doctor bewildered a captive audience pulled rabbits from his hat at every turn. The Great Mind Doctor, an assistant boomed to the crowd that gathered. Of course, she did not tell the doctor about this particular dream.
One afternoon Ida coaxed the doctor to discuss the case of “Little Hans,” a former patient about five years old, who reputedly had a crippling phobia of horses. Ida believed the child was a fictional stand-in for the doctor as she could find no evidence of Hans’ actual existence. She had exhaustively rummaged through birth records and census reports to no avail. Moreover, she had heard numerous accounts of Doctor F’s fear of travel from friends of her father, and thought there might be a connection between the two. Perhaps the doctor had been a victim of a riding accident when young, and equated locomotive transportation with the terror of getting back on a horse again. The very idea of his having fabricated an alter ego in the form of a case study was like his cigar smoking: yet another example of the reciprocity between F’s personal experience and his clinical suppositions.
Indeed, as the doctor described Hans with the sentimental pride of a father boasting about his son, Ida felt herself shudder. The room they sat in was a cold, fetid place where the curtains were often drawn. Burying her hands inside the arms of her sweater, Ida’s mind retreated from the dreary atmosphere. She’d spent hours sketching the details of the room to provide a physical setting for her readers. It was essential to illustrating the Doctor’s mental state. She looked at the ivory and wood fetishes that peered down at her from various niches high along the wall, captivating in their pretension. Through lidded eyes remote in the obfuscating gloom, they stared back at her, adrift in the fog of his smoke. Like the Buddhist mountain shrines she’d seen in Japan, Ida thought. Ida longed to render their sharp planar forms and waxy glares with the skillful acuity of an artist, but she was forced to flesh them out at home, relying largely on memory.
On what would be their second to last session together, Doctor F spoke of the hysteric mind, spouting passages from his unpublished book on Ida. He assumes me so naive, Ida thought bitterly, that I would not recognize myself in what he says. It had been near a full year since Emma had told her about the note with her name on it. Spotted in his library, atop a large file marked “DORA.” Ida assumed Emma had seen it during her analysis with the doctor. The confidence had solidified their friendship.
Most of the quotes he cited were preposterous. “Malignant self-projections” Ida called them in her notes, though she listened nonetheless intently. If every male neurotic was bridled by narcissistic delusions, especially the Jew, she reasoned, few had the solipsistic cunning to turn those delusions into persuasive speculation. That was the reason she’d bribed the doctor’s maid for access to his case files. To learn in greater detail exactly how this psychic transposition had taken place, not, as Emma insisted, to destroy them for her own self-interest.
How ironic then that Ida never actually laid hands on the elusive manuscript. Locked away in his private study, she guessed, where no one was allowed. Not even to clean.
“The effective treatment of hysteria,” Doctor F read now, “necessitates all sexual experiences and fantasies be disclosed in full detail by the patient. No matter how innocuous or perverted, lest the symptoms be exacerbated by repression.” Ida rolled her eyes beneath their lids. “Outside the therapeutic value of such confessions,” he continued, “such socially unacceptable desires are, however, best sublimated to asexual aims. Where else does so much creative genius spring from?,” he bellowed, “if not this willful self-control?” Creative genius?! I’ll show you creative genius!, Ida shouted inside her head. She wanted to laugh but the question disturbed her. Women, after all, were conveniently denied these sublimating capacities, incapable of possessing such self-control by virtue of their anatomy. So the common thinking went in her field, anyway.
How would Ida’s doppelganger-hysteric, the fictional analysand she had played for months, fair under the psychic crush of such an antagonistic prescription? What her options? The answers, she knew, did not lie with the doctor. It was then that it suddenly occurred to her: Emma had not guessed at her intention to steal the doctor’s manuscript, someone had told her. That meddlesome maid!, she thought. Why did I trust her to keep quiet? That evening she wrote Emma a letter, the first in months.
I know that our meeting ended tersely, and we’ve not spoken since, by letter or in meeting. I understand now that you had not been fated to learn of my decision to procure F’s manuscript, but in fact plotted for this knowledge. I no longer know how to reassure you my intentions are honorable (If they weren’t, I wouldn’t I have fibbed and denied your crafty suggestion?). I can hardly believe we were ever true friends, Emma. Yet we were, weren’t we? Have you forgotten it was I who defended your honor when those hypocritical fools at the Psychoanalytic spread those rumors about you and Sigmund. Rumors I will go to my grave convinced that he helped foster! But my dear, let this be the past. There is no need to scurry around talking to maids; I will always deliver to you the truth! Let us meet again, and I will try to convince you anew that you must not deny your sex (your own self!) to survive the “female question”! Look how the doctor has faired disavowing his people’s flesh and blood. He’s ill. Yes, it is easier not to be a woman, or a Jew, but will any good come from hating who we are — just because others do? I dare say I am proud to be a woman, and a Jew! So dear Em, please come next Wednesday for tea time at the Korbe. We shall have our favorite torte again, and settle our differences.
The truth was Ida could not publish her book without Emma’s support. The committee would dismiss it outright. It stood a chance only if their honorary female member, and chief financial officer, promoted it with her reputation. No, without Emma, Ida thought, her momentous study would not see the light of day. This didn’t mean Ida contrived what she wrote in her letter: Her friend was a victim of the prejudiced data her male colleagues created. There was nothing weak about her sex. She would show Emma that could prove the role of anti-Semitism in the neurosis of Jewish males, and postulate a like relationship between the myth of women’s inferiority and their so-called hysteria.
As it happened, Emma came to Korbe with her own agenda, and shared more that day than torte. The revelations, in fact, would redirect Ida’s plan.
“It was Sigmund that told me you’d schemed to get the manuscript,” Emma confessed. “His maid betrayed you, yes, but so did I...I ‘m sorry, Ida. All these weeks he’s been playing you at your own game, using your elaborate deceit to rekindle his hysteria theory. But he does not yet know of your intentions to write about him. He is too self-absorbed to see that you are as ambitious as he is. Scruples be damned! We can still forge ahead, my dear, but finish with him soon lest he learn of your intentions. Then, it will be his word against yours, and we both know who will win that battle.” But Ida did not accept Emma’s bleak prediction.
When Ida learned the original manuscript had been burned, she spit her tea. Ceylon sipped from the paper thin rim of her porcelain cup. Rosenthal with tiny painted roses that banded its base. “Every last page. Right after the Committee rejected it, an embarrassment he begged us to keep secret. He was so distressed from all those accusations, Ida, we pitied him and agreed. But it was wrong of me not to tell you.”
The next time they met, Ida informed Doctor F of her decision to terminate her analysis. “Immediately,” she intoned. F took off his spectacles, brown eyes brimming with fury, and rubbed at a spasm in his neck. “Why Ida, I’m...I’m just shocked. You’re undermining your progress yet again! You must see this as a pattern. You are placating your fears in the most destructive manner!” Ida made no pretense at caring. She was neither pleased nor bothered by his anger. “Yes,” she evenly replied. “But still, I am going. And this time for good.”
Gathering her notebook and purse, Ida walked to the window that faced the street, and opened it. Warm air glided through the room, lifting the curtains from their slumber. The doctor said nothing. Popping two coca tablets, he withdrew into the shadowed curve of his high back chair, a new row of cigars waiting on the table beside him.
For a moment she considered confronting him about what she knew, but thinking of Emma, resisted. Gazing onto a canopy of trees, flocked with budding flowers, she imagined what he would say when her book came out. “Perhaps your longing for recognition will at last be sated,” she mumbled without thinking. “What did you say?”
“Ah, nothing important, doctor...nothing at all.” She turned now to the door, and just as she was leaving the room, she heard her analyst cum analysand whisper at her back: “I know about you and your book, Ida. Its a race to the finish now.” Ida smiled, and without slowing her step simply chanted back, “May the best man win.”