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Hartman, K. (2010). Naming the Absence. Psychoanal. Perspect., 7(1):203-209.

(2010). Psychoanalytic Perspectives, 7(1):203-209

Naming the Absence

Kabi Hartman, Ph.D.

Seven o'clock on a wednesday night in may 1990. I Am Lying on the plush purple couch in Dr. E.'s office. The track lights have been dimmed, and although the blinds are drawn on all three windows of the corner office, the headlights of cars going west on 91st Street cast undulating shadows on the white wall above me. These Wednesday sessions, cocooned inside this familiar room, I feel most alone with Dr. E. In the twilight I have less trouble saying everything that comes to mind: I speak fluidly and confess things I never thought I would say to anyone.

We are discussing my extreme attachment to Dr. E. Death is on my mind—his, in particular. But what would I do if you died? I am working myself into tears, preparing to leave the consulting room the way I often do—in a ferment of passion, slamming the door, exiting the building, and scraping my knuckles against the bricks of the apartment buildings on Central Park West. Outside, on the street, two male voices joke as they pass by the windows. It is spring, and Dr. E. and I are both young: He is in his 30s, I in my 20s. Yet the possibility of his death looms, as the fear of my mother dying haunted my childhood.

From the darkness behind me, Dr. E. finally speaks: It would be a bummer, he admits.

His choice of word, with its vague association to drugs—a bad trip—defuses my looming histrionics.

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