a question and an answer: what was supposed to be an interview and failed
The boy had cut his hair in the time since we last saw each other--I grimaced for him. He'd also gained some weight, something I'd never imagined Colt to be capable of doing. There were a few more smile wrinkles by his mouth and his forehead had more creases in it than before, but the thing I noticed the moment he stepped into my darkened office was his eyes.
He had his hands in front of him, fingers laced tightly together, elbows on his holey jean knees. I waited, and I watched.
He cracked his index fingers and sat up.
"It's been six months."
I raised my eyebrows. "Excuse me?" I knew exactly what he meant, but I wanted him to tell me. That was a therapist job, right? To listen?
"Since Jonathon kil--died."
I nodded. "Six months to the day, yes." I subtly marked on my clipboard that he still hesitated to mention the suicide. Just like he had for the past six months.
He fake-rolled his shoulders to cover his squirming. "...Matt's an even bigger mess than before."
Ah, Matt. The illusive twin of whom I'd heard so much about I sometimes forgot he wasn't even one of my patients. The Matt who was located in the epicenter of Colt's distress.
"Matt isn't the one who came to my office wanting to talk," I said gently. "You are."
"Yeah, but..." He went into "figure-four" position: crossing one ankle over onto his other knee and grabbing his leg with both hands. Interesting. He wanted to talk, but he was also acting closed off, like he was conflicted.
I made another note on the clipboard.
"But..." I repeated, breaking my silence rule for once.
"But I think Matt seriously need help now."
I raised an eyebrow. He'd never been bold enough to say that out loud before; that meant something big must've happened, thus explaining why Colton was warming a chair he hadn't sat in in a month or so. If Matt was struggling, it meant Colt was too.
I leaned forward, brushing my hair out of my eyes. I made sure to keep eye contact. "Matt has a therapist, Colton. He goes to see her regularly. Remember? We established this on day one."
"I know, I know," he said. "But he's not getting better, he's only getting worse. We had our graduation the other day, you know?" I nodded. I'd had to miss it because of a more pressing appointment, but I'd seen the invitation in the mail. "Well...I kind of gave a speech."
My eyebrows arched again. "Really?" That wasn't something he or his mother had mentioned... "Willingly?"
He nodded slightly, looking down now. "They wanted to give Jon some sort of memorial in the ceremony, for the family's sake. I volunteered to talk, because I knew I would do it like Matt and Jon would want it--no sappiness, no stupid emotional crap. I think Matt liked it. He was nodding at me while I talked, at least." He smiled a little. "It was the happiest I'd seen him in a crazy long time. Since before the accident, actually. But then..." here his smile slipped away. "Then the principal decided on his own that it would be oh so meaningful for Matt himself to give a speech on the spot--"
"He didn't!" I gasped.
"--and everyone was looking at him and talking stupid things about Jon and I couldn't do anything and Matt pretty much exploded and ran off and--"
I held up my hands. "Okay, okay. I think I understand now."
He shook his head. "It isn't all, though. You remember me telling you how Jon wanting us to go on that big road trip to the West Coast after graduation? And how I was thinking about going through with it?"
I did remember; it had been something of an obsession of his when he'd decided not to see me any more.
"Well, I brought it up to Matt and his parents and they were both against it. So I dropped it." He shrugged. "It was making him mad and them worried and it just wasn't worth it. But after the graduation fiasco...Matt's parents went to see his therapist. And they mentioned it to her." He stopped.
"And she thinks it's a great idea." Interesting. Not the response I would've predicted, though I could imagine her rational. "She thinks going away from home and being away from all his memories will help Matt get over this with less pain and backsliding. So...we're leaving. On the fifth. I'm going to be in charge of him for a month--making sure he takes all his medications, making sure he gets enough sleep, making sure he doesn't go off the deep end and do something...stupid." He stopped again, this time looking up at me with searching eyes. "So...I guess what I came here for was an answer."
I smiled; I had guessed as much. "Give me your question then."
He swallowed, then asked, "Is this a good idea?"
In a moment of unprofessional fondness, I took his hand and squeezed it gently. "I can't say, Colton. If I were in your shoes, what I would do would probably be very different from you, because I'm such a different person. You feel like you understand Matthew, right?
"Then do what you feel is right." I smiled at him. "I know that's not my clearest answer, but it's the only one I can think of in this situation. Matthew needs you right now, and if that means going on a trip halfway across the country, then by all means do it. Just make sure that you are capable of handling it." I let go of his hand and leaned back in my chair. "Does that help?"
He looked at me, then at his hand, then back at me. "I think...yes." He stood up. "Thank you, Doctor. You told me what I needed to hear."
"My pleasure," I said, standing. I shook the hand he offered me, and then watched his narrow shoulders as he exited the room with worry stirring the pit of my stomach. I hoped I had given him the right answer.