Yesterday I went to study with a friend. She’s house/dog-sitting for a friend who’s out of the country, so I met her there. It’s technically only ten miles away from my house, but being that the NYC subway is configured in a very special way, I had to take a 58 minute trip that involved three trains.
One of those trains stops near Zooey’s home. Why do I know this? Well, for one thing – her address showed up on my insurance explanation of benefits (EOBs). For another, we “Googled” her at some point in September-ish and her address came right up (which matched the address on said EOBs). From there, we discovered she had a roommate – a gentleman friend, if you will.
She once used his name in session. She was referencing my wife, but she accidentally said his name instead of hers (to be fair, they are quite similar). So then we googled him as well. I won’t tell you much about him because I don’t want to be even weirder than I know this must already sound, but whatever – I think you’d be harder pressed to find a client who HASN’T done an internet search on their therapist than vice versa.
Regardless, this is a dude who likes to post photos. Especially of obscure abstract urban images from his daily commute and also: himself. So we all know exactly what he looks like. Also, he has an arguably unique look.
Enter yesterday, when I’m riding said train that passes by their apartment. Every time I’m on that train and make that stop, I hold my breath. I know the odds are pretty damn low that I’d run into Zooey, but I still worry.
I didn’t see her. Phew.
However, as I stepped off the train and bolted to take the three flights of stairs to catch the next train, I felt someone very close behind me as I was climbing the first escalator. I have this weird aversion to the very top and bottom of those scary machines. As I reached the top, two people were just standing on the steps of the escalator, allowing it to move them up (as it was designed to do). I hesitated to pass them because I worried about getting caught (I swear this fear comes from my parents forcing us to watch “Rescue 911” too much as a child). My slight hesitation made the person behind me come very close to running into me and he brushed my arm as he passed while I quickly stepped to the side to wait for the remaining stairs to electronically rise to the top.
As soon as I looked up to see who the in-a-hurry-New-Yorker-douchebag was that couldn’t possibly wait for the last four steps to get off the escalator, I immediately recognized him as this gentleman friend of Zooey’s.
At first I panicked, until I remembered that he has no idea who I am. (Right?).
I nonchalantly walked up the next flight of stairs and went to my normal place on the platform, which would put me exactly where I needed to be to get off at the stairwell for my home stop once I transferred across the platform. I always stand near the same damn pillar for this exact reason.
He (of course) stopped about ten feet away from me to wait for the same train, which pulled in a minute or so later. We got in the same train car. At this point I was so utterly amused that I intentionally stood next to him on the train. I only had to go one stop on this particular train, so whatev.
Except, as I was texting my Wife to tell her about this hilarious and unlikely situation, I leaned forward to look out the window of the train door to see if I could see the name of the station to tell her where I was in my commute. At this point, he looked over at me and as soon as we made eye contact, he spun around and turned his back to me.
I should probably be more embarrassed about the fact that I recognized him from his online photo that I found from doing an actual internet search of my (now ex-) therapist’s roommate, or the fact that when he (rather violently) turned away from me, my brain immediately went:
“HOLY SHIT! Did he somehow recognize me?! Does he know who I am?! Wait- how would he even see a photo of me? Oh shit, I gave Zooey our Holiday cards with a photo of Wife and I. Maybe she showed it to her loved ones and was like, ‘Yo, watch out for this crazy stalker ex-client of mine’. Or maybe she’s just so void of ethics and boundaries that she showed it to him just for the hell of it…or to make fun of me and be like, ‘Hey – this is that totes insane client I’m always telling you about that was ruining my life before I dropped her ass’….”
Then the train arrived at my next stop and I got off. I took a deep breath and gathered myself enough to interrupt all of that trauma-reflex nonsense and also tried to dial down the narcissism. Not everything is about me. It’s totally possible that he just really wanted to turn around at that moment or lost his balance or whatever else could have happened.
Once I realized how out of control I’d allowed my thoughts to get, I literally laughed out loud.
But I won’t lie – it shook me up. It startled me to be that close to someone so close to Zooey’s life. I don’t know exactly who he is to her – a boyfriend, a partner, a weird 40-something bestie roomie? Who knows. But I know he knows her and seeing him reminded me of how fucking SMALL this world can be (even in a place like NYC).
It terrifies me, the thought of running into her…
This stupid incident made me hyper-aware of just how much transference I still have packed away in Zooey. If we did run into her, I know that I, as Andi, would probably just pretend I didn’t see her and move to the next subway car or further down the train platform. But the rest of the system? Notsomuch.
I worry about the powerful, visceral, heartbreaking trigger response that physically seeing her would activate among the system. We would never hurt her, but I know that seeing her would very much hurt us.
And that really pisses me off.
I hate that this woman has any power at all over any part of our life. And I hate that there’s even a small, unlikely (although apparently not that unlikely) chance that I will unexpectedly run into her again.
I hope I never do. At least not until I’ve done a whole lot more work on processing what she did to us.