“So I never told anyone this before,” JJ said to Dr. Shay. “I feel really…really…”
“It’s ok.” Dr. Shay said.
“Really…” JJ rolled his shoulders, tilted his head from side to side, fidgeted. “I don’t know. Stupid. Definitely uncomfortable.”
“It’s ok. I’m not here to judge you.”
That’s bullshit, JJ thought. “I spend a lot of time in this world in my head,” he said while looking out the window. There was a parking lot, a strip of vegetation scraggly and unkempt, then the Connecticut River, swollen with snow melt. All that water looking for a way out, JJ thought.
“Well, we have talked about the relentless fantasy and how men in particular…”
“No, not that kind of world.” JJ said and looked back at Dr. Shay. “It’s an imaginary world where there is a long war going on. It takes place on another planet, someplace threatened by take over from, from…others. But people are holding out, they don’t want to leave though some of them switched sides, or sold out to the enemy for an easier life. They are hunted down and killed. I’m one of the good guys. One of the ones who stays behind. We wage guerilla war against the invaders and hunt down the deserters. We live in the mountains, in caves…” JJ stopped.
“I’ve said too much. They’ll kill me for this.” He looked at Dr. Shay and smiled. “Just kidding. Listen, I know it’s not real or anything. I used to just imagine it to help fall asleep. But now I think about it all the time.”
“Why don’t you write it down?”
JJ looked out the window at the river. Tree limbs rushed by much faster than the water looked to be moving. They are swept along, JJ thought. Will they make it all the way to the ocean? They’ll probably just get stuck on some dam. “It’s like I’m the one to make things right. To bring justice. In the story. The elders told me I’m the one to see it through.”
“Can you see it through?”
Dr. Shay looked at JJ and waited for more, but there was no more. “Is there a reason why you are the one to see it through?”
“Not that I know.”
“Well, maybe that’s where to investigate. Why are you the special one? Was it destiny? Is it just because it makes a better story? Or is it because you have something hidden, something burning hot down deep inside.”
“Wait,” said JJ. “Are we talking about real life?”
“It’s all real life, JJ,” said Dr. Shay. “And I bet if you’re honest with yourself, there’s a hot coal smoldering deep inside. Beneath the story. Otherwise you wouldn’t be here.”
They were quiet and JJ tried to go deeper. He looked away from the broad generous face of Dr. Shay and then found a spot, a thermostat on the wall, just past Dr. Shay’s head of wild white hair. “There’s a lot of murk down there,” JJ said. “Maybe a damp and smoky campfire. But no hot coal.”
“It’s a start,” said Dr. Shay. “Now tell me about your family growing up.”