22 Chapters
Medium 9781782202738

Twelve

Adams, Marie Karnac Books ePub

I used the weekend to recover and Frank was solicitous. He had made his point, not pushing it further, particularly as I collapsed, spending most of the two days in bed with a headache. The lightest pressure, a stray hair, or a cool cloth was all the same, adding to the pain. Stomach cramps, too, as if going into labour. Frank was careful to see that I drank plenty of liquids and ate something light, crumpets or toast. He comforted me: “There's a summer ‘bug’ going around.” How else was he to make sense of this?

By the time Monday morning rolled around, the pressure had eased and, while still physically shaky, I was grateful to get back to work despite dreading the task ahead. Two weeks was very short notice to give clients of an impending break. Normally I gave them a few months’ warning. A psychotherapist's work life is planned out as far as is possible in advance, sometimes a full year ahead. The nature of the job is to provide a “container”, to give safety and predictability, consistency if you like. Within that consistency the unpredictability of life can be absorbed, such as illness or an unexpected death in the family. That's the theory anyway. I had certainly provided reliability, not having taken any time out in months, not since Easter, and before taking Dorothy on as a client.

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Five

Adams, Marie Karnac Books ePub

I woke before the alarm went off at five-thirty. Frank grunted his usual early morning complaint: why the hell was he awake when he was under no pressure to rise early except to make me a cup of tea? I suspect he goes back to bed sometimes when I'm gone, recouping a few of those lost hours. His working schedule is his to set and most of his labour is in his head anyway. Frank only sits down at his desk once he's worked through one or another formulation, often refining it for weeks before beginning to scribble with his pencil, almost absentmindedly. His brain is a calculator, a big bag of numbers, but nothing tumbles out until he is ready.

That morning I was in my office by six-thirty. Before settling in I went to the kitchen, breakfasting on instant coffee and two slices of toast from last week's leftover loaf. I had a few minutes to look at my notes, focusing on my first patient of the day while I munched.

I've seen Sam, a man now in his early forties, for years. He came to me while in the throes of a cocaine habit that threatened his work and his marriage and I've never been sure which one mattered to him more. When sober he is extremely good at his job, working for a bank in the City. Despite his good fortune, he regards himself as persecuted these days because of the public perception that he makes too much money, and receives a giant bonus each year upon which he gauges his professional success. Sam is someone for whom how much money he makes is also the measure of his personal worth. Only now, after five years, are we getting down to some deeper internal work, which frightens him, so recently he has taken to skipping the occasional session. He wants solutions more than he does understanding and occasionally I wonder where, or how, our work will end. Does everyone need to understand themselves, or is it enough just to get by? Sam is proof that the question is viable, his life having improved immeasurably since he gave up drugs and partying and began to see himself as part of the general human race, albeit a segment that demands financial success. I doubt he'll ever agree with me that not being “special” is absolutely fine and that, in the end, beneath the surface of our accomplishments we are all pretty ordinary. Sam is also a charmer, so during our sessions I have to be careful not to be seduced away from the deeper material. He is a master at sidelining me, and everyone else, from any subject which might hold a greater meaning.

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Medium 9781782202738

Twenty-One

Adams, Marie Karnac Books ePub

I woke with a nosebleed, leaking a trail like a murder victim before noticing in the bathroom mirror that blood was smeared all down the bottom half of my face. I shouted out in horror. This was to be my first morning back at the office.

Frank bounded up the stairs. He flipped the toilet seat closed and pushed me by the shoulders to sit down, “Hold your head back!” Pulling at a wad of toilet paper he rolled two little bits of paper into nose plugs and pressed them gently up both my nostrils before wiping my face clean with a damp, warm cloth. Finished, he crouched down, knees bent and balanced on the tip of his toes. Three days back in London, he should have been over his jet lag. Instead, he was exhausted. The past few weeks in the mountains had given him nothing but worry.

The plugs in my nose were already sodden. Frank rolled up a few more and gently exchanged old for new. Funny how Frank's tenderness had never quite cut through before. I had always taken it for granted, hunted it out but not valued it, as if I was entitled. I demanded his care and attention without ever appreciating that it was a choice he made every single time he extended it. Was this my personal road to Damascus? On that toilet seat, boiling with blood spilling into everything, I finally understood something fundamental. For once I didn't retch, but I wanted to, and I wanted my old complacency back, my old energy and the familiar, implacable belief that I could cope with anything.

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Sixteen

Adams, Marie Karnac Books ePub

Up and over the bridge, Tom swung his truck like an anchor into safer territory heading straight for the hotel's underground parking lot, a dusty tomb if there ever was one. I bumped downwards along the circular concourse, edging my car away from the wall to avoid scratching my bumper. Why submit to such a low level existence when there were rows of empty spaces above ground? But this is the prairie way, the habit of a lifetime ensuring your vehicle, so often the casualty of weather, is kept safe from harm: the beat of the summer sun, or the corrosive effect of a winter climate harsher than any on earth. Down below the temperature is ambient, gently cool in summer, warm in winter.

Pulling into a spot beside Tom, I pinched the top of my nose. The walls were a concrete grey and the floor like parched earth, the smell of soot in the air. There were other tomb raiders down here, an old Lincoln Continental and a more recent Volvo, both cars an expression of pride and success. Tom was already peeling back the shiny black canvas at the rear of his truck. Pulling out an overnight case—my brother always travels light—he placed it on the ground, displacing a little puff of dirt. Without a word he walked to the side of the truck, stretched a little further into the cargo section, yanked at a cardboard box that was tucked behind the spare wheel bed, tied securely with a bungee rope and looped through a handle at the back of the cab. He flipped the cord loose and the hook clanged like a gunshot against the metal floor of the truck.

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Thirteen

Adams, Marie Karnac Books ePub

The following Tuesday, as I sat in my office and waited for Dorothy to arrive, I was as restless as a woman in love with the wrong man, distracted in equal measure by a cocktail of both longing and dread. I moved from office to kitchen and back again refilling too many cups of coffee. Why had I arrived so early? I put it down to Frank having left the flat before me. The truth was I had been anticipating this meeting with Dorothy for over a week and I had no idea how the session would go. How could I? Dorothy was as unpredictable as the sensations she evoked in me, both exciting and terrifying, sometimes completely disabling.

I had been let off easy over the past week, most of my clients fairly sanguine about my taking a break. For some patients there might be a delayed reaction, those with unpredictable abandonment in their histories, for instance, who thought nothing of my absence beforehand, yet in retrospect might find it difficult. Sam had been the exception, his reaction resounding deeply with my own archaic guilt. Hadn't I been the abandoner once, leaving my country and what remained of my family to find a new and easier life abroad? I couldn't remember feeling remorse at the time, only enormous relief and an uplifting, internal tension focusing on what lay ahead, the promise of infinite possibilities. I could fashion myself any way I chose, without the detritus of recent events to pull me down. No one knew me in England and so I was relieved of the pressure of having to reveal myself. The old me, that young woman stranded between youth and maturity, she had hit a wall too big to find a way through. I had to leave her behind. Relief and determination moulded together to forge the new presentation of me. No wonder advertising had suited me so well. For years I had been nothing but a flesh and blood hoarding, a bundle of secrets exposing only those bits of myself I wanted the world to see.

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