Friday, May 23, 2014

Mike's Story Part 30 - Transference

By Jenna Orkin  

   "I accomplished five things today," Mike said, getting up from writing a memo to an FTW staff member requesting, yet again, the black checkbook for the Ruppert family trust.
   But more work lay ahead. With $15,000 dollars, Mike and Ray could go to Ashland, kick ass and silence [the female employee suing him] forever.
    Also, the prospect of giving up the intellectual property rights to his own work stuck in his craw.
   "I'm going to ask Ray to stall the sale [of the website] 'til February," he said.  That was when the newspaper article about him was scheduled to come out.
   Why were they holding onto it until February? he wondered.  What did the newspaper know?  Was Rumsfeld going to be indicted over the Pat Tillman case?  (In the end, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld resigned and nine officers, including three generals, were disciplined over the cover-up of death by friendly fire.)
   That evening we watched Steven Spielberg get an award at the Kennedy Center. The parallels between Spielberg's life (an award ceremony, the reference to hope) and Mike's life as it should have been kept us both transfixed until the Bernstein chorus rose to its climactic finale.
   I'd called two Peak Oil activists to widen Mike's social circle.  He needed friends, he said, "besides you, no offense to you. So they'll call me up and say, 'Hey Mike, you want to go out?'"
   It was the challenge of high school all over again only this time, I was Mom.  I provided shelter but he hated it; it represented everything he'd stood against.  One evening he went to the roof and took a picture of the sun setting over Wall Street.  The symbolism amused him and he stored the photo for possible use in a future article.  He felt imprisoned in my apartment so that although on a conscious level, he knew he should feel grateful to me, on a deeper level, I was his jailer.
   There's a phenomenon in psychology known as "transference."  Say, for example, that a patient gets angry at the psychiatrist for a particular comment which was not especially inflammatory.  This could be a clue to the psychiatrist that the comment has "pushed a button" for the patient; reminded him or her of similar comments that the patient's father or mother used to make.  If this turns out to be so, psychiatrists say that the patient has "transferred" his or her feelings about the parent to the psychiatrist.  Transference, then, may provide the psychiatrist with insight into the patient's family history.
   In such a way did Mike seem to be transferring onto me his attitude towards his mother.
   Once, when he described his mother's worrying, I asked him what she worried about.
   "Same things you worry about," he answered.  "'Should I stop for a yellow light?'"
   I have a driver's license but no experience driving and had heard conflicting advice about what to do when approaching a yellow light.  My driving teacher, whose greatest fear in life was whiplash, insisted you should speed up to sail through the intersection but that sounded suspiciously like the response of a cabdriver; other driving sages recommended the opposite.
   One night, we were having roast beef sandwiches.  This was not my usual fare; I'd bought them because after Venezuela, Mike craved familiar food and at that time, he was still a meat-and-potatoes guy.  In fact, one of our running jokes was the "strange" vegetables I used to bring home which he'd never seen.
   "You sound exactly like my mother," Mike said and with his usual pitch-perfect talent at impersonation, he imitated her chewing with her mouth open.  The sound was moist and revolting.
   I've eaten with many people, some of whom were not shy about expressing criticism but not since childhood have I eaten with my mouth open although I don't doubt Mike could hear my chewing that night.
   I made sure we never ate together at home again.  I ate what I wanted when I wanted and left some for him to do likewise.  He never commented on the change which meant he must have been relieved. 
   Even the apartment reminded him of his mother's.  There were colorful pillows on the couch and a bookcase in the middle of the living-room displaying artifacts from around the world - a marble box from a souvenir stand at the Taj Mahal inlaid, like the Taj itself, with blue and orange stones in a floral design; a pair of embroidered shoes, such as one might find in Arabian Nights, that the office manager of my ex-husband's law firm had given me when he screwed up my ticket home from Saudi Arabia - so I hadn't felt a need to hang pictures on the walls.
   Mike found their absence so depressing, he told one of his psychiatrists who recommended that he pick out some pictures which would make him feel more at home. 
   In the bedroom, the reminder of his mother was that I had so many clothes, courtesy of my own mother or friends who'd gained weight.  Eight months earlier, before he ever contemplated moving in and while we were getting to know each other, Mike had said, "I bet you have a lot of clothes."  I hadn't understood enough to be wary; that already, I reminded him of his mother.
   Now that we were living together, he wanted more space in the closet so he suggested we throw away some of my paraphernalia that seemed to be out of circulation.  We would play upbeat music and make a party out of it, a bonfire of the vanities.
   I was not so excited as he at this prospect which reminded me of a previous partner who had once said in anger, "Get your shit out of here so I can put away my stuff." 
   Mike registered my lack of enthusiasm and let the idea go.  And I rearranged things to make more room.
   One afternoon he paced the living-room repeating, "You're not my mother; I can have an intelligent conversation with you."
   I had no trouble understanding I was not his mother; it was he himself who needed to be convinced.
   The two Peak Oil activists, X and Y, called back.  X was a young admirer. I had my doubts about fifty-somethings hanging out with twenty-somethings but it was a start and X had advantages over the average twenty-something.  Mike didn't want to be around strangers who didn't know what he'd done or stood for.
   We kicked around some ideas of what to do.  X had just bought a truck so it was hard for him to park in the city. He suggested our going to his house in the suburbs and hanging out at the largest mall in the area.
   The ironies were obvious - a trio of Peak Oilists seeking recreation at that pinnacle of unsustainability, a suburban mall - and Mike wasn't up for the trek.  We did see Y several times but not X who, for reasons I never learned, if indeed it is ever possible to know such reasons, later killed himself.

1 comment:

Ian Brett Cooper said...

You must have had a terrible driving instructor. A yellow light means "prepare to stop". If you can safely stop before the intersection, you are required by law to do so. If you cannot, you should ignore the light and go carefully through the intersection. Anyone who suggests speeding up at a yellow light is an idiot and certainly should not be a driving instructor.