A psychiatrist finds herself puzzled by the actions and behaviors of one of her patients
|“So,” the therapist leaned in with her hands on her knees. “Tell me about yourself, Anthony.” He was staring at a painting on the wall. It was a copy of a Da Vinci.
“I broke the lamp,” Anthony said.
“Do you have an issue with lamps?”
Anthony looked at the carpet, then the leather couch. She allowed herself a smile when she saw the edges of his mouth twitch.
“It’s a pretty soft couch,” she said. “I like to take naps on it between clients.” His happy disposition vanished again. She took in a deep breath and repositioned herself.
“So you didn’t mean to break the lamp.”
“It was an accident. I was in a hurry and brushed up against the table.” He continued to look everywhere in the room, except at her.
“Why were you in a hurry?” He straightened suddenly and maintained the posture.
“Anthony? Are you feeling okay?”
“I don’t know. I mean, I can’t remember what I was doing.” When she picked up her pen, he watched her closely. “But I’m not a problem-child,” he quickly added.
“I know that. Your teachers have nothing but good things to say-”
“What about…?” Her pen itched to scratch the paper, but Anthony dropped the sentence. He looked up at the Da Vinci again.
Anthony’s mother was the one who had sent him into Alexia’s office. It wasn’t unusual for kids to resent their parents for making them talk to the shrink.
“I’ve got nothing to talk about. The lamp was an accident, and I don’t need a thirty minute discussion to tell me that.”
“We don’t need to talk about it if you don’t want to,” Alexia said. There was a curtain of hair in front of his eyes.
Anthony was quiet; he hardly spoke above a whisper. However, he was very descriptive with the words he offered her. They talked about his love for Mission Impossible movies and the family visits to the Pacific Ocean. The day he spoke on his inability to bowl without smashing the ball onto the lane was the first day Alexia had heard him laugh.
Yet, every time the topic of his mother came up, he would look up at the mass-produced picture on the wall. The thoughts being processed through Alexia’s mind left her with uncertain conclusions.
One time he caught her staring into space. She expected him to ask “What are you thinking about?” or “What are you looking at?” Instead, he silently studied her from behind the mask of overgrown bangs. Alexia just smiled dumbly and engaged him in another topic.
“Anthony?” Alexia asked him as he entered. Anthony slowly dragged over to the couch, but he continued to stand.
“What happened?” She needed to see his eyes, desperately sought for the reassurance. The edge of his lip quivered in response to something she couldn’t stop. Alexia had no control over the situation. She found herself looking at the painting as if it could offer her reassurance.
“Would you like some cocoa?” Alexia broke the ten-minute silence. Without needing Anthony’s reply, she walked to the kitchen area of her office. The comfort of a home-style atmosphere always settled her like a natural remedy. Alexia could only hope it was as inviting for her patients.
Anthony reached out with a stiff arm to grab the hot cocoa. Alexia saw the weight multiply as she handed the mug over.
“Can I see your arms?” He put the cocoa up to his lips but didn’t drink.
“There’s nothing wrong with me,” Anthony said.
“Let me see your arms,” Alexia said. With the mug in her hands, Alexia watched Anthony struggle to get his hoodie off.
His forearms were colored black, purple, and green.
“Anthony!” Her mind was a jumble with sounds of shock, anger, and dread.
“It was just a fight. I was standing up for someone at school and got dragged into it.” A large bandage peeked out from Anthony’s sleeve.
“He didn’t give you that,” she pointed at his shoulder, “did he?” Anthony looked at her but quickly turned to the carpet.
“You want the truth?” He focused on the far wall and took a deep breath, letting the air hiss out.
“I was upset. I did some stupid things that I regret, so give me your ridilin or whatever it is you give people like me.” He must have seen her about to speak when he added, “And don’t give me any more lectures. I can take care of myself from now on. Just give me a prescription.”
After he stepped out of her office for the last time, Alexia spent years staring at the painting. She looked at it from his perspective on the couch and from the doorway. For countless hours, she stood where he’d given his final speech and could only fathom his thoughts. What had he found in the painting?
Twelve years later, Alexia read an obituary about a mentally handicapped woman. She had a history of violent mood swings that were only uncovered after she attacked a caregiver, which caused the ill woman to go into cardiac arrest and eventually lead to her death. The woman was survived by only one relative: her son, Anthony.