Deep in the Act
First Published on Chaleuria
Gao Zhun did not move. Fang Chi did not force him either; he simply began sliding his hands down the luxurious fabric of Gao Zhun’s trousers. After cupping Gao Zhun’s knees for a moment, his hands roamed over Gao Zhun’s calves and circled his ankles. They were about to retrace their paths and make their way up those legs again when Gao Zhun cracked. He had tried his best to cooperate with Fang Chi’s method, but the feeling of those hands moving upwards was too much for him to bear. He grabbed Fang Chi’s hands and stopped them from going any further as he pleaded, “No… no more…”
“Why are you shaking?” Fang Chi asked.
“I don’t know.”
“I’m not! I really don’t know why!”
Gao Zhun started pushing and shoving at Fang Chi. Despite his initial surprise at Gao Zhun’s reaction, Fang Chi soon recognized this as a form of opportunity and began to make a show of fighting back. Yet, although Fang Chi used very little force, Gao Zhun’s reactions were violent and exaggerated. Like a fish lifted out of water in a net, Gao Zhun struggled blindly and desperately in Fang Chi’s arms. Scratches appeared on Fang Chi’s brow, and punches landed squarely on his face, but he hung on to Gao Zhun’s wrists and flipped him around. Then, leaning in with all his weight, he pressed Gao Zhun firmly to the wall.
Tears rolled down Gao Zhun’s face as he lost the strength to fight against Fang Chi. Slowly, tension drained from Fang Chi’s body and he began to relax. “Tell me,” he asked between labored breaths, “how did you feel?”
Unable to speak, Gao Zhun answered Fang Chi with nothing more than his trembling back, tremor after tremor rippling across the panes of his back again and again. Supporting Gao Zhun by the waist, Fang Chi turned him around with a gentle touch. For as long as he lived, Fang Chi would never forget – could never forget – how Gao Zhun looked in this very moment: like the finest velvet that had been torn to bits, and the dust of crystal glass thoroughly shattered on the floor, Gao Zhun was utterly devastated. Yet, through the wreckage on his tear-stained face, Fang Chi saw a flash of coy, child-like petulance. He rushed to wipe away Gao Zhun’s tears, repeating again and again, “It’s okay. Everything’s alright now.”
But Gao Zhun’s tears kept falling, as if they would never stop. They pooled in Fang Chi’s hands and trickled down his wrist. Increasingly anxious, Fang Chi pulled Gao Zhun into his arms again, just like the other night, and tried to calm him down with long, slow strokes down his back. “I’m sorry. I only wanted to find out what happened to you.”
At this, Gao Zhun burrowed further into Fang Chi’s embrace, as if he were trying to bury himself. Fang Chi sighed and tried to comfort the hot, expensively-clothed body in his arms. “Can you tell me how you’re feeling right now?”
“You’re too cruel…” Gao Zhun’s voice seemed to echo against his chest. “It feels as if you’re trying to strip me bare.”
Missing the implication of Gao Zhun’s words, Fang Chi replied, “I promise I will never treat you like this again, or make you shed another tear.”
“I’ve already shed far too many of them…”
Fang Chi was suddenly struck with inspiration as he recalled a common technique in Gestalt1 therapy. “Imagine that you are one of your tears – what would you say right now?”
“I would say…” Gao Zhun began in a nasal murmur, “Catch me please. Anyone. Hold me, and keep me close, even if it means drying me up with the heat of your body!”
The extent of his despair caught Fang Chi by surprise. “Do you feel unwanted?”
Gao Zhun nodded. “Mother only wants me to make her proud. As for Linlin… Prada and LV are the only things she needs.”
“There is too much negativity in you,” Fang Chi replied. He noticed the common characteristics between the two people whom Gao Zhun had deemed important to him: they were both female, and both projected their feelings onto him instead of engaging him in any kind of meaningful communication of feelings. “Let’s imagine that you are your tie. What would you say?”
Gao Zhun seemed to have calmed down. His cheek nestled quietly against Fang Chi’s chest, unwilling to budge from its spot. “I think this is what I would say: Doctor Fang may be Gao Zhun’s protector now, but once he steps out of this room, I will be the only one who can protect him.”
“You think that we are competitors, your tie and I?” Fang Chi asked, laughing.
“No, it is your replacement.” Gao Zhun paused and thought for a moment before continuing, “It’s impossible for every day to be Wednesday, isn’t it?”
It was Fang Chi’s turn to be silent. He had always known that his words and actions as a therapist could have a huge impact on his patients, but he never realized the true magnitude of his influence until now. He probed further, “In the practice just now, I came into physical contact with almost every part of your body. Which point of contact was most unbearable for you?”
Soothed by the knowledge that they were alone in the room, Gao Zhun felt emboldened to say whatever it was that came to his mind. “If it’s you – I feel as if I can accept your touch on any part of my body.”
A sudden, inexplicable emotion – overwhelming in its heat and intensity – erupted within Fang Chi. He knew neither its source, nor the reason he was feeling this way. All he knew was that it was a sense of tremendous satisfaction – a kind of euphoria that went straight to his head and made him giddy. “Really?” The moment he began speaking, Fang Chi knew that he had made a mistake: he was no longer speaking as a therapist, but as a man trying to achieve his selfish ends. “In comparison to Zuo Linlin… am I more important to you?”
Gao Zhun felt the arms around him tighten just a little. “I think so… yes.”
It took a long while before Gao Zhun’s words finally sank in. Fang Chi began to feel as if the body in his embrace was not a patient, but a precious pet or a prized possession that was completely at the mercy of his whims and desires. After taking a moment to rein in his raging emotions, Fang Chi continued, “Just now, you reacted more strongly when I touched your waist and legs. Why do you think that is the case?”
Gao Zhun fell silent again. Fang Chi rephrased his question, “Imagine becoming your legs – what would you like to say to my hands?”
“Slow down. Give me time.”
“What if they were someone else’s hands?”
Gao Zhun’s body tensed immediately at the suggestion. “Don’t touch me!”
Shutting his eyes, Fang Chi issued a warning to himself: Stop directing your emotions onto your patient – stop treating your patient as your personal property – this is too dangerous. Yet, the very next moment, he lifted Gao Zhun’s face and asked with feigned affection, “I want to touch your legs again. May I?”
Gao Zhun was incapable of saying no to him, Fang Chi knew; it was a form of learned behavior that had become ingrained in Gao Zhun as a result of Fang Chi’s methods. Trembling, Gao Zhun watched as Fang Chi squatted down again and closed his hand around one of his ankles. Then, it began moving upward along his calf, at a slower pace than before, and with much more force.
“Your muscles are fighting me because of the memories inscribed in your body.” Fang Chi forced his hand between Gao Zhun’s clenched knees as he continued, “Now, I want them to remember my hand – remember that my touch is harmless.”
Gao Zhun was positively quaking now; he was forcing himself to endure the experience with everything he had. The heat from Fang Chi’s hand, resting on his thigh, seemed to have seared through the fabric of his trousers. He felt the skin under Fang Chi’s hand begin to burn from the touch, reminding him of that night – of his helplessness and all that pain… Just as he was about to cry out, Fang Chi stopped abruptly. He got to his feet and returned to his table as he concluded the session, “That’s all for today, Mr. Gao. I will see you again next Wednesday.”
Gao Zhun was stunned. Like a neglected but well-trained puppy, Gao Zhun picked up his bag meekly and began to leave. When he reached the door, he turned and asked, “May I… increase my sessions to twice a week?”
“My schedule is full. You will have to wait,” Fang Chi replied with a smile.
Thus, the session ended in disappointment for Gao Zhun. Fang Chi, however, seemed rather pleased. Just as he was preparing to leave for the day, he received a call from Zuo Linlin. “Charles, Gao Zhun has been in a pretty good state lately. Would you like to meet up? We’d like to thank you in person as well.”
Since Gao Zhun had never mentioned such plans to him, Fang Chi guessed that this was entirely Zuo Linlin’s idea. “I’ll have to say no, Linlin. You know that therapists should never become involved in their patients’ personal lives.”
“Not even a meal on the weekend? Or just meeting up for some shopping? It’s been such a long time since I last watched a movie!” Once again, she was speaking in that same coquettish and assertive tone that she had always used against him.
Strangely, however, Fang Chi noticed that her control over him had diminished. It took him little effort to turn her down resolutely, “Thank you for the thought, but I’ll pass on this one after all.”
- Gestalt therapy: A psychotherapy approach that helps clients/patients focus on the present and understand what is happening in their lives right now. It encourages clients/patients to experience their feelings about past situations rather than simply talking about them, often through some form of re-enactment. Therapists may experiment with various techniques that can help bring the struggles to life in the therapeutic setting, e.g. dream work, guided fantasy, role-playing, confrontation, etc.