“So. Why don’t you start by telling me about your childhood?”
I sigh, shifting in my chair. I always want to pace when I’m in one of these places.
“I dunno. It was pretty normal, I guess.”
I wait. She waits.
“Well, I mean...That’s like, a lot of years to cover, ya know?”
Shit. “Well, you’ve got the basics in your little file there. My brother’s name was Denny, he was five years older than me. My folks never got divorced or even separated. I graduated from high school and went on to college. Normal stuff.”
“Did you move much as a child?”
“Yeah. Different houses, but we stayed in the same town.” Silence. She wants more. “We lived in a nice little ranch style house first, and then an old two-story that I think we rented. Then a trailer home while my mom was in school. Then a nice two story after she got out, and had a good paying job.”
“I see. What kind of work did your parents do?”
“I don’t really know. My dad worked hard at a job that got him covered in grime, sometimes engine oil. Something for a union, but I’m not sure what. My mom...sometimes she didn’t work. Sometimes she babysat other people’s kids. I think she was a bartender for a while. And a housekeeper.”
“Was that before she went back to school?”
“Yeah. Before and during.”
“What about after school?”
“After school she was a dental hygienist, and she made lots of money.” And tried to quit drinking, and started acting like a parent. None of which is your business, lady.
“Did your dad keep working once your mom had a good job?”
“Yeah, but he got laid off and injured a lot.”
I watch her write something on her pad.
“Can you tell me one of your earliest memories?”
“Earliest? I don’t know. Let’s see....”
It is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. Grass, rolled up like carpeting. It came on a big truck. They unload it, roll each one out on the ugly brown earth, and suddenly, we have a lawn!
“Come one, Lynnie!” Dad throws himself to the ground and tumbles down the hill, picking up speed as he goes.
I clap my hands, laughing, and follow him down. Grass, sky, grass, sky, faster, faster, faster! I end on my back, arms and legs sprawled, laughing up at the sun.
“Lynnie, bring your box by my box! We can make a castle!”
“My box has a castle on it!”
“I know! That’s ‘cause there was a castle inside it, remember?”
Denny pulls the boxes together, moving and folding. I watch, waiting. “Ta da!”
Magically, we have a castle, big enough to crawl in.
“Jesus Christ!” My dad is angry. Mom puts a hand on his arm, and he shakes it off. “Next year I’m not wasting any money on toys. I’m just going to the damn dumpster and getting them some fucking boxes for Christmas.”
Denny and I pretend not to hear, absorbed in fantasy.
I sit at the head of table. Friends line the seats on either side. There is a cake, and balloons. The sun is bright. Birds are happy. I feel like a king.
It is my birthday, and I am four.
I run out of the bathroom, hair still wet, wearing nothing but a towel. Racing into the living room, I face the assembled crowd. All eyes are on me. “Ta da!” I yell, pulling my towel open. The room erupts in laughter, and I race back to my mother, who is kneeling in the bathroom door. She catches me in her arms, and I feel her laughter against my cheek.
“Is that enough?”
“Yes, for now. Our time is just about up.”
I stand. “So, I won’t need to come back?”
She looks at me. She’s still sitting. I haven’t been dismissed.
I sit back down.
“You suffer from chronic depression interspersed with bouts of major depression and suicidal ideation. You also have an unspecified anxiety disorder.”
“Wow. You figured all that out from some stories about me rolling in the grass and flashing a few relatives?”
She smiles humorlessly. “No. I got that from analyzing the results of the tests you took while you were hospitalized. What I need to know is why.”
“I know you would like to pretend that the incidents leading to your hospitalization did not occur, but they did. The state will not allow you to ignore them.” She scribbled on a small piece of paper and handed it to me. “We need to get to the bottom of these issues. I’ll be seeing you twice each week.”
I take the paper from her hand. Thursday, ten a.m.
“For now,” I say.
“Yes,” she agrees. “For now.”