Rick R. Reed © 2020
All Rights Reserved
Bobby sat on a leather chair in therapist Camille D’Amico’s office, took in his surroundings, and mused on why the therapist had arranged the office as she had.
He made certain assumptions. Camille had placed the seating to be comfortable, yet not confrontational. Bobby supposed she wanted her office to have the effect, the ambiance, of a living room—a safe, calm place where she and her charges could relax like two old friends, just gabbing, getting to the heart of their problems. The office was dimly lit—blinds drawn and a Pottery Barn ceramic lamp the only illumination, sixty watt—and for Bobby, it had what he imagined to be the desired effect: calming. From the small charging/speaker unit on Camille’s desk, the violin of Joshua Bell played softly, a warm background accompaniment.
Camille adjusted her halo of frizzy brown hair, running her fingers through it, and pushed her glasses up on the bridge of her nose. She didn’t say anything, and Bobby supposed she was waiting for him to begin.
Bobby fidgeted with a button on his sport coat, not sure where to start. Camille eyed him up and down, and Bobby knew what she saw: a tall, lean man with above-average—well, way above if he were being honest—looks. And it wasn’t just his vanity that informed him. He had been told more times than he could count that he was gorgeous, hot, that he had the kind of virile beauty seldom seen outside of men’s fashion magazines. His clothes were expensive, tasteful—a soft navy blazer with a white, button-down, Egyptian cotton shirt crisp beneath it. His jeans were indigo blue, the kind that went for hundreds of dollars a pair. His red suede sneakers bore the subtle Prada logo beneath the laces. Bobby had thrown the look together to display a kind of casual elegance, and from the way the therapist was eyeing him, it succeeded in spades.
Even Bobby’s face spoke of good health and clean living. Skin so fine it almost appeared without pores. His auburn hair, close cropped, had just a touch of product to give it sheen, even here in this dimly lit warren. From him wafted the aroma of Hermès, sprayed in a cloud that Bobby had walked into, to ensure he got just the right amount on him.
In short, he knew he appeared to be a man who had everything—health, looks, money.
He imagined the therapist must be thinking: So what the hell is he doing here? And then, sadly, he guessed her next thought might be: And why is it impossible for him to erase that mask of sadness that seems to cling to his face, marring those perfect features?
I’ll wait for him to tell me.
Bobby knew how therapists operated, even if he had never been to one. He had read enough about them and seen enough of them in movies and TV shows to know their modus operandi. She would know, Bobby surmised, that silence was often the most powerful tool in a head doctor’s arsenal. Silence prodded, pushing for respite, for release. It was human nature, these days especially, to want to fill that quiet void with talk.
But Bobby, too, waited. A full two or three minutes had passed since Camille had made her initial small talk greetings. Yet Bobby still played with the pewter button on his blazer, seldom lifting his arresting gray eyes to meet her gaze.
Camille tapped the toe of her shoe on the bamboo flooring, and Bobby wondered if she was beginning to get impatient. She stopped tapping suddenly when Bobby moved his gaze from looking around the room to her foot. He finally spoke.
“Caden sent me.”
Camille nodded. The simple nod and the sudden light in Camille’s eyes told Bobby she remembered his old friend. He imagined what the pair must have once discussed, here, in this very room. She had probably helped Caden through love problems that most young men experience and issues with his mother’s battle with cancer. Camille smiled, and Bobby thought it was because she knew Caden was now in a good place, in love with a wonderful man. Bobby wondered if she had heard Caden was moving in with his boyfriend, Kevin. Bobby wanted to tell her that Caden’s mother was winning her battle with that hateful disease and that she was now recuperating at home, struggling through chemo treatments with grace and humor.
But he only knew these latter two things because he had heard them from a mutual friend one night at Roscoe’s along the Halsted strip known in Chicago as Boystown. He had not heard them from Caden.
He had not heard a word from Caden.
“That’s the one.”
“He’s a good friend to have.”
“Was. Was a good friend.” Bobby realized Caden must have stopped coming to see her before Bobby had betrayed him, and the shame caused a rush of heat to rise to his face.
“He and I kind of reached a parting of the ways, I guess you might say. I…” Bobby sighed and his voice trailed off. He stared down at the floor.
Camille said nothing.
“I kind of screwed up our friendship. I was an ass.”
Camille cocked her head, a subtle indication for him to continue.
“You want to know what I did, huh?”
“I want to know what you want to tell me, Bobby.”
“I tried to steal his boyfriend.”
“In my defense, I didn’t think Caden wanted him anymore.”
He guessed that the therapist’s first reaction to such news would be to recoil. Why not? Here before her was a man who had done a very bad thing, a reprehensible thing, and it seemed like he was sitting here wanting to blame the victim. He didn’t think Caden wanted him anymore? Seriously? What kind of defense was that? Even if that was the case, and it was, someone still didn’t go after a person their best friend had fallen in love with, no matter how sweet and sexy the man was.
But Camille, if she had any judgments, kept them to herself. Her face revealed nothing but a sincere desire to know more.
Bobby shook his head and let a bitter laugh escape his full lips. “That’s bullshit. True, they were having problems. Caden was away—dealing with his mom’s cancer—and while he was gone, his boyfriend, Kevin, went from pudge to stud in six weeks.” Bobby laughed. “Most guys would be delighted with the change. I know I would. But Caden’s an odd duck. He likes ’em big and beefy.”
Camille nodded. Bobby wondered if she already knew this from her sessions with Caden.
“So I moved in. Made a play for the guy. I mean, Kevin was smokin’ hot. Blond, bearded, a real man’s man, you know? You’d never guess he was gay.” He looked up at the therapist with eyes that pled for understanding.
“I just wanted someone to love me.”
There it was. The raw truth. Bobby was surprised at himself—that he had allowed the heart of the matter to come out this early.
Camille agreed with him. “We all want that, Bobby.”
“Yeah, we do.” He fell silent once more and cut his gaze to the little digital clock on the end table next to her chair. He was surprised to see they’d already used twenty-five of their fifty minutes.
Bobby went on. “But I don’t seem to know how to go about getting it. I ruined a friendship trying to grab something that I knew damn good and well didn’t belong to me. And now, not only do I not have the guy I was after, I’ve lost the best friend I ever had.”
Bobby guessed, if he was human, the therapist might now see a glimmer of a tear or two in his eyes at that point. He would go on to make an admission she would recognize as honest, yet very painful.
But that was what Bobby imagined other people might feel. The truth was—and Bobby was aware enough to recognize this—he was a man who was so out of touch with real emotions that he wouldn’t recognize them if they came up and bit him on the ass.
But there was hope, wasn’t there? Hadn’t he just acknowledged, after all, his own culpability and bad behavior? Wouldn’t she see that as a start?
Camille took a deep breath and threw out the question therapists must be honor bound to ask at least once, if not many times, during a course of treatment. “And how does that make you feel?”
“Like dirt. Like the piece of shit I know I am.”
Harsh! But the sad thing was—it was true.
Camille shifted her weight in her chair, crossing and uncrossing her legs. Had he made her uncomfortable? Was he being too frank? Was she having trouble imagining how such a fine-looking specimen could feel his life was in such a shambles? He saw her write something quickly in her notepad. He wondered if she had jotted down one word: narcissist?
I certainly would fit the label, he thought sadly, although at this point in his life, he didn’t have a clue how to change it. “Do you think I’m a narcissist?”
“Bobby, I think I should be the one asking the questions here, if you’re going to benefit from your time with me. Why do you ask? Do you think you are?”
“Tell me again what the word means—your clinical definition.”
Camille looked undecided, not saying anything for several moments. Finally, she said, “Well, the clinical definition of narcissist goes something like this. It’s a person with an inflated sense of self, a deep need for admiration. They believe themselves superior to others, with little regard for other people’s feelings.” She paused and then added, “People who fit this trait are often people who have very fragile self-esteem, often hidden behind a mask of confidence. Because of that, it’s hard for these people to form wholesome, healthy relationships.” She stared at him, and Bobby felt forced to meet her gaze. “Do you think that sounds like you, Bobby?”
“That’s why I’m here,” Bobby said, looking away from her.
“To figure out why I’m a narcissistic piece of shit. Why I just want to grab, grab, grab at whatever I want, heedless of who I hurt. What’s wrong with me? I must be missing something. In here.” He puts a hand over his heart.
Camille laid a hand, for a moment, on Bobby’s own. “I think it’s good we’re here to talk about that, Bobby. It’s good that you recognize you needed to talk to someone. Only when that happens can healing begin.”
He grinned, but the smile did not meet his eyes. “That, and the fact that I’m an irresponsible, unrepentant, insatiable…slut.”
Camille looked up at him. She looked more amused than shocked, and that surprised Bobby. She adjusted her pencil skirt, rearranged her halo of frizzy hair (for the umpteenth time—she really must find a way to stop that nervous habit), and asked, “Why do you feel the need to call yourself a slut? Most people wouldn’t take kindly to someone calling them that. So I wonder why you’d apply such a label to yourself.”
Again, Bobby said nothing for a long time. Finally, he glanced up from the loose thread he seemed to be contemplating at the hem of his jeans and gave her a warm smile, wide and welcoming. “Last week, I hooked up with seventeen guys.”
What he had said must have made her nervous, even giddy in a hysterical sort of way. Camille tugged on her earlobe and scribbled onto her pad, seemingly unable to meet his eyes.
Bobby thought he would jar her back to the present. “You’re not saying anything.”
“What do you think I should say?”
“I don’t know. Maybe something like: Shame on you? Have you been checked for STDs?” He grinned, but again, knew the smile would not reach his eyes, which he was certain reflected only sadness and resignation. “Where’d you find the time?”
Camille cut her gaze to the clock, and Bobby saw that their time, for real, was up. “Listen, Bobby, I think we have a lot to talk about.” She smiled. “Can you come in again next week? Same time?”
He nodded, back to silent mode.
“Good. Just set it up with Clarice, out at the front desk.”
Bobby turned at the door. “It’ll probably be eighteen before night falls.” He winked. “Just how I am. Incorrigible slut.”
Before she could respond, he had closed the door behind him.