Finding an Attorney
|In twenty-four hours she was now a different person from the person she was yesterday. She was now “the accused”. She bathed. She dialed her mother.
“Hey, mom. how are you feeling?”
“I’ve been feeling weak but I am doing ok. How are you doing?”
“I am doing good”
“Good honey. I wanted to know if you are coming for Shabbat.”
“I can’t make it this week but maybe next week?”
“Ok, but I want you to come. Don’t just say that and not come.” Laura wasn’t sure when she was ready to go see her mom. She definitely was not going to tell her about her legal troubles. If there was anyone who could have done a good job defending Laura to Megan it would have been her mother but because her mom was sick with cancer she didn’t want to involve her. In many ways, she had stopped actively blaming her mother for many things. In certain ways, she did view this entire situation as an indictment of her mother not really being there for her. She did not want to add to her mother’s stress levels.
Then she took out her laptop while still under the covers and pressed play. She wanted to reflect on the three-way conversation she had had with Altheim. Luckily she had recorded the conversation but unfortunately, the second half of the recording had been corrupted and lost. She must have listened to the recording at least three dozen times. She wanted to make sure she heard Altheim’s emotions and listen particularly to the part where Altheim was rejecting her. She wanted to make sure she finally really heard. Probably when it had happened it was just too painful to hear and process.
Oddly after eight years, Altheim was the one who had agreed to meet in a three-way conversation with Dr. Ferrari. The meeting went I think really well. Well considering. Dr. Ferrari had been so reluctant to set it up. He was pretty much so against it. He had felt like he had no business contacting them because they had asked for no contact. He wanted to respect their wishes and he believed any work could be done without them. Laura didn’t want them relegated purely into symbolism. The relationships had been real. He became reluctantly willing to write them a lengthy letter and then follow up with a phone call should they respond. Laura couldn’t really understand Dr. Ferrari’s reluctance. Why should he care one way or the other really? He couldn’t understand why she couldn’t just let go of them. I guess for Laura it hurt her world view and of course how she saw herself. She had chatted with them for years - why was one or a few more conversations so controversial? She couldn’t understand.
She had begged and begged for three years until he finally gave in. Altheim had initially agreed only to twenty minutes but Laura at the risk losing the entire offer insisted on thirty otherwise what would even be the point?
Altheim was the one who responded first. Dr. Bender merely responded by letter. It summarized her impressions of a then 21-year-old Laura. Bender’s letter requested no further contact. Altheim, on the other hand, agreed to an in-person meeting.
Laura had secretly recorded the meeting as she knew she wanted to listen to it over and over again so that whatever Altheim said could sink in. It was one of the best therapeutic decisions Laura had ever made.
She would never forget that day. She could hear the coldness in Altheim’s voice over and over again in her mind. Laura had agreed if Altheim came this would be their last meeting and last conversation ever.
Dr. Ferrari had consulted with Dr. Altheim briefly before the in-person meeting to ensure it would go as smoothly as could be expected. It made Laura so angry when Dr. Ferrari had reported back to Laura that Altheim had considered talking to Laura over those eight years and had in fact consulted with no less than ten colleagues.Laura could imagine them all telling Altheim never to talk to the ‘Borderline’ again. Laura was certain that Altheim’s portrayal of her to those colleagues would be one-sided and harsh. Laura was not as Borderline as the typical Borderline might be portrayed.
Once when having a general conversation about the holocaust once Altheim had asked Laura if her family had been impacted by the Holocaust. It was a kind of a specific question that didn’t fully fit the conversation. It made Laura suspect Altheim’s family had been impacted. Most of Laura’s family had been here in the USA before 1924. Laura knew there had been one branch of her family, her mother’s, that had been wiped out in the Holocaust but she didn’t know a lot of the details so it had never felt like it had a direct impact. Her mother’s mother’s mother was from a large prominent orthodox Jewish family living in Lviv. Most of her great great grandmother’s siblings and their children had perished in the war. The war and its aftermath weren’t talked about in her grandmother’s generation so much of the information had not been passed down to her. What she did hear was that after her great great grandmother’s siblings were murdered by the Nazis her great grandmother locked herself in the bathroom. This left her grandmother to raise her ten years younger brother. Her grandmother was made to clean regularly the whole house but especially for the Shabbat. There had been an estrangement from Judaism. Her father’s side had come here earlier having already been influenced by the socialistic enlightenment trends of the late 19th century. Laura had grown up feeling as American as Coca-cola. Laura didn’t look Jewish, but her name was a dead give away. Being Jewish Laura did feel different. To some degree when Laura was young and in the public school Judaism felt a little like having a proud secret identity. A little like a Superman persona would be to a Clark Kent.
It was as if a celebrity had walked through the threshold of Ferrari’s therapy chambers. This had been the stuff of Laura’s dreams. Altheim looked essentially the same. Altheim was wearing her hair more casually than usual pulled back off her face. Altheim was so clinical. She was never the person that Laura could imagine getting a beer with. There was something magnetic to Laura about Altheim’s closedoffedness. As if they had taken on a role reversal it was Laura who had longed to see Altheim more opened up to her.
Dr. Ferrari’s office was unlike perhaps any other therapy office. Just like Altheim’s, it was on the first floor of a century-old townhouse but he had dramatic fourteen-foot ceilings. It was located on the nicest thoroughfare in Chelsea. It was a curation of leather, textured fabrics, mirrored surfaces, and faux furs. It too had an unlit stone hearth.
Altheim had been the first to speak. She greeted Dr. Ferrari first and then Laura.
Laura sat on the grey fabric sofa opposite both of them.
“Welcome,” Dr. Ferrari said.
“Hi Laura” Altheim acknowledged Laura
“Hello,” Laura replied.
“Welcome.” Dr. Ferrari repeated.
“Thank You,” said Altheim graciously.
“Good to meet you,” Dr. Ferrari offered.
“Nice to meet you,” Altheim replied.
Dr. Ferrari took it upon himself to launch into the conversation “I am thinking, one of the things I was just. I had a few minutes to touch base with Laura.. one of the things I wanted to just kind of emphasize in the beginning is that what we all have in common here that Laura and I discussed and I think that you and I touched on is that everybody wants this situation to change.”
Laura kept silent as she listened to Altheim agree.
Laura wants to really be able to not behave in the way she's been behaving. I think it could be helpful to get a little bit better sense of what your experience has been. And there is a common goal here. We may have different perceptions.”
“Right” Altheim was again agreeing.
“I mean I definitely got a sense that how Laura has experienced a lot of these things you have a lot of information on, I have a lot of information on, Laura definitely has a lot of information on but we don't really have a lot of information on what your experience has been and what your perspective has been.” Laura was pleased with how Dr. Ferrari had done a good job of summarizing things and putting this whole thing together.
“Right,” said Altheim.
“So I was hoping we can get, address a couple of particular issues. Laura stop me at any time and also Dr. Altheim let me know if there's things you want to address. There's the, I don't think it is, my thought is it's not going to be really helpful to kind of go over a lot of these details of some of these issues but I do think the termination issues from your perspective..“
“Sure,” Altheim interrupted while Laura nodded.
“Why you felt that that was necessary, what your experience was. You know the actions that you took and the actions that you didn't take what your thinking was and how you felt that that was the best course of action.
I think we have a definite clear understanding that Laura’s experience of termination was that it was, there were a lot of things that were inappropriate and unprofessional and abusive and unnecessary and that it wasn't handled appropriately.
My sense from our talk which although brief certainly isn't at the detail, the depth that I talk with Laura but that you felt like you honored your professional responsibilities and personal responsibilities to the relationship and actually my sense is that you even felt that you went above and beyond to try and handle that appropriately. So those are some, that's a big disparity for me. And then also I think another important question is why you decided now to agree to this meeting after all six years I think. Your take on that might be helpful. Maybe we can start with the second one. Like why you are feeling now that this meeting could be.. why agreed to the meeting after not agreeing to the meeting after all these years.
“Hmm well that's a good question, that's a good question to start with. So you want me to start with that?”
“I think so does that sound good for you, Laura?” Dr. Ferrari asked.
“Sure,” Laura responded not giving away the effort Dr. Ferrari and he had given to carefully plan that to be the very first question.
“I guess you know Laura you've been clamoring in all kinds of different ways for contact for six years I think, it's been over six years since we've ended. I didn't exactly look at the calendar but I think it's been a full six years.” Laura was wondering why to Altheim being precise here even mattered.
“You know, you've said all kinds of things to me by voicemail, by email, by letter. All different forms of communication that have tried to get me to respond to you including threats, blackmail kinds of things. I know that's a harsh word but you know ‘if you respond to me I won't do this if you respond to me I won't do that’ you know those kinds of things which have been pretty upsetting for me as you might imagine. But it felt to me like there was a feeling like that no matter what I did somehow it wasn't going to be enough, it wasn't going to be ok.”
Laura could understand parts of why Altheim felt that way but she also felt that Altheim was exaggerating.
“I even feel coming here today I guess my biggest worry is even trying to have this talk which I think is really important that it's somehow not going to be enough it's not going to be ok.”
If it was important why had she not come earlier?
“That I am going to say things that upset you that make you even more angry with me maybe. Maybe I've already done that even in my opening sentence.”
No, she hadn’t. Laura was ok with what Altheim was saying. Altheim had hidden so much of who she was in working together Laura felt like she was hearing the recollections of a stranger. She was surprised by how emotional Altheim was. It was an entirely different perspective of the woman she has sat across from for five years.
“And so it feels, it felt kind of sort of a little bit hopeless. That there just doesn't seem to be anything I could possibly do to ever make this ok. So I think that's part of why I really haven't responded.” Altheim had finished her thought.”
“So feeling that it would have been futile and that it could have exacerbated the troublesome nature of these communications what you are perceiving, feeling as threatening and upsetting.”Was it really necessary for Dr. Cilona to have repeated how Dr. Altheim said she felt? Hearing Altheim’s frustrations impacted Laura greatly. It hurt to know that she had heart Altheim.
And I even worry that that could happen even right now here today in this meeting. That I may say something that upsets you Laura or that you don't like or isn't exactly wasn't what you had hoped I might say. I am sure you have some things that you hope I might say. I may say some of them and not say others. And then it's going to feel like there's more that needs to be done and more that needs to be said. So you know it can feel very very endless and kind of hopeless sometimes.”
“And I am also getting the sense that there's maybe a feeling of helplessness.” “Yeah, that no matter what I do it just doesn't seem to be the right thing or ok or you know.” Ugh, Ferrari was doing it again. He was repeating and clarifying but it made the words sting.
“Laura, how do you feel about that? What's your.. do you have a reaction to that?”
“I am listening to what she's saying. I mean the last time I saw you Dr. Altheim was with two” police officers standing there.”
“Actually there was only one person that came.” Laura couldn’t understand why Dr. Altheim would downplay the amount of police. It was confusing to Laura as what did it even matter to Altheim? Was she in any way not proud of the fact she had called the cops on Laura?
“There was a woman and a man, an Irish guy, and a black woman,” Laura remembered them vividly. She could not forget how the man had barked at her to leave.
Maybe she was outside and I didn't see her. Ok, but in any event, there was a police officer. I am not going to dispute that.
The last time I saw you the police were there. And that was really the last time I think I've heard from you in six years. So I mean as far as.. well other then when I got a certified letter that you had um.. well may be right that was the last time I heard from you.
“So I mean I think that at the time maybe six years ago I can see how you might have felt that like hopeless and endless about ending it or whatever but you know six years have gone by. And for me, like I don't understand why it had to be six years and why it couldn't have been two or whatever but. I mean I get the sense that I think that... “
“Are you saying that you don't, that's not... doesn't feel authentic to you, that that's doesn't feel truthful?”
Dr. Ferrari interjected.
“I hear her feelings. It seems like, stuck..”
“Like the feeling of helplessness and futility or no matter what I do or say it is not going to help OR it could make things worse.”
“I mean I felt similarly the same way for six years. That no matter what I say, she's ignored me for six years I've been talking to a brick wall.”
“Ok and that's obviously frustrating and troublesome for you. That it shouldn't have taken this long. That that wasn't really a good judgment is what I am hearing in your perspective to chose not to respond.” Dr. Ferrari said.
“To me, it just seems like I don't understand that,” Laura said,
“Ok, do you think that you can..” Dr. Ferrari began but was interrupted by Laura.
“No I mean I get that it happened and whatever but like for me like uh, like.. I can't think of like other experiences like other than dealing with like a therapist in this situation. I don't know it just seems so like cold is I guess the word.”
“What would have been some other options do you think?” Asked Dr. Ferrari.
“I think that it would have been nice to have this conversation. I understand... I mean there was something like in the heat of the moment of ending the therapy and it was traumatic for me and whatever. But like you know a year later, two years later.. like if we could have just you know.. a conversation like we are doing today would have been dramatically helpful. Because I think what.. what was missing in the ending what was missing like was just really like in the ending my feelings which were I feel like trampled on and like just like I think that was just like part of the problem.”
“So a big part of that was not being amenable to discuss these issues..? Dr. Ferrari asked but then Laura jumped in.
“I feel like the ending was just like "fuck you, Laura".
“Ok, What was your thinking Dr. Altheim about the reasons for the termination? Why that was the best choice from your perspective and in hindsight also...“ Dr. Ferrari asked.
“I mean I think the fact that you are here says.. communicates you know something that maybe there wasn't 100% you know certainty that the nonresponsiveness was in hindsight.. the absolute best route or I think you'd still be nonresponsive, right? I think you are at least open, correct me if I am wrong, to the possibility of this may be helping. So it doesn't sound like your.. I don't think you'd be here if you thought..” said Dr. Ferrari.
“Sure,” Laura said.
There wasn't some... Dr. Ferrari continued
“hope..” Laura interjected.
“degree of doubt that maybe, you know what? my nonresponsiveness wasn't the best route. Dr. Ferrari said”
“By the way, I appreciate that you came.” Laura offered.
“Thank you, Laura.” Altheim’s voice softened.
“And you know when you say that the termination felt like a fuck you to you, you know that pains me. I feel very very sad that it got experienced like that, you know.” Laura was surprised to hear Dr. Altheim’s words because that is EXACTLY how Laura felt and had Altheim been able to be more sensitive to that they’d likely not be sitting there right then trying to still sort it out.”
“I mean I think that was like really the biggest problem for me. That like I couldn't undo that feeling. I don't know like.. it felt like you've.. it felt like a betrayal, I know you've said also it felt like unexpected for you like "out of the blue" is I think is a phrase you've used a lot” Dr. Ferrari said
“Yeah I mean it wasn't great timing because I mean it was just like shortly after Bender had just called her up and said that I had like.. um it somehow it seems to have gotten twisted because what I said basically for the record was that "I hope that your children experience similar pain to what I experienced". I didn't call up Dr. Bender and say I am going to kill your children, that never happened. So but Dr. Altheim I don't know if Bender.. what you know. I wasn't on that phone call. Dr. Altheim told me that I had threatened Dr. Bender's children and uh..”
“Were.. doctor were you feeling at the time and in retrospect that Laura posed a potential to whatever degree real threat.” Dr. Ferrari asked.
“Yeah, I am really sorry to say that to you. You know in your own head maybe that you didn't feel that you were, right. I can believe in your own head that you didn't feel that you were I believe that but Dr. Bender was really scared.” Laura could understand them sort of running away with their own fears here that were not based in any kind of actual reality but she also just saw it as a total overreaction.
“I understand,” Laura said feeling a bit guilty and wanting to be reassuring.
“And Dr. Bender really thought there was a real possibility that you could come to her house, you knew where she lived, with a gun or in some other threatening way. And she still had children living in the house and her own self to protect and uh it was a pretty scary moment. I'd certainly never had a moment like that in my experience before as a therapist.”
“So I imagine that's hard for you to hear.” Dr. Ferrari asked.
“I mean no..” It was hard to hear but Laura was trying to indicate that she had accepted that that is what had happened.
Dr. Ferrari then said “The part that's significant for me is the part that where you said that I believe Laura in your own head that you didn't even know that to be true. But I think that's a key kind of the point here. Because I've heard a lot from you Laura "how could you think that?" and "that's so unmerited" and I think when it comes to.. that it doesn't have to be all or nothing you know. If there is a smidgen of a doubt when it comes to safety especially when it comes to one's family. That you could think well even if the potential is this much there is enough to justify that potential I need to protect what's important. Even if its 99% and 1% something like that could happen that doesn't necessarily mean that I think you are this out of control person that's going to this but maybe I can't totally factor out the possibility. What if God forbid something that would happen and I didn't take action?”
Laura’s mind snapped out of the memory.
It was 5:00pm and she was due to meet Rachel Delray and her Rachel’s friends at the Hell’s Kitchen’s Cafeteria & Nosh Bar for Dinner at 6:30pm. It was the type of “ironic” New York eatery where people paid to eat $22 tuna tartare, as in raw fish, on avant-garde High School Cafeteria style trays while sipping $14 a glass Prosecco. Rachel had once been a client of Laura’s that had turned to a close friend and neighbor. Rachel was a Fordham graduate corporate attorney and so were most of her friends. Laura often felt like a tag along guest at these dinners since she wasn’t as close with Rachel’s friends as she was with Rachel or in academic league with them. They had assured career paths that came with mega bonuses. Laura liked the external look and feel of having a social life. She had gotten better at having friends.
Laura was able to have a quick private moment with Rachel before they were seated where Laura asked: “How are things with Dr. Ferrari?”
“He is so great, thank you again for the introduction.”
They were four women seated around a square table.
“I can’t believe It's been about three years since I was diagnosed with had multiple sclerosis,” said Rachel.
She had been seeing Dr. Ferrari for about three months.
Laura envied how Rachel could be so open about her struggles.
‘Dr. Ferrari had turned Laura on to the law of attraction or I call it LOA. I am a really analytical person. Dr. Ferrari challenged me to a thought experiment. He said I want you to strictly try LOA for a week and tell me what you think and observe. At that time I had just gotten a MacBook computer and I swear I was seeing MacBooks everywhere. It's like mind just became more aware of them even though they were already probably there. It was me noticing them.”
She got serious about dating hired one of those $10,000 matchmaker services. The matchmaker didn’t work out but three months later she was engaged to Jared who was the grandson of a textile millionaire and they were planning their wedding on Nantucket.
“What’s new ladies?” Nichole asked.
“I switched my meds over to a new pill I am taking which has given me a lot more energy.” Rachel said.
Laura shifted in her seat. Rachel being able to speak so openly about her illness gave her a hot flash and made her palms sweat. “Bethany’s ex-boyfriends younger brother started working at Skadden. He is FINE.” Said Nichole.
“Let’s see,” said Rachel
Bethany produced her phone for all of them to see. It was already on her ex’s brother’s Facebook page.
“OMG! We are such stalkers” shrieked Nichol.
The photographer was already there waiting for her in the lobby. The apartment had been a disaster when she had gone on the initial pitch to get the listing. There were children’s toys everywhere. Laura had convinced them to move out and have a fresh coat of paint applied. They had left just the barebones minimum of furniture to show the function of each room. She was on time. Laura set a large box on the table. She went room by room. A fresh set of towels in the bathroom, coffee mugs with a neatly folded napkin. A silver place setting. A wine bottle, two glasses and a corkscrew for the dining table. Two glass jars with pasta in the shape of animals. Two aqua green pillows to contrast the bland beige dated eighties style sofa and a vase filled with blood orange tulips. Tulips were her signature flower for staging. She rearranged the furniture in the living room a little. She repositioned the chair and pulled the sofa off the wall a few inches to create a better conversation area. It gave Laura great satisfaction to give a vacant apartment to pizazz. She hadn’t lost her touch. Travis stopped by towards the end. She looked at her watch.
“You are late.”
“Wow, this place looks amazing. You are the one that’s good at this. You don’t need me for this. I’ll see you for the open house, ok?” He left. The photographer walked out with him as they were finished.
Travis was right but she still felt he was being a little lazy.
Her phone rang. It was Dr. Ferrari.
Laura took a seat on the floor next to the now closed front door.
“Omg!” Are you ok? What happened to you?”
“I’m ok. I’m ok. But they arrested me.”
“We talked about this and remember that I warned you that I am not going to help you if things got legal. I told you if you get in trouble with the law you are on your own! And don't forget you owe me money. When will you pay me?”
Dr. Ferrari and Laura had in so many ways gotten really close. They had gotten along really well except on this one topic. They never agreed on it. Right now she thought he was acting like a little weasel. She was globally grateful to him and didn’t have the energy to fight him on this.
She remembered he has asked her on the first day she had ever met with him how they could prevent the same type of falling out between them what happened with Dr. A & B. All she could say is “I don’t know”. Dr. B had a warmth about him. She felt his genuineness. She knew in his heart he was a really good guy and she was globally willing to give him a pass on this one issue.
“I don't have it right now.” Her head throbbed.
They hung up.
Finding an attorney
She woke up with a sense of dread. Holy fuck! Did that just happen? Was I arrested? Could this still be my reality? The emotions that had been triggered all flooded back to her. The first thing she did was send an email off to Dickov. She had really said so little to him in their interview in person. Now after all that had happened yesterday, she wanted him to hear her side. She attached the photo of the doctors hugging to the email which was a quick summary of her most salient points and explaining why the photo was so awful and hurtful to her. Her cell phone was flashing with new messages.
Laura felt that Dr. Ferrari saw it as her not stopping to contacting Altheim was a reflection on him. There had seemed to be some jealousy between the two of them as if they were comparing who had the bigger dick or in this case who was better at “helping Laura.”
How could she find an attorney? She googled. She texted to one Marvin Hazel out of Syracuse, New York. His rates seemed like they’d be more reasonable than a local lawyer.
“I handle all New York cases,” he said over the phone. “Tell me about your case.”
She hired him like it was a Black Friday impulse buy. She put the putting the initial $500 deposit on her credit card.
“I will speak to the prosecutor and get back to you.”
Most of the next few days were spent by Laura curled up crying and just her whole body shivering from being upset.
Laura went back to One Center Street to get her phone and bag back as Dickov had told her to do. When she got to the guard she asked if he could call Dickov down.
“Don’t you have a phone to call him?”
“That’s the whole point,” Laura said.
“He has my things and my phone.”
“Don’t you have a waiver for your things?.”
She was given no waiver.
The guard called up to Dickov’s desk but he wasn’t there.
“When is he coming back?”
“He says he’ll be here in a half hour.”
“Ugh, I need my phone.”
“Come back in half an hour.”
Laura returned in thirty minutes. She was waiting there impatiently. It took another fifteen minutes for Dickov to show up.
He had handed her her bag and the items from her bag.
“Where is my phone?”
“We are keeping it for now.”
Laura rolled her eyes and stormed off.
For Laura one of the strangest and surprising aspects of the meeting was that it was as if Dr. Altheim seemed jealous of Dr. Ferrari. Laura wondered how it could even be possible that Altheim who had so abandoned her could be jealous of her closeness with Dr. Ferrari. It was bizarre. His office was shiny, bedazzled and he offered Halloween candy. Putting it bluntly Dr. Ferrari was a gorgeous faggot of a man who had often succeeded at making Laura feel special.
In light of the photo, Laura had come to see the threeway meeting now as a way for Altheim to alleviate her guilty conscious. Altheim had made moves to deliberately seek Bender out to advance her career and social standing with Queen Bee, Dr. Bender, and therefore amongst the orthodox modern community in Riverdale. Laura had just been the collateral.