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Authors: William Deverell

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Mind Games (13 page)

BOOK: Mind Games
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I strode past the gaping landlord down the hall to the toilet, and after washing the lipstick from my face, returned to find Vivian gone, and Kolosky too. Likely he was wasting no time finding ears for his tale of debauchery in the shrink’s consulting room.

You can imagine the scenarios that raced through my mind. My fear, of course, was that some garbled version of the facts would come to the attention of our wardens of correctness, and I would be faced with some prurient questioning into my conduct.

So the first thing I did when I gained the street was to find the nearest pay phone and call Irwin Connelly for some quick and desperately needed advice. I reached only his answering machine, but at least made sure I related the facts.

Then I went down to the Kits Pub, recuperating there until my hands stopped shaking, downing two double whiskys. My hormones were still racing through me, and I developed a headache. It was only when my bleary eyes made out the wall
clock that I realized Sally must have arrived at Celestine’s loft at least an hour ago.

It took an agonizing ten minutes to flag a taxi to drive me to the heritage building in Gastown where Celestine Post maintains home and gallery. I stumbled into the ground-floor vestibule, hesitated by the elevator, then attacked the stairs, five storeys up. I was breathless as I lurched into the loft, Celestine Post holding the door, looking at me as if at a sick cat come home to die.

“My God, it’s Captain Phobia, drenched in sweat. He smells like swamp gas, Sally.”

I panted, caught my bearings. Though only with one bedroom, the suite is spacious, with half-sized windows but many skylights, a spiral staircase to the roof, where Celestine likes to smoke pot. She’s a competent artist, and her walls are covered in stark abstractions – slashes of brilliant colour. She’s also non-representational in appearance, cerise hair, rings in her multi-pierced ears, green tights over her thin legs.

Sally rose from a chair, tanned and healthy. More beautiful, somehow, maybe after a visit to an Italian salon, her hair different, fluffier. She studied me for a moment, dared a subtle kiss upon the lips, then drew back. “What’s this?”

I had washed the lipstick from my face, but she spotted a splotch on my collar, and her smile became a frown.

“You’ve been drinking. What’s going on, Tim?”

“Everything. The world has gone mad. Maybe not, maybe I have. A patient just tried to rape me. They know where I live. I’m moving offices.”

“Whoa.”

“Have a hit of this.” Celestine handed me a glass containing a liquid whose fumes caused me to gasp. Grappa, from a long-necked duty-free bottle. I knocked it back, excused myself, went to the washroom, washed the sweat from my face, stared at the baggy-eyed wretch in the mirror. I’d forgotten to shave that morning, my hair was tousled, matted.

It took me about an hour to summarize my Dadaist life through the last fortnight, and I finally achieved some sympathetic response. “You’ve every right to be the total mess you are,” Celestine said. Sally expressed concern as I related my near-defilement at the hands of … I’m afraid I used the term
nymphomaniac
, now banned in the colleges.

My main worry, I emphasized, had to do with the notes.
You are next. I know where you live
. I didn’t want Sally to be alone.

“Sally will stay right here. We’re used to sleeping with each other now.”

And who else? I wanted to ask. Sally, as if atoning for some guilt-inducing episode, took my hand, caressed my cheek.

We talked for hours, debating and conjecturing our way through the grappa, through the quality Bardolino Sally had brought me as a gift. Celestine claimed to find artistic inspiration from my dreams. Sally was locked onto the Huffian melodrama, to the hints of consanguinity. It is her view that the key to my happiness (to ours?) lies in the unearthing of my roots, my male inheritance.

I listened anxiously to their tales of travel for hints of moral lapses, becoming suspicious when not a single encounter with a man was mentioned, even in passing. Celestine enjoys her romantic adventures too much for such history to be blank. My concern for Sally (not jealousy, I’m over that) was as to her health; infectious diseases abound.

Finally, I asked, “Meet anyone interesting?”

“We only had eyes for each other, darling,” said Celestine.

I turned, expecting to see her winking at Sally, but she was deadpan.

The women had begun to stifle yawns, so I made ungainly to my feet. Sally shepherded me to the door, Celestine finally granting us a minute alone. I had a hard time summoning courage to make a case for our reunion.

“How long will you stay here?”

“Not long. I love her, but she’s too nuts. I’m not going to be denied my own home. I have to go back. You should think of going away for a while.”

I shook my head. Escape would be cowardly; like Sally, I couldn’t let fear rule my life. Again, I wondered if I was making too much of this. Maybe I wasn’t being threatened, merely teased, however maliciously.

I plunged: “I could move back home, sleep downstairs. Just a housemate, of course, I’d just be there for your protection, nothing expected.”

“Tim, I’m just not ready. I want you to understand.”

“Okay, I do.” But I didn’t, and I felt the pain of renewed rejection.

As I stepped out into the gloomy hallway, she turned me about, came into my arms, holding me. “We’ll talk, okay?”

“What went wrong, Sally?”

“I don’t know. Maybe it was the time that you … You know.”

I know.

C
HAPTER
S
IX

Date of Interview: Friday, August 22, 2003
.

Tim arrived wearing a baseball cap, T-shirt, and floppy shorts: loose, he said, so he doesn’t sweat as much. He doesn’t wear “that spandex shit.” He has accelerated his training for his charity rally in October,
le prix de Okanagan
, as he calls it. He concurs with me that this is a healthy sublimation, a converting of his array of worries not only into an athletic effort but a worthy cause: all funds go to Médecins Sans Frontières.
1
I’ve noted how his body, always lean, has become more sinewy with strenuous exercise. And he was in a sanguine mood, having come to a view that Sally “hasn’t completely garbaged” him. There was, indeed, a brief coming together during the week, and it has given him hope.

I feel we are finally making progress with the difficulties that caused their separation. I’m surprised that he was so slow to tell me about an interaction that occurred a few years ago, but the incident explains much.

As to my attempts to bring buried feelings and memories to the surface, he remains recalcitrant, though I have at least drawn from him more specifics about events surrounding his conception.

Almost miraculously, given recent history, no untoward incidents have occurred to mar his week – no threats, no letters, no awkward episodes with sexually assertive patients. All told, he presented as more emotionally stable than at previous sessions. His improved mood has had a salubrious effect on his appearance. A new face shows.

I suspect he has an unclear self-image, and doesn’t realize he can be quite attractive when he smiles. His long hair was tidily knotted at the back, and he had remembered to shave.

I have to do another thirty kilometres before the sun goes down, hit the hills – there are a few stiff climbs in the Okanagan. Care to join in sponsoring me? I’m getting a hundred here, a hundred there. I’m soliciting the rich law firms I work with.

I’ll put in a hundred. And five times that if you win.

That’s clever. Encouraging my healthy mania. We’re up to about fifty registrations already, looking to double it. We have categories for men and women, so there’ll be two first prizes. I’m probably taking it too seriously, it’s supposed to be a fun affair, pancake breakfasts, a barbecue at the finish. That’s on Halloween – appropriate, because I’ve a sense my demons and goblins will decide to back off if I make a good showing.

Excellent, your spirits are up. Before we get under way, Richard and I are inviting a few friends over for dinner next weekend – on the patio if it’s nice – and I was wondering if you’d care to join us. Seven or eight people – you won’t find it oppressive.

Very kind of you.

We’re at 55 Ridge Crescent, rather high up in West Van, I’m afraid.

May I ask Sally to come? I’m no longer banned from her life.

Of course.

We had a couple of evenings together. Working out a kink, something that happened a few years ago.

Have I heard about this?

I guess I’ve been containing it … I’ll be honest …

Please do.

I feel ashamed, afraid of what you’ll think. I hypnotized her. It was intended as a playful thing. We had come back from a restaurant, were relaxing by the fireplace – this was in the winter – and we got on the topic of the powers of suggestion. I offered to demonstrate.

He winced …

I accept full responsibility: it was at my urging. Sally was unsure at first – uncomfortable with the idea of not being in control of her thoughts and actions. But the more she hesitated, the more I tried to convince her that the exercise would be benign. I was her lover, her partner, her best friend: she could trust me above all others.

Coincidentally, at around this time, she’d briefly abandoned her children’s illustrations in favour of the large canvas (landscapes, moody winter scenes), because she’d been having difficulty conceptualizing Miriam’s trip to a country fair, and the carrot I held out was that I might help Sally pull out memories of a similar event she’d attended as a child.

Ultimately, she put down her glass of wine, took a deep breath, lay back on the rug, and said, “Okay, take me there.”

I had always suspected that Sally was a good candidate for hypnosis. During a playful demonstration a decade earlier – no
deep or even light sleep – she’d been shocked by her faithful obedience to a suggestion that she scratch her nose.

In a thrice, she was out – at the count not of ten but of three. Before taking her to the rural fair, I resolved to rid her of her artistic block (perhaps I shouldn’t have taken that second glass of wine). You will be able to visualize, I promised, you will be pumped up with creative energy.

“Yes,” she said. “I can feel it.”

We dallied for a while at the fair, took in the judging of livestock, bought a candied apple, witnessed a pie-eating contest – we were having a fine old-fashioned country time. I wasn’t expecting anything untoward. But then she remembered – relived – an incident. She was with her parents, John and Gwen, and was being a brat, pestering them to be allowed to compete for a fluffy teddy bear: one of those ring-toss games.

Perhaps it was the heat and dust, or there was a pathological determinant, but her mother fainted, collapsed on the sawdust. Unfortunately, her frantic father – I know John well, a loving man, and it isn’t his style – blurted out a few harsh words at Sally, blaming her, as they knelt to Gwen. Medics quickly arrived. Gwen lay reviving for an hour in a first-aid tent, Sally standing by in guilt and shock.

Sally wouldn’t have suffered the kind of overpowering trauma one banishes from memory had not Gwen been found to have a ventricular fistula – a hole in the heart. Two years later she died.

Sally didn’t emerge from her hypnotic trance, but lay weeping on the rug. I suffered a loss of professional poise, began to flounder. I wanted to bring her back, but I hadn’t told her what the release signal would be – I usually rely on a clap of the hands. Still, I thought, surely she’d awake if urged to do – but it was as if she couldn’t hear my words. I tried, foolishly, clapping my hands. No response but a suddenly calm exterior. I gently shook her, and she opened her eyes – but they didn’t seem to observe me.

She rose. She walked upstairs to her studio. She stood before her array of brushes and oils and other painterly devices. She began to sketch and dab. I watched from behind her, anxious and fascinated, urging her to speak to me, to become aware of her surroundings: this is the winter of 1999, my darling, you’re in a hypnotic state. She ignored me, shook off my hand.

She remained for ten straight hours at a stretched piece of canvas on her drawing board. I waited her out, watching, pacing, my mind churning through published histories of when-hypnosis-goes-wrong, learned articles I had too carelessly perused. I knew that one ought not to shock the subject into coming back too quickly and brutally.

It was about six o’clock in the morning when she laid down her brushes. She’d created a vast, complex country fair, crammed with activity, and eight-year-old Mildred was standing alone and lost in the midst of it.

Sally returned to this world, began to weep. I held her in my arms, but she was rigid, angry, rejecting me.

“It’s all right,” I kept repeating. “You’re home again.”

“I’m not all right,” she said.

Altered, I suspect now. Forever altered, divided from me …

Flash-forward to last Sunday night, to a quiet table in a fine French restaurant. The promised date. Sally was in a serious mood, rebuking me, but gently.

BOOK: Mind Games
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