Audrey Tate was scratching her brain in the small silver Ford, trying to think of things to say to her son that early in the morning. Benji was tired, and not used to having to deal with the concept of psychoanalysis before one P.M. usually. Dr. Dana Statler had a cancellation and a quota to fill, which prompted Audrey to schedule her first and only born right before she had work at nine. Two birds with one stone, almost. Needless to say, the rise and shine wake up call didn’t seem to be helping with Benji’s supposed depression. If anything, the dark circles under his heavy eyes were just going to make Dana prescribe more sunlight before something else to make him numb.
“So are you okay honey?” Audrey asked habitually out of the blue, before the familiar turn on Shenly Road towards the offices.
“What?” Benji asked softly, taking his head off of his right hand, before turning away from the window.
“I was just seeing if you were alright. I mean, you look a little out of it.”
“It’s cause I’m not used to being awake at this hour.”
“Well, I’m always up this early.”
“I know mom.”
“So there’s nothing you wanna talk about then?”
“You’re asking me if I want to talk before I go see my shrink. Isn’t that kind of like overkill mom?”
“Well, we don’t have to talk about the same kinds of things.”
“I’m fine, okay? I mean, whatever you think is the matter, it’s not nearly as serious as you think it is.”
Audrey kept her mouth shut as she pulled into the long and practical parking lot. Benji was sort of loathing another misguided visit with Dr. Statler, but couldn’t necessarily sway Audrey or the rest of the higher level over-protective adult figures in his life, to simply let up. They all figured that something as dramatic as a father’s escape and eventual suicide meant there was a lot rolling around in his fifteen-year-old brain, and that a major breakthrough was on the verge of occurring.
Benji had known better by that point, coming to the all so clear realization that everyone his age had a lot on their minds, regardless of whatever corrupted bullshit managed to pass through the double doors. However, he didn’t necessarily mind the extra attention, considering Dana’s qualifications and furthermore, long legs.
“So your Aunt Ellen’s gonna pick you up in an hour,” Audrey reconfirmed, putting the car in park.
“Yeah, I know.”
“Okay, well have fun…” Benji rolled both eyes at his mother. “Or, ya know, a breakthrough.”
“Thanks mom. I’ll see ya after work.”
Audrey watched her son slowly but surely make his way towards the red brick building. She felt horrible every week at around the same time, his less than upbeat steps always having the most primordial of effects on her. She wished it was all different, not necessarily that Caleb had stayed or learned to figure his life out in another fashion, but rather that simply Benji had some other kind of activity to participate in on a Monday morning. In short, she felt like a horrible mother, and the thought would no doubt stay with her the whole day, as Audrey Tate drove from one clean office building to another.
Benji was only in the waiting room for roughly ten minutes before Dana’s office door opened, and an overweight housewife in a bright pink T-shirt stepped out, blowing her nose like the war had just begun. He sprung up in his seat at the sight of her, the twenty-nine-year-old physician always managing to wear something strangely attractive. Benji wasn’t sure what it was about Dana Statler that got to him either.
Sure, she was conventionally pretty, long black hair and a physically fit body, always wearing large dress suits with shoulder pads that were anything but intimidating, yet there was something else to her too, something that he couldn’t quite put his finger on. It wasn’t just that she listened either. After all, that’s what she was paid to do, and a lot of people could very easily pretend to listen if the money was right. It was the advice she offered that somehow seemed to stick without completely sticking, and the way her dark brown eyes would occasionally light up past her thick black-framed glasses that truly drove the already unstable Benji Tate over the edge.
Her office was obsessively spotless. The desk was as spic and span as the brown leather couch where supposed bigger concerns where meant to be touched upon. That particular Monday was somewhat of a long drag for both Benji and Dana, though, neither one really picking up on the subtle clues they both meticulously left for each other. Benji was desperately trying to make Dana realize that nothing was wrong with him, while the good doctor oddly enough, enjoyed dropping hints about the larger issues, before scratching the bare minimum off the surface of her patients supposed problems. It was simplistic and supposedly elaborately educated at the same time, but Benji Tate wasn’t necessarily picking up on the point of it all.
“So why do you think hiding in your room is more productive than being social Benji?” Dana asked, before fixing her glasses. It had taken roughly forty-five minutes for the both of them to get there.
“I thought I already explained it. It’s not like I’m necessarily anti-social, I just don’t like the majority of the people I know.”
“Well, you’re not gonna see anybody if you just hide in your room.”
“I bet to differ Dr. Statler,” Benji said, an unrequited smirk lining his face.
“Are you referring to your next door neighbor Lorene, because I have to say, that’s not really healthy behavior.”
“What is healthy behavior then? Dating some girl I could care less about?”
“No, not necessarily. You’re fifteen Benji. You don’t need to be searching for anything so serious right now.”
“Right… So is that how it works? I come and see my reliable shrink, probably one of the most serious activities out there, and you tell me not to be so serious?”
“No, I didn’t say that. I said, that at your age, you shouldn’t be obsessing so much.”
“Says who? Obsessing is like a normal thing. I mean, I think I’ve seen enough John Hughes’ movies to know that.”
Dana took a long sigh, before shaking her head and setting the small green notebook she had been continually taking notes in, down on the table next to her. She then took a sip of her coffee, watching Benji’s eyes wonder around the room, fixating on the random hardbacks on her cherry bookshelves in-between the looks he aimed directly at her available skin.
“So, what’s the prognosis here doc?” the patient asked, sarcastically.
“I don’t know. I mean, do you think we ever get anywhere Benji?”
“Kind of, I think. I mean, maybe if you and I went out to dinner, we could discuss less important matters other than my life.”
“Don’t do that.”
“What?” His smirk grew wider.
“Don’t act like you don’t know, either.”
“Listen, Dr. Statler, Dana, all I’m saying is that my mother and all my teachers and whoever else have been worried about my so-called anti-social behavior, and it’s your job to remedy that, right?”
“Benji, it’s my job to help you whichever way you see fit.”
“Alright, well if you and I went out, A. I don’t think I’d be nearly as anti-social, and B. it would be like two birds with one stone.”
“Not really. It’d be illegal.”
“What about that thing, though? Uh… what’s it called? I’m trying to remember.” Benji scratched head for half a second and then snapped his fingers. “Doctor-patient confidentiality.”
“Yeah, it doesn’t work like that.”
“So what you’re saying is that I’m not attractive enough, right?”
“Just stop it Benji. This isn’t getting us anywhere.”
“Yeah, I know, and I blame your lack of people skills. I mean, maybe you should get out more.”
“I get out plenty, trust me.”
“Oh yeah? Well then how come you’re closing in on thirty and not married. I mean, that’s not normal, is it?”
“It’s normal for me.”
“Ya know, once you cross that line, it’s just gonna get harder.”
“Well, I’d say I’m more or less prepared for whatever happens.”
“Alright, I guess that’s what they tell you to tell yourself when such a touchy subject comes up.”
“Believe me, it’s not as touchy as you think.”
“So I think I’ve completely lost where I was trying to go with this whole session today.”
“Really, because I’d say we made a lot of progress. I mean, more than usual anyway”
“Ya know, if you wanted to, you could probably get out of coming here. I mean, it’s not like you’re fooling anybody.”
“I’m not even sure what that means Dr. Statler.”
“It means talk to your mother. Tell her you’re okay.”
“Oh, believe me I tried. The whole thing is, she’s not exactly okay, which means I don’t really want her to feel out of place in our house because of it, plus I gotta say, I really do enjoy talking to you. I mean, it’s nice to get a women’s POV on the whole messed-up stitch that is my life.”
“Well, glad I can be of service Mr. Tate,” Dana said in a monotone drone before slouching in her chair. Regrettably she knew it had been their best session in months.
Benji Tate sat on the front steps of Dr. Statler’s office building with both his ears finally tuned in to the sounds of I See A Darkness. The music was less than appropriate for such a warm sunny day, and yet he knew it would soon suit his surrounding atmosphere upon her arrival. She was always late, and the reasons never varied.
Caleb’s sister, Ellen Frear, pulled into the parking lot, reliably in front of her supposedly solemn nephew. Benji slowly arose from the stone steps, opened the front passenger’s side door, and entered into the reasonably messy dark gray minivan. The loud screeches from the seven-year-old twins, Alvin and Lucy, sitting in the back, instantly drowned out all sounds pounding directly into Benji’s ears from his headphones. He took them off and looked over at his aunt’s flushed face. It was only ten fifteen and already Ellen looked like she was having the longest day of her life.
“Hi Benji, how’d everything go?” Ellen asked, faking optimism, before she backed out of the lot.
“About the same Aunt Ellen.”
“Well, is that good or bad?”
“Don’t worry about it. It is what it is.”
“So do you have a belly ache Benji?” Lucy asked from the backseat.
“No Lucy, why would you think that?” Benji asked, turning to the blonde devils in the back, both, at seven, beyond ready for separation anxiety.
“Mom said you were just at the doctor.”
“Oh…” Benji turned to his aunt who looked far too stressed for an explanation.
“Lucy, I tried to tell you. It’s not…”
“I’m getting the new Spider-man today Benji!” Alvin interrupted his mother, holding up the faded red and blue action figure, Spidey’s left foot having been chewed by the Frear’s family Saint Bernard, Boba.
“That’s pretty cool Alvin,” Benji said, upbeat without sounding condescending like his aunt had to him moments earlier.
“Yeah, I know. It really is, isn’t it?” Alvin replied, before making his action figure scale the car window.
“So do you have diarrhea Benji?” Lucy asked inquisitively, her younger brother by three minutes starting to giggle, a few snot bubbles forming out of his left nostril. Benji couldn’t contain his grin as Alvin wiped his nose on the tail of his green Incredible Hulk T-shirt.
“Yeah, ya know, I think that might be it.”
“Eww… Gross.” Lucy responded, scrunching her nose up and sticking her tongue out.
“I’m sorry about all of this Benji. You know how they are.”
“So, I hope you don’t mind, I was going to stop at the mall real quick, to get a few things.”
“That’s fine. I don’t really have any big plans for today, Aunt Ellen.”
Benji turned back to the window, remaining mostly silent as the twins started arguing again. All their fights were simplistic, never rounding the corner to the verge of logical sense. They were common scrapes over this and that, items and objects quickly spotted in passing or thought about at random. While Benji would usually become strangely aggravated by such a clear and present display of sibling rivalry, for some reason that day was different. Nothing was getting to him in the way it used to, almost as if the repetition of certain therapy sessions and car rides were unexplainably sinking in. North Shade mall wouldn’t prove to be so beneficial. There was no escaping everybody in such a small town.