“Tristan! Get up right now!” Anthony, of course. Cindy had never woken me up before. Wait, that isn’t quite true. I forgot about the time that Anthony told her to wake me. I wasn’t really protesting the being awakened part today though, just the male chauvinism. I was interested in discovering how this day would turn out. I won a free trip to debate a psychologist. I had a lot of questions for him or her. “Time to go see Dr. Dandy.”
And so we entered the Kia once again. I decided that I would never own a minivan at any point in my life. I wondered what Dr. Dandy would say about that, surely something them it giving me flashbacks of this very moment. ‘Doodlie, doodlie, doo doo doo da dum’. That was the sound I heard while looking out of the car window today. It was Monday morning and everyone was headed to work. ‘Coffee coffee, coffee, on the way. Lalalalala, la, lalala.’
The town was a Claymation worker-bee version of It's a Small World. ‘Doodlie, doodlie, doo doo doo da dum’. How very strange. Maybe I was just a piece on the ride that had come with a manufacturer’s error, or maybe they were ill-fated for being merely working pieces on a mechanical ride.
Cindy was driving me today because Anthony was on the way to work, sipping coffee. I wondered if he was singing. Probably not, though I could picture him singing maybe something like Gregorian chant. At last, we finally arrived at the offices of Dr. Daniel Dandy, Psy.D. Ooh, a Psy.D. That’s the expensive degree…Dr. Daniel Dandy? Dan Dandy? Was that a real name? What the hell? Maybe I had fallen asleep on the way there. Maybe I was still asleep. But alas, I was not. ‘Dr. Dan Dandy’ he was. If he really was a Psy.D. then he already knew that his name sounded hilarious. Maybe it was just a pseudonym.
Good god, or Satan, or whoever…this man’s waiting room was unbelievably ostentatious. A luxurious mini-waterfall trickled down the marble and obsidian pathway that had been built up around it. A big fat golden brain stood against the left wall, next to a vast multitude of awards that I didn’t take the time to read. I sat down on the black velvet couch as Cindy checked me in at the receptionist’s desk. She had her coffee, coffee, coffee today too, and was typing away at no less than one-hundred ninety-six words per minute. Of course I couldn’t check myself in. I wouldn’t be eighteen for another forty-six days. I was still forty-six days away from being viewed as an actual human being.
Cindy sat down beside me. Soon after, a door in the back of the building made the sounds of opening and closing. I waited in anticipation as the tension rose. Any second now Dan Dandy, Psy.D., would emerge from his office. I wondered if he could feel my anticipation just as I could feel his self-confidence. Maybe he could even feel me feeling his self-confidence. I could feel him feeling my anticipation. It could go on forever, so that was a good place to stop that.
And there he was, smiling away. His eyes were boring into my soul already, but mine were doing the same to his. I wished that he would have put on a stranger expression than the typical greeting smile.
Anyway, he had cream colored skin, a cream colored suit and a silver tie. He had combed-back dark brown hair that was in the very early stages of greying. He was probably in his forties. I imagined him walking toward me with a fog machine puffing plumes of watery smoke that flew all around him, only because that would go so well with his million dollar room. But no fog ever came.
“Well hello there, Tristan. I’m Dan Dandy.”
“Are you really? Is that really your name?”
“Why of course, dear boy. I don’t require you to accept it though. Now come along with me.” His answer convinced me to go and talk to him, so we began to walk back down the hallway. I imagined how many fanciful displays of his accomplishments would be waiting inside his office. I guessed that there would be around thirty-seven. “It’s just around this corner. Right in here.”
“Okay.” We turned a small corner that led into his office. I counted the gloriously displayed accolades. Thirty-six…damn it, I was off by one. I sat down in a comfortable seat as he sat descended upon his black leather rolling chair. Then it began.
“Do you know why you are here?” Apparently he did. I wasn’t sure what he meant.
“Why do I think I’m here? Or what do I think you were told about why I‘m here?”
“Both.” So I told him.
“I think you were told that I’m here because I was expelled from school, have smoked marijuana, and got into a fight that was actually me being attacked. And you’ve certainly been told that I’m here for going out at night and missing church the next morning.”
“I see. What is the true reason?” He began to write with a fountain pen on a lined yellow notepad.
“I’m here because I’m not the same as everyone else. Only one type of person is accepted outside these walls, and maybe even inside of them too…I wasn’t made with the gene that’s needed to be that type of person. Contrary to what you were told, I do not think I’m in need of ‘correction’. What is correct and what is not correct is a matter of opinion.
“Are you happy with your surroundings? Are you happy with your situation, your lot in life?”
“Then perhaps you should try to change yourself. Practice accepting what is happening in your life. Whatever it is, you must accept it. You must accept your station to achieve happiness.”
“Why not change my surroundings instead, since they are what I’m not happy with? That seems more logical to me.”
“How will you change your surroundings?” Like I was going to tell the psychologist that I was about run away…
“How would you suggest I do it?” I asked instead.
“Wait until you are older.”
“Because that’s the way things are, or because that’s the way things should be?”
“You simply must wait until you are an adult, until you turn eighteen.” He looked at my records. “It isn’t a very long wait.”
“Do you agree with that? Do you agree that I should have to wait for a preordained ‘age of majority’ like that?”
“What isn’t there to agree with?”
“Just because becoming an adult at the age of eighteen is the most accepted definition of adulthood, it still isn’t anything more than opinion.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes. I’ve already told you so. There’s no need to ask again.”
“Well, the opinion you speak of is also the one that has been made into law. You have to follow the law if you want to get anywhere in life. Why don’t you want to become a successful member of your society? You have to play by the rules to win, Tristan.”
“But they require me to be something that I am not.”
“What would that be?”
“Scared, self-righteous, caring only about how I am perceived and never doing anything that I care to do.”
“Why can you not be those things?”
“It wouldn’t be worth enduring, not to me. See, no one is concerned for anyone as much as they’re concerned for themselves. You’re only here to earn a paycheck, not because you really give a shit about what I do when I leave. You don’t care as long as you can go home and take your pretty family out to a pretty restaurant, then go home and go to bed after a glass of wine.”
“I would very much care if you hurt yourself or another when you go home. Not everyone is concerned only about themselves. Have people treated you poorly in the past?”
“If it took earning a Psy.D. for you to be able to figure that out, I doubt that you should have this job. Most of the people I’ve known have hurt me, some for their own pleasure, most because it was the easiest option. Father hurt me, maybe because he had to feel powerful at some point in his life just like the policemen. My sister was taken because of social taboos.
“Everyone hurts everyone, sir. I hurt you by showing you that there’s someone you can’t ‘help’. You hurt me by thinking I need it. People just believe what they’re told. You think something is wrong with me because someone told you that if I behave the way I am behaving then something is wrong with me. Maybe they said that people who act like me are fucked up in some textbook you read at a university. Have you ever gone and found out these things for yourself?”
“Taboos are necessary in societies, Tristan. They preserve order.”
“Order does not always deserve to be preserved. Order was preserved in Germany during the holocaust. Order was preserved while I was locked upstairs in my house from birth to puberty. You seem to only care about maintaining order without spending a single minute looking to see if it deserves to be.”
“Well as you might have noticed, whether you think the established order deserves preservation or not, if you choose to go against it you will wind up here. You will be disapproved of and assessed by a psychologist. If you don’t start following the established order after that, after this, you’re likely to find yourself in jail. That’s why I follow it, Tristan.”
“I am here, yes, and you are there. Look at you. You’re doing quite well for yourself. You’re making a decent salary. You have enough to eat and a home and a family. But if the reason you do what you’re told is because of fear then I have far more than you have, in my mind. You live in luxury, but know every day that you’ve sold a part of your soul. You hide, shivering in the shadow of the expectations around you. I may die before you. I may die having been stigmatized and ostracized, but I get to die knowing that I stood up for the things I believed in. You won’t have that. You’ll regret it.”
“Well, it certainly seems that you have your priorities in order. Are you ready to go?”
“I suppose so, if you’re finished making your assessment.”
“Yes, I believe I’m all done. And your time’s up, let’s go meet your mother outside.”
And so we went back down the hallway to deliver the news about whatever ‘mental disorder’ I might have to Cindy.”
“It can be caused by traumatic events, maybe a chemical imbalance. Things like this are a bit tricky to pinpoint.” The words echoed through my ears. I was sure that I had heard them before.
“They have to say it’s something. They want to keep you coming back,” Shadowshade mused. Maybe so or maybe he really thinks there’s something wrong with me. If he did then we’d only think the same of each other, so it meant nothing to me. The visit was interesting, but far less satisfying than I had anticipated. Maybe I would have preferred talking to an experimental psychologist instead.
“‘Antisocial Personality Disorder’ is what he said you have, Tristan.” Fantastic. Now someone’s opinion of me would be on records for everyone to see. “It means that you don’t want to be the way you must be to live happily in society. This is a terribly upsetting diagnosis. Your father won’t be pleased.” Cindy was right. He wouldn’t be. I was instructed to sit in a chair in the living room until Anthony arrived. It didn’t seem to take him very long.
“I see.” He said to Cindy when he came in the door. “Well, Tristan! Military school will certainly be good for you! Maybe they’ll teach you to actually have human qualities, you know?” What was he talking about? I was sent back to my room. They decided that I would be leaving for military school in only two days. I was being shipped express. That was fine with me since I’d be running away tomorrow night.
“Off to the city,” Shadowshade said.
“You’re leaving me behind, aren’t you?” Anna asked.
“I’m not sure.” I decided to be honest.
“Take me with you, please! I don’t want to be left here alone.” I began to realize that Anna would be coming with me whether I gave her permission to or not.
“Okay. We’ll go together.”
“Hooray! Let’s bring Caterpillar along too.” I got the book out of my desk and set it aside to bring with us. Every time I gazed into it, it still zapped me back into our old room. It happened with the same degree of intensity every single time. Mister Caterpillar was truly unfailing. I sat down and checked my computer to see if Scéléra had sent me a reply message. She had.
“Let’s meet at the entrance to my neighborhood. It’s called Tranquility Acres, though I can’t imagine why the fuck they would call it that. My experience here has been the exact opposite of tranquility, and all the houses look just the same. Talk about suburbia…” What? Really? Tranquility Acres? That was this neighborhood. That was my neighborhood.
Had we lived this close to each other ever since I arrived here? It was shocking that I hadn’t seen her before if that was the case. I told her of this strange mystical happening and began to gather a few things that I wanted to take with me. I couldn’t bring much. We would be traveling on foot for at least a few hours. That was okay. There wasn’t much that I really wanted to bring along from this place anyway. After making a little assortment on the floor near my bed, I fell asleep. Tomorrow night would be here in the blink of an eye.