The Patient

The pause that followed was more than an awkward silence.  If it had been a TV show, it would have been followed by a percussive and dramatic musical effect followed by a commercial break.

Julie broke the silence, “I appreciate your frankness.  It’s going to help us succeed in this therapy.”

The Patient looked directly into Julie’s eyes, “And you wouldn’t tell anyone, would you?”

“Of course not.  Not only wouldn’t I, I can’t.  It’s called privileged communication.  It’s part of the oath of my profession.  Only to prevent a certain crime am I permitted to say anything.”

The Patient looked at the reflection of the desk clock on the glass top on the coffee table and said, “Well, that’s good to know.  I guess our time is up.”

The Patient left.  The psychologist sat for a while.

After one more patient, Julie Harvey took her usual walk with Siggy to the lighthouse.  The lighthouse park was popular and usually crowded, but not today.  It was mid-week, cloudy, and not yet the summer tourist season.  The lighthouse attracted large numbers of tourists and sightseers during the season.  Neither Julie nor her friends and neighbors could figure if it was the extraordinary ugliness of the structure itself or the beauty of the view from the prototypically rocky New England shore that attracted visitors.  The lighthouse was a thin column tower that was purely and Puritanically utilitarian and industrial looking.  It had no charm whatsoever–a sharp contrast to the islands and the historic colonial homes and mansions surrounding the sea views.

Right now the emptiness of the place afforded Julie an opportunity to be in the moment.  She contemplated the views—the harbor on one side and the island-speckled Atlantic on the other side.  The park was a perfect place to sit uninterrupted and work out the hidden feelings and thoughts scurrying around in her subconscious.  She held out a dog biscuit, “Here, Siggy.”  The dog took the cookie appreciatively and settled down to chew.  Then instead of finding a stick or begging for more, she sat in front of Julie and tilted her head inquisitively.  “OK, girl, you can tell that something is nibbling at me.  And not in a good way.”  When no response was forthcoming from the animal, she said, “I suppose you mean that I should ‘go with that feeling’ and just say what’s on my mind.”  She patted her pet’s head, “I have this anxious feeling about one patient,” she looked into Siggy’s perpetually sympathetic eyes.  She watched the ripples in the gray-blue water for a couple of moments.  She said, “But I have anxiety about the people around this one patient.  When I look into The Patient’s eyes, I see anger and violence far greater than we ever discussed in sessions.  When this patient asked me about privileged communications, I got the feeling that I was being assessed as a potential enemy or threat.”

At that moment a voice said, “Are you a threat, Ms. Harvey?”

Julie turned.  The Patient was standing behind her.  Startled, she didn’t answer for a moment.  “What are you doing here?