The Year of Recovered Memory | Year In Review | Chicago Reader

The Year of Recovered Memory 

We are all victims of abuse. And now we know who to blame.

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"But I always thought," said I, "that repressed memories had something to do with childhood."

"Not always," he replied. "Some are quite recent, often not even a full year old. Now lie on this couch and count backwards with me. 100, 99, 98 . . . "

Hypnotic. He was truly hypnotic. His voice deep, mellifluous, one moment resembling a famous talk show host, the next a column in the Chicago Sun-Times. The room began to swirl. I began to sink, deeper, deeper.

"95, 94, 93 . . . "

I was there. It felt warm and comfortable and safe.

"I am the Voice of Therapy Excellence," he began, "operating with zero percent errors and half my brain behind my back. I sense that you are troubled and in pain."

"It's just that I, well, I still feel bad about the White Sox."

"You must trust me," the Voice of Therapy Excellence commanded. "Together we will search your subconscious, uncover your unconscious, penetrate your psyche, mesmerize your memory, investigate your id, and explore your hidden wounds. A simple baseball team cannot be the cause of this depression."

"It was Bo Jackson! He kept swinging with his eyes closed!"

"No, my son. I sense something much more severe is troubling you. Let us go back, back, back to the beginning. Look carefully. Can you see someone? A shadowy figure perhaps?"

"It's Jerry Reinsdorf!"

"Let us try this again." The Voice of Therapy Excellence was so smooth, so tenacious, so convincing. I wanted to please him. "This shadowy figure. He's coming into your living room. Someone you trusted."

"Then it can't be Jerry Reinsdorf?"

"Trusted, almost as a member of your own family. It might even be someone you cast a vote for."

"A politician? I trusted a politician?"

"You're becoming agitated. This is a certain sign of severe abuse."

"I've been abused?"

"Try now, try hard. Let's not have any denial here. What is he holding in his hands?"

"A baseball bat?"

My therapist gave a deep sigh and rattled his papers. "You say baseball bat, but you see something else."

"Something that looks like a baseball bat?"

"Exactly. A saxophone. Now we are getting somewhere."

"Good lord," I breathed. "You mean I've been abused by the president of the United States?"

"These are your repressed memories. I am only trying to help you bring them out. Look carefully now, exactly what is the pres . . . this shadowy figure doing?"

I tried counting backward again. Maybe that would help me see what I was supposed to see. 100, 99, 98 . . .

"I think he's preparing a budget," I said.

"Let's take another look. Doesn't it look a wee bit to you like he's, he's . . . "

"Oh God! I can hardly say it!" I cried. "He's raising taxes."

"Painful memories," the Voice of Therapy Excellence said. "But necessary if we are to have a cure."

"I can't believe he would do this to me," I sobbed.

"Keep looking," the voice urged. "There has to be more, much more."

"Yes, yes," I cried. "I see him now huddling with another person . . . "

"A woman?"

"How did you guess?"

"It's obvious. He's appointing her to high office, isn't he?"

"Do I see that?"

"You do! And she's a quota queen!"

"Dear God! That must mean he's also going to . . . "

"Yes! Appoint a condom queen!"

I began to weep. "I can't go on."

"Yes, you can. Take my hand. Together we will bring these past sorrows out into the light of the day. Now who is he talking to?"

"Another woman?"

"His wife! And he's listening to her!"

"Oh dear God. He is. He is!"

"They're working on a health plan, aren't they, they're going to take your doctor away . . . "

"But I don't have a doctor, I have an HMO."

"You have me, son, and I am going to make you well. Look closely at that wife. Are you sure she isn't wearing a pointed hat and riding on a broom? Are you sure she isn't casting an evil spell upon those Girl Scout cookies? Are you sure she isn't sneaking her communist buddies into the White House? Repressed memories, son. Memories we must drag out into the daylight."

We worked all afternoon. It was painful. The terrible things I had suppressed and forgotten. I saw it all again. The invasion of Somalia. The Haitian disaster. The Bosnian bluster. America humiliated in the eyes of the world.

One by one the memories came back, and more. Our national forests turned over to owls and trees. Unpunished gays in our military. Patriotic gun owners treated like criminals while feminists run free.

Yes, I had been abused.

I'm getting better now. I no longer need the Voice of Therapy Excellence to help retrieve my memories. I'm doing it by myself. I now know what really caused all those floods. Who really set those fires in California. Who talked Michael Jordan into retirement and caused Bill Cartwright's knees to go bad. It's all becoming clear now. Who gave North Korea the bomb. Who sabotaged that space telescope. Who painted graffiti on my garage. Who is making those mysterious telephone calls, and just breathing. He comes onto my television screen week after week after week, smiling, pretending, acting like a member of the family. My abuser. He thinks I've forgotten, but now I'm remembering it all. All.

Mike Ditka. Dr. Kevorkian. Beavis and Butt-head. The memories keep coming. Does anyone out there know a good lawyer?

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Will Northerner.

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