assume, is fact. “Oh, honey, your grandma wants you to know she is at peace now. She’s telling me she left you something….” “Yes, yes, she did.” His voice lifts; his eyes shine. The counselor called this a disease. I thought - if this were a disease, the insurance would cover the care, I’d have friends and family for support, this would have brought her father and I closer, not tear us apart. But, now, many visits later, I understand it is a disease. An isolating and lonely disease.
My attention drifts as I hear the receptionist’s voice soften. “Go through there, fill out this form.”
’ When I refocus on the thirty-two inch screen, Montel brings out the cake for the surprise party; for a moment, the psychic’s persona slips down. Surprise surrounds her eyes, her lips turn up in response. Maybe not everyone sees it, but I do. Then, just as quickly, she plays the clairvoyant, presses her lips together, closes her eyes to replace the surprise with humble acknowledgement. A family walks in, moves to the same row where I sit, but further down: mom, dad, son. Mom appears stressed, short uncombed hair, bags under her eyes. Her hand shakes as she reaches into her purse. The mom sits with her back to the patio, the boy across from her. He must be sixteen. Dad wears a suit, paces, scrutinizes the boy. “You missed one.” He points to the paper. “I don’t know what to put there.” The boy’s voice, defiant. I see the father through my peripheral as he walks away, paces back; he’s just noticed me. A counselor pushes the door open, “Come on back.” “I haven’t finished.” The boy’s spine stiffens; he doesn’t want to be here. “You can finish in here.” The counselor is a man, tall, experienced, unsmiling. The boy gets up, focuses on his dad, “Can you wait here?” Dad shakes his head no, points his son forward. The counselor directs his hard stare at the father. “I’ll call you when I need you.”
Perhaps the counselor understands what I’ve come to intuit and what his parents can’t yet: the boy’s not ready to be here, and the father’s not helping the situation.