The Orb


The spherical object sits atop a glass coffee table between myself and my patients, apparently inert save for the qualities Maggie, Ray, and Joe assign to it, and which they absorb. Maggie, my regular ten o’clock on a Wednesday, gives the object a forlorn glance whenever she feels stuck in thought. Briefly, it seems there may be inspiration in its translucent green, or refuge in its fetching diamond patterns. Soon her eyes move away, tracking mid-morning light spearing in from the East. Maggie notes the illusion of choice.

Others make a tactile move. Reaching for the object, Ray sometimes remembers that despite paying for the hour, he is a visitor and therefore asks permission to handle my belongings. “What is this?” he more specifically asks, a fraction of a second before an entitled, if gentle seizing. “It’s an orb,” I say proudly. I found this thing in a consignment store about five years ago, and was struck then by its occultish mystique; its compelling, Kubrickian appeal. Placing it center stage in my office, I imagined it might pique interest, or perhaps graze the unconscious, stirring wonder of an alien presence amid frenzied thoughts about self. Ray appears to envy the undisturbed demeanor of the orb, thinking it a symbol of coveted stolidity. I’ve known him to study it in detail, gazing about its every inch as if determined to see inside to discover secret contents, like a way of being. Like many objects that remind of childhood, the orb is shiny and promissory of concealed riches, a garden of delights within. In such memories, I think the world is like Christmas morning: made up of rainbow pastures ever beckoning yet beyond reach, teasing with magic, and not yet disappointing with empty spaces, the residue of a dull, grown-up’s contrivance.

Maggie says she gets lost when she “spaces” on objects like the orb. Her purpose is escapist, she declares ambivalently. The orb, the seductive toy, compels rumination: a speculative inventory of its details; an imagined backstory as to its production, even its merchandising. Upon hearing my tale of discovery and purchase, she cooed like I’d just described the story of an abandoned animal rescued by me. Had Maggie found it, the orb would have spurred a poem, and thereafter a ceremonial place in her heart. In session, after frozen minutes contemplating the orb’s essence, Maggie’s foiling of herself is complete: she has forgotten something, the terrible thoughts and then feelings that search for release, only to find a dead end doorway. Sometimes I envy the orb also, though not in the sense of wanting its qualities; more in that Kleinian, spoiling the object sense of the word. At these times I want rid of my cursed ornament and its solipsistic, self-blocking evil.

Joe on the other hand satisfies the repressed urge, performing that which I can’t do myself. And he does it ingeniously: without conflict, self-consciousness; without giving it a moment’s thought, bless him. He doesn’t even ask permission. Slumping on my couch, his slovenly adolescent frame stretched out, he grabs at the orb on his way down and begins a gifted juggling act as part of a session norm. Over the course of fifty minutes he intermittently tosses the orb from one hand to the other, ignoring its aesthetic value entirely, instead focusing upon the action; the soothing, mind-and-body organizing action. For Joe, the object is a baseball substitute, which is in turn a sublimation of something, but isn’t any longer since Joe got kicked off the team for smoking too much weed. But hey, repression doesn’t really work, I say encouragingly. “Damn right,” he replies, a little too pumped by the notion. I clarify that defenses, like people, aren’t meant to be perfect. “Right on,” he says after a seemingly thoughtful pause—a pause which breaks his rhythm, causing the orb to sail beyond the unadapting reach of his left hand, descending like a breaking curve ball towards the perfect glass of the coffee table. A moment later I am shaken by the cracking sound of impact, the vision of a spiderweb pattern now spread over splintered glass. “Oops,” says Joe, looking inert.

**this story is a fiction

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