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It's Monday. Sitting in the generic waiting room painted an agitating mustard yellow, I put down the six month old Women's Health magazine and stare at the clock. Tick tock.
“Okay, she's ready for you.” An overly toothy smile is shot my way from the receptionist. There's the hint of “I'm sorry you're so screwed up” in her voice as she ushers me into the therapist's office, clearly noting the rainbow colored streaks running through my hair. She quickly shuts the door behind me, and I take in the office for the first time. There are books everywhere: on shelves, the hardwood antique desk, and even a small stack on the floor in the corner. In the middle is a stereotypical therapist's couch.
“I didn't actually think they had these,” I whisper to myself as I stare at the deep red brown leather upholstery.
“Excuse me?” She's sitting there behind her desk. Spectacles and a tight bun on the back of her head. Her beady eyes are already giving me a once over. “Did you say something?” Her voice is sweet, but it's fake, like the Sweet'N Low my mom pours into her morning coffee. “Would you like to sit?”
I awkwardly walk over to the couch, and she moves to a comfortable looking arm chair sitting right in front of me. “Am I supposed to lie down or something?” I ask.
“Only if you want to.” She keeps looking at me curiously, like I'm some sort of animal in a pen at the zoo. I just sit with my hands between my knees staring at the intricate carpet. “Do you know why you're here Jamie?”
I shrug and continue to analyze the floor, then the clock on the wall. Tick tock. I bring my eyes back to the floor again. I try to avoid looking at her face with the bright red lipstick and noticeable
wrinkles next to her eyes, like she has smiled a lot during her life. I do know why I'm here, I just don't like to talk about it. My mom thinks that this is a fantastic idea. “Lot's of people see therapists ,” she says. I mean, I don't think she realizes I would rather being doing almost anything else. Of course, if she thinks that this will magically make everything perfect, then I have to do it. She wants everything to be perfect.
“I talked to your mom a little bit over the phone.” Dammit. “She's worried about you at school.”
“I guess.” I give a quick look up to see her scribbling something on a yellow legal pad on her lap. “What are you writing?”
“Just a few little notes here and there.” She smiles. There's a little of her lipstick on her front tooth. It's disgusting. “Why don't you tell me what's been going on at school.”
“I don't know. I guess people don't like me very much.” This I know is true. It's been this way since sixth grade. I'm the guy that people throw against the lockers during an episode of Glee. People call me names like “queer” or “faggot” as I try to get from class to class. My mom will say “don't worry sweetie, things will get better as you get older.” That's a f***ing lie. It doesn't get better and every adult knows that. They just fill your head with this useless crap so you keep living this worthless life and outlive them. That way they don't have to grieve for you and can die pretending that they think you are actually happy.
“How have people been treating you at your new school?” Yep. This is my third new school in two years. No matter where I go, no matter how much my parents pay for “love and care for every student,” people are always the same. You won't be able to change an entire generation by making them sit through tolerance lectures.
“Not that great.” I try to shrug it off like it's no big deal.
“How so? Do people do mean things?”
“Sort of.” She scribbles something down again. How long has it been? The clock says 4:35.
Fifty-five more minutes of this.
“Why do you think people bully you?” Why do I think people bully me? Is she serious? I mean look at me. I'm barely one hundred and ten pounds, I'm as pale as Edward Cullen and I have multi-colored hair. Yeah, I'm definitely normal.
“Probably because I'm different.”
“How are you different?”
I look at her. I don't want say it. I mean of course I don't want to say it. Saying it out loud makes it real and I don't want it to be real. Every time my mouth is forced to form that word, I want to throw up. “Um, I'm... uh gay.” She nods rather fast and scribbles more on the pad.
“Do you think they bully you because you're homosexual?”
“Yeah.” 4:37. Tick tock.
“Why do you they do that? Are they maybe insecure about their own sexuality?”
“How am I supposed to know?”
“Why don't we think about it?”
“Where do you think insecurities come from?”
“I don't know.”
“What about at school? Or at home?”
“What do you mean at home?”
“Let's go back to you for a moment. Are you ever worried you don't live up to your parents' expectations?” Yeah, I do. My dad wanted the sporty jock son you see in Disney Channel shows. What a surprise for him when I only grew to about 5'5 and I could barely even lift the Major-League baseball bat he bought me for my thirteenth birthday. Yep, the joke is on him. I got you good didn't I? On the other hand, my mom just wanted the normal suburban son to wear matching polo shirts with.
“What about all those people at school? What do you think their home lives are like?”
“I don't know.”
“Try to make up a hypothetical situation. Pick someone who has been mean to you and try to think about what they may be going through.” Well who should I pick? That football player? Or maybe his girlfriend? How about my entire trig class? Yeah that would work too.
“Um, there's this guy. He seems really angry towards most people. He has a lot of friends though. So maybe his parents are mean to him. I-I don't really know.”
“So would you say that a lot of people's insecurities come from their parents.”
“Yeah, maybe. I just don't understand something.” She nods as a sign for me to continue. I nervously squeeze my legs together, trying to block the blood from my hands and maybe they will stop shaking. “People say that bullying comes from people's insecurities. But I don't see why being worried about the way you look would make you want to hurt someone else.”
She nods again. More writing. Then she looks up and smiles at me. It's a big smile too: the kind that either makes you feel warm and fuzzy or totally terrified. “That's a really good question. Well, you said that people might be trying to impress their parents. What do you think your parents would have done if they were intolerant of your sexuality.” Who said they were tolerant? I guess my mom was-is. My dad left because of it. They couldn't stop fighting, fighting about fighting it. I can still hear him saying, “We'll send him to one of those camps. They'll be able to fix him.” Then my mom was screaming about how dare he say I needed to be fixed. Then he walked out. That was it.
“They might have kicked me out.”
“So let's say that this guy was also homosexual. What if he isn't as lucky as you ? What if he has to prove to the world that he does not like other boys? What if that is his only way to stay safe at home? So then he lashes out at you. Maybe he is not only trying to convince his parents and his friends, but
also himself. The more he picks on you, the more it seems to him like he can't possibly be homosexual.” She seems to be avoiding the g-word.
The couch's leather makes a noise every time I shift. I try to sit still, praying she doesn't hear the constant squeaking as I try to adjust my position. “I don't think that justifies it.”
“Nothing can justify tormenting another human being.” Her lips purse as she makes a few more notes. God I want to know what she's writing, how messed up I am.
“People say that God hates me,” I say. “I don't understand.”
“Why would God hate you?” This is the moment I see the silver cross hanging around her neck. It's small and set with diamonds. She quickly reaches for it, just to make sure it's still there.
“They say he hates gays.”
“The Bible does imply certain issues around homosexuality.”
I should mention I'm an atheist. I have been since I realized what I am. “If God did create everybody, then He created me. He created me gay, so why can't people accept that. If they think that God hates gays and that he created me the way I am, then isn't that a contradiction?” She looks like she is straining not to make the sign of the cross across her chest.
“I guess you're right.” Her voice squeaks, but she quickly recovers, bringing back her composure. “Do you believe in God?”
“No. He wouldn't do this to me and then make everyone hate me.”
“Why don't we move on.” It's a statement, not a question. I quickly adjust and look back at the clock. 5:02. Tick tock.
“Tell me about your friends.” She's back to smiling. This lipstick's still there.
“I don't really have any.”
“What about your parents? What are they like?” That's it. I squirm in my chair. She can tell I'm uncomfortable. She grasps in the air looking for another topic as I sit there staring at my hands. My
eyes are turning red.
“Umm,” she looks desperate. The clock is ticking, but it's not going fast enough. It's 5:03. Tick...oh god. Tock.
“Do you read the newspaper a lot.” I know what she's getting at.
“Did you read about Jamey Rodemeyer?” The fateful question. Yes, I have heard of him. I have also heard of Tyler Clementi and Ryan Halligan. I know what happened to them. I know what people did to them. I know my mom is worried I'm heading in the same direction. She's broken too, and I can't leave her. But she doesn't know that. I can tell she's scared.
“What do you think about him and his story?” I can tell she's trying to get me to speak.
“I think it's sad.”
“Of course it's sad! He's dead!”
“But what is your opinion on the topic?”
“What topic? Suicide? Is that why really why I'm here? Does my mom want you to tell her if I'm suici-”
“Doctor patient confidentiality.” She's trying to calm me down.
“I'm not going to commit suicide, so you can write that down on your f***ing pad.” I've startled her by shouting. “Look, I know you're going to tell me to look to the future, that everything's going to get better. Well, I don't think it is. But that doesn't mean I'm going to swallow a whole f***ing bottle of pills.” She starts writing. I almost want to get up and grab that pad from her and throw it out the window. Where's the clock. Goddammit. 5:16. Tick tock. We're nearing the end. If she's going to
actually do something she better do it quickly.
“Jaime- I'm trying to help you. Please understand this is just between you and me. My only goal is to help you get through this. It's to help you understand why you are treated the way you are and how you can stand up to your tormenters.”
I look at her. She looks like she is about to cry from my outburst. “Look,” I say. “I'm sorry. But, I don't think you understand what I'm going through. You have absolutely no idea what is going on in my life.”
“I'm trying to give you an insight, to try to make it better. That doesn't mean I fully understand. I have worked with kids in your situation, and I feel like I have helped them. Homophobia is a huge issue in our society. Life can be really hard for gays.” She pauses. There it is out in the open again.
“You shouldn't be afraid to say that word.” I look at my hands, continuing the lines on my palms across the room and out the door, past the receptionists desk and out onto the streets of Manhattan. “I think a lot of people want to believe they don't have prejudices.” She looks at me slightly confused, then there is a flash of realization. “We can always pretend that we are completely open-minded, but it's not true. We are going to pick things up, maybe from our parents and friends or society and television. But we are going to pick them up. So you can say you are completely tolerant, but it probably isn't true.” Now she's just staring at me; her pen isn't moving for the first time.
“I think I know what you're getting at.” The cross on her chest shines ever so slightly brighter.
“We are not going to be able to change the world. People are always going to have their own views, but it's how they express them that matters. You shouldn't be prejudiced because we are all really the same, but that doesn't mean you won't be. It's just a problem if you try to hurt me or people in my community because of these issues.” Looking at the clock, I see that it is 5:31. One minute over, and I can no longer hear the ticking.