The therapist stopped talking, closed his eyes and
drew in a big breath as if overmatched by a busy
intersection. Tim knew to wait, it was their second
“Are you familiar with the term, imago?”
There was this other psychologist, the doctor
explained, a man who also received his Ph.D.
from the University of Chicago but went on to far
greater success thanks to a popular theory he
developed to explain why we choose the life
partners we do.
It started with a conundrum in the data. Study
after study found half of all children who came
from a home where one of the parents was an
alcoholic, chose for a mate someone who turned
out also to be an alcoholic. “For a long time we
couldn’t account for it,” the doctor said. “It didn’t
Then this other psychologist came along,
suggesting that we select selection mates trying to
work out unresolved issues from childhood, some
pain or injury inflicted by our parents.
“What your partner isn’t giving you, is what you
didn’t get as a child,” he told Tim, his weak blue
eyes now fixed on this balding, middle aged father
and successful businessman who sat with his feet
crossed in the Scandinavian armchair covered by
a blue and yellow Mexican blanket.
Tim answered too quickly. “We must be from the
other half doc,” he said. “Neither of Marie’s
parents drank much and I may overdue it
sometimes, but I’m a long way from being an
The old man considered Tim’s response a moment
and then nodded and scribbled something on his
The Friday Kershaw took the mound in the opener
of the 2016 NLDS with the Cards, Tim and Marie
had been married thirty years, eight months,
When the time came, she asked him to leave.
Their house was big and comfortable and there
was a pool in back for cooling during the hot
Sacramento summers. She had spent a lot of time
and energy making it nice. Tim agreed she should
be there. He hired two strong young men with a
truck. They followed him through the house as he
pointed out the odds and ends that would form his
new life. The guys had girlfriends that came along
in another car. The girls smoked and chatted while
the boys worked. Once the truck was loaded,
everyone followed Tim into the foothills to the
The therapist tried another tact. “You said you
were an artist when you first met your wife, what
happened? Why did you give up your art?”
“Ben was born, I needed to make some money.”
“How did Marie react?”
Tim looked past the doctor at the wall and the
Modigliani prints. It took him a while to retrace
through the years. When he had it, the scene was
vivid, there was an argument. It stunned him. He
thought she would have been pleased that he was
stepping up, taking on responsibility. But she
wasn’t. She was crying.
“I was so shocked at her reaction,” Tim said. “She
really wanted me to stay with it, but there was no
way. I wasn’t like my dad or even my brother
Francis. I’m not talented that way.”
The doc waited.
“I was right, I made the right choice,” Tim was
convincing. “It worked out. I’ve made a good
living since, sent to kids through UC.”
“Your father was an artist?”
“Yes, successful – at least to the point of paying
most of the bills, until he couldn’t and then he
taught – at the JC first and later at UCLA.”
“He must have been hard to follow.”
Tim didn’t answer. He was still back in the studio
down the alley off Fourth Street. He and Marie
were young. It wasn’t a real studio, that’s just
what he called it. It was a garage, Tim’s
grandmother let him stay there.
When he got out of high school and didn’t take to
college at first, he thought he would pursue art.
Both his father and his oldest brother were
talented painters, everyone agreed, so Tim
focused on rock forms, metal and pottery. He
spent most of two years surfing in the mornings
off Neptune and seeking answers and inspiration
in the afternoons.
An old girlfriend dropped by one day with Marie.
They had ridden bikes out from the tree-lined
safety of Torrance. She had a beautiful tan and a
Hawaiian sort of shawl that barely covered her.
After that first day, she came again, often in the
early evening and they would sit on the berm
watching the sun set, make love in the studio on a
mattress no box springs.
You had to choose, USC or UCLA. In his
neighborhood, as a boy, that was step one. After
that it was easy as the seasons melted into one
another – the Dodgers, the Rams and the Lakers.
He was different from his brothers when it came
to games with a ball. He played them all well. By
the time he was in high school he despised the
Reds, the Celtics and especially the Giants
because of what happened to Roseboro.
In the meantime he mastered the ocean, first on
sliding rubber mats, later on the board and later
again, the long board. He’d met the boys down in
El Porto for reefer behind the lifeguard station and
then they’d jump into the water.
Because of his dad and because both his other
brothers were scholarly, Tim picked up some
culture along the way. That’s what he tried to sell
the girls later on. A surfer who knew about Blake,
Rothko and Stravinsky.
“What about her parents, what were they like?”
“Good people,” Tim said. “Bill passed away a
year ago, a hard worker, an engineer in the aircraft
industry. Linda was a homemaker.”
“Not much else to say about them, they were very
“What does that mean?”
“Boring. They liked TV games, cards on the
weekends and sang in the church choir.”
“Different from your house?”
“Radical Chic Hermosa? God yes. No telling who
would show for dinner – actors, playwrights,
musicians, some dead broke after a day at the
“How did Marie feel about your father?”
“Loved him and he adored her.”
After the boys unloaded the truck and Tim paid
them off, he drove back into town. The first week
out of the house he spent at the Marriot in Rancho
Cordova, a city where the suicide rate among
recently separated men in their fifties was eight-
five-point-five percent. To make the point, he had
a beer at the Hooters next door before he packed
his stuff and drove back to the cottage.
It took about the same to get to work in the
morning. But the drive from Amador to his office
in El Dorado Hills was far more scenic. The two-
lane country road bounced and twisted his sedan
between the oaks and rocky brown ranches. The
cottage was outside the service boundaries for the
cable outfit and satellite couldn’t connect. Just as
well, after the Dodger collapse, the Giants
enjoyed another freakish run to the
championships. Meanwhile, the Bruins, which
were touted as a Rose Bowl contender, stumbled
and fumbled. October was no fun.
“How many brothers do you have? Where were
you in the birth order?”
“I’m four years younger than Francis and Nick,
Jimmy, the baby, is four years younger than me.”
“Middle child,” the doctor said to himself,
scribbling another note.
“You told me before that your father was a
disciplinarian – how so?”
“You’d get dropped-kicked if you fouled up,”
Tim said with a smile. “Back of the hand, bang. It
didn’t happen all the time, just when you were out
of line. Different age.”
The doctor seemed to nod. “How did your mother
“She didn’t interfere, shit there were four of us
and someone was always breaking something or
causing some problems.”
“What was she like?”
“Warm, loving, unconditional love,” Tim went
quiet. “She died two years ago too.”
No TV but the public ration station boomed into
the cottage. Classic music during the day. Jazz at
night. Tim had a tendency to isolate, so every day
he tried to make contact with another person.
Work didn’t count, he wondered if sitting with the
doctor would. He found a meeting of the
Democrats of Amador County – must be at least
three of them; he went to a meditation group in
the basement of someone’s home; and he went to
mass on Saturday afternoons.
He would get coffee at the Starbucks and tune-in
the internet. He hid as he watched Japanese porn.
And then spent hours on the dating sites, flashing
by the faces of women, desperate and old.
“Tell me about the breakup, what triggered it?”
“It had been brewing a long time, since the kids
left,” Tim shook his head and looked at the floor.
“We found out, we just don’t like one another
anymore.” He took his time. “She had been
bitching at me for watching too much sports and
then there was this big playoff game and I got all
pissed off and she snapped at me and I got mad,
threw the remote against the couch were she was
sitting and she got up and left the room. The next
day, she’d left me the letter asking for a divorce.”
The doctor waited a moment too. “What made
you love her, what attracted you all those years?”
He thought for a moment. “She loved me, no
matter what else, she loved me.”
“So what happened?”
Another pause. “I think I just used it all up.”
The room went quiet again. The doctor had
Oriental prints on the wall, photos of a wife and
children on his desk, a blinking clock radio
counting down the hour session.
“So what do you think doc – was my father-in-law
a closet Giants fan?”