La Petite Mort*
Updated: Aug 22
Hannah sat deep in thought waiting for the reception room’s red light to turn green indicating she could open the door to Dr. Dysart’s interior space. She was trying to decide what to talk about – the love bombing or green. Green was her favorite color and had been ever since she had learned the word verdant was a variety of green. As in lush. She was feeling lush and new and full of herself this sunny spring day.
She had built her vocabulary by acquiring a new word or term every day, employing them with anyone she wanted to impress, and was determined to make an impression on her psychiatrist. Because she was in love. When the light turned green, Hannah inhaled, and turning the door handle, entered his office on the exhale.
Smoking a Dunhill, Dr. Dysart sat behind the desk he had bought from a New Orleans antique dealer. He smiled and then pursed his lips releasing a ring of smoke that rose and settled above his head like a nimbus. And why not. He was her god. Hadn’t he performed miracles much like Jesus had done for Mary Magdalene his most beloved disciple?
“Why you look like a specter today, Dr. Dysart.”
“I see we’ve learned another word, Hannah. Where did you find this one?”
Sauntering over to her designated place on the couch directly across from him, she replied “in some research for my Victorian lit class.”
“What were you reading?”
Hannah stood up from her seat and after an exaggerated curtsey, launched into a short recitation of a poem she had located in a nineteenth-century Ladies Home Journal called The Difference:
Cried the grim spectre Death:
"Time is a thief,
Who, with each passing breath,
Takes from men all their fears."
Laughed, "In a thousand years
Time robs not me."
Imagining herself one of the Literati, Hannah reversed her steps toward the couch with an unceasing stare. She might not be rich, but like any woman in her family, she was a reader. So, when she felt his sofa’s dark green damask caress the back of her calves, she asked, “What do you think about that, Doctor?
The psychiatrist took a long look at his precocious patient and snuffed out the cigarette in a crystal ashtray. Without leaving her gaze, he walked from behind the desk to take his place on a wingback chair adjacent to the couch. This was one of his strategies for disarming an ego defense.
He examined Hannah at close range. She was blonde and brilliant. Dangerous only to herself. He knew she was in love. This too was part of his strategy with histrionic patients. Especially a female one.
Except this time, she did not giggle as she had done before. She stared back at him. And while the doctor settled in for their prescribed fifty-minute rendezvous, Hannah began to fidget with her shoulder bag, which he noticed she placed not beside her, but in her lap.
“What’s going on, Hannah?”
“What’s the fidgeting about, then.”
Startled, Hannah willed her hands to stop, slipping the right one into the bag on her lap. Her eyes dropped down to fix on the various shades of green spirals in the damask upholstery. Verdant she thought, now letting her eyelids flutter closed.
“Hannah...,” he whispered into her left ear. On the couch next to her now, Dysart had been waiting for this moment. She was calm enough and would permit him to say,
“Come back to your body, Hannah.” As he spoke Dysart placed his hand on her thigh. “Come back to the present, Hannah.” She opened her eyes. Looking straight ahead and not at him, Hannah’s hidden hand tightened around the handle of a box cutter. A gift from her brother.
Dysart’s hand moved up her thigh. Hannah closed her eyes and began counting her breaths as he had coached her to do when anxious. Inhale . . . one . . .two . . .three. . .four. Exhale . . .one . . .two . . . three . . .four . . .five. When his fingers reached the sweet spot, he felt her involuntary shudder. Dysart’s warm breath was on her throat before his lips landed there. He kissed the neck, making his way up to the cheek, and she turned toward him, her hand exiting from the bag to embrace him.
His final kiss landed in full on her mouth. Vital force energy traveled up from Hannah’s second chakra to the third flying right by the fourth. Filling her throat, it formed and then released two words, petite mort.
This experience of tantric love bombing startled both doctor and patient. Now drowning in Hannah’s wide open green eyes, Dysart did not move a muscle. A nanosecond into it, he could feel the cold sharpness of a box cutter’s blade penetrating flesh just above his carotid artery. “Hannah” he whispered. “You don’t want to do this.”
Deep in thought about where she might have heard petite mort, Hannah put the box cutter back into its hiding place without reply. Dysart’s apparent astonishment left her feeling like a mature woman. Casting one last look at the damask’s green spirals, she rose from the couch and strode for the door.
Heading out of his office, Hannah reminded herself that she must go look up petite mort, and its meaning, in her French dictionary. She also wondered, Should I tell Mama about Dr. Dysart? About the love bomb and how much I love him. Or wait… to bring up in our next session? In the end, Hannah waited.
*La Petite Mort was previously published in Cassandra Voices, April, 2021