I guess it was when I found the eviction notice on the front door, or when I was going on three months being unemployed, or maybe even the point where I questioned myself as a writer, is when I sat down and started writing out facts. I was a writer in love with fiction, and besides my non-fiction work that allowed me enough money to eat (mostly to drink, unless there were food specials at the bar) I was writing short stories. I never thought about writing about my life, because in my mind I was still young. I was wet behind the ears; a little shit that thought he knew everything. I know nothing.
Dr. Seidman asked me if I wanted to play a board game. I didn’t respond, in fact I looked as if I was ignoring him purposefully, but I wasn’t. He sat patiently and waited for me to respond. The truth was that I was apprehensive. This was the first time I had been in front of a therapist, and I didn’t know what to say, let alone how to act. I found it odd that the first thing he asked me was if I wanted to play a game. I was stoned as well. Before I got in the car with my mother I sat upstairs in my bedroom, took out my “inhaler” and packed the bowl. (During this time in my adolescence I was fascinated with marijuana and also with the devices used to smoke it with. I didn’t like rolling joints, and blunts had not caught on at that time. Instead, I would make my own bowls. My inhaler became one of my favorites; it was easy to conceal). I got stoned, headed downstairs, grabbed a water, lit a cigarette (my parents were adjusting to the fact their fourteen year old was a smoker), waited outside of my mom’s station wagon, finished my cigarette, flicked it at the end of the driveway, and got in the car. The car ride to Dr Seidman’s office was unbearable. Neither of us spoke, the radio was turned down to a low volume, playing music form the 70’s and 80’s; Elton John’s Someone Saved My Life Tonight was playing. It was ironic to say the least. By the time the song ended we were in the general vicinity of his office. My mother was gripping the steering wheel, her knuckles becoming white, her face becoming red. It was at this point that I realized she was just as nervous as I was. “Fuck her,” I thought. She was the reason I was going to see this man. I didn’t ask to come here and she had the audacity to be nervous. She was being selfish. We could have turned the station wagon around and went back home. We could have taken care of any of our problems at home. We didn’t need to consult a “professional” and talk about our “feelings.” This was the point that I felt my life had become the stereotypical suburban life: a life that you would see on television shows; one that consisted of doctors, prescription drugs, confused youth, mid-life crisis, and of course the nervous breakdowns.
We are in front of the doctor’s office. The area surrounding us looks like an industrial park. I don’t know what to think of this, but I in any sense an exterior cannot speak for an interior.
My mother and I are still in the station wagon, seat belts still buckled, the radio still down low, when she turns to me. She looks at me, only the way a mother can, and smiles. I can only bring myself to return her smile with a smirk. I have always been known for my apathetic smirk. I’m waiting for her to speak. I know she is trying to think of the right words, but like me, we have a habit of saying the wrong thing. Our words are always misplaced even though we might have the best intentions.
“Don’t bullshit him,” she said
“Okay,” I said in return.
There must be a catalogue book that caters to therapists.
Dr. Seidman’s office looked very generic, like I had fallen into a bad movie, or like the only furniture allowed in the office had to be leather. That is the one smell I will always remember from his office. Even now when I smell leather I think of his office.
On his desk was a calendar, assorted writing utensils (although he had a name placard with a golden pen inserted in the center), and a desk lamp with the customary green glass shade. The wall to the right of him, and next to the office door, was lined with assorted books; filling up the bookcases that took up the full space of the wall. I was sitting on a leather couch that faced the office door. He was sitting in his leather armchair in front of his desk. He looked at me; I looked at the elaborate stitch work of the carpet. The office was calmly lit and relaxing, even though I still looked tense. I didn’t want him to look me in the eye. They were dry and red and I was high.
“Would you like to play a game?” He asked me.
I continued to stare at the carpet. He kept silent while waiting for my answer. I was thankful for that.
When I was tired of the carpet I glanced up and over to where he was sitting to find him looking at a marble chess set. I was expecting his eyes to be on me. They weren’t.
“What kind of game?”
“What do you like? I have board games, we can play cards, or checkers, or chess. Why don’t you tell me what game you’re good at? I’ve played them all countless times, but I’m always looking for a good challenge.” He said with a subtle level of smugness. He was trying to entice me, to challenge me, and it was working.
I spotted the checker board. “Checkers. I’m good at checkers.”
“Then checkers it is,” he said brightly. He stood and grabbed the antique looking checker board and grabbed a table to put in between us. He placed the board on the table and moved his seat closer. We were now face to face and ready to start our first of many strategic games.
Our first meeting was spent in front of a checker board in silence. Very seldom did we exchange words. After three games of checkers (which he won), we shook hands and he told me our session was over for the night. He walked me to his office door, said hello to my mother with a formal introduction, and told us both that he was looking forward to seeing us both the next week. My mother asked me to wait in the car while she asked the doctor a question. I didn’t argue. I walked to her car and unlocked it. I sat and for once in a long time felt at ease.
I went into Dr. Seidman’s office with a pre-conceived notion of talking, or not talking, about my feelings and what caused them. Instead we played checkers. We watched each other’s moves on the checker board. He had a way of making a vulnerable situation bearable. He put my anxiety at ease. But while I sat alone in my mother’s station wagon I couldn’t stop thinking of one thing he said before I walked outside. He said he was looking forward to seeing both of us the next week. I was curious by what he meant when he said “both of us.”