Mind Games (5 page)

I didn’t attempt to go to bed with Sally. In fact, I didn’t sleep. I sat up all night. I ate breakfast at five a.m. in an all-night diner, then dragged myself to the two-storey stand-alone building on Fourth Avenue where I share the upper floor with three accountants. (Our hold on it is precarious. The landlord wants to buy out our leases, the computer graphics firm on the ground floor wants to expand upstairs. Another item for the worry pile.)

I was hunched over my desk asleep at eight a.m. when Vivian Lalonde knocked on the door. Rumpled, unshaven, my hair falling over my eyes, I listened groggily to an account of
the calumnies of an uncultured sportsman who talked only about golf and fishing, and who yesterday had dared call her a skinny bitch.

“Did you stay at your parents’?”

“Yes.” She finally seemed to notice the state I was in. “Have you been drinking or something? You look a mess.”

“I’m … never mind. So how did everything work out at home?”

“I didn’t think Father would be that supportive. He’s hiring a van to get my things.”

Eventually the truth would have to come from her: she’d set up her marriage to fail in order to please her father, as she had her first relationship. But I felt annoyed at her, at her hunger for trauma, at her trivial dramas. Get an education, get a job, get a life, I wanted to shout.

I found myself staring blankly at Sally’s self-portrait, her gift to me on my thirtieth birthday. And suddenly I unravelled. I lost all professionalism, found myself challenging her grief against mine. I told her I hadn’t slept, that she’d stumbled last night into a domestic funeral, that I’d lost the only woman I had ever loved.

What a fool I was to have unburdened myself. But I had to release, to vent, and if it hadn’t been Vivian Lalonde it would have been hypersomniac Katerina Welch or Larry Jankes with his body dysmorphic disorder.

Ironically, my anguish acted upon Vivian as therapy.

“Oh, Timothy, that’s terrible. I didn’t realize … I’ll come back another time.”

She calmed completely, her own marital plight a dim concern against mine. As she was about to leave, she turned to me and, before I could shy away, kissed me on the lips. An impetuous act of compassion? Let us hope.

I struggled through the next twenty-four hours, rescheduled patients, escaped to the sea aboard my cutter. But I could
not escape Sally. I remembered how she used to sketch as she squatted on the bow, her T-shirt powdered with artists’ chalk, blonde curls ruffling in the wind.

She’ll summon me back within days, I assured myself. A week, perhaps, to save face. I will return non-gloatingly to her bosom. I’ll mend my ways. I’ll carry a Daytimer. I’ll buy a pager, a cellphone.

To allay her worries, I called her several times during the week to assure her I was coping. She was solicitous, then launched into rundowns of her day from which I picked up a lilting tone of freedom. I came by the house one evening to fetch my clarinet, but she was out – where, at half-past ten? I still had my key, and I prowled like a ghost through the darkened rooms. I felt smothered by all the loss and loneliness, by the smell of her in our former bedroom, and I grabbed my clarinet and ran.

I had a dream that night that seemed almost facile, too obvious. I was playing my clarinet before the gates of a fortress with many windows. You may deduce that I was trying to entice Sally to one of them, but more likely to enter the fortress of her life, proving my talent, proving I was worthy, if even only as a musician. But now I was being drowned out by sounds from within, an oompahpah band, a lusty Liederkranz, “Valderee, valdera.” The fortress, I realized, was actually a Munich beer hall. Sally was nowhere to be found. She’d taken a hike …

Now I spend my dream-filled nights bobbing on the waters of False Creek, in the shadows of the great bridges that connect to the heart of the city, amid the throng of seiners and plea-surecraft tied up at Fisherman’s Wharf. For one so scattered as I am, it is good discipline to be confined aboard a boat, where tidiness rules, where everything must have its place. I’ve undertaken a spate of sanding and varnishing, trying to achieve the mindlessness Nataraja counsels.

I tell myself that I’m lucky to have the
Altered Ego
to escape to. The true claustrophobic revels in the freedom of the sea.
Upon her, I’ve spent many pleasant days and nights, often weeks at a time, drifting about mystical Desolation Sound, the Charlottes, the Broken Islands. She’s a graceful lady in her polished dress of teak and mahogany Everything I need is here. There is a small shower in the head. There’s standing room in the main cabin, barely I have my books. I have my clarinet, my jazz collection, Grappelli, Parker, Peterson. I have loyal Vesuvio, my Italian aluminum racing bicycle.

Yes, Sally will quickly realize she’s made a tragic blunder in sending me away Life will be a bore without Timothy Jason Dare.

But just yesterday, I’m sorry to say, she buttressed her will. When I called to suggest lunch, she gently put me off. She
want to see me, she felt “tenderly” toward me, thought the idea of dating was fun, but she was worried about her resolve weakening, worried that she’d never achieve the strength to break free, to test herself as an independent person for the first and maybe only time in her life. I listened bleakly, uttering vacuities like “I understand” or “You’re to be admired, darling.” Then she said she thought it in our best interests “not to actually
for several more days. It’s like kicking smoking, she said.

Why had I never – in my cruellest nightmares – imagined that the former first mate of the
would suddenly mutineer and cast this solitary sailor afloat? I thought I’d known Sally’s every caprice. How had I missed the signs? I, of all people.

I have been butted from Sally’s life like a cigarette, dismissed as a bad habit. That’s what has finally driven me to the couch: the casualness of it all, the flip finality. I’m comforted only by the thought that worse could happen. I could be slashed to death by Bob Grundison. Wouldn’t Sally Pascoe be sorry then?


Date of Interview, Thursday, July 31, 2003

Timothy arrived ten minutes early, but on the wrong day, thinking it was Friday. He was even more excited and disturbed than on our first session, so I was obliged to ask another patient to wait, promising Tim twenty minutes.

Yesterday, he received an anonymous note in the mail,
You are next
. The writer had sketched a heart shape below the words, pierced with what could be a sword or an arrow. Tim has taken it as a death threat, though I urged him not to jump to conclusions. I reminded him it isn’t uncommon for therapists to receive bizarre notes from former patients.

I fear a paranoid disorder is at play. Not for the first time, he ascribed his burdens to “mysterious powers,” mystic or divine conspiracies “to fuck up my head.”
The note, he says, has been “working like a worm into my brain.” He claims that “Grundy is watching me again.” He is vague about why he is so certain of this. “I can sense him, smell him almost.” Yet he never sees the man he presumes to be Bob Grundison.

He became more settled after we talked it through. I assured him we would do more work on it tomorrow, on his regular day.

Slow down and relax, okay? Let’s allow things to settle for a bit.

I’m sorry, I’m a little shattered, I haven’t received a good death threat in years. Red-ink lettering. A dagger through the heart.

It looks more like a sword. Or an arrow. What do the words mean to you,
You are next!

This is from Barbara Loews Wiseman’s killer. I am next.

Have you called the police?

Of course not, I’m not going to have them rooting through my patient files.

Then what have you done about it?

Gave it to Dotty Chung, a friend, a private eye. She knows Grundy. She used to be with the city, lead officer on Dr. Wiseman’s murder.

It seems like a feminine hand to me somehow. Cupid’s arrow …

Bob Grundison is not Cupid.

Date of Interview: Friday, August 1, 2003

Because of difficult personal circumstances, I cancelled all patients today except for Timothy Dare, who arrived breathless, excusing himself for being late. He’d been stopped en route by a policewoman for bicycling without a helmet. He explained to her he’d lost it somewhere. Subsequently, we found the helmet in my waiting-room closet, where he’d left it yesterday.

This is another graphic instance of his absent-mindedness, which is apparently not simply a consequence of his stressed state. He feels it is part of his “characteristic behaviour pattern.” He also forgets appointments with his patients. Twice last winter he had to buy replacement raincoats. He is able to laugh at this.
In fact, during his recounting we both laughed, a welcome tension release for me.

He rode up in the elevator today, which I took as an encouraging sign that he’s trying to come to grips with at least one of his phobic responses. He was much more relaxed than yesterday, and revealed a side that is both compassionate and entertaining.

However, Tim appears no closer to reconciling himself to the loss of his partner – his self-esteem has been damaged by this – and I fear he’s regressed to the point of pursuing Ms. Pascoe surreptitiously.
The possibility must be explored that he is projecting onto Grundison his own regrettable behaviour with regard to Sally. He has had odd and frightening dreams relating to her imminent departure for Munich.

Aside from several minutes of tape, these clinical notes are transcribed from memory, though I jotted a few reminders while we sat on a park bench. I wasn’t functioning in top form, for reasons the excerpt below will make clear.

I’m sorry, Allis, about yesterday, barging in.

That’s fine. If you like, we can take a little extra time today, I had a hole open up. That’s a terrible way to put it. My next appointment had to be cancelled …

You aren’t looking well. What happened? Did you lose a patient?

I’m afraid so.

Oh, my God, I’m sorry. Suicide?

His faculties of observation are so well tuned that he seemed able to read this from my distracted manner and slumped posture

Carbon monoxide, he locked himself in his car. He couldn’t live with awakened memories. Parental sexual abuse.

That’s terrible.

He was coming along, his energy level had improved, he was no longer talking about the worthlessness of life. Though that should have put me on alert, that’s when one suddenly has the energy to implement a suicide plan.

Whatever you do, don’t take on the responsibility.

I know I shouldn’t. It’s hard to put that aside, though.

Look, maybe you need to take the rest of the day off. I’ll come back next week.

No. I can use some company.

It feels ominous that I’m filling the space of a dead man. Let’s not waste a summer day – how about a walk in Stanley Park?

As we strolled from your Denman Street office to the mowed margins of Vancouver’s great park, we traded roles; I listened and counselled. I hope I was of some help to you in this, a therapist’s worst horror: the catharsis with morbid consequences. Just remember: Things happen. Don’t listen to the whispered seductions of Self-reproach and her evil sister, Guilt. Confront them, unmask them, send them fleeing.

But yes, be sad, don’t be afraid of that. It’s to your credit that you cared so much for this religious, trustful, and troubled young man – too young to have been toughened in the trenches of life. One can’t be a therapist without empathy. One can’t be empathic and not be hurt. Is there another profession so emotionally exhausting? And doesn’t that speak to the fact that the suicide toll is so high among our own colleagues?

When you said it felt good to be able to talk to someone, I wondered about your husband, the media consultant – isn’t he someone? I suspect Richard is a busy man with all his public relating.

I could see your shoulders lift, your tension ease as I launched into stories from the Kafkaesque world of Timothy
Dare. I was pleased, finally, as we picked our way among the goose droppings by Lost Lagoon, to make you laugh. I play the sad clown well with my tales of seeding the town with coats, caps, and scarves. Not to mention the occasional file. It is as a result of one such lapse, and its awkward consequences, that I’m up on charges. They’re seeking a scapegoat over a boondoggle caused by my losing a patient’s file – but we’ll get to that.

As for Grundy Grundison, maybe I am inventing a spectre. Dotty Chung had a casual chat with the babysitter, Lyall DeWitt, who said Grundy was home on the evenings I thought I spotted him. He told my sleuth Grundy faithfully attends classes at
and rarely makes trips into the city, and never alone. Dotty suggested I take a little holiday.

I’ve decided I’m making too much of that note,
You are next
. You’re right: what therapist has not, now and then, received garbled, menacing letters? I’ve persuaded the courts to sentence many wrongdoers to penal or mental institutions. Any one of them could be my correspondent.

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