Thursday, December 09, 2004

EVERYONE DESERVES A HAPPY ENDING

"I've been coming here for the best part of a year, and you still haven't asked me about my mother. I thought that was one of the first things you were supposed to do. Aren't you breaking some rule? I don't want you to get in any trouble." I was sitting in a big, overstuffed armchair that made me feel even smaller than usual. In a way it was comforting, like I was a child again. That was almost certainly why it was there.
Dr. Rowney smiled politely. Maybe it was a real smile and he was just too good at hiding his feelings. "I'm more interested in talking about you at the moment. If your mother has problems she can come and see me herself."
"That would be a good trick. She died about twelve years ago."
"Ah."
"Don't worry. At least she never got to see her only son become another daughter."
"Would that have upset her?"
"How could it not? No one I knew coped very well with it, and none of them were as protective of me as her. Most of my friends stopped coming round. My mother wouldn't have done that, but her politeness would've been deadly. I could never cope with it when she was polite to me."
"If she had been around and had actually coped with the idea, been supportive even, would that have made things any easier for you?"
"I don't know." I looked at the scattered papers on his desk, but couldn't read anything upside down. They probably didn't say anything about me, anyway. "Maybe."
Dr. Rowney sat and looked at me in silence for a while. I had learned to recognise this trick: it was his way of drawing me out, making me want to fill an uncomfortable gap in the conversation. Now I knew about it, I refused to play along. I don't like being manipulated, even if it's for my own good. Instead, I looked down and picked my nails.
"All right. Tell me, is there anything new in your life, anything of note happened since last time we met?"
I thought about this for a moment. "Not really. Nothing interesting has happened for a while, has it? Maybe I like it that way. I've probably had enough interesting things happen already for one lifetime, or two for that matter."
"And you don't worry that playing it safe isn't leading you anywhere? Every time we meet you complain that you don't feel like you're adapting. By hiding yourself away from the world you're not really giving yourself a chance to experience the kinds of events that shape us as people."
"I know. I turned forty a couple of years back, though. Don't you think by the time you reach that kind of age you're pretty set?"
"No. Not really. Anyway, you're an exceptional case. You've had to build a new life for yourself as a completely different person. That person has to develop beyond what you were. You're not letting her live that life."
"I wish it were that easy."
We played the silence game again, and I won, again.
"It's just about time to wrap up for today," said Dr. Rowney. "Before, you go, however, I have something I'd like to suggest." I sat up in the seat and tried to maintain eye contact. "It's a bit unorthodox, and maybe even slightly unprofessional. Are you open to a suggestion?"
"Probably, as long as it isn't an attempt to seduce me."
That earned a slightly more genuine looking smile. "I had something a bit less intrusive in mind. There's another one of my patients I think you might like to meet. She reminds me of you, in some ways at least. I believe that there are things you could teach each other. At the very least you might be able to offer each other some support."
"Maybe." I shifted awkwardly in the seat, uncomfortable at being put on the spot. "I mean, we could meet once and see how we get on. If you think it's important."
"I don't know about important, but it may be beneficial to you both. Anyway, from what you've told me you haven't made many friends down here yet. Maybe this is a chance to cultivate a new one. I'll get her to give you a call, if that's all right."
"Fine." I shrugged. "Whatever."

EVERYONE DESERVES A HAPPY ENDING

"Take my shoes off and throw them in the lake And I'll be two steps on the water." - Kate Bush, "The Hounds of Love"
To be brutally honest, Bromley doesn't have a lot to recommend it. It's a dull little suburb, where people still vote Conservative, and not even as a protest. The closest thing to culture is a small theatre where they have pantomimes every Christmas. It feels like purgatory, but it has two things going for it: it's close to London, making it easy for me to commute, and it's a long way from both Dundee and Manchester. My ghosts don't seem to be quite as good at travelling as I am.
I let my life become safe after I moved down south. Age does this, I guess. I was like a stone that had been sitting in a stream for long enough to have all its sharp edges worn away. The thing is it had all happened before, and I promised myself I wouldn't let myself get old so quickly this time. Not everyone gets a chance to go through the best years of their life twice, but any sense of adventure seemed to have died along with the man I used to be.
It's just over ten years since I became Samantha Reynolds. If she'd lived, she'd be twenty-seven now. If I'd lived, I'd be forty-two. As it happened, she wanted to die and I didn't and through the wonders of modern medicine my brain was dropped in the body she abandoned. The procedure never caught on the way people assumed it would. With other transplants you don't end up looking at a stranger in the mirror every morning. The incidence of mental illness and suicide amongst the first wave of patients pretty much stopped any further progress. I have mixed feelings about this. If it hadn't happened to me, the cancer would have killed me in my early thirties. That's not much of a life. But the cure brought its own problems for me. The upside is that any problem is easier to overcome than death. This thought stopped me from being even more of a miserable bastard than I already was.
But, sometimes, life can be good. I'd almost forgotten this, but it's something I should never have let myself forget. My reminder came just under a year ago, in a somewhat unlikely form.
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Thursday, December 09, 2004

EVERYONE DESERVES A HAPPY ENDING

"I've been coming here for the best part of a year, and you still haven't asked me about my mother. I thought that was one of the first things you were supposed to do. Aren't you breaking some rule? I don't want you to get in any trouble." I was sitting in a big, overstuffed armchair that made me feel even smaller than usual. In a way it was comforting, like I was a child again. That was almost certainly why it was there.
Dr. Rowney smiled politely. Maybe it was a real smile and he was just too good at hiding his feelings. "I'm more interested in talking about you at the moment. If your mother has problems she can come and see me herself."
"That would be a good trick. She died about twelve years ago."
"Ah."
"Don't worry. At least she never got to see her only son become another daughter."
"Would that have upset her?"
"How could it not? No one I knew coped very well with it, and none of them were as protective of me as her. Most of my friends stopped coming round. My mother wouldn't have done that, but her politeness would've been deadly. I could never cope with it when she was polite to me."
"If she had been around and had actually coped with the idea, been supportive even, would that have made things any easier for you?"
"I don't know." I looked at the scattered papers on his desk, but couldn't read anything upside down. They probably didn't say anything about me, anyway. "Maybe."
Dr. Rowney sat and looked at me in silence for a while. I had learned to recognise this trick: it was his way of drawing me out, making me want to fill an uncomfortable gap in the conversation. Now I knew about it, I refused to play along. I don't like being manipulated, even if it's for my own good. Instead, I looked down and picked my nails.
"All right. Tell me, is there anything new in your life, anything of note happened since last time we met?"
I thought about this for a moment. "Not really. Nothing interesting has happened for a while, has it? Maybe I like it that way. I've probably had enough interesting things happen already for one lifetime, or two for that matter."
"And you don't worry that playing it safe isn't leading you anywhere? Every time we meet you complain that you don't feel like you're adapting. By hiding yourself away from the world you're not really giving yourself a chance to experience the kinds of events that shape us as people."
"I know. I turned forty a couple of years back, though. Don't you think by the time you reach that kind of age you're pretty set?"
"No. Not really. Anyway, you're an exceptional case. You've had to build a new life for yourself as a completely different person. That person has to develop beyond what you were. You're not letting her live that life."
"I wish it were that easy."
We played the silence game again, and I won, again.
"It's just about time to wrap up for today," said Dr. Rowney. "Before, you go, however, I have something I'd like to suggest." I sat up in the seat and tried to maintain eye contact. "It's a bit unorthodox, and maybe even slightly unprofessional. Are you open to a suggestion?"
"Probably, as long as it isn't an attempt to seduce me."
That earned a slightly more genuine looking smile. "I had something a bit less intrusive in mind. There's another one of my patients I think you might like to meet. She reminds me of you, in some ways at least. I believe that there are things you could teach each other. At the very least you might be able to offer each other some support."
"Maybe." I shifted awkwardly in the seat, uncomfortable at being put on the spot. "I mean, we could meet once and see how we get on. If you think it's important."
"I don't know about important, but it may be beneficial to you both. Anyway, from what you've told me you haven't made many friends down here yet. Maybe this is a chance to cultivate a new one. I'll get her to give you a call, if that's all right."
"Fine." I shrugged. "Whatever."

EVERYONE DESERVES A HAPPY ENDING

"Take my shoes off and throw them in the lake And I'll be two steps on the water." - Kate Bush, "The Hounds of Love"
To be brutally honest, Bromley doesn't have a lot to recommend it. It's a dull little suburb, where people still vote Conservative, and not even as a protest. The closest thing to culture is a small theatre where they have pantomimes every Christmas. It feels like purgatory, but it has two things going for it: it's close to London, making it easy for me to commute, and it's a long way from both Dundee and Manchester. My ghosts don't seem to be quite as good at travelling as I am.
I let my life become safe after I moved down south. Age does this, I guess. I was like a stone that had been sitting in a stream for long enough to have all its sharp edges worn away. The thing is it had all happened before, and I promised myself I wouldn't let myself get old so quickly this time. Not everyone gets a chance to go through the best years of their life twice, but any sense of adventure seemed to have died along with the man I used to be.
It's just over ten years since I became Samantha Reynolds. If she'd lived, she'd be twenty-seven now. If I'd lived, I'd be forty-two. As it happened, she wanted to die and I didn't and through the wonders of modern medicine my brain was dropped in the body she abandoned. The procedure never caught on the way people assumed it would. With other transplants you don't end up looking at a stranger in the mirror every morning. The incidence of mental illness and suicide amongst the first wave of patients pretty much stopped any further progress. I have mixed feelings about this. If it hadn't happened to me, the cancer would have killed me in my early thirties. That's not much of a life. But the cure brought its own problems for me. The upside is that any problem is easier to overcome than death. This thought stopped me from being even more of a miserable bastard than I already was.
But, sometimes, life can be good. I'd almost forgotten this, but it's something I should never have let myself forget. My reminder came just under a year ago, in a somewhat unlikely form.