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At Last: The End of the Dr. Joan Story

After four weeks of silence my phone rang. She was at O’Hare on a two-hour layover, so she thought she’d give me a ring. The program in San Francisco was a tremendous success. Lots and lots and lots of important work. Really. Plenty to mull over in the months to come. And yes, of course, we should get together. Soon.

I offered to pick her up at the Philadelphia airport when she arrived, but she said thanks, but she’d made other arrangements. “How about we meet for drinks at Bravo Bistro day after tomorrow?” she said. “Or better yet, the next day? I’ve got a whole lot of catching up to do, and by then I ought to be free.”

“That will be great,” I replied.

* * *

I was on my second scotch when Dr. Joan finally showed up. She had a nice tan, and she was coolly elegant in her dark pin-stripped suit jacket, over which hung a white silk scarf. Her trousers were sharply creased. Just a few gold accents at the throat, on her earlobes. I thought it might not be a good idea to embrace her because she might interpret it as too excessive a display of emotion in a public place. But then it occurred to me if I didn’t, she’d immediately demand to know why I was being so distant. But when I put my arms around her I felt her stiffen.

She wanted her usual, a martini with a pearl onion.

“So tell me about your adventures in California.”

“It was absolutely fabulous,” she said.

“May I ask you a question?”


“Was Todd there?”

She shook her head. It was more like an expression of disgust than a denial. She didn’t say anything. Yes, Todd was there the whole time. To guide her through all that “inner work.”

I hadn’t planned it at all, it just came to me. At that second. And it wasn’t at all dramatic or overwhelming, as I imagined such a thing might be. No, it was more like that T. S. Eliot end-of-the-world whimper. Or perhaps the snap of a small twig.

It’s over. All I need to do is say it out loud. So I did.

Dr. Joan didn’t appear at all surprised. “I kind of knew this was coming, sooner or later,” she said.

“Me too.”

“So how about we put a cordial, formal end to it? A sort of brief summation and farewell?”

“That’s really a good idea,” I said. “But excuse me, I need to go to the bathroom. I’ll be right back.”

I stood at the urinal thinking about what she’d said earlier about excavations. Archeology. What San Francisco was presumably all about. She and Todd shoveling the layered dust of their subconscious. Four weeks of digging, side by side, in the California wilderness. These tortured jealous thoughts of mine are what? Let’s see. They are merely another manifestation of…well, you know!


A bright white flash, probably like the one Saul of Tarsus experienced on his slouch to Damascus. I suddenly knew what I’d tell Dr. Joan as a parting shot. Yes, indeed. She expects something from me, and by God I’ll give it to her. Just a final bit of my rhetoric! Oh, she’ll love it.

I’ll tell her that in 1945 an Egyptian farmer was digging in his fields and unearthed a big clay urn, which he eagerly smashed open with his pick, hoping to find treasure. But he was disappointed. Inside was just a bunch of leather-bound papyrus books, written in Coptic, which turned out to be the texts of Gnosticism, an ancient religious movement within early Christianity.

I’ll tell Dr. Joan that Gnostics claimed to possess what they paradoxically called “knowledge of the unknowable.” They proclaimed they understood the hidden aspects of the divine, the cosmos, and—most important—the self.

And, in a famous passage, they insisted:

"If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”

I know what will happen after I intone my pedantic lecture. She’ll give me that regal, superior, detached clinical look of hers and then say: “So what’s your point, James?”

And I’ll tell her: “In all this, Joan, I don’t think you’ve brought forth one damned thing.”

I zipped up my fly, washed and dried my hands, and walked quickly toward the bar. Yes, that’ll be my summation, my farewell. Which that tightly-wrapped woman won’t likely forget. No sir.

But when I got there her stool was empty. I looked around. The bartender leaned over and said, “Your lady friend told me to tell you, sorry, but she was late for an appointment.”

“Oh. Thanks,” I said.

* * *

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You might say the whole thing just petered out. Verrrrry Freudian. No?

Completely expected cop out by the shallow bi.... er, wench. (This might be a family show, after all, I don't know) I love the writing, but oh man, that end, it is like figuring out the best most terrific comeback five minutes after the bully has insulted you, knocked you down and stolen your lunch money.

And strangely, I like it even better for leaving me wanting some comeuppance on James' behalf from Joan. It ends very true to their characters though, she taking a powder while he is gathering himself for the confrontation. Makes me want to slap the passive aggressive bi.. er, yeah.

What I mean is, good show, well done, more please!

Thanks, glad you enjoyed it! Now I've got to figure out who the next lucky subject is...

somehow I avoid reading the end. I don't want it to end. Those stories have been so interesting and entertaining, too. I will read it in a few minutes, prepare myself for an unhappy ending and will then hope for the next series of stories.
You are good!

Just wondering:
What would constitute a happy ending in this story?

beautyful photo, love that burnt earth and the yellows!!

These jugs are displayed in the archeological museum in the nearby Ischian village of Lacco Ameno, where in 800 BC the Greeks maintained a trade settlement. Glad you like it!

Extra, extra brilliant ending, lol!
I still don't fully understand him, but then he is a man, and therefore impossible to figure out! If he was easy to understand this would have moved into the realm of science fiction. ;)

i was certain there was another post before this where Dr. Joan mentioned the trip, i did not imagine this...right???

You're correct. I deleted most of the previous entries.

Ugh, I cursed her spineless ending, I cursed Dr Joan, I cursed *you* for choosing to endure that. Then I remembered the time I left a boyfriend at the airport in Zurich promising that I'd return, and didn't. Or the time on the subway when I just slipped onto the subway platform a second before the doors closed and F looking at me confused as the train pulled him away. Or the boyfriends I've tortured simply because I wouldn't let go of the most trival shit. I've played as many games as she has. Ugh!

If you believe in Karmic akasa, look out. My experience has been that all the evil crap I've done over the years has come back to me three-, sometimes four-fold, with a specificity that is truly spooky. That's the only reason I now walk the straight and narrow. I just can't take any more of that damned payback!

Nice to see that James got to define the time and place of the termination. The Gnostic reference was an excellent lead up to the dialog scripting in the urinal of the final outcome, I'm sure that with time he'll be able to convince himself that it ended just that way.

Very cool picture of the jugs. Pompeii?

Not Pompeii, but right here on Ischia, in the archeological museum in the village of Lacco Ameno, the site of an 8th century BC Greek colony. As for convincing himself, even James knows that neat endings occur only in fiction!

Oh, archaeology. It does funny things to people, should I say.

ahh... the perfect avoidance. saw that coming.

I've added you, and I'd like to tell you where it was that I found your journal because I figure I owe you about as much. But I don't remember, as I was just on an insomnia-induced hunt for intelligent livejournals and stumbled across numerous locations that acquiesced to my request... and then lost track of which journals came from where.

I thought I'd tell you, incase you might want to add me back. I'm only seventeen, which may or may not count as a "but", depending on what you think of that. If I should remove you, just let me know! Take care.

Thanks for your interest, and welcome aboard!

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