"Today is the last daily session for you."
"Yeah, and no offense, but I'm really relieved about it."
"Is it hard for you to think about going home?"
"No, not at all. I'm looking forward to it, to be able to see my kids again. It's been a long week."
"Let's use this session to clean up some questions about the previous sessions. Is that okay?"
"I guess. Is it going to help me somehow?"
"I believe a change of pace would be good. I think it will allow me to direct our future sessions more clearly."
"Well, if it's going to help. What do we need to do?"
"Would it be more relaxing if I did it more as a question and answer session today? That way, we can focus or redirect if something gets too intense or painful for you."
"I think that would be okay. What would you like to clear up first?"
"Our first sessions were so disconnected emotionally that I have some questions about the nature of your relationship with Devon. How you met, how the relationship progressed, things like that."
"Um, well, we've known each other since he was five and I was four..."
The moving truck had come and gone by the time we got back from our vacation to Seattle to see my grandparents. The former owner had moved to a nursing home the previous spring after a bad fall, and his son remodeled the old Craftsman house and put it up for sale. We all missed him a lot; he was the funny old grandpa on the block. He had been a retired teacher and used to babysit for me and Alyssa when our parents went out for the rare date night. I was curious to see who would move in next.
Dad took Alyssa in and put her to bed; she had gotten motion sickness in the car and was tired. Mom and I went outside to check the mail. Outside, on the front lawn, a dark-haired boy was driving his Matchbox cars on the long, flat drive in front of the house. My mom looked over at the fair-haired woman on the front porch and waved. The fair-haired woman waved us over, and we crossed the street.
I lingered on the sidewalk while my mom made the introductions. While the women chatted and made small talk, the dark-haired boy came running over to me. He had ruddy cheeks and a sweet smile. I hung back, shy and unsure, but that didn't deter him, as it had so many other kids my age.
"Hi, I'm Devon. This is my new house!" He stuck his sunbrowned hand out to me, offering me a white Corvette. "Wanna play cars with me?"
"Um, okay," I said, shy smile spreading across my face. I followed him over to the walkway where he had drawn a very elaborate race track in chalk. We spent that afternoon and the next, vrooming and honking our way around the course, pausing only to draw new streets or add buildings. We were pretty much inseperable after that, running back and forth between our houses all summer.
"Did you favor one house over the other as you grew up--did you spend more time at your house or over at his?"
"Devon was always the leader. Kids were drawn to him like flies, and so we spent a lot of time doing things his way--which meant at his house."
"How about the family dynamic, anything jump out at you?"
"No, they seemed normal to me. His mom was more lenient than mine, which I suppose was as a result of her illness. It made her house the 'fun house' on the block, since there was less strict rules, and she tended to have junk food available to us at all times."
"How about the way you two interacted with one another? Was it more of a brother-sister thing?"
"For most of our childhood, it was. I developed a crush on him in sixth grade...but then again, so did the other girls."
"Did he ever encourage you to be more than a sister-like friend?"
"Encourage? No, I had confessed in junior high school that I had a crush on him, but he always said he wanted to preserve our friendship as it was."
"And how was it?"
"It was...well, it was complex. He started to get more aggressive in junior high school. It was around that time that he started playing more sports and I just thought it was normal. I have three sisters, so he was the only 'brother' I knew."
"Was there an incident that stands out in your mind as maybe a turning point in your relationship, when you thought he might have developed feelings for you?"
"No, what stands out to me is the night we got into a huge fight and I suspected he needed help..."
It was Senior Shut-In night. We had Fall Homecoming earlier in the evening, and the shut-in was a massive chaperoned slumber party for planing the prom and the Senior trip at spring break. Devon was the class president, and had coerced me into staying for the shut-in. I had wanted to go home after the game--I hated slumber parties in principle and I never really fit in in high school. I only went to the football games because Devon was playing. I was shy, smart, and completely bookish, and the thought of having to pretend to enjoy myself and make small talk with my classmates made my blood run cold.
But, I stayed to please Devon. I had gotten into this pattern of standing up for myself, and failing miserably under the weight of his personality. My dad always joked about how Devon was a natural ruler, and I suppose I became his favorite subject; I was easily swayed under the power of his arguments. I had never really relinquished my crush on him all those years ago, and I saw my acquiescence to even his most crazy schemes as a way to keep him close to me. I had watched a procession of girlfriends flit in and out, and I kept hoping one day he'd turn to me and confess his love like I had six years ago. Only this time, I wouldn't reject him like he did me.
That night was no different; he had me completely entranced and willing to do his bidding. Within the span of two hours, I had somehow found myself on the decorating committee for prom, run by the head cheerleader and three of her closest clones. I had also volunteered to make up flyers for the Senior trip to send to the parents, and by the time we took a break around midnight, I was on the verge of consenting to be on the prom queen electoral committee.
I went to the bathroom, slightly dazed. I locked myself into a stall when I heard a gaggle of classmates come in, giggling and talking. I recognized one of the voices as Carrie, one of the cheerleaders on the decorating committee. I was about to flush when I realized they were talking about me, so I kept completely silent and listened.
"So, do you think he's going to get Miss Mousie to do any more gruntwork, or should we actually let her off the hook for now?" I heard Carrie ask the throng as she padded in the bathroom. I glanced through the small crack in the stall door and saw the side of her Victoria's Secret pajamas and her cute little slippers, surrounded by other similarly clad friends. Holding my breath, I listened, my heart thumping in my chest.
"She's so pathetic! You would think Devon would have stopped talking to her years ago--I mean, it's totally obvious she's in love with him!"
"And totally obvious he's using her to get what he wants done done. You think she's blowing him?"
"C'mon, Carrie, they've been friends since kindergarten."
"So? I was friends with Kyle in kindergarten, and I don't even speak to that loser any more. Actually, maybe Miss Mousie should be his BFF from now on--I'm sure they would be happy together forever." A chorus of giggles erupted in the bathroom.
"They would have the most weird-looking kids--they'd all have that dishwater blond hair of hers and his huge nose."
"Oh, and his unfortunate facial hair--even the girls!"
"Eww, and that weird way she has of always rubbing her lips with her thumbnail! Those kids would need a therapist and a stylist on call twenty-four seven to be normal!" More snorts and giggles filled the air.
I dropped my hand to my lap, face burning. I was glad they couldn't see me, or that they didn't know I was there. I just hoped they'd leave the bathroom soon so I could sneak out and call my mom to come and pick me up without Devon knowing.
The herd, still giggling and dissecting all my worst features, left the bathroom. I flushed in silence, my face crimson and my feelings hurt. Did Devon see me this way? Was he using me to do his bidding? I slouched out of the stall, washing my hands and splashing cool water on my burning cheeks. I left the bathroom in a fog, my only focus the bank of pay phones outside the bathroom exit.
Devon was standing outside the ladies' room, smiling. "Hey, Andy, what did you do, fall in?" His smile slid off of his face as he looked at me. "What happened in there? Did you see a ghost?"
"Are you using me, Devon?" The words came out in a rush, my cheeks burning and my fists clenched.
"Using you? For what, Andy?"
"You know I didn't want to be here, and now I'm on these committees, and the girls are talking and I..I just can't do it, Devon! I'm no good under pressure!" I threw my hands up in the air and made as though to go around him towards the phones.
"Hey, it's okay, I get it," Devon tried to put his arms around me. I shoved him away, angry, and the concerned look gave way to something else.
"I'm going home, Devon," I said, trying to push by him again. "You need to find someone else to do your dirty work. I quit."
"No, you're not going home, Andrea," he said, voice tight, eyes flashing. "I will not let you walk out on your responsibilities, not after you willingly volunteered on them."
"Volunteered?" I barked, my temper rising. I put my hand on his arm, trying to shove hoim out of the way, but he was immoveable. "I was pushed into taking them on, Devon, and you know it."
He clamped his hand tight around my wrist and steered me into a dark corner near the bathroom. His breath was short, and there was a terrible coldness in his eyes. My wrist was being squeezed tighter in his grasp; the next morning would bring a small series of bruises on the inside of my wrist where his fingers dented my flesh.
"You will do it, Andrea. You don't have a choice. I'm in charge here, and you'd do best to remember that." I looked into these cold, angry eyes--the warm brown irises had been replaced with a flat blackness that chilled me to my core. I shuddered involuntarily and shrank back, afraid of him for the first time in my life.
He pushed my hand away and seemed to come to his senses. The cold stare gave way to a pleading I was familiar with, a look I knew would cave to. I couldn't even bring myself to look at him.
"For me?" he said, the familiar cajoling note in his voice. I nodded, mute; I knew he'd never believe me about Carrie and her friends, and I just wanted to get away. I spent the rest of the evening on the fringe of the conversations, and was able to find someone to take my spot on the decorating committee the following week in homeroom.
"Did you ever tell him he had frightened you?"
"No, I didn't think I needed to. I thought he had realized he'd gone too far, because within a month, he began seeing a therapist."
"Was his anger spiraling out of control, then?"
"No, his grandpa died suddenly, and he went into a deep depression. That's when he was initially diagnosed with bipolar disorder."
"But he never used force on you except that one time, correct?"
"No, not until the day at my sister's."
"Do you think it was because he knew you would comply with his requests?"
"Yes, I do now. I think he knew he could have gotten me to do anything, and so he used my love for him as a tool to keep me in line."
"How does that make you feel now, knowing that?"
"Honestly? I feel stupid for being so passive, and I am so pissed at him for using me that way."
"well, our time is up for today. We'll pick up with this next week."
"Will we be meeting here or at your office in town?"
"Where would you be more comfortable?"
"I never want to see this place again, truthfully."
"Then, I'll see you at my office in town. We'll call to set up your next session tomorrow."
10 August 2008
"Today is the last daily session for you."