Two weeks ago I took my wife and kids on a vacation to Sea World. It was the first thing we had done as a family since my wife and I decided to give our marriage another shot, and things seemed to be going pretty smoothly. We were all just so happy to be a family again. You should have seen the looks on my kids' faces when we told them that I was moving back home; it was like watching them open gifts on Christmas morning. My wife and I were happy too. We had finally turned a corner, and we'd started making progress. We were going to couples therapy and all that jazz. We had decided, though, to hold off on the lovemaking for a while until we felt comfortable being physical with each other again.
Anyway, we were all at Sea World and it was hotter than hell, so we decided to go to a show to cool off for a while. It was one of those shows where the dolphins jump up and do tricks and then the big killer whale splashes everybody with water. And at this show I started watching the dolphins jump around, and it just captivated me. I admired their soft slippery skin. It was just so exotic; I had never felt that way before. Looking at those soft underbellies and long slender fins was like seeing the face of God. I came out of my dolphin-induced trance and wiped the sweat from my brow. It was then that I realized that I had an aching erection. I became alarmed, but that only made it throb harder. For the entire rest of the show I tried my damnedest to keep my arousal in check, but every glance I took at the cetaceans in the pool below induced a surge of hormones from my perspiring testicles.
When the show ended and my erection still hadn't subsided, I began to panic, because soon we would have to stand up to leave, then my family would see my shame. So when people began to stand, I stayed put.
"Daddy, let's go," my kids said.
"Just a minute," I said. "Daddy has to rest for a minute."
"James, you've been sitting the whole show. The kids want to see the shark exhibit," my wife said.
"I know, honey. Just give me a minute," I pleaded.
"James, are you OK?" she asked.
"Yeah, I'm fine." I could feel the sweat streaming down my face, and I was sure that my eyes looked glazed over.
My wife came and sat down next to me to try to comfort me. "Honey, what's the matter? You look -- " She stopped when she saw the bulge in my pants. "Is that ..." The look in my eye must have said it all. I gave a look back at the pool, and she must have understood because she stood up and addressed the children.
"Let's go on ahead, kids, Daddy's not feeling well." Then she looked back at me with venom in her eyes and said, "He's sick."
Eventually the erection subsided and I met them back at the car. None of us spoke the entire ride home.
When we got home my wife simply packed two suitcases for me and told me to leave. There was no use in saying sorry.
So right now I'm living down at the Super 8 Motel and I'm afraid. I'm afraid for my marriage, I'm afraid for my kids, and I'm afraid for myself. I just keep thinking about that day and I wonder what I've become.
Dear Roy (James?)
I want to play the psychiatrist this time. It's more fun than playing the gullible columnist. So I am a psychiatrist in a big, wood-paneled office on the 23rd floor of an art-deco high-rise built in San Francisco in the 1920s to appeal to the upper crust of society in that burgeoning paradise of decadence and wealth. It's tempting to say it's the 1920s but it's not. It's today. It's the ever-present present. You have made an appointment with my secretary and have requested an urgent visit. So you come in and I can see that you are a shaken man. The state of your clothes and grooming indicates, indeed, a period of motel residency. In the note from my secretary it says you are having these dreams. As you settle in your chair I notice you are fidgeting and I ask you what is on your mind. You tell me about this dream. In the dream things happen as you describe above, except the dolphin eats your penis.
Hearing this, I lean forward with greater interest. I repeat it back to you. I say, have I got this right? You say yes, that is the dream and that is why I have been so ashamed I have not been able to repeat it to anyone. That is why I came to you.
I say, I have heard many such dreams. Though you are an individual soul, unique in the universe, your unconscious is like a window, or a mirror, onto the lake of all creation, and in this lake are many dolphins and many penises and surely such things have happened to other men. Surely other men, with their faces pressed to the same glass of the same gigantic aquarium, have witnessed such things. They, like you, have felt compelled to keep it secret, not glancing to left or right to see if anyone else saw it, but keeping it to themselves in shame and fear, thinking it is a product of their own minds. In fact, I venture to say, this is not even your penis, or your dolphin. This is about the primitive bond between man and aquatic creature; you are being reminded of your genesis in the sea. Also, the dolphin represents to you not just your link to our ancestors in the sea but your wishes for your own penis, a penis that wants to swim in public and be displayed, that wants to jump through fiery hoops to the applause of mothers and fathers and children alike.
This is a wonderful dream, I say, and once you can shake the belief that it is your personal dream and your personal problem, you too will see it as wonderful. I speculate that the obstacle you face is your ego/death fear. Your concentration of all your energy in your ego distorts what you see, making you believe that everything you see is you. Your wife in the dream represents that ego fear, the scolding social limits within which our divinity is smothered and our link to our beginnings blurred, muted, blacked out.
In fact, I say, leaning back and quite getting into my spiel now, in fact, in the great collective aquarium of human evolution, we are just tiny viewers with our eyes to the glass, watching the silent miracles move about their accustomed ocean with cinematic grace; we are like those little creatures at the black bottom of great ocean trenches that have eyeballs on stalks and can see the faintest suggestion of a photon. We see all this and some of us are aware as we see it that it is not us, that it is what we see, and others of us believe that everything we see is us, and it frightens us, and we struggle against it, and plot ways to outwit reality, to trick it into being what it is not, to trick those we see as authorities into revealing their vulnerabilities; we are at war with it all because our ego is so huge we think it is all about us.
I go on like this for a while in my comfortable leather chair, in my dimly lit sanctuary of psychoanalysis, noting to myself with a bit of shame that while I do wish to help people, opining at length on our beginnings and our place in the universe is the real reason I got into this racket. Plus the good bank. It certainly beats selling shoes. While my desire to help humanity may flag at times, I will always crave a willing audience for my long speculations. So I go on to say that your trouble may lie not in this dream per se, but in the many other dreams and drives that surround this fantasy and cause you to fear being exposed.
And then, as you look at me with a hurt, wounded expression, I feel with sudden shock that I have not treated you right; I have assumed that this letter was some kind of ruse; I have treated you lightly, as though this were a game, and yet now as I look across the expanse of desk and wisdom and phone messages I see that you are indeed a wounded man. I thought you were kidding but perhaps you believe every word of what you said. I smack my forehead and say, Forgive me, sir! Forgive me!
So I say to you, before you go -- for our hour is almost up -- I have in my drawer a brochure for Sea World, slipped under my door just last week by a deliverer of circulars with a cream-colored canvas bag slung over his shoulder. I take out the brochure. There are many dolphins leaping into the air. There is a delighted crowd in pastel colors. What do you say, let's go to Sea World. I'll pick you up at the Super 8 next Wednesday at 3. And bring some cash. We'll devise a betting game and take in some unsuspecting stranger.
"Since You Asked," on sale now at Cary Tennis Books: Buy now and get an autographed first edition.
What? You want more advice?