I don’t know why I keep going back to Sigfrid von Shrink. My appointment with him is always on a Wednesday afternoon, and he doesn’t like it if I drink or dope before then. So it blows the whole day. I pay a lot for those days. You don’t know what it costs to live the way I live. My apartment over Washington Square is eighteen thousand dollars a month. My residence taxes to live under the Big Bubble come to another three thousand plus. (It doesn’t cost that much to stay on Gateway!) I’ve got some pretty hefty charge accounts for furs, wine, lingerie, jewelry, flowers. Sigfrid says I try to buy love. All right, I do. What’s wrong with that? I can afford it. And that’s not mentioning what Full Medical costs me.
Sigfrid, though, comes free. I’m covered by the Full Medical for psychiatric therapy, any variety I like; I could have group grope or internal massage for the same price, namely nothing. I kid him about that sometimes. “Even considering that you’re just a bag of rusty bolts,” I say, “you’re not much good. But your price is right.”
He asks, “Does that make you feel that you yourself are more valuable, if you say that I’m not?”
“Then why do you insist on reminding yourself that I’m a machine? Or that I don’t cost anything? Or that I cannot transcend my programming?”
“I guess you just piss me off, Sigfrid.” I know that won’t satisfy him, so I explain it. “You ruined my morning. This friend, S. Ya. Lavorovna, stayed over last night. She’s something.” So I tell Sigfrid a little bit about what S. Ya. is like, including what she is like walking away from me in stretch pants with that long dirtygold hair hanging down to her waist.
“She sounds very nice,” Sigfrid comments.
“Bet your bolts. Only thing is, she wakes up slow in the morning. Just when she was getting lively again I had to leave my summer place, up over Tappan Sea, and come down here.”
“Do you love her, Rob?”
The answer is no, so I want him to think it’s yes. I say, “No.”
“I think that’s an honest answer, Rob,” he says, approvingly, and disappointingly. “Is that why you’re angry with me?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Just in a bad mood, I guess.”
“Can you think of any reasons why?”
He waits me out, so after a while I say, “Well, I took a licking at roulette last night.”
“More than you can afford?”
“Christ! No.” But it’s annoying, all the same. There are other things, too. It’s getting toward that chilly time of year. My place over Tappan Sea isn’t under the Bubble, so sitting out on the porch with S. Ya. for brunch wasn’t such a good idea. I don’t want to mention this to Sigfrid. He would say something wholly rational like, well, why didn’t I have my lunch served indoors? And I would just have to tell him all over again that when I was a kid it was my dream to own a summer place over Tappan Sea and have brunch on the porch, looking out over it. They’d just dammed the Hudson then, when I was about maybe twelve. I used to dream a lot about Making It Big and living in the style of The Rich Folks. Well, he’s heard all that.
Sigfrid clears his throat. “Thank you, Rob,” he says, to let me know that the hour is over. “Will I see you next week?”
“Don’t you always?” I say, smiling. “How the time flies. Actually I wanted to leave a little early today.”
“Did you, Rob?”
“I have another date with S. Ya.,” I explain. “She’s coming back up to the summer place with me tonight. Frankly, what she’s going to do is better therapy than what you do.”
He says, “Is that all you want out of a relationship, Robbie?”
“You mean, just sex?” The answer in this case is no, but I don’t want him to know just what it is I do want out of my relationship with S. Ya. Lavorovna. I say, “She’s a little different from most of my girlfriends, Sigfrid. She has about as much clout as I do, for one thing. Has a damn good job. I admire her.”
Well, I don’t, particularly. Or rather, I don’t care much about whether I admire her or not. S. Ya. has one trait that impresses me even more than possessing the sweetest rear view that God ever laid on a human female. Her damn good job is in information handling. She went to the Akademogorsk University, she was a fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Machine Intelligence, and she teaches graduate students in the AI department at NYU. She knows more about Sigfrid than Sigfrid knows about himself, and that suggests interesting possibilities to me.