'You know why you're here?'
I sigh. Loudly. Just how I want to start this off. 'We both know why I'm here. You've read the papers. Let's not start this off talking down to me.'
Therapist is a woman in her mid-40s, reddish brown hair showing the first signs of grey surrounding a sharp, angular face. Looks a bit like a hawk, I think. Maybe an eagle. I stop, trying to figure out if I just said that out loud. Have a hard time telling the difference lately.
She pauses, looks over her notepad at me for two beats. 'Fair enough', writing again. Wonder if she wrote a bad word describing me with three exclamation points next to it. Wouldn't be very professional. If she were professional she would just underline it.
Placing the notepad aside, she leans forward and puts her elbows on her knees; hands together. Looking at me intently, 'For the record, the standard doctor - patient confidentiality exists. Nothing you say in this office will be repeated by me without your consent.'
'Book deal'. Can't help the thought. Everyone is out for something.
I just nod, keeping the cynicism to myself.
'Of course, if I consider you a threat to the public or a crime has been committed, I'm obligated to report things to the proper authorities.'
I ponder the 'threat to the public' comment. After everything that's happened, is it a legitimate concern?
'Each session will last about a half hour, but a lot of that depends on you. Your HMO has already paid for 16 sessions. We may not use all of them. We may need more. We may expand the sessions to an hour if necessary. We'll figure that out as we go along.'
It amuses me how she uses 'we', like I have any say in the matter.
'I'll need you to fill these out before we move on,' handing me a few pieces of paper. I spend the next 15 minutes filling them out. Answering 'No' to a multitude of medical and psychological questions.
'Does heart disease run in your family?'
'Have you or any member of your family ever suffered from depression?'
'Do you have HIV? Do you have Hepatitis C? Do you have any prosthetic limbs?'
'Are you currently on any prescription medication?'
Pages of irrelevancy. Finished, I hand them back.
'You want to talk about that day?', she asks, picking up her yellow legal pad again. Not wasting any time.
'What's to say? Everyone knows all about it.'
'I want to hear what you have to say about it. Newspapers just get the facts right. Often not even that. They rarely get to the heart of the matter.'
This triggers a memory that suddenly makes me want to cry. 'I'm not ready.'
She gives a quick nod. 'Well want do you want to talk about? You married?'
'Just over 5 years now'
'Why does it matter?'
'Don't know if it does or doesn't. That's why I'm asking. Things ok with the marriage?'
I give her a look. Not sure what she sees, but she recoils just a bit. Subtle, but I notice.
'You've been through a very traumatic ordeal,' she says. 'It's normal that some friction may occur with loved ones. Coping with this sort of thing can be stressful on any relationship. Some may lash out, others shut...'
'We're fine,' I interrupt. Too defensive.
She makes a quick note. 'Alright. How about sleep? You sleeping well?'
'Fine.' I haven't slept more than 3 hours a night in more than a month.
'Any bad dreams?'
What am I? Eight years old? 'I don't remember my dreams'. Honesty, at last. It strikes me that the rapid fire delivery of the questions is meant to disarm me. I don't have time to think of the answers, which will bring out the truth. I'm uncomfortable with it's efficiency.
'You never remember your dreams?'
'I remember one from when I was a kid. My brother was walking in the field behind our house and stepped in a mud puddle. But it wasn't a puddle, it was a huge hole and he just disappeared.'
'And nothing. I woke up, realized I was dreaming and he was fine. That was the last dream I can remember.'
She starts writing extensively in the notes. She's debating something with herself and the writing is a cover. I can tell because she's not looking at the pad, but past it. Through it.
She knows I'm going to be difficult and is getting her battle plan together. Better people have tried and failed, lady.
The writing stops and she puts the pad aside. Leans forward, elbows on knees again. Hands together. Her 'I'm your friend' pose. Practiced and perfect.
'You obviously don't want to talk about what happened.'
Wow, she's good.
'But I think you need to talk about want happened.'
A debatable point.
'How does this idea strike you? We can talk about anything you want for the weekly session. Anything at all. The weather, your day at work, people that annoy you, what you want to be doing in 5 years. Anything. But at the end of our session I get to ask you one question about that day. And you must answer me honestly.'
'How would you know I answer honestly?'
'I can usually tell. You lied to me about your sleep and I'm sure I'll be able to tell when you lie to me again.'
Got me there. 'When I lie to you? You a pessimist?'
'I prefer experienced. Everyone lies to me at some point about something. I just need to figure out which matter and which don't.'
'What if I don't want to answer a question you ask?'
'Your choice, but let's be clear. If you don't there is nothing I can do to help you.'
'Help me help you,' I read. The phrase is hanging on the wall above and behind her head in a basic, black frame. Positioned so perfectly it looks like a square thought bubble in a cartoon.
She looks over her shoulder at the embroidered sign hanging on the wall and softly laughs. 'My daughter made it for me in third grade
‘How old is she now?’
She gives me a skeptical look. ‘You said I could talk about anything I wanted,' I say.
‘If I answer, this means we have a deal?’
I consider, finally nod.
‘She just started high school. And since our time is nearly up, it's time for my question. You ready?'
'Ready as I'll ever be', I answer, wondering if she can tell I'm lying with that answer or that my stomach just turned sour.
'Did you witness any of the killings?'
This angers me immediately. She's no fool. She's read the papers and knows what I've done. The news got those facts right, at least.
She catches the build up and backtracks. Hands up, palms out as an apology; a mock surrender. 'Sorry, sorry, I meant before that. Before everything happened. Did you see any of what happened before....'
That even she can't say it dissipates my rage. The question is clear and I slowly shake my head. 'They would take them out of the room when it was time'.
'Did you hear anything?'
I take an obvious look at the clock.
‘Time’s up,’ getting to my feet. ‘And that was two questions.’