Claire reached her office a little late that Thursday, mentally reviewing today's appointments. Not too busy. Maybe she'd have time to follow up with some of her medical colleagues on progress or the lack of it in people they had referred to her.
Today she had no sex offender or problem couple case, just plain, everyday people who were having difficulties coping with their world. Not always the sharpest knives in the drawer, but sometimes surprisingly brilliant in sheer brain-power, people with a first class honors degree, say, who had never learnt to deal with the normal everyday trivia of living in a world with other inhabitants, inhabitants as irritating to a logical mind as only humans can be.
Claire picked up the file on her first case, a new referral. Male, late 50's, with some vaguely expressed concern about his behavior he had been unable to make clear to the doctor who made the referral. Name of Greg Smith. Quickly she skimmed the file, but really it told her nothing beyond the usual background; date of birth, meds, illnesses, surgical procedures etc.
Realizing it was almost time for Greg's appointment, she walked over to her closet and checked herself out in the full-length mirror inside the door, making sure she looked comfortable and reassuringly normal – someone who could be trusted. She wore a dark blue silk blouse and a knee-length black skirt, full rather than fitting closely, one that swirled about her slender legs as she turned. Black shoes with a small heel completed her outfit. The only thing to catch the eye besides her slender good looks was a nice looking broach pinned to her blouse above her left breast, a broach with a good-sized opal at its center.
Norma, Claire's receptionist, knocked briefly on her door, responded to Claire's "Come in," by doing just that, and ushered in a man who looked vaguely embarrassed, but there was something about him that made Claire's eyes widen a little, and quicken her pulse. Clearly a professional of some sort from his clothing and demeanor. Not conventionally handsome, but slim, lean, and fit-looking. He certainly looked eight or ten years younger than his real age. Yes, there was something about him...
Claire walked to greet him as Norma left, closing the door behind her, and held out her hand to shake his. "Mr. Smith? I'm Claire Bridges. It's nice to meet you. Do please sit down – these chairs cost an arm and a leg, but they're quite comfortable." Noticing the anxiety that showed through his effort to be calm and relaxed, she continued; "And please, try to let go, relax, and feel comfortable – I promise I don't bite! Well, not hard, anyway."
Greg, relieved that she seemed a nice, normal, relaxed and really quite good looking woman with no "I'm the doctor; you're the patient" look about her, did just that, or at least tried hard. He took one of the chairs to one side of Claire's desk, and Claire sat opposite him in the other. She had his file and a notebook within her reach on her desk, but didn't pick up anything.
Claire crossed her legs, clasped her hands around her knee, and smiled warmly. "I have some idea of how you're feeling, Mr. Smith..."
"Please, call me Greg," he interjected quickly.
"Thanks, Greg, and please – it's Claire if you're comfortable with that. Ms. Bridges sounds like - I dunno – something do with roads and rivers, and I'm NOT a river!" she smiled at him.
"Tell me a bit about yourself please, Greg – I promise I won't pigeonhole you! It just helps me to have the scenery around you in my mind's eye, if you understand me – like at the theater."
Greg liked this woman. She had immediately put him at his ease, and it didn't hurt that he found her quite attractive.
"Well, I live by myself now – my wife and I are divorced, but no grievances there. We like each other better now than when we were together," he smiled with a wry grin. "We have a daughter who's in her thirties. She's single and has her own place. She's a nurse actually, at the local Hospital."
He paused, wondering how much detail to give her. Claire quickly said; "Just ramble on, Greg, please – I'll ask anything you miss, don't fret about that!" she smiled gently.
"I'm an academic at the State University – I'm a historian actually. Worked there since I finished my PhD years and years ago – teaching and research. Nothing mind-blowing. I have a small house on a few acres in a rural part of the area, about twenty minutes or so from campus. I love reading, some TV but not much I'm afraid, good music – mostly classical, playing sport, walking nature trails – that sort of thing – when I have the time. Sounds pretty trivial really – a purposeless life in a way." He hung his head, a look of dejection showed briefly before he straightened, squared his shoulders, and looked at Claire with a determinedly bright expression.
Claire looked in his eyes, and could see a hint of glistening moisture there. Clearly Greg had some teary emotion not far beneath the surface. She waited, with her usual kind, open expression on her face, a face that seemed to say; "It's OK – you can relax, and trust me."
Greg made an effort to keep talking, but stalled before a word emerged.
"Greg, I know and understand that something is troubling you, but at the moment I don't have the slightest idea what it might be. Is it linked to what you said just now – a purposeless life?"
Greg shook his head. "No, it's not that, though maybe that's part of it. It's more ... much more personal, and honestly, it's really hard to talk about."
His voice dried up once more, and now he was avoiding Claire's eyes.
"Greg, may I touch you?" asked Claire gently. Greg's head nodded, still avoiding her gaze.
Claire leaned across and put her hand on his knee, squeezing it gently. "It sounds as if you have your life and relationships pretty well worked out OK, and they're not the problem, am I right?"
Greg raised his eyes, comforted by her gentle touch, trusting him. He looked at Claire and nodded. "Yeah, you're right about that; most of my life is fine, but I have a pretty personal problem, and it ... it really gets to me. And I'm worried about ... Oh God it's hard to explain."
Claire leaned back in her chair, giving him space and time, then said, "When I hear a story like yours, Greg, where the everyday stuff is running along OK, I find that the culprit if I can call it that is sometimes worry about illness or approaching death – either you or someone you feel close to, or maybe sex comes into it, or – I dunno – it's difficult to create a short list of the things that really worry we humans. Try to set me right on which part of the problem globe I should be planting my feet, and I can begin to get my bearings."
Greg quickly spoke, in a rush to get the words out; "You mentioned it – sex – it's in that area, anyway."
Claire smiled at him, with a look of calm confidence and trust. "Don't worry, Greg – you couldn't possibly shock me, I can guarantee that, whatever it is. You can be absolutely specific. You can use whatever words and language you like to tell me about it. I need to understand, if I'm to be of any help. It would take me an hour just to tell you all the swear words and obscenities I've heard in this room, and I'm pretty sure I use them all myself when something gets my goat, like if the heel comes off my shoe – now that makes me say ... well, you can probably guess," she grinned.
Greg couldn't help responding with a flashing smile. The idea of this charming, well-conducted and classy woman mouthing obscenities at a shoe heel was innately funny.
"OK, Claire, I'll do my best. The root of the problem – oh God that wasn't meant to be a pun on rooting..." Claire laughed out loud, and, grinning, encouraged him to go on.
"The HEART of the problem has its origins in something very simple. For whatever reason, as I've got older, I've found it more and more difficult to err ... have an orgasm," he said, blushing slightly and avoiding Claire's smiling gaze.
"Try harder with the language, Greg," said Claire gently.
"I have trouble cumming. Is that better?" he asked, slightly shame-faced.
"If you're comfortable with the word, that's fine," answered Claire. "I have no problem with it. Do you mean when you're fucking?"
Looking a little startled at Claire's casual use of the f word, but quickly recovering his composure and realizing that this was Claire – quite matter of fact, and simply using the best word in common usage - Greg continued; "Well, actually, it's several years since I was able to ... do that."
"Say it, Greg, say what it is that you haven't been able to do. Honestly, it's best to get over this hurdle. Yes, I'm a woman, but that doesn't mean you have to guard your language with me. Actually, being more explicit can be a good, therapeutic step," said Claire gently, with a slight smile and another squeeze of his knee.
"OK – several years since I was able to ... able to ... Oh Shit! Since I was able to FUCK! There, I did it!" he said with a wry grin. "It boils down to this – I have a lot of trouble achieving a decent erection – need a lot of stimulus for some reason. And I can't sustain it for any length of time. So – making love – screwing – fucking – hasn't been on the cards for a long while. And even with masturbating, it can take me several hours of trying, with different types of stimulation – reading erotic literature, pictures and videos of nice looking, scantily clad ladies and so on – to cum. It's a nightmare!" he ended despairingly, clutching his downcast head in his hands.
.... There is more of this story ...