Many of the shrinks' questions had a déjà vu feel to them: Do you know why you're here, Jack? Do you like being here, Jack? If you could be anywhere else, Jack, where might that be?
He looked at their faces only to establish he wasn't afraid to look, to make eye contact long enough to certify his “self-confidence” but not enough to convey challenge. He did this at the start and end of each session. During the sessions he kept his gaze steady, focusing on the hand that held the pen that wrote on the yellow pad, and every now and then darting up to the face for a quick reminder he was “paying attention.”
There were little fights.
“Please do not address me as 'Doc'.”
“I'm your psychiatrist. There should be a formal distance.”
“What's wrong with 'Doc'?”
“It's too familiar.”
“You call me 'Jack'.”
“What would you prefer I call you?”
“Jack's fine. You want me to be comfortable, right?” Asshole smiles coldly, nods. (All the shrinks are assholes.)
“You can be comfortable without being familiar.”
“It's the preferred way.”
“Preferred by whom?”
“Professional standards.” Asshole clears throat, writes something on yellow pad.
“You can't be flexible?”
“Of course, but within professional boundaries.”
“Am I making you nervous?”
“Of course not, but I can't help you if you won't cooperate.”
“Who said I need help?”
“Everyone needs help.”
“That's all for today.” Asshole leaves.
Exchanges like this came intermittently, initially as each shrink strove to test the dynamic, “establish a relationship.” Later incursions were intended to surprise, discomfit. Always obvious, occasionally evoking overt laughter.
This was all pre-Aggie. She was there, he knew now, but not on his radar. Once she was, the session evolved. After his radar had found her, he felt more potent. Deleted the snark from the “Doc.” (Embarrassed to seem so predictable.) The vigilance remained, of course, but leavened with insouciance.
But...but whenever Aggie was not immediately present, so he could witness her, he forgot what she looked like.