There Are Oceans Between Us

Rachel Newcombe

Brian McHenry

        Remember when we were at the no-host cocktail party in that fancy hotel in Chicago and you came up to me and asked if I would like to join you for dinner later that night?

        “Want to go out for sushi with me?” I think it was sushi.

        I tell you 8 p.m. is too late for dinner.

        You look a bit surprised I turn down your invitation.

        Then I say, “You could join me for breakfast tomorrow morning at 7 a.m.”

        You tell me that 7 a.m. is way too early.

        We talk a bit more then each go our own way and continue to mingle with the crowd of psychoanalysts.

        I leave the cocktail party early and go up to my room. I have the coveted one bedroom penthouse suite because the first room they assign me smells. There’s a king size bed with loads of pillows and a separate living room. There’s also a fancy marble bathroom with a real deep tub and a tray of soaps and body scrubs.

        We will both present papers this weekend.

        You, a psychoanalyst from L.A.

        Me, a psychoanalyst from New York.

        You will deliver a paper about your analyst. I will be on a panel talking about an erotic dream and the transference/countertransference matrix.

        The next morning I get up early and make a cup of coffee in a fancy coffee maker and bring it back to bed. I like propping up all the pillows and feeling cocooned by weight of the down blanket.

        The phone rings.

        “Hi. Okay I’ll meet you for breakfast in the hotel restaurant in fifteen minutes,” you say to me.

        It’s 6:45 a.m.

        You got up early.



        Eating breakfast with someone you are just getting to know is a bit awkward. Formal and clunky.

        Here are the details I remember.

        You order tea.

        I order coffee.

        You have eggs and potatoes. Maybe toast.

        I have yogurt and fruit. Maybe granola.

        Conversation feels like a warm up before a run. We set our pace.

        Cautious. Questions asked with a delicacy.

        “Do you know _________?” you ask me.

        “Yes, I do.” I answer.

        Both of us are silent, probably tinkering with our silverware or sipping our tea and coffee. Something is happening before either of us speak. In the moments of quiet which we will later refer to when people ask how we met. That open empty space. Not rushing to speak. A shared transitional object, unspoken gems. Assessing. Trying to figure out if we can trust each other. What are the signs?

        One of us, probably you, breaks the silence. Well, you can’t actually break a silence, isn’t the more apt expression words enter the silence, anyhow, you find the words to let me know that the person in question is problematic for you.

        “Really?” I ask.

        You nod.

        “Me too,” I say.

        Everything tilts. Later, we both agree that this is our moment.

        It reminds me of one other friendship. We are at a dinner party, conversation is ricocheting in aimless directions and then you speak, “Fine bone china keeps tea warmer than an enamel mug.” Fellow guests look clueless. I know exactly what you mean. I love you so much in that moment. Those words, spoken at just the right time, the key to our friendship.



        I once had a Newfie named Rosie. When we were out and about people would comment on her beauty and ask to pet her. I could tell you all the fuss bothered me. But it didn’t. It was cool how everyone admired her. Rosie had a bumpy adjustment to life and canine etiquette in the Pacific Northwest. One time she and her new dog walker almost got a ticket because of an impromptu swim in the fountain at Seattle Center. In New York City with Riverside Park as our backyard, we didn’t encounter fountain temptations during our walks.

        What I just wrote seems tangential, right? Well, it kind of is and it kind of isn’t. Soon enough I will learn that you can be tangential too. But I don’t know this as we are having our first breakfast together. You sipping your tea. Me sipping my coffee.

        Now I’m the writer who mistook a coyote for a German Shepherd.



        Sometimes I’m afraid if I tell you all my faults you’ll decide that my friendship comes with too high of a price. And sometimes I want you to know all these faults and still be willing to pay that price.

        I have a plan.

        I will make a list of my flaws and send them to you. It’ll be a snapshot of me, the kind that you’d take with an old Polaroid camera.

        I’ll get a sheet of graph paper. (I like to write in those tiny boxes.) and I’ll get one of my Staedtler triplus fineliner pens, maybe the dark blue one, and I’ll begin my list.



  1. I will want to talk to you a lot
  2. I might get jealous of your other friends
  3. I
  4. I am competitive
  5. I am judgmental   insecure
  6. I will wonder if you really like me
  7. I might will get jealous of your other friends



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Words refusing to comply

A geography of revelations

Our genders tumble and sway

Borrowing time


The disquiet when narratives revolt

Call me

Will you save me a seat?

I need to talk

Call me


Kenny’s Castaways on Bleecker Street


The Roches

Ramona Quimby + bell hooks + Trixie Belden

Maxine Greene

The Dialect of Freedom


Frolicking in a sea of free associations


Eagle Island


Orcas Island


Oh island of my desire



        As I sail close to an arbitrary ending I resist tying loose threads that might provide coherence.

        I leave in place my mixed metaphors. I resist crossing out phrases that leave traces of narcissism or self-doubt. I make peace with unruly punctuation.

        Instead I will write with abandon trying to get up close to what matters, trying to write what I don’t know yet.

        I board your ferry, black birds flying overhead and behold the luck to have stumbled upon your art. Transparent and layered and possessing that wordless quality that makes me linger.

I want to leave white space.        Offering room        for readers to enter with us.



Rachel Newcombe

Rachel Newcombe is a psychoanalyst on Orcas Island and Seattle, Washington. Her writing has appeared in Contemporary Psychoanalysis, The Psychoanalytic Review, Other/Wise, Fort Da, Psychoanalytic Perspectives, The Rumpus and Hippocampus. In Seattle she co-leads Dogs Desire Writing Collective, a creative non-fiction writing group for therapists.

Brian McHenry

Brian McHenry is a freelance illustrator currently living on the north-east coast of Ireland. Using mostly pencil and paper, he sees his work as an attempt to explore the physical and emotional landscapes we inhabit during the act of remembering.