It's about shrinks and parents, a theme close to my heart these days.
Paul's psychotherapy office, we discover, is in his home. A small boy, maybe 9 or 10, sits at his desk holding a thermometer to a light bulb while Paul and his wife argue in the background. The boy wants to stay home, but Paul doesn't buy the sick plea or the temp of 103. "We could rent a movie and watch it," the boy says, but Paul is stern. Boy must go to school, dad must go to work. The boy says, "You never believe me." The shrink dad cringes, we know there's more to it (damn it, there'd better be), we'll wait for another episode.
Patient Sophie is 16, an only child, an Olympic-hopeful gymnast. The handshake over first names reveals both her arms are in casts, and she's been referred by her lawyer. "I'm here for your professional opinion." Translates to, 'I'm not here for treatment.' Sophie was hit by a car while riding her bike, the question has been raised by the insurance company as to whether it was a suicide attempt, and in fact, Sophie had tried a friend's motorbike 2 years before and crashed into a car back then.
Paul asks about the accident. "I told you, I don't remember anything." She becomes uncomfortable. She's already seen a social worker and she didn't like the social worker because she thought she knew everything about Sophie.
"Can you help me with this professional opinion?"
"It's not like an XRay," Paul says, "It doesn't quite work like that." Sophie says she'll leave, but she doesn't. "I didn't come to talk about myself."
She gets angry. She wants Paul to ask her "shrink-like questions." She thinks Paul spoke to her mom, and she and mom clearly have issues. She came by bus, she'd never let mom drive her. Sophie's close to her dad, he's always there for her, but she finds him by calling "411" --Information-- because he moves so often. And, oh yeah, there's Cy the gymastics Coach who drew the topless mermaid on her casts and who's children she's babysat for.
Sophie is angry that Paul doesn't jump at the opportunity to read the insurance report she's brought him. He says they need to meet 3 or 4 times and he wants to read it alone. "Otherwise it wouldn't be professional." He echoes her words with such finesse.
Paul reads. Sophie wanders about his office. She comments on his collection of ships. He has asthma, she finds his inhaler. "Did you really read all those books or are you just trying to make an impression?" "They're your f***ing books, Buster." Oh my. And Paul is unflappable.
Sophie asks about Paul's daughter. How did she know? They are in the same grade, they once went to the same school, he was on the PTA.
They talk about a show that even I'm not old enough to know about "This is your Life" or something like that. Paul tells an angry Sophie that everyone thinks about death. "Suicidal tendencies, blah, blah, blah," she says.
"It's 10 of and you probably have to turn on your cell phone now," Sophie says to Paul. She asks Paul about his relationship with his daughter, she must call him at 10 of the hour. My real-life daughter and I laugh, I because I turn on my cell phone at 10 of the hour, my daughter because "I always call you on the hour because that's when you answer." Why aren't we on TV?
Paul gets water for Sophie at her request. He gently places a straw in it and asks if she needs help. For the guy who wouldn't watch a movie with his kid, he is the quintessential daddy to this patient who so desperately needs a parent. He gives them both an assignment-- they will both write an assessment of the insurance company's report.
Paul is good. He's really good. My daughter says he's old, wrinkly, gray. Nothing fazes him, he never says the wrong thing, he ties everything neatly together. His eyes light up when he smiles, sometimes even when he doesn't. He's a better shrink than I am any day, oh and that faint brogue to top it all off. When can I tell him my secrets?