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Excerpt from My Dream of You by Nuala O'Faolain, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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My Dream of You by Nuala O'Faolain

My Dream of You

by Nuala O'Faolain
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  • First Published:
  • Feb 1, 2001
  • Paperback:
  • Feb 2002
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But back in London, I did not say that I was finished with the job. I didn't want to disturb the quiet we had pulled around ourselves. Alex sat in his boss's cubicle, and Roxy sat at her secretary's desk, and Betty the administration lady sat down the corridor in her room. I made as little noise as possible, working in the corner. We were gentle with one another. We tried not to mention Jimmy. One of his gym shoes lay on the floor under his desk. None of us put it away.

De Burca, I said to the psychiatrist's receptionist, when the day of my appointment came around. Kathleen de Burca.

She looked at me as if me not being called Smith or Jones was the very last straw, and put down her pen. Then she picked it up again, wearily.

Could you spell that? she said, as if it were entirely possible that I couldn't.

And what did I do? I said, That's Burke, in English, if that would be easier for you.

Then I complimented her on the New Age flower arrangement on her desk - fawning on her, because I was so afraid. The flesh on my cheeks was actually quivering with fear. By the time I went in to the psychiatrist's office with its antique furniture gleaming in the low light, I was not so much crying as sniveling. I thought everything might unravel then and there and I wouldn't be able to go on. I had let things be. I did my work, and let the rest pile up behind me. I was afraid he would move one little thing in my head, and the whole lot would crash.

There are tissues just beside the chair, he murmured.

I tried to tell him how desolate the nights had been for as long as I could remember. Yes, he murmured. Yes. I told him my best friend was a gay American man and he dropped dead and now I have nobody. Yes. My body slackened with the force of my crying. I howled. I'm getting old! I have made nothing out of my life! Yes, he said. Siblings? he said. A brother at home, and his wife and child, I said. And Nora in New York, the eldest. And my little brother Sean died when he was six and a half and if I'd stayed at home I might have been able to save him! More howling. And there were three or four babies who died around when they were born. Why do you mention them? he said. I don't know, I said. Except - my poor mother! I moaned and hiccuped, but then the storm of crying began to pass. I tried to explain to him: I'm too depressed to even dress properly. I was wearing a jacket the other day that doesn't even fit me! Units of alcohol? he was saying. I luxuriated in the safety of the exquisite room and his hands lying quietly on the desk, reflected in the polished surface. I did not pull myself up and sit properly, though now only the occasional sob shook me. If you could get it down on paper, he was saying, just the general picture, ages of the children at your mother's death, that kind of thing. Next time we meet I'll ask you-

And then I heard it. I wouldn't have, but that I had stopped crying.

Someone made a furtive movement behind a screen in the dim corner behind him.

I sprang upright like a hare in the grass, and searched his face.

It is quite common! he said. Our trainees are allowed to monitor first consultations on exactly the same basis of absolute confidentiality as the primary relationship.

My legs were shaky as I walked to the door.

They do it in your country, too! he called after me. I can assure you!

That's how I know, I said to Nora when I phoned her, that he took the chance because I was Irish.

Nora was silent. She passionately believed in her own shrink. She'd been trying to get me to go into therapy for years. She'd even sent me a blank check once.

Maybe they do it to everybody, she began.

They don't, I said. You know they don't. If that was one of his own kind - if I'd been a university lecturer from Hampstead . . .

Come to me! she said. Come here! Or go home! I don't know how you stuck snobby old England all these years.

Reprinted from My Dream of You by Nuala O'Faolain by permission of Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) 2000 Nuala O'Faolain. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

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