“Who do you live your life for, Doctor Reynolds?”
The young woman who delivered this question occupied the couch Dr. Jocelyn Reynolds reserved for her patients. Jocelyn’s guest waited, patiently anticipating the view of the sun’s rise above the horizon, as Jocelyn stood in the doorway of her office.
“Doctor, you seem to have perfectly positioned yourself to witness the magnificent canvas of Chicago’s sunrise.”
Jocelyn directed her sight to her beautiful floor-to-ceiling windows on the east end of her office. Her desk was directly behind the patient couch on which her guest was neatly perched. The spectacular view from the ninth floor, overlooking Downtown Chicago, was what sold her on renting this particular office space. “Yes, it’s why I arrive to work so early. I hate to miss it.”
Jocelyn’s guest tilted her head slightly to the left. “I know, Doc. I know. You never miss it, except for last Thursday. Imagine my surprise when you didn’t arrive as I’d expected. I’d anticipated having this conversation last week. Not to worry, I assumed morning sickness must’ve gotten the best of you that day.” The stranger nodded toward Jocelyn’s bulging belly, evident of her eight-month pregnancy.
Jocelyn did not want to give the woman the satisfaction of knowing that her knowledge of Jocelyn’s comings and goings disturbed her. Jocelyn found herself searching for the best response. “I’m not sure we’ve met.”
The woman let out an intense sigh, relieving herself of her disappointment with Jocelyn’s response. She turned back toward the window. “Did you know that the sunrise is an optical illusion?”
“Yes, something about the atmosphere.”
“Not a fan of details are you, Doctor Reynolds?” The woman disapprovingly shook her head at Jocelyn’s answer. “Due to changes in the atmosphere the sun can appear to have risen when it is still hiding from us below the horizon. I, too, find great pleasure in watching the sun make a magnificent spectacle of itself. However, after observing you for quite some time, I find it odd, that in your profession, you would rather scathe the surface of things as opposed to digging deeper. Oddly enough, you are very accepting of what is. As a fellow scientist myself, I find it impossible not to delve deeper for answers to the simplest things. However, you, you’ve lost your tenacity. Does pregnancy suck all the ambition out of you? It’s the main reason I’ve steered clear of having any little crumb snatchers of my own.”
Jocelyn’s patience for her intruder was growing increasingly thin. She couldn’t help thinking of the audacity of this woman to break into her office with her bag of insults. Her guest smiled, exposing the pleasure rumbling inside her from getting the best of Jocelyn. “Aren’t you at all concerned with how your patients are affected by your laxness on the job? Could that be why little Rashawn was found with his wrists gaping open in his mother’s bathroom this past Tuesday night?”
Jocelyn took a few steps further into her office, surveying as she entered. Her normally locked, organized cabinets, filled with numerous business documents and patients’ files had been jimmied open, exposing all her paperwork, obviously rifled through prior to her arrival. Jocelyn futilely attempted to hide her uneasiness.
“Your patient files seem to be the only thing you’ve tended to.” The intruder focused intently on the Chicago skyline with a lucid gaze.
The office was dismal, and Jocelyn longed for an ounce of light that could possibly illuminate this woman’s face. It was 6:30 a.m. During Chicago’s winter, the sun didn’t rise until just before 7:00 a.m. Jocelyn liked to arrive at her office early, beating Elsa, to prepare her agenda for the day. Although this would normally be a task for her administrative assistant, Jocelyn liked to have a general outline prepared for Elsa once she arrived at the office. Elsa, Jocelyn’s assistant of more than three years, was used to her boss’s idiosyncrasy. In addition to her early arrivals, Jocelyn never allowed Elsa to schedule patients before 10:00 a.m., allowing the doctor time to do leftover paperwork from the previous day. Elsa would never be as careless as to defy Jocelyn’s strictly imposed rule; so the mere presence of this woman in Jocelyn’s office, uninvited, made her feel unsettled. Jocelyn suddenly felt very alone with this woman, and she knew her vulnerability was beginning to show against her will.
Jocelyn learned quickly during her young practice that once a psychiatrist’s patient sensed any weakness, the patient would do all he or she could to expose it. Most therapists believed the patient did this to distract the therapist from the patient’s problems. The therapist must remain in control of the session, no matter what the patient throws at her, without reacting to any of the patient’s antics. Jocelyn focused her practice on children. They were able to break through barriers more easily than adults, although some of her patients could prove to be quite a challenge. Jocelyn would place these children in her observation room with a parent. The room contained many objects for the children to react to, which allowed Jocelyn to take behavioral notes from the other side of a two-way mirror. This time in the observation room allowed the children to regroup from their outbursts, and it was a prime opportunity for Jocelyn to observe the children’s behavior with the parents. To a child’s untrained eye, the adult had to seem in control. Jocelyn found that adults needed the same security with their doctors, to know that the person they’ve entrusted their care to was in control. Although this mysterious woman, clearly in need of help, was an unscheduled non-patient, any fumble on Jocelyn’s part would cause the woman not to trust her. Jocelyn kept all of her initial assessments of the woman in mind as she took her seat across from the “patient,” placing her bags on the floor next to her chair, maintaining the appearance of a scheduled appointment.
“So, Doctor, what would be the answer to my question?” The woman’s words were slow and incisive.
“I’m sure you didn’t come to my office to pry into my boring life,” Jocelyn responded, still pretending not to be unnerved by this eerie presence. Her guest’s clothing was dirty and tattered. The tank top, once white, now a dingy gray, matched her worn gray velour sweat pants. The woman reeked of must, solidifying Jocelyn’s theory—she was homeless. However, both the sweats and the shirt boasted the designer label, “Bebe,” leading the doctor to also conclude that the woman was not poor or homeless until recently. The patient’s jet-black hair fell sloppily out of a ponytail, crowning her face and making her sweaty brown skin glisten. Although her face was hidden by a shadow created by a bookshelf that blocked the slowly rising sun, Jocelyn had the feeling that the woman was very attractive, despite her current circumstances.
The new patient must’ve caught on to Jocelyn’s attempt to assess her face. Without warning, she turned her head abruptly. Jocelyn jumped further back in her seat and grabbed her stomach for the first time. The visitor’s eyes traveled to the spot Jocelyn had grabbed.
“Is it safe to assume that your heart continues to pulsate for your unborn child, Doctor?”
“I would say that there are a number of things that I live my life for. But I’m not the important one here right now, as I’ve said before. The question I think we should start this session with is: what brings you here?” Jocelyn tried, again, to get a clearer view of the blank face before her as she unfastened her pink blazer, revealing a pink maternity sweater and matching skirt.
“Session?” The woman seemed taken aback by the term. “Did I accept your treeatt meent, Doc-tor?”
Jocelyn hated the way the woman overly pronounced and clung to her words. “I would like to be upfront and apologize for any misunderstanding, but to get straight to the point, I’m a child psychiatrist. If I could get a clear understanding of your needs, I would be happy to recommend you to one of my colleagues. I’ve found that therapy is not like going to see your general practitioner for the flu or a chronic nosebleed. When one seeks a therapist, it’s because she or someone around her recognizes the need for a professional ear to her situation. Maybe the reason why you’re here will take some time to unfold. A better suited question to start may be: what is your name?”
“McClaine Ethel Henry.”
“Nice to meet you, McClaine.”
“I wasn’t expecting ‘Ethel’ after ‘McClaine.’”
McClaine seemed offended by the doctor’s reference to her middle name. She leaned forward toward her knees, anticipating the moment that Jocelyn would further piss her off. “Why would you say that?” This was the first moment, since Jocelyn walked into her office, that she’d gotten a good look at McClaine’s face. Jocelyn felt a sense of validation, confirming that McClaine was indeed attractive.
Jocelyn remained stationary. “Well, the name Ethel is from a time period long before the both of us; wouldn’t you agree? Perhaps, you were bestowed that name in honor of an elder in your family?”
“Great observation, Doc’, and good save, by the way. That one almost cost you,” McClaine sneered, making it clear that Jocelyn should be wary of any further careless comments.
“Cost me what?” Jocelyn asked sternly, yet treading lightly with her tone and impending attitude.
“More than you know, Doctor,” McClaine responded, marking the end of that line of questioning. Jocelyn knew not to pursue the conversation any further. “Ticktock, Doctor. Ticktock,” McClaine sang, noting that the rise of the sun would denote the end of their session.
“Are you in some sort of hurry?” Jocelyn was becoming increasingly aggravated; however, she tried to remain calm. McClaine remained still and silent. The two women had clearly entered into some sort of unspoken sparring match. “Is there anything in your life that we could tackle today?” Jocelyn continued in her most stern tone.
“Well, I have to admit, I have been sad lately.”
“I just left my husband of six years.”
“Wow. That’s understandable. Was he abusive?”
“Why does everyone just assume it was abuse? Or that he was the one being abusive?” McClaine tilted her head slightly to punctuate the question.
“I apologize.” Jocelyn continued, “Why did you leave him then?”
“He found out about my affairs. I’ve been taking trips with my lovers. I lied to him. I said they were business trips. He found my souvenirs … let’s just say, he wasn’t happy. But I think that will be enough about me, Doc’.”
Jocelyn pushed, “Well, would you like to talk about something else?”
“I’ve told you several times, I’m not the reason I’m here today,” McClaine snapped.
“Surely, I couldn’t be the reason.”
“Actually, Doc’, you are precisely the reason for my visit today.” McClaine tilted her head to her left again. “I have another question that I’ve been dying to have you answer since I’ve laid eyes on you.”
Jocelyn shifted in her seat with an uneasy hesitation. “What question would that be, McClaine?”
“Is pregnant pussy wetter? I’m a hands-on type of person; so, I was wondering if you would be so kind to let me taste test yours. You know, strictly to squash the myth, if you will.”
Jocelyn popped up from her seat. “Excuse me! You are extremely out of line! And I would like you to lea—” Suddenly, Jocelyn felt the presence of someone behind her. It made the hair on the back of her neck stand on end.
McClaine diverted her attention to the new guest. “I was wondering when you would step in.” A towel suddenly covered Jocelyn’s mouth. Her vision was blurred, but she could still vaguely see McClaine’s distorted silhouette. A few seconds passed, and all went black.