Sigfrid is a pretty smart machine, but sometimes I can’t figure out what’s wrong with him. He’s always asking me to tell him my dreams. Then sometimes I come in all aglow with some dream I’m positive he’s going to love, a big-red-apple-for-the-teacher kind of dream, full of penis symbols and fetishism and guilt hang-ups, and he disappoints me. He takes off on some crazy track that has nothing at all to do with it. I tell him the whole thing, and then he sits and clicks and whirs and buzzes for a while — he doesn’t really, but I fantasize that while I’m waiting — and then he says:
“Let’s go back to something different, Rob. I’m interested in some of the things you’ve said about the woman, Gelle-Klara Moynlin.”
I say, “Sigfrid, you’re off on a wild-goose chase again.”
“I don’t think so, Rob.”
“But that dream! My God, don’t you see how important it is? What about the mother figure in it?”
“What about letting me do my job, Rob?”
“Do I have a choice?” I say, feeling sulky.
“You always have a choice, Rob, but I would like very much to quote to you something you said a while ago.” And he stops, and I hear my own voice coming out of somewhere in his tapes. I am saying:
“Sigfrid, there’s an intensity of pain and guilt and misery there that I just can’t handle.”
He waits for me to say something.
After a moment I do. “That’s a nice recording,” I acknowledge, “but I’d rather talk about the way my mother fixation comes out in my dream.”
“I think it would be more productive to explore this other matter, Rob. It is possible they’re related.”
“Really?” I am all warmed up to discuss this theoretical possibility in a detached and philosophical way, but he beats me to the punch:
“The last conversation you had with Klara, Rob. Please tell me what you feel about it.”
“I’ve told you.” I am not enjoying this at all, it is such a waste of time, and I make sure he knows it by the tone of my voice and the tenseness of my body against the restraining straps. “It was even worse than with my mother.”
“I know you’d rather switch to talking about your mother, Rob, but please don’t, right now. Tell me about that time with Klara. What are you feeling about it at this minute?”
I try to think it out honestly. After all, I can do that much. I don’t actually have to say it. But all I can find to say is, “Not much.”
After a little wait he says, “Is that all, ’not much’?”
“That’s it. Not much.” Not much on the surface, anyway. I do remember how I was feeling at the time. I open up that memory, very cautiously, to see what it was like. Going down into that blue mist. Seeing the dim ghost star for the first time. Talking to Klara on the radio, while Dane is whispering in my ear… I close it up again.
“It all hurts, a lot, Sigfrid,” I say conversationally. Sometimes I try to fool him by saying emotionally loaded things in the tone you might use to order a cup of coffee, but I don’t think it works. Sigfrid listens to volume and overtones, but he also listens to breathing and pauses, as well as the sense of the words. He is extremely smart, considering how stupid he is.