Dear Henry, Dear Liza: the therapy years

Interior, evening, therapist’s office. Couple sits on couch, several large, fabric pillows rest between them. Across the room, by a bookcase and desk, is a woman sitting slightly forward in a large, leather wing-backed chair.

Therapist: So. Why have you come to see me?

Liza: Not sure where things started going wrong. But we know we need help.

Therapist: What do you think, Henry?

Henry: She’s right.

Liza: [sniffs} Well, that’s the first time you’ve said that in years.

Therapist: What do you feel you need help with?

Liza: Communication.

Therapist: Can you say a bit more about that?

Liza: He doesn’t seem to hear what I say. He doesn’t listen.

Henry: I listen just fine. I hear you.

Liza: Well, you don’t act as though you hear me.

Henry: I answer, don’t I?

Liza: If you call those answers.

Henry: I do. I call those answers. You ask questions and I reply. That means I answer.

Therapist: Can we try an exercise? Let’s try to rework a conversation you’ve had recently. Can you think of one that went particularly awry?

Liza: The bucket.

Henry: What happened with the bucket?

Liza: Dear God, man, do you remember nothing? The bucket. There was a hole.

Henry: Oh, right, right. And you were snippy.

Liza: I wasn’t snippy. You were daft.

Henry: I beg your pardon.

Therapist: Hold on. Let’s back up. Let’s have the conversation just as you remember it.

Liza: Fine.

Henry: Do we have to?

Therapist: It’ll help see how you’re communicating and how we can give you both some tools to handle conflict.

Henry: Fine. [turns to Liza} There’s a hole in  the bucket.

Liza. [shrugs and inhales deeply] Then fix it.

Henry: With what?

Liza: I don’t know…with straw, I guess.

Henry: The straw’s too long.

Liza: [sighs] Then cut it.

Henry: With what?

Liza: Jesus, Henry, I don’t care. With the axe, I guess.

Henry: The axe is too dull.

Liza: Then sharpen it, for fuck’s sake.

Henry: With what?

Liza: I’m going to venture a guess on this one, Henry: the whetstone.

Henry: Easy for you to say. The whetstone is dry.

Liza: Are you trying to piss me off? I have work to do, Henry. Wet the thing and leave me alone.

Henry: With what shall I wet it?

Liza: Heaven help me, Henry, you can’t be this stupid. When I married you, you were clever and wonderful, and…Fuck! Wet it with water.

Henry: How will I get water?

Liza: The same goddamn way we always get water, jackass. With the bucket.

Henry: Yes, that would be logical. But as I said before, there’s a hole in the damned bucket!


Therapist: IS that how it ended?

Liza: Yes.

Therapist: And how do you feel about how that conversation?

Liza: It enrages me just to hear the word ‘bucket.’ He does things like this just to make me mad. If he knew there was an irreparable hole in the bucket, why fucking ask me?

Henry: To see if you could help.

Liza: Oh, bullshit. You wanted to make me feel bad.

Henry: Nope.

Therapist: Henry, how does it feel to hear Liza accuse you of trying to make her feel bad?

Henry: Sounds about right.

Therapist: You mean you want her to feel bad?

Henry: No, I mean she says that a lot.

Liza: Because you do.

Therapist: Liza, how do you know Henry’s intentions?

Liza: Because they’re obvious.

Therapist: To you, or to him?

Liza: To me.

Therapist: Let me back you both up for a minute: let’s talk about the bucket.

Liza rolls her eyes and sighs.