‘Welcome back’ she says, as I take my seat.
‘Gee, thanks’. Sarcasm my art; the world my canvass.
‘How are you doing today?’
‘Feel like a zombie’. Not sure why I lie to her. The truth is I’ve felt like glass the last few days. Thin. Fragile. Transparent.
‘Still not sleeping?’ Interesting she brings up my first lie in response to this one.
‘Not really. Did you know night time TV sucks?’
‘So I’ve heard. I usually stay up late doing work, not watching television.’
‘Show off’. When she laughs I realize I said this out loud. Whoops.
‘You have your question of the day ready?’ I ask
‘I do. You want it now?’
‘No, no….wait until the end.’
She gives me a half nod. Head down, then straight at me again. ‘So what did you want to talk about today? Catch anything good on your night owl TV?’
‘No, it’s horrible stuff. Find myself watching west coast baseball games a lot.’
‘You like baseball?’
‘No, fucking hate it! Oh, sorry..’
‘Curse all you want. This is your space.’
I cringe at that. Therapists try to make you feel at home and comfortable in order to get you to open up. I don’t want to be comfortable or open up. I want to get these sessions over with and leave.
Instead of expressing that, I offer a half hearted, quiet ‘Thanks’.
‘So, if you don’t like baseball, why are you watching it?’
I shrug. ‘I’m hoping the boredom will put me to sleep.’
‘Nope. But I have discovered that California has a crap load of baseball teams. Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco. L.A. has two! Why does a city need two teams?’
‘They have two basketball teams, too.’
‘They even play in the same building.’
‘Wait, do they ever play each other?’
‘I would think they must.’
‘So when they play each other, who is the home team?’
‘I’m not sure.’
‘I wonder about New York, too. Does everyone root for the Yankees and Mets? Or do you pick one when you’re growing up?’
‘I think they’re based in different neighborhoods, so the city is usually divided.’
‘So, if the Yankees win the World Series, the Met fans don’t celebrate?’
‘I supposed some would, but I don’t think the fans like each other much.’
Therapist waits half a minute while I mull over the social ramifications. ‘Is there anything you like about baseball?’
‘Some things. It’s such a strange sport. It seems to take a long time to get ready. Each hitter spends time preparing themselves for each and every pitch. It can be so frustrating waiting for them. I notice some take longer than others. They’ll step away and adjust things, then step back in, then the pitcher throws, then the guy steps out again….’
‘But, when things happen they happen quickly and suddenly. You could be watching a deadly boring game and suddenly there are three hits in a row and the crowd is going crazy. Out of nowhere. I can see how people get wrapped up in it. Do you think people actually watch baseball games or do they keep it on in the background and watch when the exciting parts happen?’
‘I’m sure there are some that watch for the game itself and some that only watch the highlights.’ A cop out. She doesn’t know.
‘I can tell when something interesting is happening by the tone of the announcer. They get loud, it means you should pay attention.’
‘What else do you like?’
‘You can always win.’
‘I saw the San Fran team….A’s?’
‘Giants, I think’
‘Giants….score three runs in the last inning to win it a few nights ago. Teams can always come back. Doesn’t matter how far down they are. I like that there is no time limit. The game only ends when it ends. No clock to tell you how much time is left.’
I wait for some nugget of wisdom, but get nothing. Just the sound of Therapist scribbling notes.
So I say, ‘I’m thinking I should get HBO. Maybe I can catch up on the Sopranos or something.’
‘You really want to talk about your cable options?’
‘Actually, I’d rather be sitting on a beach somewhere relaxing. But I’m here and need to fill up 30 minutes of talk time.’
‘Then you’re wasting both of our time.’ She doesn’t say it angrily or mean. Matter of fact-like.
I take offense anyway. My trigger has been lightning quick regarding anything recently and this is no exception.
‘Well then ask your fucking question so we can both get on with better things!’ Staring her down. ‘You want to know if I heard anything? You asked that last week.’
‘What do you want to get out of this?’
‘That your question?’
‘A question. Not THE question. This one doesn’t have anything to do with that day.’
‘Everything about me has to do with that day. It’s the day that’s defined me. Haven’t you heard?’
‘You seem to be having trouble coming to grips with your celebrity.’
‘Celebrity. That’s an odd word to use.’
‘It fits.’ Hard to argue that.
‘So?’ Therapist still expecting an answer. ‘What do you want out of this?’
‘I thought you were supposed to get things out of me.’
‘That’s not how it works. If you can’t get anything out of this, then we really are wasting time.’
‘What can you give me?’
‘I can give you tools to deal with things.’
‘Tools.’ Screwdriver? Hammer? Maybe a drill to bore out the memories.
We’re both quiet for a minute. Something strikes me. ‘I want my routine back.’
Her eyebrows raise, ‘Your routine?’
‘Yeah. I want my daily routine back. Getting up, shower, breakfast, taking the train to work, coffee in the office, work, train home, dinner. My routine. I want to be able to do that again. Hell I'd like to just be able to go to the grocery store like a normal person.’
‘You can’t do that now?’
‘Not without major distractions.’
‘What sort of distractions?’
‘People recognizing me. I've noticed the looks and pointing. Some have even come up to congratulate me. And, the…’
‘The…I don’t know what they are…sensations. Memories, I think. I can’t explain it.’
‘It’s like this. I’m talking to someone or walking down the street and I’m suddenly scared shitless. For no reason. I’m terrified. I can’t move or breath and I feel like…like…I can feel the gun.’
‘Feel it how?’
‘The weight of it. How it felt. Much heavier than I thought. And warm. I always thought a gun would be cold to touch. Metal, you know….but it was warm. I never thought it would be warm. ’
‘What do you do when this happens?’
‘Nothing. I just stop for a minute, hold my breath and then it’s just goes away.’
‘How often does it happen?’
‘Twice so far. Wait, is this part of your question?’
She smiles a bit. ‘I haven’t even asked it yet’
‘Well, go ahead and ask,’ I say, mentally kicking myself. ‘Time’s running down. You want to know if I heard anything, right?’
‘No. My question is this: If you could change one thing about that day, what would it be? It can only be one thing.’
‘Besides calling in sick?’ I attempt to laugh but it comes out a humorless, harsh bark. She doesn’t laugh. Doesn’t blink or move. Just stares at me.
Honesty. Right. Be honest.
‘I would have done it sooner.’
A blink, ‘Sooner?’
‘Yes. Everything I wound up doing, I would have done right at the start.’
She says nothing, but looks stricken. Like I just told her I killed my own baby.
‘How could you possibly think that would have helped?’ she asks.
‘If I started earlier,’ I reply, ‘more people would be alive.’
I wait. Ten seconds. Twenty. Thirty and she still says nothing.
‘Can I go now?’