Ray entered the community center meeting room and sat on one of the hard metal folding chairs set up at the far end of the small meeting room. He didn’t want any of the free crappy coffee or day old muffins placed out on the folding table. This was his fourth meeting and he’d yet to say anything to anyone. He knew there was something wrong with him but he just wasn’t sure how to articulate it. He didn’t really think this group was helping with his obsession.
“Okay, I think we’ve got a good size today, it’s after 6:00 so let’s begin”, said the volunteer counselor.
The counselor looked at the 13 faces now staring back at him and smiled at each one. Ray thought the counselor was running these meetings for school credit or something. He was wiry and nerdy and balding and was probably having a terrible time in the dating world. There was no money in volunteering with people that were obsessive. Ray wondered if any women found the counselor even the slightest bit attractive. Ray chuckled, imagining the counselor driving around town in a used 1990’s Hyundai trying to pick up the chicks.
“Ray, something amusing you tonight”, asked the counselor.
Ray was startled and quit smirking.
“No. I was just thinking about something. No”, said Ray.
“Why don’t you share it with the group? We’ve yet to hear anything from you”, said the counselor.
Ray frowned. He should have guessed that his luck wouldn’t hold out. He figured he could get through these meetings without having to participate. He was only going because his family was worried about him. Ray figured it was an issue he could handle on his own so the meetings were only for appearances.
“I’m not sure I’m really ready to share”, said Ray.
“I think you are Ray. You’ve had an opportunity to listen to everyone’s issues now they should have a chance to hear yours, maybe they can help”, said the counselor.
Ray looked at the group. It was a sorry bunch of cat lady’s, sex offenders and stalkers. He didn’t feel like he was anything like these people. The counselor was nodding at Ray, trying to encourage him to participate. Ray sighed and cleared his throat.
“I’m in love with love”, said Ray.
“Can you explain that a little further Ray”, asked the counselor.
Ray shifted in his folding chair. His butt was starting to go numb.
“I said that I’m in love with love. I fall in love with women too quickly and I imagine a lifetime together; kids, a house, growing old and dying. I do this with almost every woman I meet. I want so badly to be in love with someone that I romanticize every part of our relationship, even casual friendly relationships, until I drive her away. I obsess over the object of my affection to the point that they aren’t comfortable being around me and they run away. The rejection is intolerable. It sends me into a deep depression, so I look for someone else to fall in love with, who then also rejects me, which makes me more depressed, which again, makes me look for love”.
The counselor nodded and sat back in his own folding chair. The metal made a squeak that sort of disrupted Ray.
“Sorry”, said the counselor, “So let me be clear. You are obsessed with being in a relationship?”
“Yes, essentially, yes”, said Ray. “I want it so badly. I want a woman to love me so badly and I put all this pressure on myself to try and make her love me. She never even knows what kind of inner turmoil I’m going through as I try to play cool and aloof outside”.
Ray felt a little lighter. He’d never really said it out loud to anyone. He’d always just stared at his own reflection on drunken nights, whining about his loneliness and failures as a man to find a woman to love him.
“What does your obsession entail Ray”, asked the counselor.
“I think about these women. I think about them too much. I imagine too much about them. I get upset thinking about them out with other men like a jealous boyfriend might. When in reality, I’m not even their boyfriend. In fact, most of the times the women don’t even know how I feel about them, or if they do, I’ve already made them too uncomfortable to even speak with me. So I think about them and I can’t sleep. I can’t get up off my couch because I’m wishing so much the girl was there with me. I can barely tolerate my family parties because I’m always there solo. I can’t stand to see other couples together when I’m so alone”.
“Have you been hurt by a lot of women Ray”, asked the counselor.
Ray thought for a short while. He remembered high school girlfriends. Girls he knew in College. Girls he knew after college. The loves he’d had in his life. The many relationships with women he’d had as a grown man.
“Yes. I think I have been hurt by a lot of women. I love women though. Even through all the hurt I’ve had to deal with. I still love them”, said Ray.
“Do you have a healthy relationship with any women in your life”, asked the counselor.
“Healthy? No. I don’t think I do”.
The counselor leaned back again and looked at the half interested group.
“Does anyone have anything to add or to say to Ray about his obsession”, he asked.
Ray looked at the faces of the group and no one had anything to say. Ray looked at the counselor.
“Let’s give Ray a hand for sharing with us today and hopefully, over time, we can help Ray beat his obsession”, said the counselor as he led a small applause. “Now, Mary, last week you were talking to us about your 47 cats. Have you made any progress on saying good-bye to them”, he asked.
Ray blinked and sat back. He felt a heaviness return to his shoulders and imagined his current obsession telling him she loved him and everything would be alright. He closed his eyes as Mary said she hadn’t gotten rid of any of her cats. She’d gotten more.