My father came with me and coughed the entire way. I was somewhat embarrassed as we caught errant looks from other passengers on the train, but I was more afraid for his health. He needed to get better.
Dr. Marconi lived in a colonial house near Georgetown. The warm glow of a desk lamp revealed an office at the front of the home and added to the quaint appeal. I wondered if that’s where I would soon find myself, but more importantly, wondered if any famous people had spilled their guts in that room while exercising their demons for a million bucks an hour. How much did these guys actually charge, I wondered, comparing it to my hourly wage at the chop suey house. Good thing my dad was friends with him and got us a deal.
Dr. Marconi’s wife met us at the door and five minutes later, I was waiting to meet this mysterious fix-it man in his office – a different one than could be seen from out front. I figured he didn’t want anyone snapping pictures of his famous offline clients.
The room was full of dark woods, a globe, a map of the world that covered most of one wall, and a head sculpture of someone famous who must’ve been well-respected in the land of quacks, but a person I’d never heard of – and that was probably a good thing.
I observed the room like an inspector waiting for a suspect in the early stages of an investigation when Dr. Marconi stepped in. For a moment I thought it was Eye Patch or maybe his older brother. His bald head was unusually tan and his muscles were practically bursting out of his shirt. I guess after listening to people’s problems half the day, he must hit the gym extra hard to decompress.
“What happened to your lip?” he asked, not greeting me the conventional way.
“I was hoping you could tell me.”
“I see,” he replied and motioned to the chair. “Have a seat, Trenton, and make yourself comfortable.”
I plopped into the deep leather chair and instantly understood why he had chosen this one. It was cushiony and comfortable ... maybe too comfortable. Falling asleep in this bad boy was a cinch. He moved around and casually sat on the front of his desk.
“You don’t own an eye patch do you?” I asked sarcastically, but the resemblance was uncanny.
“If I was a pirate in a past life, it’s beyond me,” he quipped then picked up a red bowl full of treats. He pulled out a shiny blue one and admired it. “Would you like a chocolate?”
“Is this a test?”
He smiled. “No, I just love chocolate.” He unwrapped it and stuck it in his mouth showing instant satisfaction. I contemplated and eventually nodded. “Why did you think this was a test?”
“The red bowl and all. I thought maybe that was a subconscious danger signal or something like that.”
“I’m not here to trick you, Trenton, but I must say that’s very perceptive on a different level.”
“How many levels are there?”
“Depends who you ask.” He winked and replaced the bowl in its previous position.
“Was that another test?”
“What do you mean?”
“You were sure to put the bowl in the same spot as if it hadn’t moved at all. Why did you do that?”
“I suppose it’s the over-organized side of my personality coming through. I’m sorry if it offends you,” he said and nudged the bowl with a quick grin that told me it was time to move the conversation back to my issues. “Shall we get started?”
“Sure, but I have a couple of questions first.”
“By all means, ask away.”
“Thanks. First, do you work for the government?”
“Good. Second, is whatever we discuss only between you and me?”
“Of course ... unless you authorize me to release information obtained in my analysis, but I don’t see the need for that to even come up. I’m here to assist you and, as you are well aware, this entire conversation is officially offline.”
“Good because that was my next question.”
“Remember, Trenton, it’s your life and you’re in control, so long as you want to be. I find with many patients there is a subconscious desire, and therefore, effort, to not want the responsibility that comes with being in control. It can be very daunting for some people.”
“That’s pretty deep. I don’t know if I completely got all of it, but I think I did.”
“You seem pretty honest, but I have a feeling you understand more than you let on.”
I thought about it for a moment and shrugged as if to say, okay, you may be right, but let’s leave things unsaid at this point.
“Okay,” he continued, “we’re going to try something called controlled regression.” His delivery was matter of fact and conveyed assurance.
“You mean you’re going to hypnotize me, right?”
“Okay, just don’t make me walk like a duck or quack like one.”
By the look on his face, I wasn’t sure if he got the joke, but then again, he’d probably heard some variation of it a million times.
“Have you heard of the planet Romulus discovered during one of our space missions?”
“The name sounds familiar,” I said and instantly pictured Number Nine walking on one of its picturesque beaches. It was both unsettling and intriguing and then my imagination got the best of me and I wondered if the mysterious Number Nine and his high-tech company weren’t part of some wild alien invasion that had already begun; however, Dr. Marconi snapped me back to reality.
“Romulus is known for its beaches, as you know, or at least that’s what the photos from our probes tell us.”
“I’ve seen those pictures. Looks like a nice place to visit, but I guess I’ll just have to settle on Hawaii.”
“I guess you will,” he said heartily, finally warming up to my sense of humor.
“Now, I want you to close your eyes and picture yourself on the beach.”
I did as he said and strolled around the silver sand and spotted a large rock. I walked over and took a seat then removed my shoes and thought seeing a shrink wasn’t so bad after all.
He continued, “It should be completely silent except for the rhythmic splash of waves rolling onto the beach. The sun is setting in the background and there is a slight breeze. Can you picture that?”
“Yes, I see it.”
“Good. Now I want you to focus on the waves … and start counting them as they come in. See the first one roll calmly onto the shore, followed by the second one and the third and so on and so on…”
I was enjoying this and somewhere in the back of my mind realized I was becoming completely relaxed. My mind was clearing with each gentle wave and the sun felt warm against the cool breeze. This was the life and before I knew it, I was out, or at least the conscious part of me was.