.. TIL DEATH DO US PART
Michelle Conte Kratish
"Good morning, Mrs. Brown.
How are you.today?" the doctor
said. He.was tall, pleasant looking,
well groomed, the picture'of the
professional in his expensive sport
coat and calm, aloof manner. She
noticed that his fingernails were
perfectly manicured and that the
skin on his hands was smooth and
free.from the dryness and cracking
that comes not only with age but
after years of emersion in soapy
"Not goot, doctor. It's been a
bad morning." She plopped herself
into a black leather arm chair near
the window and lit a cigarette. Her
hands trembled as she rubbed her
"Okay, let's talk about it," said
her doctor, her confidante, her
counselor, her adviser and
whatever other service she could
buy for the next hour for $50.
His words irritated her this
morning. Let's talk about it. Let's
talk about it. That's all he ever
said. Wasn't there any more she
could do about her problem than
talk? Surely there was an answer,-
a solution, to her dilemma and her
guilt. No, today would be different;
Today she would force him to see
her frustration and to give her an
answer to her problem.
.. "It's _Jimmy," she began.
"Sometimes I think I'll go crazy if I
don't get away from him. He's so
dependent on me."
She glanced nervously at the
doctor. His eye dropped behind
horn-rimmed glasses and his 14-
caret gold pen a gift from his
wife from the allowance he gave
her began its usual quick,
gliding movements across a yellow
"Go on," he said.
"Well, this morning ,was
especially bad. I'm not feeling well.
I guess I have a cold or something
worse coming on. Anyway, Jimmy
.woke me.at six and said he was .
hungry. I said, 'Honey, can't you
Swait just an houror so.'m so tired.
Please let me sleep a little longer.'I
always call him Honey-or Baby or
something cute, whenever I'm
about to say no to him, or try to, s6o
he knows I really love him. But hel
wasn't listeningto me. He just kept
whining like a little baby about
being hungry so- I snapped
something about not even being
able to die in peace and that I
would make his damn breakfast. I
felt really guilty about it-as soon as I
said it because I know it hurt his.
feelings.- And it made him so
cranky the rest of the morning that
he's been on my back ever since.
God, Doctor, I wish he'd love-
something else beside me once in a'
The doctor stopped writing and
glanced at the wonan who was
staring into her lap in
embarrassment at her own words.
"I'm sorry. I can't help it. Maybe.
I just wasn't cut out for this. Or
maybe I'm just a selfish bitch. And
the worst part is, I really love him.
If I didn't love him, I could at least
handle the guilt at hating to be
needed so much all the time."
She leaned toward the doctor,
elbows on knees.
"You don't know what it's like
having to do all the laundry for
someone else, cook all his meals,:
clean up all his messes, sooth his
hurt ego and always tell him I love
him. And lately, it seems that 10
minutes doesn't pass when he's
asking me for something.
"I feel so awful to be saying this
about someone I love so much, but
I cant help it..I just have to tell
someone. Doctor, is it possible to
love and hate someone at the
same time?" She searched the
"I suppose so," he answered.
You suppose so, she said to .
herself. Haven't you ever been in'a
situation like this? Or am I crazy
after all? Am I just a misfit who
can't face her own responsibilities
and role in life?
(continued on page 9)
"Please, go on," he said,
interrupting her thoughts.
"Docdf, he's even jealous of my
friends. Whenever anyone visits,
Jimmy is always right there
interrupting the conversation or
asking something of me. It's
almost as if I don't have any rights
to my own life anymore. I never
have any privacy. I used to love to
be alone sometimes, to read, listen
to the stereo or just organize my
thoughts. I read somewhere that
privacy is essential to maintaining
one's sanity. I understand when
Jimmy needs to be alone but he
just doesn't understand when I tell
him I need to be alone sometimes.
too. He just knows his own needs.
Well, I have needs too. Sometimes
I need not be be needed."
Her voiced had reached a high
shriek. The doctor looked at her.
Was he annoyed at her? She
wasn't sure. She felt embarrassed.
But she had to go on.
"There are so many things I
want to do with my life. Oh, I don't
mean anything spectacular Ike
flying all over the world in a private
jet. Just some simple things. I'd
like to have a real career, one that
is not limited to the hours between
9 a.m. and 5 p.m. I want some
simple things like sleeping late on
Sunday mornings, talking on the
phone without any interruptions,
going for a drink after work and
not having to rush home to cook
supper. I want do be free to accept
an invitation to a show or dinner an
hour in advance, or a. minute in
advance, without having to make
all kinds of arrangements for
Jimmy. I really would like to be
free, Doctor. I know that sounds
selfish. But I want to control my
own life. I want to play tennis after
work, or to just sit quietly and read
or think. I want to know myself
better but there just isn't enough
time because Jimmy always needs
me to do something for him. If I
knew it would be like this, I would
have waited longer before getting
myself into this mess. If someone
had only told me the cons along
with the pros of this situation, I
might not have gotten myself into
this at all. Now I'm totally
responsible for someone else's
happiness, intellectual stimulation,
love, security, even survival.. "
"And that bothers you?" The
doctor seemed surprised.
"Well, yes, that bothers me a lot
right now. I need those things too,
but Jimmy comes first. Oh, I know
we've been through this before.
But all you ever say is, 'I can't
decide for you.' Doctor, someone
has to tell me what to do."
"Well, Mrs. Brown," said the
doctor, straightening his tie. "It
seems to me that you have worked
yourself up into quite a tither over
this situation. But I can see your
point. It is not my place to tell you
what to do. It must be your
decision. But it seems to me that
you have tried to make Jim
understand to no avail that you
have needs also. I think your
husband is acting childishly and
you may have to consider
separation or divorce to gaina
grasp on your own identity and
peace of mind ..."
"My husband?" The woman
rose to her feet. "My husband? All
this time you thought I was talking
about my husband? Doctor Jimmy
is my little boy, my son. Can I just
leave him? Can I divorce my child
and start my life over? What can I
do?... Doctor ."
The doctor looked at here. He
searched his mind and his heart for
an answer. He thought of his own
wife at home and how much she
enjoyed being a wife and mother
and caring for everyone else. She
never wanted to play tennis or be
alone. Suddenly he felt contempt
for this frustrated woman who felt
confined and deprived by the very
person she gave life to. At the
same time he pitied her. She was a
misfit in the role society and nature
had reserved for her and she may
never learn to be happy in it.
But what could he say to her? If
it were a job she didn't like, she
could quit. If it were an unfulfilling
marriage, she could leave. If it
were a disease, she could possibly
be cured. But she is a mother. No,
there was nothing she could do
"Uh, I'm sorry, Mrs. Brown. I
think that's all the time we have left