The Hypnotist's Love Story(8)


by Liane Moriarty

He thinks he’s pretty good in bed. It was his wife’s fault. She once told him that he was an “extraordinary lover.” And then she died. So every word she ever said became like the Word of God. The Word of Colleen.

Colleen once told Patrick that the laundry powder should be fully dissolved in the washing machine before you put in the clothes, even though most people just chuck it in on top of the clothes. But Colleen said the clothes wash better if the powder is fully dissolved. And so it was. I still do it, for Christ’s sake. Even though it’s annoying, because you have to wait until the machine fills up with water and sometimes I walk away and forget about it, and then I suddenly realize I’ve done half a load without any clothes in the machine.

He was actually pretty good in bed. He probably still is. Probably still says the same things, makes all the same moves.

I think of him lying in bed with her, breathing in her sandalwood smells, running his hands over her smooth, toxin-free skin.

I would like to see. I would like to be there, sitting at the end of the bed, watching him bend his head toward her nipple. Her br**sts are larger than mine. I guess that’s nice for him.

I wonder if she hypnotizes him for free.

Her voice sounds like warm honey dripping off a spoon.

They saw that Russell Crowe movie last night. It was pretty good. He should have known what was going to happen, because the movie was based on the series we used to watch on a Monday night. I wondered if he remembered and I thought, I bet he doesn’t, so I sent him a text reminding him.

Afterward, they went for dinner at that Thai restaurant on the corner where he told me he loved me for the first time.

I wonder if they sat at the same table.

I wonder if he remembered, just for a second. Surely I am worth a fleeting thought.

I couldn’t get a table. They must have had a reservation—she must have done it, he would never bother. So I went to a café and I wrote him a letter, just trying to explain, to make him see, and I left it on the windscreen of his car.

I am looking forward to my next appointment with the hypnotist.

Chapter 3

“As man imagines himself to be, so shall he be, and he is that which he imagines.” So said Paracelsus in the fifteenth century. The idea of the power of the mind is not new, ladies and gentlemen. Good morning.

—Introduction to a speech given by Ellen O’Farrell to

the Northern Beaches Rotary Club August Breakfast,

sadly unheard by the majority of the audience due

to a malfunctioning microphone

We should go,” yawned Ellen.

“We really should,” yawned Patrick.

Neither of them moved.

It was nearly eleven o’clock on a Thursday night and they were lying flat on their backs on a picnic rug on a grassy slope directly under the Harbour Bridge. Earlier, they’d been to the theater in Kirribilli and seen a silly play. They’d eaten dinner at a tiny, crowded noodle bar, and then they’d walked along the boardwalk by the harbor, watching the traffic zoom over the bridge while the lit-up ferries slid beneath. They’d agreed tonight would be an early night, and that Patrick wouldn’t come back to her place, because a teenage neighbor was looking after Patrick’s son, and she had a uni lecture early the next day, so he didn’t want to keep her up too late—but still, neither of them wanted the night to end.

They’d been dating now for three weeks and everything still had that shiny new-car smell. Even the yawny voices they were using right now still had that self-conscious sheen: Look, this is how I sound when I’m tired!

“Have you got a busy day tomorrow?” asked Patrick.

“Just an average day,” said Ellen. “Five appointments. That’s enough for me. I find if I do any more, I get really, well, exhausted.”

She was aware of a feeling of defensiveness left over from her most recent relationship. Jon’s contempt for her profession had always been subtle: a faint fragrance she couldn’t quite identify, and therefore couldn’t ever tackle head-on. He was an even more passionately committed atheist than her mother. (The God Delusion was his favorite book.) “Show me the empirical evidence” was one of his favorite phrases. Whenever Ellen talked about her work, Jon would put his head to one side and give her a patient, avuncular smile, as if she were a charming little girl burbling on about fairy princesses. Then he’d make some humorous, teasing remark that didn’t go quite as far as denying the existence of fairy princesses but was there for the entertainment of any nearby adults. “Ellen has a Bachelor of Hypnotherapy,” he would tell people, which was his sarcastic way of pointing out that Ellen didn’t have a degree, because of course, there was no such thing. (She’d enrolled to do psychology and then dropped out halfway through her second semester to study hypnotherapy. Her mother was still in mourning.)

It wasn’t until after she and Jon had broken up that Ellen saw how she’d struggled to hold on to herself throughout their time together. It was like every time she spoke, she was simultaneously trying not to take herself too seriously—Hey, I can handle a little gentle ribbing!—while at the same time justifying her whole existence: Yes, it is OK to be me. Yes, I do believe in myself and what I’m saying. I am not a frivolous lightweight, except maybe I am.

“Is it draining because…” Patrick scratched the side of his jaw and frowned up at the stars. “Ah, why, that is, how exactly is it draining?”

He was respectfully baffled.

“I guess it’s because I can’t ever just coast,” said Ellen. “I have to be totally focused on the client. I never use prepared scripts. I tailor every induction—”

“Induction?”

“That’s whatever technique I use to induce hypnosis—like, imagining you’re walking down a flight of stairs, or progressively relaxing your body. I tailor it to the client’s interest or background—whether they’re more visual or analytical, or whatever.”

“Do you have some tricky clients?” Patrick rolled over on his side and rested his head in the palm of his hand. “Ones who are hard to hypnotize?”

“Nearly everyone can be hypnotized to some degree,” said Ellen. “But some people have more of a talent for it, I guess, because they’re imaginative and they’ve got the ability to really focus and visualize.”

“Huh,” said Patrick. “I wonder if I’ve got the talent for it.”