Author's Note: A kind reviewer recently described my first Tarzan story, "Initial Consultation", as " a cool little one-shot."
It was all I could do to keep from posting a counter-review. "No, it's not!" I would have said. "I started thinking about a sequel even before IC was uploaded. I'm just slow!" And now we know exactly how slow. It's four months and twenty-four pages later...and I'm finally back.
Flextime was originally supposed to be short, funny and all about Tarzan. Somehow it grew to be a lengthy angstathon in which Jane makes a protracted appearance. It also came to take a kind of AU turn, as there's no convenient place in the show's storyline in which to slot this "episode." But the longer I thought about it, the more I thought that the events of Flextime *had* to take place. Jane needed to spend a little time on the couch with Dr Gilmore. Again, I beg for open-mindedness--what follows once she's ensconced there may be a little controversial. But, in the end...it's all good.
I have one more adventure in mind for T, J and Dr G. And, since even my daydream version of it is long and convoluted, look for it sometime in early 2008.
My heartfelt thanks to those readers who reviewed IC here or got in touch personally with their positive thoughts. Such feedback means a great deal to me.
"Whereas he had been too sore the first day of his captivity to move around without pain, he now was almost as flexible as rubber."
The Dark Heart of Time
Philip Jose Farmer
"But one day he said to me:
'I've got it now. It's reading, isn't it?'
'You read a lot, don't you? That's where it all comes from. Reading. Yeah, reading.'"
Moab Is My Washpot
As soon as he heard the sound of someone banging lightly on the window, Chris turned to me and asked, "Tarzan, I presume?"
I'd had to warn both him and Matt that my newest patient might come knocking--and on the window, not the door. I was afraid that if I didn't, they might assume that a burglar was trying to break into the loft and dial 911.
"Yes, I'm sure it's him," I said.
He showed admirable composure--they teach those old Etonians well. "Shall I make myself scarce?"
It was a little after nine, and we were just lazing around in the bedroom, reading and watching TV. "Not at all," I said, muting the set. "You stay here--I'll bring him into the living room. But first, I'm dying for you to meet him."
I had told Chris a little bit about Tarzan. In doing so, I'd had taken advantage of the single exception to my professional oath of silence, the shrink's omerta. A psychiatrist *could* impart limited information about a patient to a spouse/partner--as long as certain rules were obeyed. I was not allowed to broach any patient secrets, but instead could only sketch in a few details. And the sketching had to take place within the marital bedroom--anywhere else was off-limits. Lastly, the sketchee was obliged never to reveal *anything* he was told under these circumstances. Chris and I had always abided faithfully by these rules, and so I'd rationalized leaking something of Tarzan's incredible history.
"Wouldn't miss it for the world," he murmured.
I called out loudly, "Hold on a minute, Tarzan," before kneeling by the side of the bed in order to peer under the mattress. I'd already found and donned my robe, but couldn't find either slipper. Chris brought me to my senses. "You're looking for *footwear*?" he asked incredulously.
He was right, of course--and as usual. "Here I come!" I called out.
When I opened the window, I let in both a rush of cool air and the muted cacophony of New York night-time. Then, after I stepped back, Tarzan *poured* himself into the room with that inhuman grace I had already come to expect of him. Dressed slightly differently this time--he had on a black zip-up vest and olive cargos--Tarzan still radiated the same amazing vibe. Against the ordinary, domestic backdrop of our bedroom, his savage-god splendor very nearly blazed. Yet Tarzan's *presence*--the powerful impact of his beauty, his body and that brooding, soulful aura of self-possession---was so intense that it would have been obvious anywhere.
He certainly got a reaction out of Chris, who was no slouch in the presence department himself. When I glanced over at him, he raised one eyebrow--a sure sign that he was impressed. I made the introduction. "Tarzan, this is my husband, Dr Christian Black. Christian, this is Tarzan."
Chris put down his P D James novel and, smiling, gave him a small wave. "Hello."
Tarzan did not look very happy to see him. As a matter of fact, he didn't look very happy at all. But, to my intense pride--and relief--he said "Hello" back.
I could tell that even this minimal interaction was straining the limits of Tarzan's social abilities. So I told Chris that I'd return shortly and led our visitor past the curving wall of glass brick which separated the master bedroom from the living area. Before we settled in, I made one attempt at gracious hostessing. "Would you care for something to eat or drink?" Tarzan just stared at me with one of his classic no-expression expressions.
Man, was he miserable.
I gave up. "Have a seat."
Tarzan gazed very intently at the furniture--it occurred to me after a second or two that he was wondering if there was a special place to sit, as there was in my office. "Anywhere you'd like," I added hastily.
Tellingly, he chose the couch, a shabby-chic rust linen number with lots of pillows. He didn't vault into position this time, I noticed, but simply settled on one end with his knees drawn up to his chest as usual. I sat more conventionally on the other.
"So, what's the matter?" I asked.
Tarzan actually had to wrestle with it for a minute. After having made the decision to come see me and traveling all the way from the East Side--not to mention somehow scaling the plain brick side of a four-story building--he hesitated. In the end the story spilled out. Although, predictably, he couldn't look at me when it did. "I made Jane angry tonight."
I sighed deeply. "I doubt that very much," I said.
Tarzan looked in my direction *then*, and his face betrayed rare emotion. He was shocked that I would contradict him. "Yes, I did," he insisted.
"Tarzan, dear," I said. "I'm sure something happened tonight which made Jane angry. Whether you're to *blame* for her anger--well, that's another thing altogether. Tell me what happened, and we'll decide together if *you* made her angry or not."
I sat back and made myself comfortable.
He began. "Jane took me to her yoga class."
Alarm bells went off in the back of my brain. "Hold up."
He looked over at me, again looking startled.
"I think I know where this is going."
Every once in a while Chris bemoans the fact that we cannot somehow profit from these little clairvoyant flashes of mine. Unfortunately, they never represent the kind of information which can be exploited for financial gain. I don't get futuristic insights into the stock market, for example. But occasionally I can anticipate exactly what a patient is about to tell me--all I need is an introduction and I can see how the whole drama is going to play out. Of course, that talent means little in terms of the therapeutic process. The story still needs to be told.
Tarzan's facial expressions were loosening up. He was now staring at me with something close to real bewilderment.
"Never mind. I'm sorry. Continue."
He looked at me very intently for a few moments before doing so. "Jane and I went to this class, and we did these exercises, and…" His voice trailed off despairingly, and I was forced to finish for him.
"You could do them better than Jane."
Tarzan did not acknowledge that statement; he just sat there, slumped. So it must have been worse than I'd imagined. My clairvoyance had not extended far enough. But then, all of a sudden, it kicked in again.
"You could do them better than the instructor."
I finally got a dejected nod out of him.
"And Jane was angry at you for that."
It started getting very warm under the collar of my ancient pink flannel L L Bean robe.
The poor kid looked at me and very nearly wailed, "How was I supposed to know it was hard?"
Indeed, as Chris probably would have said. How indeed?
"What did Jane do? What did she say?"
I waited him out.
"It was the way she acted, the way she talked--I could *feel* her anger. And when the class was over, she didn't let me walk her home. She took a cab."
Jane Porter took a cab?
Oh, yeah, she was pissed all right.
I sat up straighter, cinched the belt around my waist, and delivered myself of a short, sharp lecture.
"Listen, Tarzan, it is not your fault that you are better at yoga than Jane. Or Jane's instructor. End of story. Got that?"
He wasn't getting it. "Then why is she angry at me?"
I could have told him that Jane had undoubtedly dragged him to her class with every expectation that she would be able to outdo him in an exotic exercise routine. I could have explained that, while she *was* angry with him, it wasn't because he had really done anything wrong, but instead because his surprising yoga prowess had foiled a little scheme of hers. In the end, though, that information was not really germane--it came under the heading of Jane's problem. It was far more important for me to bolster Tarzan's basic ability to accommodate her sometimes baffling shifts in mood.
"Because, like I told you last time, Jane is very confused right now. You're not to worry if she gets to feeling a little strange every once in a while. She's just…just…'taking a spell,' as we say in Oklahoma."
When Tarzan remained puzzled, I had to translate. "She's experiencing a temporary mood. Jane was probably a little surprised by what happened at the yoga class--she didn't expect you to be quite so good. And as a result of all the other stuff that's happening in her, she didn't handle it well. But remember--you had nothing to do with her reaction. You went to a yoga class and did some yoga. You can't help it if you exceeded Jane's expectations in the flexibility department." I paused briefly here to be astonished at Detective Porter's astonishment. I had known Tarzan him for only for a short time, yet I already understood that he was a freakish phenom with few physical limits. And I never would have doubted his flexibility; the position in which he was sitting at that very moment equaled a fairly difficult yoga posture, and he seemed capable of holding it indefinitely.
Back to the matter at hand. "What did I tell you was the most important thing in dealing with Miss Jane?"
Tarzan didn't hesitate. "Patience."
"That's right. Patience. And what else did I say?"
It sounded like a verbatim quote. "You need to wait Jane out. Give her some space--give her some time."
"That's right. If you do that, Jane will come around. She'll forgive you for being flexible. She'll realize you didn't know it was hard. And she'll eventually recognize and act on her feelings for you."
Tarzan looked, not as if he actually believed what I was saying, but as if he desperately wished it were true. Which was about the best that I could hope for.
"All right, now I want you to go back to the greenhouse, or the park, or wherever it is you spend the night, and get a good rest. Will you do that for me?"
"Good. And don't hesitate to come see me again if you get to feeling bad. You saw that Chris didn't mind at all. And one of my sons, Matt, is home right now--" I pointed to a mezzanine-like bedroom which that jutted out over the living area. "--and he hasn't even noticed you're here. Everything's fine." I tried to sound extremely reassuring.
I had to wait a moment or two before Tarzan could articulate a response. "Thank you, Dr Gilmore."
It was another verbal gesture that did not come naturally to Tarzan, and my first instinct was to congratulate him for his growing skill at the amenities. My second, better reaction was to simply be matter-of-fact. "You're welcome, Tarzan." With that, I got up from the sofa. I knew he would prefer to slide out the window rather than stride out the front door, so we headed back to the master bedroom.
I stopped abruptly about halfway there. A normal person would have crashed into me from behind, but not graceful Tarzan. "Wait a minute," I said. "I just remembered--I have something for you." I turned and led him in the opposite direction, toward the tiny room that Chris and I used as a home office.
I worried a little as we walked along. I was about to introduce a subject that could be the source of real awkwardness for Tarzan; the subject had to be handled exactly right. Again, I decided that matter-of-factness was the way to go.
"Have you done any reading lately?" I asked, very, very, casually.
I couldn't see Tarzan's face, but the tone of his voice was noticeably hesitant. "No," he said. "I don't know…if…"
"Oh, I understand," I said quickly. "I was thinking, though. It might be worth a try, just to see how much you remember. There are a few books in here for you."
My collar started heating up again as we passed through the kitchen and into the cubbyhole office. The least Aunt Kathleen could have done was leave a few magazines lying around that greenhouse, for crying out loud! Tarzan could have looked at the pictures, and maybe learned a little from the captions.
Down, girl! I told myself. His aunt was trying her best under difficult circumstances. There was no rulebook for this situation: what to do when your hunky nephew, part heir to a vast fortune, reappears after twenty years of lost living in the jungle. Even if there was, that handbook never would have been circulated on the Upper East Side. Kathleen had taken the best possible course of action fairly quickly: she'd sought out professional guidance. And, so far, every single one of my suggestions had been accepted.
The flannel fever abated.
Once we were in the office, I quickly located the three books Chris and I had chosen for Tarzan. We'd done some hard thinking about those choices while reviewing the contents of our sons' bookcases. I'd listened carefully to my husband's advice--there were times when it was extremely handy to have a neurosurgeon around the house. "It's almost as if, at six, he suffered a traumatic injury to the brain which affected his reading ability," Chris had said, "and now he has to relearn that skill. I don't think Tarzan will have much of a problem, but let's start him at a level that we know should be easy for him." We'd wound up with three works of non-fiction (Chris had been adamant about not confusing him with artificial reality at this early stage), each scaled at a different level, from a glorified picture book to a third-grade reader. Oh, and there was one more criterion: whatever we gave him had to fit within the pockets of a pair of cargo pants.
As I handed our selections over to Tarzan, I continued with the off-hand approach. "Just look them over, see what happens. I bet you pick up reading very quickly, but if you don't…it's no big deal. We can easily get you a little extra coaching."
Although Tarzan nodded, he didn't look very convinced.
"Listen, Tarzan, you're doing *great*!" I said, trying to buck him up. "This is nothing to worry about. And don't you worry about Jane either. She'll be in a better mood soon--she'll get over her spell."
This time he appeared to be somewhat soothed by what I said.
"OK, again--we need to get you to your bed. Or…er…your tree or whatever." The little two-person parade headed back towards the master bedroom. When we got close, I called out, "Hey, Chris? You decent?"
"*Some* people think so," he answered, and we barged on through.
Chris was in the same position as when we'd left. "Good evening, Tarzan," he said to him as I re-opened the window. That was perfect--"Nice to have met you" might have been a little too complicated, but there was hope that our guest could reciprocate such a simple sentiment. It was all I could do to keep from poking Tarzan in the ribs in order to get a response out of him. To his eternal
credit, he paused for a few seconds before re-inserting himself into the window and managed to respond with a terse "Goodbye." I very nearly beamed with pride.
Don't say anything more, I telepathed to my husband, and my brow-knitted stare meant the same thing. That single pleasantry was all Tarzan could handle. I don't know whether Chris actually received this subliminal message or not; in any case, he remained mute.
When Tarzan was poised on the sill, I said, "OK, we're still on for next Tuesday, but remember--you can always come see me in the meantime if you need to."
He nodded one last time and was gone.
I turned to head back to bed. "So what do you think?" I asked Chris.
Very typically, he answered a question with a question. "Did you give him the books?"
"Yes," I said. "He was a little hesitant about taking them, but I think that's natural under the circumstances."
Chris reflected for a moment and then said, "If he gets the reading thing started up again--and there's no reason why he shouldn't--if he's not prevented from reaching his full intellectual capacity…" He trailed off.
"What?" I asked impatiently.
"He's going to rule the world."
Some fuzzy, dark period of time later, Chris woke me. Only then did I hear the knocking at the window. "Our night visitor is back," he said.
"Huh?" I croaked. I glanced over at the nightstand clock. 2:20 AM. A bad-news scenario flashed through my mind. My pep talk had worn off. Tarzan had gone home and re-thought himself into a funk over Jane's annoyance. Oh, no!
This time I didn't even bother with the robe--my pjs were perfectly modest. I wasn't really awake enough to run, but I somehow stumbled over to the window and fling it open. I got as far as "What's the matter--" when three books were thrust into my face.
"Do you have any more?" Tarzan asked.
I looked helplessly at Chris. It had taken us a while to gather up those books. The idea of redoing all that careful work--in the middle of the night--was daunting. And this time we'd have to revise our criterion, taking into account the fact that Tarzan had obviously achieved a certain amount of reading skill in the last few hours. But how far had he gone? Was he ready for Young Adult now? Or Philip Roth? More likely the former, in which case we were in trouble. All those books were in Matt's bedroom, and he was sound asleep. His father and I hardly needed to be in there in the middle of the night arguing over selections for this very exclusive book club. I could already feel the urge to include my beloved S E Hinton and anticipate Chris's resistance to that urge. Our marital ESP was definitely working this time. I knew my husband was envisioning exactly the same complications.
But he soon rolled over and began to snuggle down deeper into the bed. I panicked and telepathed frantically, I need help here, Chris! Not to worry. Before making getting perfectly comfortable, he provided me with some excellent advice.
"Just give him the bloody dictionary."
The next morning was chaos at work.
My fault--I got there late. I could barely heave myself out of bed after all that late-night activity; it had taken me *forever* to find our old Merriam-Webster. I'd further delayed my departure for the office in order to crouch in front of Matt's bookcase and choose more books for Tarzan--he shouldn't have to make do with the dictionary for long. Christian had already left for the hospital, and so I had a free hand--one result of which was that The Outsiders went into my Strand book bag. I also made a few selections of which I knew he'd approve, again trying for an assortment that would span a range of reading levels. Then I went into the living room and added two non-fiction works of the coffee-table-book variety. One was a huge photo study of New York City that had been a gift from a grateful patient of Chris's; the other, something I'd picked up years ago: a lushly illustrated book about Jane Goodall's work with chimpanzees. That last choice gave me pause; I wondered briefly if it might pose a problem for Tarzan. Well, if it did, we'd work it out, I thought as I hoisted this heavy load of reading matter. The sturdy cloth bookbag could barely handle the load.
Poor Marlene, who come in from ten to four three days a week to act as receptionist and do the books, was looking flustered when I finally arrived. I couldn't blame her; my nine-o'clock had already been waiting quite a while. I got down to business and banged out the first three appointments in fairly short order--luckily, nobody was in too much trouble. The last pre-lunch patient, who was on the verge of being fired from my practice, had as usual showed up mainly to shoot the breeze. I'm not fond of spending time admiring newly purchased Christian Louboutin pumps--it doesn't matter if I'm being paid handsomely to do so.
By 12:30, things were more or less back to normal. The office normally took a long lunch break, partly to give us wiggle-room for crazy mornings like that, and partly to allow me time to update files, return calls and check on any hospitalized patients. During lunch that particular day, I needed to log the details of my late-night session with Tarzan. Well, my one-and-a half late-night sessions with him.
I had worked out a very unorthodox arrangement with Kathleen Clayton. Impressed with the outcome of my first session with "John," she had agreed to pay a flat fee per month for unlimited sessions. I *had* to do it that way; it would have been a violation of privacy for Kathleen to know even how many appointments Tarzan was keeping. She and I had agreed that this fee would be negotiated at the end of the first month--until then we wouldn't have any idea how frequently my services would be requested, or how frequently I would be able to provide them. I' originally had a price in mind, but that went out the window when Kathleen included herself in the deal. She'd already met with me once in order to discuss a few issues. Richard Clayton's machinations had, of course, come up, as well as a body-dysmorphic issue--not an unusual trouble spot for a female resident of the East Side who didn't happen to resemble a walking X-ray. I'd also mentally upped the price the night before when I came to realize the far-reaching implications of my invitation to Tarzan to contact me any time.
Near the end of our first discussion of this plan, I'd asked Kathleen if she would mind footing the bill for Jane as well. She had no objection, but was convinced I'd never hear from her.
"You haven't met Jane," she said to me. "She's not the psychiatry type. She'll never make an appointment."
"Oh, you may be right," I'd replied. "But don't worry--I'll see her."
I was making notes in Tarzan's file--and trying to think about what to do for lunch--when Marlene entered the office and presented me with a stack of telephone message slips. "Check out the first one," she announced. "A police detective called you."
"A woman, right?" I asked.
"Yeah," Marlene answered. She was about to read me the name off the slip when I I stopped her. "Don't bother. Jane Porter."
"That's right! A female NYPD detective! What's she like?"
I had to laugh. "You know what? I think I probably ought to wait to meet her before answering that question."
I returned all the other calls first, then dialed Jane's number. She answered immediately and almost gruffly.
"Yes, this is Libby Gilmore."
Her tone changed right away, turning personable, nearly chatty. "Oh, Dr Gilmore, thanks so much for calling me back."
"No problem. What can I do for you?"
Another abrupt change of mood. "Well…I was wondering if I could possibly come see you today."
I pinched the bridge of my nose. Naturally, I wanted to hear what Jane had to say; I was sure that last night's incident had inspired this call. However, I was in no position to meet with her this soon.
"Jane," she corrected me.
"Jane, I would be more than happy to schedule some time with you, but I'm afraid today is out of the question. I'm booked to the gills and--"
"What are you doing for lunch?" she asked quickly.
Wow, Jane was a New Yorker all right. I felt a stab of sympathy for Tarzan--I had a better idea of what he was up against.
"As it happens, I don't have plans--"
"What if I brought you lunch, and we talked, just informally? I promise I won't take up much of your time." She rushed to add, "Don't worry, I'll still pay you for a full session."
"I'm not worried about that, Jane." And neither should you be, sweetie, I thought to myself. "I'm worried about time."
Jane rolled right over my worry. "Dr Gilmore, I'm calling from the lobby of your building--" Poor Tarzan! Poor me! "--and I've checked out this place, Tino's, across the street. Their salad bar looks pretty good. I could bring you whatever you'd like."
I gave up in the face of all this brash NYC determination. We Oklahomans can only hold out so long. "All right. But don't bring any plastic utensils--just plenty of napkins." Why had I not anticipated any of this when I'd assented to a flat-fee, multi-patient deal? Late-night sessions? Lunch-time appointments? The next thing I knew, Kathleen would want me to talk with her while she took a meeting, or had a manicure. I'd have Clayton's housekeeper perched on the edge of the tub, pouring out her heart during my bath.
Thrilled, Jane asked, "So, what do you want on your salad?"
"No fungus or mold."
I could hear Jane's puzzlement over the phone. I answered the unspoken question: "I don't like mushrooms or bleu cheese."
Jane Porter was pretty much what I expected. A very attractive young woman--if too thin for my tastes--with a strong aura of sensibleness and practicality. She was dressed mostly in black, and loaded down with all the typical NYPD accoutrements. Despite her model slimness--and the fashionable full-length bounce of curls--she looked to be a fully capable police officer. I could definitely imagine her taking down a bad guy. Jane Porter had the tensile strength of good health and practiced fitness.
Of course, for Tarzan, there was something else about Jane--a pheromone to which I was immune. It was interesting to consider--we tend to think of such chemical attractions as subtle, unreliable and usually temporary things. But for a person with Tarzan's highly developed senses, it must be the equivalent of a tractor beam. He was locked on target now, and there was no more chance of diverting him than there was of deflecting a heat-seeking missile aimed at a forest fire.
In contrast, Jane--like the rest of us--had suffered the blunting effects of civilization. The pheromone, while potent, didn't have the kind of *conviction* for her that it had for Tarzan.
Jane might also be feeling more than a little cynical about heart-stopping magnetism in general. She may have recognized that, ultimately, Mother Nature has only her own selfish interests at heart. Those pheromones are fine-tuned to bring together people whose genes will combine productively, whose biologically better offspring will do her proud. In order to make sure that those children come to pass, she first creates the pheromone, then makes sure that the people it targets set off sexual fireworks together. But, while seeing the rockets' red glare reflected on your bedroom wall is always a thrill, it's no guarantee of a stable, long-term relationship. If that's what you're after, other factors--wage-earning potential, mutual interests, out-of-bed compatibility--should be taken into account. It was perversely ironic: Jane cared more about such things than most, yet she was paired off with a true child of Mommy N. Tarzan didn't worry about the limitations of his mother's single-minded ambition; he lived solely for the moment, for the now. He wanted the female being on the other end of the pheromone. He was meant to have her. Missile, forest fire. Tarzan, Jane.
Of course, recent events made it that much more complicated for her. Until a short time ago, Jane's future had been completely mapped out: marriage to Michael, a couple of kids, a tastefully furnished house out in the suburbs--all that, plus a flourishing career. She had the look of a person on the fast track at work. Jane had probably anticipated promotion after promotion, culminating in some major position at the NYPD. She might not have ascended to the very top spot, but any of the high-level jobs would have been within her grasp.
Jane hadn't counted on Richard Clayton hauling his uniquely appealing nephew back from the jungle. Or on that pheromone wafting through the air. Once Tarzan showed up, nothing in Jane's perfectly ordered life was ever the same. I felt sure that, having met Tarzan, she never could have settled for the life she'd once envisioned with Michael--even if Michael had lived. It would have seemed empty, formulaic, stale. For all her stolid, type-A love of order, Jane had been permanently seduced by Tarzan's heady, heedless mindset. He had awakened in her the thrill of deliberately forgetting about the future, of instead losing yourself in the look in your lover's eyes, of letting that look be your only guide.
The problem would be convincing Jane of this truth. When Michael died, her ability to make an informed choice died with him. She was left to play out a twist-of-fate scenario over which she had little control. Jane certainly had the right to question whether things might have been different--better--if she'd never met Tarzan, even if, in my opinion, she would be kidding herself. But Jane was not allowed to punish him simply because she would never have a definitive answer to that question.
"Nice to meet you, Jane."
"Same here, Dr Gilmore. Kathleen Clayton speaks very highly of you." Mental note: Tarzan hadn't mentioned me.
I ushered her into the small coffee room we shared with the counselors next door. I was pleased to see that it was unoccupied--no one was sitting at the tiny round table pushed up against the corner. The fact that our little time-out space happened to be windowless was another bonus. Tarzan lacked a point of entry in case he returned to my office, carrying a dog-eared dictionary and clamoring for an encyclopedia.
Jane set a large Tino's bag on the table. "I figured you were from the Southwest somewhere, so I ordered you an iced tea," she announced.
"Excellent deduction, Detective."
When she had unpacked our lunch, I noticed that Jane had ordered a Diet Coke for herself. *I* could have deduced that.
Jane brushed off my attempts to pay her for the salad, which put me in a professionally dodgy position, as Chris would say. I shouldn't let a patient pay for my meal. Technically, though, Jane wasn't a patient. At least not yet.
I helped set the table, handing her the cheap, fun flatware we kept in the coffee room. I was relieved to see that she had, as instructed, brought lots of napkins--I had a feeling we might need extras.
After everything was arranged, and we were seated, Jane proceeded to munch on her salad as if this was a social visit. Playing for time, I figured. Although I was curious to see how long she could pretend that she hadn't begged me for an emergency semi-appointment, I lacked the time--another patient was due to arrive in twenty-five minutes. I had to cut to the chase, much as I'd had to the night before, with Tarzan. "What's going on, Jane? Why was it so important for you to see me today?"
She stared down at her salad. "Something happened last night with John."
It was all I could do to keep from asking her why she kept calling him that when it must have been clear to her that he preferred his jungle name. But again--no time. "Yes?" I simply said.
"He embarrassed me in front of a number of people."
I asked, all innocence, "How's that?"
"I took him to my yoga class."
I nodded as I chewed a mouthful of salad. "Really?" I was finally able to say.
"Yes, and he put on this display…" Jane practically shuddered.
"A display of what?" Yoga perhaps?
"Well, you know, he joined us in the exercises, and it soon became apparent that he was quite flexible."
"Is that right?" I still found it surprising that Jane had failed to anticipate John's instant mastery of yoga.
Jane kept on answering me as if I was asking actual questions. "Yes, and instead of like…" She had been sounding fairly confident, but now lapsed into an unsure silence.
"Instead of like…what?" I pressed her.
Jane had obviously not rehearsed this part of her speech. She needed to think for a minute before coming up with an alternate course of action Tarzan might have taken. "Well, he could have held back a little, given the fact that the rest of us were so obviously out of his league."
I shrugged while wondering how Jane had justified this appointment to herself. What was I supposed to do? Send for Tarzan and teach him another lifeskill regarding exercise classes? "Now you made a terrible mistake in that yoga studio, Tarzan. You've got to be very careful when it comes to group workouts. You must never, ever perform exercises any better than the other participants--especially Jane. And watch out for the instructor too. So if you're ever invited to a step aerobics session, be sure you do the exact same number of steps..."
Jane didn't care for that shrug, wasn't happy about the fact that I failed to join her in reproaching Tarzan for his behavior. She needed to convince me of the validity of her grievance. "It was like he was determined to prove how much better he was than the rest of us. He took these normal yoga postures and pushed them to an unbelievable extreme. He was even better than the teacher, and she's been doing yoga her whole life! The poor woman was humiliated!"
Jane was undoubtedly disappointed when that didn't work either, when I failed to roundly condemn Tarzan for his unthinking aptitude. After another bite of salad, I asked what must have seemed to be a non-sequitur question. "Jane, why did you bring John to that class?"
Oh, body-language cues all *over* the place! Although she sat up straighter, Jane hunched her shoulders defensively and abruptly cut off all eye contact.
And then came the verbal clues. Jane hurried through this next part as if she *knew* it sounded rehearsed. "Well, you know, John is always wanting to spend time with me, and I figured a yoga class would be something we could do together."
OK, that was it. I gulped one last mouthful of salad, and tore the napkin from where it had been tucked unfashionably into my collar. "Listen, Jane, I don't have much time, I'm on my lunch break, and I didn't get much sleep last night. So you're going to get some Oklahoma wit and wisdom straight from the shoulder."
She just stared at me.
"That dog won't hunt."
Jane didn't even blink. Obviously, my old-school aphorism required a translation.
"My husband's version of that statement would be something like, 'You have floated a hypothesis which will not stand up to logical scrutiny.'"
Jane was looking distinctly nervous. I modulated my tone, and clasped my hands together in my lap. "OK, another question."
"Yes?" Jane was now very much on guard.
"How long have you been taking yoga classes?"
"About two and a half years."
I assessed her slender form. "Pretty good at it, are you?"
"Well, I *thought* I was, until last night."
"Jane, *I'm* going to float a hypothesis, and I want *you* to scrutinize it."
She said "All right" immediately, and I admired her for quickly agreeing to occupy the hot seat.
"I think you invited John to your class last night because you assumed he'd be a fairly clumsy yoga student, and then you'd have the satisfaction of besting him in at least that one department."
Jane opened her mouth as if to protest; however, nothing came out. So I kept talking. "You probably subscribe to the 'muscle-bound' theory--the idea that guys who are bulked up like John tend to be stiff, inflexible. But, unfortunately for you, that's just an old-wives'-tale fallacy. John turned out to be as lithe as he is strong, fast and agile. As a result, *he* didn't wind up looking inept--you and your instructor did. And you're angry now, not because he actually behaved badly, but because your little plan backfired."
Jane still didn't speak. I encouraged her to. "I told you, Jane. It's just a theory. Shoot it out of the water."
"Why would I want to embarrass John?" Not denying it, I noticed.
"Because you're intent on punishing him for something?" I guessed.
"I don't blame John for what happened to Michael." She paused for emphasis. "And I've told him that."
She got more silent props from me for getting to the obvious heart of the matter. At the same time, the fact that she did so kind of undercut her position--the subject was obviously weighing heavily on her mind.
"Whose fault was it?" I asked.
"Mine, of course."
Wow. Jane was taking the rap for the whole tragedy? I got an immediate control-freak vibe. In my experience, it's only people who believe themselves to be capable of stage-managing life who blame themselves for even the most fatalistic events.
"I could have handled it better," Jane went on. "I could have *fixed* that whole mess and I didn't."
I made a mental bet with myself at this point. Sooner or later, I was going to have to do a clinical history on Jane. When I did, I was willing to bet I would find out that she was the oldest girl in her family. First daughters are prime candidates for control-freakdom, and frequently suffer from the delusion that they can keep everything together, can make everything all right. It doesn't matter how much effort is involved in achieving this impossible goal; oldest girls are willing to try hard-core people-pleasing, non-stop manipulation, sleight-of-hand intervention. In extreme cases, they've been known to attempt telekinesis.
"This is going to sound strange," Jane was saying, "but in a way it was what upset me the most about Michael's death. I had tried so hard, so desperately hard to make sure something like that didn't happen. When I saw his body lying on the street, I felt grief, of course, but also this terrible sense of failure. I was faced with the fact that the story was going to end in exactly the kind of horrible, senseless way I'd tried to avoid--and there was no longer anything I could do to fix it."
Didn't sound strange at all. Sounded just like an oldest girl.
By now tears had begun to trickle down Jane's cheeks. I couldn't help but compare her crying technique to that of Tarzan's. Once he got started, he almost blubbered; I'd gotten the whole enchilada: red eyes, a heaving chest, shaking shoulders. In contrast, Jane looked perfectly composed as she wept. Still, there was a very real pathos in her attempt to be poised, to be dignified, despite her overwhelming grief. My heart went out to the kid.
As I'd anticipated I would have to, I started passing over the extra napkins.
Then I took a deep breath and plunged in. "Jane, you were setting yourself quite a task there. You, John and Michael represented a pretty volatile triangle. However did you think you were going to be able to reduce it to a straightforward twosome--with a platonic, just-pals hanger-on over to one side?"
Jane blotted her cheeks with a napkin before replying. "I don't know," she said, sounding ragged, distressed. "But I *had* to do it. I had to take that situation and resolve it in such a way that all three of us could live peacefully with the result."
"But one of those guys was going to wind up the loser, no matter what you did." I paused to think. "I wonder if John wouldn't have accepted that fate better than Michael. It sounds unlikely, but his love for you has a certain noble, self-sacrificing strain--he might have actually bowed out without much of a struggle. Or at least retired from the field of battle to fight another day."
"Oh, no," Jane contradicted me fiercely. "That *never* would have happened. Because John doesn't *listen*."
I had a fast comeback for that one. "Oh, I don't know about that. While you're talking, John's probably hearing every word you say, but also listening to the blood pulsing through your veins--and, for all I know, the sound of your hair growing as well. The problem comes when he hears words that are not true, when he gets fibs, or evasions, or downright lies. That's when John doesn't *listen*."
I'd never had a session like this before. The time squeeze, the fact that Jane and I might have only one, unofficial appointment, my borderline over-involvement in Tarzan's story--all these things were pushing me to push her. Under normal circumstances, I would sit back and gently guide a patient on the path to insight. I simply didn't have time for that with Detective Porter.
So I pushed again. "But that's a moot point now, isn't it? Because John wasn't going to get the bad news, was he?"
Jane reverted to staring at me. Even though the tears were no longer streaming, she looked stunned and sorrowful.
"Michael was going to be the loser, the platonic friend," I went on. "You had already made the decision--not long after you met John, you knew it would be him in the end."
She just couldn't sit there. Jane was going to have to agree or disagree with that statement.
She disagreed. "I *didn't* know that. Not for sure."
Liar, liar, pants on fire, I thought--quite unprofessionally--to myself.
My silence prodded Jane to keep talking. But first, more napkins were needed. Jane had to wipe tears from her face again. "You have to understand, Dr Gilmore. Michael and I were on the verge of making a serious commitment to one another. We'd dated for a long time. I knew his family well. I'd spent holidays with his relatives and friends, gone to their weddings and funerals. His little nieces and nephews called me Aunt Jane. We'd planned our future together."
Admit it, Porter, I urged her silently. Despite all that satisfying order, despite all that pleasant planning, there was no way you were going off in the sunset with Michael. You couldn't, not from the moment you met John.
Jane very nearly heeded my plea. "It's true that, once I met John, my whole life changed. I still loved Michael, but I loved him in a different way.
It was never the same again...the feeling I had for him became much less solid and secure. And it all happened in a heartbeat. Because John *looked* at me. One night, right after I met him, we locked eyes and, when we did, the ground shifted beneath my feet. There was something in his gaze that I had never seen before. An intensity, a depth, a..."
When her voice trailed off, I prompted Jane. I knew what she was getting at. "An *immediacy*?"
"That's it!" she cried. "An *immediacy*. I could see in his eyes that John was there, there for me. All the way, all the time--no doubts, no questions, no distractions."
"And you never got that same kind of look from Michael?"
Jane shook her head. "With Michael, even when he seemed to be totally focused on me, I never had his undivided attention. There were always other things lurking in the back of his mind--the case he was working on, his bank balance...whether I would sleep with him later on. I never noticed that about him, not until I met John. When *he* looked at me, it was different-- there was nothing for him but that moment. And, in that moment, all John wanted to do was to see me, to peer into my soul, to get past all the surface stuff and connect with the real Jane."
She appeared dazed, lost in a dream-like reverie. Then she awoke, trying hard to be sane, sensible Jane again. "But all this couldn't have happened just because John *looked* at me," she said, almost pleadingly. It was as if she was begging for me to agree with her. "One second before he did, I was deeply in love with Michael--one second afterward, I felt completely different. That can't *happen*."
Wanna bet? I asked silently. Here's where Tarzan would be much wiser. Because, instinctively, he understood the power of the pheromone.
All I said was, "But it did, didn't it?"
All that brisk sensibleness evaporated and Jane could barely whisper, "Yes."
I took it from there. Like I said, I was running out of time. "So Michael was going to lose. He knew it--probably better than you did yourself. And he couldn't have lived with losing. His pride, his machismo had been wounded by...by the *monkey boy*. There would have been no stopping Michael. He would have kept going until he forced a confrontation with John. Which he did, on that rooftop."
It was as if Jane was dazed by the drama of her own story. There was no response from her; I had to keep going. "You knew that too--you saw it coming. The idea that Michael would go gunning for John, *literally* gunning for him...that must have haunted you. Haunted you to such a point that, when it was all over, when you realized that Michael was dead, you felt something besides grief and despair. You must have also felt..."
Jane hesitated only a moment before she courageously gave voice to "Relief."
I said nothing. It was Jane's turn.
"I looked down at Michael and felt relief." Her tone was harsh, unforgiving. "I saw a man's broken body and was *thankful* that he was dead. Because it meant that I could go off with my cool new boyfriend without all the trouble of breaking up with my *old* boyfriend. It didn't matter to me that the dead man had once been the love of my life--it didn't matter that he had died *because* of me." Jane raised both hands to her head and began sobbing violently. There was no more genteel tear-streaming; this time her shoulders shook with feeling.
"Listen, Jane, that's not what really happened--or how you really felt."
Jane lifted her face from her hands. She spoke almost desperately. "You *have* to understand, Dr Gilmore--I'd never had an emotion like that in my life. Prior to meeting John, I couldn't *imagine* having an emotion like that.
"It's as if I've become a different person. The old Jane Porter wouldn't have felt that way. She wouldn't have broken the law, covered up evidence, lied to her superiors. That Jane was orderly, under control--there were rules that she lived by. I was a cop then--I'm an outlaw now. All because of John Clayton Jr."
One minute it was all her fault; the next it was John's. It was like I had told the cool new boyfriend--Jane was confused.
I left that ridiculous last sentence echo for a moment before saying, "Jane, *none* of this is John's fault. He didn't do anything but get dragged back to New York against his will, and recognize the powerful attraction that exists between the two of you. All that other stuff? Fate. Fate, karma, God's will--you name it, sweetie."
Jane sat there, unhappily, contemplating what I'd said.
"And you cannot punish him for it."
"I'm not punishing John," she said almost sullenly. The tears had dried; she was composed again. And on her guard.
"Well, you're attempting to control him...which, for John, is much the same thing."
"*Somebody* has to control him--he's running amok!"
"No, Jane, he's simply acting according to a value system that differs from yours. John isn't out of control, he's out of *your* control. And that makes you extremely uncomfortable, doesn't it? Because it's not what you're used to. You're used to being in control."
It didn't matter that Jane refused to agree out loud with that statement. She and I both knew it was true.
"You had the upper hand with Michael, didn't you?"
This time, reluctantly, "Yes."
"How do you think you *earned* that power over him?"
Jane was clearly puzzled.
"Were you more physically more gifted than he was? Did you have a better, more attractive body?
A wry smile. "Although Michael looked good in clothes, he wasn't in very good shape. We used to laugh about the fact that I could do more chin-ups than he could."
I smiled too. "Note to Jane: never engage in a chin-up contest with John. You are doomed to failure. And, as you are now uncomfortably aware, dragging him off to an exercise class is a mistake too. You may have been one up on Michael when it came to physical stuff, but there's no way you will ever have that advantage over John."
Jane's smile faded.
I pressed on. "Were you smarter than Michael?"
She definitely didn't want to be pinned down on that one. So I did it for her. "Granted, all I know about the guy is how he handled himself once John arrived on the scene. Based on that evidence, I'd have to guess that Michael was of limited emotional intelligence. Which, in my opinion, is a pretty good indicator of intelligence in general."
Jane stuck up for him. "Michael had a better job than me."
I thought that one over for a minute. "Yeah, but he was going to top out soon, wasn't he? While the sky was the limit for you. Did anybody ever tell you that you were going to end up running the whole show?"
Her eyes widened at that bit of clairvoyance; it was all I needed. "Jane, I've got another warning for you. If you feel the need to challenge John intellectually, you better do it in the next couple of weeks. If you wait any longer, he may be able to surpass you in that arena too."
This time when her eyes widened, it was in disbelief. That expression pissed me off. "Jane, you can't confuse lack of sophistication with lack of smarts. John may be behind on current events and have a limited vocabulary, but that doesn't mean he's unintelligent. As a matter of fact, I have every reason to believe that the guy is extremely bright."
When Jane appeared unconvinced, I had to struggle to control my annoyance. "Let me put it this way. Do you think a *dope* could have made it out of that jungle alive?"
No answer. Apparently, I was really going to have to work to get a response out of Jane. I tried again. "Personally, I think they would have found *my* emaciated little six-year-old carcass about ten feet away from the crash site. End of story."
Jane had clearly never thought about it that way. I leaned on her some more. "Do you think *you* could have done it?"
I couldn't wait for her response; Jane was still mulling over the obviously brand new notion that John might have a brain in his head--that's how I saw her expression from my pissed-off point of view. I had to struggle to be calm as I said, "Try to imagine how smart, how sneaky, how *quick* John had to be in order to endure that experience. And he didn't just endure--he thrived!"
She looked at me so hopelessly that I let her off the hook. "Here's what I'm getting at, Jane. You're trying to recreate your relationship with John in the image of the one you had with Michael--or maybe the image of *all* your relationships. Like I said before, you're only comfortable when you're in control.
"This dynamic forces you to *prove* to John that you deserve to have your way, to impose your will, your values on him. You figured you had a lock on the intellectual thing--although, as I said, that may not last long. But *physical* superiority? Man, that's a tough one. You took a long shot with the yoga class, betting that John wouldn't be able to hack it. If he'd failed, you could have justified your claim to all-round dominance. You would have been back on familiar ground--in charge.
"Of course, it didn't work. John happens to have superhuman physical gifts--no mere mortal will ever be able to best him in that department. But even if he had turned out to be a clumsy yoga student, you *still* wouldn't have got what you wanted. John will never, ever yield the upper hand to you. There's probably something genetically indomitable about him--look at his uncle!--and that natural tendency was hardened by his experience in the jungle. There he learned all about how strength equals survival--and freedom. The end result is that he *cannot* be dominated.
"This may be difficult to understand, but while you are the object of John's most passionate desire, his reason for living, the love of his life, you will never be able to control him. His nature--and his training--make it impossible for him to cede that much power to you."
There was a long silence while Jane pondered what I had said. I took that opportunity to underline my point. "It's a losing battle, Jane. I wouldn't bother fighting it."
She finally spoke. "You're probably right in that I want...I *need* to have things more settled--and I believe getting power over John will help me achieve that. And you're also probably right in that it will never happen--John will never *allow* it to happen. But what can I do with these feelings that I have? It's just not possible for me to turn off my need for order, for control. That's part of who I am...like John's need for independence is part of who *he* is. What can I do about that?"
I had been sneaking glances at my watch all along but, for the first time, I let Jane see me do so. "Good question. And one we're going to have to talk about next time."
At that moment, Marlene arrived, appointment book in hand, to announce that Aimee Richardson had arrived. "Oh, and Dr G, Sally Templeton cancelled her 9 o'clock tomorrow. She's got a back spasm--can't get out of bed."
"That's the third back-spasm in two months that has prevented her from keeping an appointment. Send her a bill. Do you want to take her place, Jane?"
Jane had back to simply staring at me. It took her a moment to realize that an answer was called for. "Tomorrow? 9 AM? No, I can't, I'm on duty."
"OK, well, let's see what else we can come up with. You need to be on a regular schedule. Could you leave the book with me, Marlene? We'll be done here in a few minutes."
It was only after Marlene had exited that Jane fully recognized where I was going with this talk of future appointments. I was advised in no uncertain terms that she couldn't possibly afford to see me again, much less regularly. Which was probably true. Time to enroll her in Kathleen Clayton's private psychiatric HMO.
"Don't worry about the expense, Jane. Ms Clayton has expressed her concern about your psychological health during this very stressful time, and I'm almost positive she'd be happy to pick up the bill." I thought it better to present this arrangement as a possibility rather than a done deal.
Jane looked positively stricken by my suggestion. "I couldn't have Kathleen Clayton paying my medical expenses. It would be...unethical."
I sighed. "Jane, let's get real here. With this arrangement, you can get some badly needed help at a price which is probably less than Kathleen pays per month for...for fresh flowers."
That statement seemed to make sense to Jane; however, she quickly came up with another objection. "I shouldn't be going to the same shrin...er...psychiatrist as John."
I'd expected that subject to come up, and had already prepared a pretty good rejoinder. "Jane, if you've never been in therapy before, this may be a difficult concept to understand. You've got to believe me, though--the silence of the confessional is nothing compared to the professional confidentiality a *shrink* has to live by. There's nothing that could possibly induce me to break that oath." I wondered about how to phrase this next part, ultimately deciding to stick with the straight-from-the-shoulder approach. "It would basically be my ass." Mentally crossing my fingers, I didn't mention the marital exemption.
Jane wasn't satisfied. "But even if you don't *tell* anyone my side of the story, you'll still *know* it. And you'll know John's too. That doesn't seem right to me."
"That's *all* I'll know, though. Somebody's side of the story. And I'm aware of the limitations of only getting that much--the Rashomon effect is always in effect. A given situation could look wildly different from someone else's point of view. And reality could be far removed from either."
Jane continued to waver. It was of course, her decision; she had the right to reject therapy outright--or to sign on with another therapist. But in my professional heart of hearts, I was convinced that Jane would do better in my practice, and so I played my trump card.
"I appreciate your reluctance, I really do. And while I think you need counseling to get through this crisis, you're perfectly free to seek it elsewhere. There's just one thing..." I let my voice trail off.
"What's that?" she was forced to ask.
"Can you imagine explaining John Clayton Jr to another doctor?"
She thought for one more moment, and then said, "I get off early on Thursdays."
I was exhausted by the end of the day. Lack of sleep the night before, my packed schedule and the very intense session with Jane--it was all very draining. More than anything, I wanted to go straight home, order takeout Chinese and turn in early. I knew Chris would be OK with that. Today was a surgery day and, after five or six hours in the OR, he was usually more than ready for a simplified evening at home. And, to my chagrin, Matt valued over Chinese food over his mother's home-cooking.
But there was an errand I had to run before I could put that plan into action--I had to drop off Tarzan's books.
Once I stepped outside, my fatigue lessened to a degree. It was dusk, and that time of the day can be magical in New York. I felt an instant infusion of energy as I hailed an unaccustomed cab, and gave the driver a tony, East-Side address.
Kathleen Clayton's home was almost exactly what I expected; nevertheless, the sight of it nearly took my breath away. The idea of owning that much marbled space, of living in such a heady, expansive way, was shocking to me--and I dwelled in a fairly large loft. Still, all that rich room must have seemed stifling to Tarzan, who was used to roaming freely over miles of jungle.
I had called the house earlier and spoken to a woman (housekeeper? personal assistant?) who informed me that Ms Clayton would not be home at my estimated time of arrival. No problem--besides passing on the books, I had hoped to have a few words with her. However, I could easily settle for leaving a short note.
Ringing the doorbell set off a complicated musical sequence which seemed to echo within Clayton manor. It took a while, but finally the door was creaked open by a young Asian woman. Although she was not the person with whom I had spoken, she'd been prepared for my arrival. When I told her that I would like to leave a note for Ms Clayton, she led me inside, into the foyer, a high-ceilinged room at the base of an enormous staircase. This out-sized space was dominated by a huge vase of exotic flowers which sat on an antique console to the right of the entranceway. I thought fleetingly back to my comment concerning the relative expense of therapy. Those flowers definitely cost *way* more than a session.
I had planned to leave the books with whatever member of Kathleen's staff I encountered, along with the note. It had never occurred to me to invade Tarzan's privacy by handing them over personally. So I gave the books to the woman who answered the door, even though she looked visibly uneasy at the idea of passing them along to Master John. I was about to ask her for some writing paper in order to leave a note when Tarzan dropped in.
He must have leapt from the top of that huge staircase. Anyone else dropping from such a height would have suffered some kind of horrible injury, might have even died. But again, not Tarzan. He landed almost lightly, in a hunkered-down position from which he uncoiled slowly and with a muscular precision, his eyes locked on mine.
Tarzan's feat amazed--and frightened--me. It wasn't just the height from which he had dropped, it was the *crouch* in which he'd alighted. The movement itself was frankly simian, and Tarzan's pointed display of it had a predatory edge. I was made aware, in a very visceral way, of how different, how nearly *alien* Tarzan was from the rest of us. His upbringing had given him a uniquely dual nature--he was human, yet had a fierce, animalistic power which would always be part of him. I still believed that Tarzan would "grow up" to become a capable, productive member of society; at the same time, I was now convinced that he would always differ from his fellow man. Tarzan would probably no longer feel truly at home in the jungle, but civilization could never cradle him completely either.
If that grand entrance had startled me--and made me think--it completely unhinged the housekeeper. Letting out a shriek, she dropped the books I'd handed her and beat it out of the foyer.
I turned to watch her go and when I turned back, Tarzan was in my face. "You've been with Jane," he very nearly growled at me.
If I needed further confirmation of the fact that Tarzan was a different breed of cat from the rest of us, that statement was it. Apparently, he could detect Jane's scent--transferred to me during an arm's-length encounter--from his hideaway, three stories from where we stood.
I was not as flustered as the housekeeper. As it had in the past, my medical education came to the rescue. I'd been threatened by people much scarier than Tarzan--he, after all, was sane.
As a result, I was fairly calm when I said, "Yes, I have been with Jane. She came to see me today." So much for patient privacy. I wouldn't have given up that much information about anyone else, but there was no use refusing to answer--or lying. Tarzan's senses had already told him the truth.
"What did she say?" He wasn't asking; he was demanding.
I sighed. "Jane is my patient now, Tarzan. Like you are. I can't talk to you about what she said to me. Any more than I could talk to *her* about the things you and I discuss."
I was hoping that this assurance of mutual confidentiality would placate Tarzan. If it did make a little less aggressive, he remained distraught. "You must tell her!" he said.
"Tell her what?" I asked gently.
Challenged, he became much less certain. "Tell her she should..."
I understood why he had couldn't find the words. What was I going to tell Jane that she didn't already know? That "John" loved her? That she loved him in return? That she was allowing a faulty conscience and a neurotic need for control to repress her natural feelings?
There was no *telling* Jane anything.
And Tarzan knew it. He never finished that sentence.
I was struck by his emotional acumen. Jane had a very common, very human failing: denial. Faced with uncomfortable facts, she tended to dodge them. Not Tarzan. He quickly came to terms with my inability to comply with his request, and accepted it.
Oh, he listened all right.
It was time to normalize this tense, dense atmosphere. "Sweetie, it's late--time for me to get going. And you've got reading to do." Tarzan helped me gather up the books that the housekeeper had dropped.
"I'm not finished with the one you gave me last night," he said, sounding apologetic.
I laughed. "I wouldn't expect even *you* to be finished with the dictionary yet, Tarzan! Besides, it will help you with *these* books. If you run across a word you don't recognize in any of them, you can look it up in the dictionary."
I could tell that Tarzan wasn't quite sure what I meant, but I already knew better than to explain it. He liked to figure things out for himself.
I handed over the books I'd picked up. "I'll bring them back as soon as I'm done," he promised.
I put out my hands in mock horror. "No, that's all right! You can hold on to them until our next appointment! You'll probably be finished by the time I get home!"
Tarzan looked puzzled for a moment, then realized I was joking--a first for him?--and gave me a hesitant smile.
That expression, while tentative, still stunned me. Seeing a smile appear on that beautiful, usually brooding face was like watching a shaft of sunlight penetrate the shadowy heart of a rainforest. A dazzling illumination.
I grinned back. "All right. Now I need to leave a note for your aunt before I head for home. In the meantime, you go on, take care of yourself."
Although Tarzan nodded, he seemed to reluctant to leave. "Remember," I reassured him, "you're scheduled to see me in just a few days. But you can come find me anytime you want."
Tarzan, satisfied with that promise, nodded again and headed up the stairs. His exit was almost as breath-taking as his entrance. Taking about six steps at a time, he appeared to *flow* up the staircase.
I called out in the hopes that the woman who'd let me in would reappear. No luck. She was probably hiding out somewhere, waiting until it was absolutely certain that Master John had returned to his quarters and the coast was clear.
Fumbling through my purse, I found my mini-agenda, and for once there was a pen in the attached holder. I tore a blank page out of the back, and then perched gingerly on an ornately antique chair--one of twins flanking the console--in order to write the note. I tried to hurry--I got the impression that no one had ever sat on that chair before and I didn't want Ms Clayton's representative to come back and arrest me for actually *using* that furniture.
It looks like Jane will be joining our private psychiatric health-care scheme. She sought me out today and agreed to start regular sessions. Thanks again for so generously extending this privilege to John's friend. I'm sure her therapy will benefit him as well.
I have a further favor to ask of you. I believe that John would profit from more intellectual stimulation than he is currently receiving. If it's not too much trouble, could you arrange to have him signed up for a library card?