Freud speaking with Breuer, in Lower Manhattan,
New York City, September, 2001
They’d completed their rounds of patients at the hospital and walked
through the damaged city for about one hour, before returning back
to the clinic. “All the world’s psychological traumas can’t be resolved
by the Talking Cure—” Breuer said to Freud as they strolled past
the railway of the Hudson River where a man, drunk on yellow bullets,
Nembutal, rocked back and forth like a Bedouin, a crazed orphan.
The park was full of young mothers and children, and the restless river,
punctured with refuse from the recent terrorist attacks, glistened
with floating glassware and plastic. Scrap wood and debris rippled lazily
over the sordid currents, and above them, swallows from a bombed-out
brownstone up the hill rose and fell in haphazard, drunken reenactments.
Someone played a saxophone under a tree, and a boy, his thin mouth
full of lipstick, his face painted in clown, did silent mime like a fragile doll.
The media had issued warnings about toxic debris in lower Manhattan,
and the police warned of other possible terrorist attacks and that citizens
in all parts of the city should maintain a calm alertness, wherever they went.
The two medical doctors paused, fed the ducks at the river’s edge
of the park before proceeding across the busy streets of New York.
“Oh, let me tell you of the woman I spoke with yesterday,” Breuer
said to Freud, nudging the latter on the elbow as they walked beyond
the park onto the street where the crippled clubs hosted dinner music.
“The woman had spoken to me with specific complaints of losing
the smile on her face, that it had been torn off, really, after the tragic
unfortunate death of her child, just a boy—a sixteen year old boy
with freckles and piercings, by suicide, by leaping, she said to me,
recklessly from an overpass north of here and high on hallucinogens
and too much Metallica.” “And that he’d been obsessively viewing
sociopolitical material about the East-West divide in our world, on the web,”
Breuer added, while pulling out a cigar, “and that his mother couldn’t
stop him from the torment of his obsessions.” And Freud, responding
to Breuer, said, “Oh that woman—I saw her shaking quietly on a hospital
bench, her little nose bleeding, her small mouth torn in half like red leafy
lettuce. That’s what she said to me, ‘my torn mouth like red leaf lettuce,’ ”
Freud said to Breuer, shaking his head back and forth like a pondering
clock. “Her father suicided, right?” “And she was of ‘mixed blood,’ yes—?
She was part East, part West, all of it, and so was her boy, isn’t that right—?
Wasn’t he a product of love and divorce, one of those children
hopelessly divided—?” Asked Freud, and Breuer, aware of it, “Yes.”
“The present is a reenactment of history,” Freud said, pondering
the piles of ash throughout the area, and Breuer, seeing this, reached out,
touched Freud’s shoulder, said, “Too bad about the brownstone buildings
that were demolished in the attacks, and also about the ruined hopes
for human peace.” And the sun, setting behind them, froze in their mouths
for a second, then burned. All of Manhattan glowed in dusk’s frontier.
“Do you think the world will ever be the same?” Breuer absently asked Freud,
“Do you think we will ever resolve the factual elements of our
experience?” They walked on, passing the Trade Center’s crumbled debris.
Pigeons rose from a bronze lamppost that had collapsed in a pile of rubble.
“No I don’t think we shall ever be the same,” Freud answered. “Not ever.”
“The origin of Hysteria Trauma,” said Freud to Breuer, the both of them
strolling along the frenetic grounds of The Roosevelt Hospital now,
“is one of inescapable shock.” And Breuer to Freud, “Hysterics, all of us,
suffer mainly from reminiscences. And reminiscence is the inevitable longing
for what’s been before, and for what can never be the same again.”
“It’s the perfect mix of rapture and mourning, our strange dilemma.”
“No talking cure can ever cure it,” he said.
—from Rattle #38, Winter 2012
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