When Zack, a 60-something, lefty New York psychologist stumbled into my life, offering to take me to brunch – not coffee, but actual food – on the first date, I saw potential. It was fall 2010 and I had just completed a series of bad online dates with guys with vague job descriptions at Starbucks.
Zach was well-educated, which is a huge turn on for me, but also spoke fluent French and painted, giving him this cool, intellectual edge. However, it was when he slipped into therapist’s mode, listening intently while suspending judgment that I, the girl who spent years running circles in therapy, was seduced. “I can see you’re on your way to finding a solution to your problem,” he’d say in his calm, steady way as I vented about my latest concern.
It was a whirlwind two months of dinners, movies and hours of wonderful, deep conversations as we lay in bed and he massaged my back. The rock hard knot at the base of my neck, a result of five years of managing my daughter’s condition, court battles and job stress, finally began to soften. At last I felt relaxed. “I am so glad I met you,” he’d say. I felt the same way.
Then early December it screeched to a half. Zack, apparently, had this itsy bitsy problem with depression, or at least that’s how he presented it me. I suspect, however, manic depression. The week before he fell into his black hole, he was calling and e-mailing nonstop from Vienna, where he was visiting his son. “This is your Austrian lover calling,” he’d say cheerfully from a beer garden or a train station.
He was overly happy and excited, as we discussed a possible trip to Paris in the spring and Christmas plans. Then, as quickly as a summer rain storm rushes in, he went from elated to morose. The minute I heard the flat voice on the other end of the receiver I knew. “You’re depressed, aren’t you?” I asked. He mumbled something or another about the weather and feeling sick.
“How long do you think it will last?” I asked, knowing he becomes incapacitated when depressed, often isolating in his apartment for days and weeks, sometimes months.
“I’ll try to stay in touch,” he said, unconvincingly.
He immediately called back three times after we hung up. Once to apologize, once to babble on about his living situation and the third and final time to stammer: “I really like you.”
“I like you too, Zach,” I quipped, “So why don’t you come over and we’ll cuddle.” I was flippant, but was trying to protect myself.
It would be months before he would resurface.