I'm sitting in his office, on the couch. It's old, red leather. Like a pair of loafers that, after years, have broken in and molded to your feet. More like a second skin than shoes. Here, with furniture, it's a couch molded from the weight of several thousand, shifting, storied bodies.
Like the room, the building, and Dr. Richard Book himself -- the couch has a history you can feel. I'm just the latest chapter in its story of support.
"The Book" -- my tag for him -- ushered me in to his "inner sanctum." His words, said looking at the floor with the kind of self-deprecating, friendly smile and voice that can put a girl at ease. Even a girl who's on the road back from the long, dark night of a rape, an abortion that left a secret bleeder, and a three-day coma from the blood loss.
I was lucky Ruby Heeler, a nine-year-old with mischief on her mind, had headed to the park that Saturday morning and found me passed out on a bench, where I'd been since 5:00 p.m. on Friday.
The Book is in the waiting room, talking on the phone. I can hear his voice, but not make out the words. His voice is calm and smooth. Like ice cream on a hot day.
In his study, there are a lot of pictures on the walls. Paintings, photos, drawings, sketches. Most in simple frames. Some just mounted on foam board. There's a bookcase on one wall that's crammed with books. Near that, an ancient wooden desk that's layered deep with stuff. By the couch is a coffee table with a box of tissues, a large stuffed chair and ottoman, and a stand lamp by the chair.
If I were to lie down on the couch, head resting on a pillow on the couch arm nearest to the chair, I'd be looking out a double-window to the mid-level of an oak tree just outside. The office is on the second floor of a townhouse on West Fourteenth.
The door opens. "Sorry," the Book says. "I'll take ten minutes off your hourly charge."
I'm lying on the couch, head turned and looking at him, my Chuck Taylors hanging just off the side. Like someone waiting for a servant to bring her tea and cookies.
"There's a charge?" I say, barely smiling.
He glaces at me, smiling back. "Oh, yes. And for you there's a special rate."
"Because," he says, sitting in the chair, "you're the kind of girl who will expect me to be at my best game."
"And normally, you'd ..." I say, trailing off.
"Just be dull and boring. Sit here, with my pad and pen, doodling and day dreaming, while you went on about how your dog now treats you like an alien from outer space."
"Oh. Guess I'll have to keep the story of my alien abduction, until the second visit."
"Thank you. We appreciate it." He pauses for a beat. "But not enough to show up on your bill."
"Thanks," I say, breath laughing. "I'd really rather think of you as a learned prick. Just so, you know, we don't get close."
"The five feet from my chair, here, to that couch, is as close as we'll ever be. Believe me -- I'm not a shrink because I like people."
"That's a load off my mind," I say.
And immediately, in just fifty words, we've established a back-story point of view and method of exchange, for our characters to interact. Like two people-kids who were meant to play together.
There's a pause. "So ... is this where I take my clothes off?"
"No." He breath laughs. "That's always on 'the next' visit. Just so we'll always have something to look forward to."
20090907 03:23 Mon (626 words)