“Earl, let’s begin with you telling me a little about yourself.” So began my session with Dr. Leon Chambliss, a therapist specializing in family and marriage conflicts. He was tall and, if the looseness of his pants, shirt and jacket were an indication, very thin. His long face poked out of the top of his rumpled wardrobe like a puppet. His solid black hair looked died which was made more disquieting because he did not appear to be a person who would take that narcissistic grooming step. The first thing he said to me after we were introduced was he preferred to be called Dr. Leon, a request made with no further explanation. After introductions he led me to his office and we settled into facing chairs, right in front of his desk.
“Is this an interview for a job?” I smiled to let him know I was kidding but it was a nervous smile, an accurate reflection of the undulations in my gut.
“In a way, it is, except you’ve already been hired, found worthy for this session, so just relax.” He smiled without parting his lips and laced his fingers in front of his face, slid his two index fingers straight up and rested them against each other, pointing them straight up to the ceiling. And then he waited for me to speak.
I proceeded to tell him my story, keeping the narrative at a high level with very little detail, but including enough information so he could get a sense of who I was. He remained expressionless throughout, adding an occasional, appropriate nod of his head or a “uh-huh” that let me know he was paying attention. At one point in my story I noticed he wasn’t taking notes. In fact, he didn’t have any paper or pens on his person. I asked him, “Aren’t you going to write any of this down?”
“Would you like me to, Earl?” He spoke softly, reminiscent of a radio disc jockey working the midnight shift on a smooth jazz station.
“Well, no… I mean, only if you normally do. I don’t want to be treated different than your other clients.”
He smiled and said, “Okay, that’s good. Why don’t you finish telling me about yourself?”
I realized I had been talking a long time so I rushed to the end of my tale, hoping for some feedback from the doctor. When I finished, I looked him in the eye and waited. He uncrossed his legs, kept both feet on the floor for five seconds then crossed his legs again, the opposite of how he had them before. He cleared his throat and said, “So, Earl, you like Chinese food.”
“What?” His random statement startled me.
“It’s just something I picked up while listening to your oral history. I wanted you to know I was listening.” He finally smiled his all lip smile. “So, Earl, why are you here?”
I stared at him, having trouble believing he hadn’t figured it out, especially since he was the therapist, but I vowed to play the game. “I need help in formulating a plan to get my wife back. I need her to be convinced to join me in Atlanta.”
“I see…” Dr. Leon lost his smile and now looked pensive, processing my request in his big giant brain. I thought he should have at least written down my goal. Instead, he continued to stare at me and, eventually, the silence became uncomfortable. Just as I was about to start talking again, embellishing my story, he uncrossed his legs, placed his hands on his knees and said, “That’s all the time we have for today. It was nice meeting you, Earl. This was a good first session.”
No it wasn’t. We concluded nothing, unless I was supposed to consider my rambling monologue and Dr. Leon’s accomplished stare as some type of breakthrough. He held the door open for me and shook my hand. “See Mary Anne on your way out to set up the next appointment.” At least he was smiling again.
This is an excerpt of a full length novel entitled “Back Again.” You can read it in it’s entirety by downloading it from here or you can keep coming back to this site and read it in chapter chunks over time. Your call but, either way, I hope you will read it and, most of all, enjoy it. And leave a comment or two. It lets me know you are out there…