“He is right. I’ve let my fear take over everything I used to know. Now, every decision I make has been informed by my obsessions.” He shifted to gaze in the doctor’s direction. “I need to change, don’t I? It’s non-optional. What can I do?”
As the doctor’s head inclined, regal yet allowing, he switched a firm eye-line between the two of them. "Your anxiety is out of control, Lucas. I think you are – consciously or not – worrying that your father was right that you deserve to be punished."
Lucas looked at his hands, and Andrea gave them a squeeze, but he did not look up.
"Is this what you feel, Lucas?" asked Dr. Morrison.
He swallowed. "I can't explain what I feel. It's the thoughts that, even though he's gone, Father is being sent from God to punish things I do unless I conform to his belief system entirely: be morally secure, treat others with proper respect and don't ruin their lives...to marry a good woman, too.
"Sometimes, when I get carried away in my actions, when I'm too jolly or too giddy in whatever I do, his voices comes from the back of my head to scold me...and so, I have to put everything back in order to get him to stop."
New tears dripped down Lucas' face as he finished speaking.
"Is this a rational way to think?"
Lucas understood what would be considered the right answer. "Well, no."
Andrea twitched at the corner of her chair; the fabric was rough under her fingers. Lucas looked as if he wasn't sure he believed his own words.
"It’s irrational, but I’ve been used to actions to order my life. My father…I don't want to be blasphemous against his ways," he added.
"Do you doubt your faith, Lucas?"
Dr. Morrison repeated the question, this time with more force.
“I – perhaps.”
“Your father cannot hurt you any further, working no longer in the grave. Andrea, say this with me.”
She nodded, smiling gently. “Your father can’t hurt you or Léa anymore.”
“I know,” he mused. “I need to do something.”
“We’ll take it step by step. I want you to talk to me about your life – and then we will apply rational thought to all we can.”
“What can you do here, Doctor?” Andrea felt so silly when she realised how light her voice had sounded. She trembled, still in some sort of shock from what Lucas had said. It sounded terrible that anyone could do that to his family.
"Tell me about your past relationships, Lucas. How have other women reacted to your OCD?"
Again, Lucas swallowed uneasily. He looked to Andrea and she nodded encouragement. "Some I've broken up with before I told them – I could tell that they wouldn't have been 'right' with that knowledge, you know: they wouldn't have been able to handle it and we would have broken up anyway. Other times, it was the other way ‘round, when the women noticed my habits.... Or they couldn't stand it after a while. I was lucky that none broke up with me on the spot when I told them so."
He fiddled with the pot of pencils on the desk, twisting each of their writing to face him.
Lucas started at the doctor’s command. "But with Andrea....” he continued, picking up the stream of thought that must have left him. “No woman's ever told me to confront my disorder, not even my sister. It was a coincidence that Andrea lived in the town I was moving to, but when I heard her voice.... I'd met other women from the newspaper, so I thought I'd see. No, it wasn't a coincidence, it was Divine Intervention."
"Okay," said Dr. Morrison, wearing his expression of scepticism that was typical of him.
Andrea kept the smile on her lips to a minimum. She was secretly pleased with Lucas’ response – so much so that it only confirmed her adoration of him from heart to mind. She beamed from her cheeks alone.
Lucas, only with a sideways glance, caught her eye. His own lips twitched for a second, as if they could have a meaningful conversation through tiny thoughts. Probably. Pride shot through her and she trembled, entwined with Lucas.
A clock on the wall ticked loudly, focusing on the hour. Dr. Morrison eyed it, only for a moment, and then he turned back to Andrea and Lucas, though he mostly kept Lucas in his sight.
"Thank you for your honesty today, Lucas," said Dr. Morrison. "I feel that we've made amazing progress. Unfortunately, our fifty minutes is up in the typical recording of time when one is enjoying one's self."
Lucas cast him a glance that almost wiped the cheery smile from Dr. Morrison's face.
"Of course, that's purely subjective of me."
“Can I hope to see you again, next week?”
Lucas’ lips barely lifted. “Perhaps.”
“But not the next the week. That’s Christmas,” interrupted Andrea.
Dr. Morrison smiled, his own lips stretching unusually over his gums. “Of course. How astute of you to mention it.”
Andrea bristled inside, though she knew he only meant it teasingly. It was the type of humour that Lucas frequently used. In fact, his own shoulder shook with the mirth of his giggle.
“Stop it.” Andrea hit him gently with her purse as they stood simultaneously.
Lucas turned to the doctor. “Thank you, sir.”
Having said those words and no more, he strode out of the office. Andrea was about to follow when a hand on her arm made her flinch and shoot its owner another dirty look, from which the doctor withdrew.
"Andrea, keep pushing him. That's just what he needs," he remarked apologetically.
She nodded wordlessly and began to leave the room for the final time.
“For the record,” added Dr. Morrison, “I think you’re in the wrong field. You would have made a great therapist here.”
She gave a half-hearted smile, before declaring, somewhat brashly, to the man, “it’s not my type of clinic anyway.”
As they walked together away from the office, Lucas began to whistle the tune that sprung lively through his mind. He gratefully held Andrea’s warm hand with his own and swung them together, pendulum-like.
No, he would forget the rhythmic chances he had taken for so long. Now it was up to spontaneity to arouse him for his mental stupor.
What was better than music to do that? Lucas raised his lips and whistled. Even Andrea had a go at humming a counter-melody.
They actually said nothing until they had exited the building into blue sky and the midday sun’s shimmering zenith; Lucas felt that there was nothing that could be said, lest he enrage her temper by not having mentioned any of his trauma before. But that was the whole meaning of trauma: it was something that squatted in one’s mind, just waiting for the right moment to grasp the soul with its filthy talons and drag one down into an oblivion of surging emotions.
Lucas altered the tune he was whistling by a key. He was hardly poetic enough to be making such complex metaphors up, but the joy of God had hit him in full force when he no longer let his demon hunt wordlessly. And there it was again: arbitrary descriptions. The only excuse he could create was that he had not ever been able to explain what had haunted him for so long.
“Thank goodness that’s over,” Lucas jested. Luckily, Andrea’s face lit up, too.
“It wasn’t too bad, was it?”
Lucas tilted his head back and laughed out loud. Heartily.
“It was more useful than I had envisioned, I’ll give you that one, Andrea,” he managed to say between chuckles. She made him so happy most times.
“My argument is always valid,” she said, tossing her head.
“Your argument is always scientific.”
His arm bobbed as she nodded her head. “Despite what you might think, Psychology is a science.”
“Oh, I think that a lot. After all, I’m the man of humanities.” Her refrained from adding the unnecessary point that all his A-Levels had been ‘science’ in their set, even if not the full sciences themselves. Psychology was novel in its own respect, and, now his eyes had been opened a little more to therapy, Lucas didn’t deny her that idea.
They had reached his car and Andrea’s smile was set. She hadn’t stopped the skip in her walk since they had left the office, as if she had proven something beyond her insistence for Lucas’ health. He didn’t dare ask.
Now, however, he knew that it was safe to let her care for him. It was a woman’s prerogative.
By the way," she asked at the car-door, as if something had suddenly come to her from the thin air "are we doing anything specific for Christmas?"
Lucas couldn’t help but laugh out loud all over again.