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From "Psychoanalysis: The Magic and the Lie: Diary of A Five-Day-A-Week Analysis"
by Esther Altshul Helfgott

by Mikhail Priorov

Journal Entry: Spring 1992

I don't remember why I hated him. I did though, last week. A lot. Even then I didn't know why
I hated him
so bad
I thought
I'd never be able to remember a time
when I didn't
hate him
when my mind
knew time filled holes big as
love. I forgot to remember
the child
remembers to forget. That which turns dark, memory screens or stops.

This is a quitting day. Some quitting days follow the previous week's loving days. But this one follows last week's hating days; and, as with the hating week, I forget to remember why it is I'm quitting. I know I am though, and he knows I know I am. He waits.

And I wait
to hear
my body
back to a bed
room in East Baltimore
across from Johns Hopkins Hospital
a store
a boy
a child
1943. My mother
my sister is born
my brother is six. My father
an aunt
the bathroom fills with
I'm two or less. What was is gone
shiva. Zayde is dead. I'm three.

In the room. We wait. Again
more. I remember I trust him
I don't. Before
his silence
soothed. The couch is
knobby brown
my skin. Summer in Baltimore is 100 degrees humid hot
my shorts stick
Marlyn and I neck with boys from the block.

We laugh on her porch; the glider squeaks, and I'm four. Momma lets me wash the marble steps and go to Mr. Goldberg's store. I trip on a crack in the cement, and the bottle I'm carrying glass is all over
they take me
to Hopkins
my brother cracks my head open with a metal airplane on a long string.

I sit on the top step. If the ball hits the edge just right, you get more points. I want those points.

We're playing kick ball in the street. It's my turn out. I sit on the curb. Feel something wet between my legs, signal my girlfriends. They're excited and follow me in
to Elaine's house
the boys probably know. When Sandy got her period, her mother wasn't home. Her father showed her what to do. She didn't mind. We giggle.

What is it I'm not quitting
that's wrapped up
with him? "I don't remember why I hated you last week," I tell him. Or, why I wanted to quit today
when I walked in." He and I are the hope
of my memory. We talk about last week's sessions.

One went like this: the moment I walked in I felt as if I hated him. "I don't know why I hate you today. What did you do? I can't remember." He asks me. I tell him, "I don't know, it's just a feeling."

"That's helpful," he says. "Thanks a lot," I say. "What's so helpful about it?" "Well, let's see if we can figure it out
together." And he waits for my nod
of approval
which I give.

"What you're feeling is in your past. Even though you may be upset with some things that have occurred here in the present between us and that are very real, since you don't have words to describe why you hate me, the feeling must have to do with a very early time in your life, perhaps, before you could speak."

"Yeah, pre-two," I say. "Yep," he says. And I know we're getting back to us. I tell him I tell us:
"It was a feeling all over like a feeling from somewhere I don't remember where
it was so long ago I forget its name
like a child has this feeling she can't explain even when they ask
especially then
I know it's from before
but it's now part of us."

I don't have to look. I can tell from the way he holds his breath that time's up. He folds his hands and, leaning forward, says, "we'll have to stop for today." I get up to leave, and he gets up. And we look at each other
in that way we do.... When I came in today, I thought, when I go out I'll slam the door so hard the standard edition will fall off the shelf.

But, instead, I say, "I'll see you tomorrow." And he nods.

Shiva: a mourning ritual meaning seven. After the funeral of a primary relative, traditional Jews "sit" seven days. These precede the full mourning period of a year.
Zayde: grandfather

Copyright Esther Altshul Helfgott. Originally published under a different title in
The Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Review, Vol. 3, No. 2, Summer 1992.

Esther Altshul Helfgott teaches creative writing at Richard Hugo House Community Center for the Literary Arts in Seattle, WA. She holds a doctorate in history from the University of Washington, has published in numerous in-print and on-line journals, and has written a play on homelessness and schizophrenia (KotaPress, 2000). Esther writes a column on Poets and Writing for the Washington Poet's Association, The Writer's Haven & other publications. She coordinates the It's About Time Writers Reading Series at the Seattle Public Library for beginning & experienced writers and is founding editor of the e-journal The Psychoanalytic Experience: Analysands Speak.

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