Out of Plan

By Dick Bentley

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Jane was visiting her therapist for what she thought would be the last time.  Her health insurance provider had determined that Dr. Goodbody was “out of plan,” and Jane’s visits would not be covered.

Jane settled down on Dr. Goodbody’s sofa and talked for a while, explaining her circumstances; then she invited him out for dinner.

“Jane,” Dr. Goodbody said, “we cannot conduct a therapy session in a restaurant.  It’s unprofessional.  It’s….it’s….”

“…It’s Thai,” Jane said.  “It’s the new Thai restaurant on the corner.  We could have Pad Thai.  We could have Kanh Ko Mu if they’ll go easy on the garlic.  You may be out of plan, but we could still have champagne to celebrate.”

“Celebrate? I may be out of plan,” the Doctor said, glaring at her across his desk, “but perhaps we should discuss the possibility that you are the one who’s out of plan.  Your therapy has certainly not been completed.

“Wait,” Jane held up her hand, “your job is to listen to me and nod occasionally.”

“You’re out of all sorts of plans,” Dr. Goodbody continued angrily.  “You’re depressed much of the time.  Sometimes you feel sad, empty and tearful, do you remember?”

“I shouldn’t have told you that.  I was just trying to impress you.  I was trying to convince you I had a disorder.  Every personality trait is a disorder, you’ve convinced me.  If I so much as blink, I have a disorder, isn’t that right?  Blinking Disorder.  Or maybe B.A.D.  Blinking Anxiety Disorder.  And if I scratch my nose…”

“Therapy is arduous and taxing.  Only the dead are cured.  All right, if you insist, let’s go to dinner.”

“I’ll pay,” Jane said.

“Of course you’ll pay.  That’s how we maintain the therapeutic relationship.”

Dr. Goodbody followed Jane out of the room, switching off the lights.  They walked down the street, under the many windows of tall buildings.  They walked in silence until they reached Bangkok Bites on the corner.  As they were led to their table, the headwaiter gave Jane a wink she didn’t completely understand.

“Do you come here often?” the Doctor asked.

“I come here because Thai food keeps me from overeating.  My Bipolar Disorder, do you remember?”

“If you lose weight,” the Doctor said, “it can be a sign of Bipolar Disorder.”

“But if I gain weight, wouldn’t that also be Bipolar Disorder?”

“Losing weight and gaining weight are both symptoms of Bipolar Disorder.  Not getting enough sleep can also indicate Bipolar Disorder, as well as getting too much sleep.  You cannot always be sure which bipolar pole is which.”

“Dr. Goodbody,” Jane said, “why are you now Out of Plan, so suddenly?”

“Jane,” he said, “The question is why you’re out of plan.  This is not about me, Jane.  Your therapy is about you.”

Jane decided to try using Dr. Goodbody’s first name.  He hadn’t suggested it, but she hoped it might make her feel empowered.

“Roger,” she said, “why are you not in plan?”

“Frankly, I do not choose to be, whether you call me Roger or something else.”

The waiter brought some glasses and set them down on the table.  He turned his head slightly, as if to listen in. He had already promised to go easy on the garlic.

“I am out of plan,” Dr. Goodbody said, “because I am no longer accepting women as patients.  I do not believe women have the same level of intelligence as men.”

Jane nodded.

Dr. Goodbody pushed his chair back from the table.  He leaned back in his chair, the raised his stomach and pointed at it.

“The womb,” he said, “and no other place.  With women, everything is about the womb.”  He slapped his stomach several times.

As he talked on, Jane felt herself gradually submitting to his ideas about women.  She ate without speaking.  Yes, perhaps she was bipolar, whether underweight or overweight.  Yes, perhaps she was bipolar whether sleepy or sleepless.  Maybe she was out of plan.  Then she realized that, as long as she was content to be what Dr. Goodbody disliked in a woman, she exercised an unusual power over him.

“I’m quite a romantic,” Dr. Goodbody said.  “I have almost been in love twice.”  Then he said, in a whisper, “But never really, never deeply … no, I long for that.  I am ready for it.  Even as we speak.”

He looked at her long and deeply.  He stared at her silk dress.  The trouble, he knew, was that women did not have the same level of intelligence as men.  They were more intelligent.  They were too human.  Women should not be so human, he thought.  He felt shamed that he never seemed to find the right woman in his social life or in his professional life.

Jane sipped her drink and watched him.  Then she leaned forward.

“Roger, do you want to know something?”


“I haven’t had any decent sex since I was 14 years old.”

The doctor looked up.

“I didn’t start quite that young,” he confessed.

“Maybe you should have,” Jane said.

“Good advice,” he said, “but too late.”

“Do you remember when you first started/”

The waiter stood with his hand over his mouth then scurried off toward the kitchen.

“No, I don’t remember.”

“You never asked me questions like that when I was in therapy.  Why didn’t you ask me?  Ask me now.”

“We’re no longer in a therapeutic relationship.”

“We’re both out of plan, Roger.  At last.”

“The fact is, I have sex rarely.”

“But everyone’s deepest fear is the loss of desire, isn’t it?  That’s what we should be anxious about, isn’t it?  Living in a world where there’s nothing and nobody anyone wants?”

Dr. Goodbody put his hands on his lap underneath the table.  They were trembling.

Jane reached into her pocketbook.  She found a pen and riffled through the pages of a small notebook.

“Please don’t take notes,” Dr. Goodbody said.  “This is about you.”

The waiter leaned over Jane’s shoulder.  “Okay, take notes,” he said out of the side of his mouth.  Then he trotted off toward the kitchen, giggling.

Dr. Goodbody wiped his mouth with his napkin, leaving one crumb on his chin.  Jane tapped her own chin, to indicate he should wipe his face again.

Dr. Goodbody left the restaurant alone.  For a while he and Jane had discussed being in plan, discussed insurance companies, discussed psychological disorders large and small.  After awhile Dr. Goodbody excused himself.  He returned to the table hoping that they could tell each other stories of their lives, but he found that Jane had fallen asleep, her blond hair falling down around her face. 

It was still light outside, with the sun reflected in the windows of the tall buildings.  Walking along the street, alone or together, were young women who looked like Jane, but none of them would be lying back, looking at the ceiling, telling him all about herself.  He thought of love as something that’s supposed to fill the body with all its organs and chambers.  He could imagine a diagram, a beautiful chart of what love was like.  He would never see Jane again.  He did not know what suddenly came over him, but at a pedestrian crosswalk, watching the red and green symbols on the overhead lights, he broke into tears.

– Dick Bentley