Justin relaxed onto Dr. Crosby’s leather chair, trying his best to appear nonchalant about seeing a counselor. This only left him feeling a bit stupid because no one was in the room yet to see just how nonchalant he was. The chair had a worn-in ditch that conformed to Justin’s body and was a perfect fit for his five-foot-nine-inch athletic frame. At least he would be comfortable even if he didn’t want to be there. This was his first meeting with Dr. Crosby, and, he presumed, his last. Justin was there only because his father asked him to go, even though Justin felt no reason, or need, to see a shrink. He believed this one visit would fulfill his father’s pleas and he could move on with his life. He only hoped that he wouldn’t have to see a lot more of these guys if Dr. Crosby didn’t work out to his father’s liking.
Dr. Crosby’s office was keeping with tradition, supporting multiple darkly stained wooden bookshelves and matching desk and chairs. Justin noticed he had the best seat in the house, and looked over at the small chair that sat across from him. This would be the good Doctor’s seat more than likely. There were family pictures on the wall, many with young children and an older man that had to be Dr. Crosby. He looked just as Justin thought he would. He was somewhere between fifty and sixty years old, wore a white button-up shirt, brown corridor pants, and a red bow tie. His long, salt and peppered hair was combed back, and his beard was short and salt and peppered colored as well. The only thing missing was small spectacles.
Dr. Crosby entered the room and slowly walked to the chair across from Justin. Justin noticed a small limp in his right leg and almost laughed at the fact that he was wearing the exact same clothes as he wore in his picture. He took a seat and smiled over at Justin as he shifted to his left side for comfort. He cleared his throat before speaking.
“Hi.” It was all he said. Justin thought for sure he would get a long drawn out version of his life and why he could sympathize with him. He’d thought he’d hear about every degree achieved, and why they were going to get to the root of his problem. He got none of that.
“Hi,” Justin returned.
“Comfortable?” Dr. Crosby asked.
“I guess.” Justin didn’t like small talk, but he did come with the mind frame that he wouldn’t talk about anything. If this kept up then he would accomplish his goal.
“Want something to drink?” He reached to what Jonathan thought was small table next to his chair and opened it up to reveal a small refrigerator filled with bottled water and ginger ale. “I think I have a small bag of chips in my desk if you’d like them. I don’t think I've eaten them yet, but I’m not sure. Want me to check for you?” He started to rise, but Justin put up a hand.
“I’m good, really.”
“Okay, but do you mind if I check? I’m kind of hungry.” Justin shook his head and the Doctor walked over to his desk. He opened the top drawer and smiled over at Justin enthusiastically. “Cheese curls!” He grabbed the bag and closed the drawer, the whole time smiling like a toddler. He walked over to his seat, opened the bag and began to eat. “So,” he began with mouth glowing a bright orange. “Why, of all the days you could have come during the summer, did you pick the one that was perfect for going to Jackson's Lake?”
Justin just stared at him. Nothing he said so far seemed to be relevant as to why Justin was here. He could have made small talk somewhere else for a lot cheaper than this guy was charging. “Well,” he began slowly, “you only gave me and my dad three days to choose from. We, or should I say he, picked this one.”
Dr. Crosby tipped the small bag high in the air and let the last remaining curls slide into his already full mouth. He chomped away without a care in the world as he waited for Justin to speak again. When Justin didn't, and he swallowed his mouthful, he asked a question that was bothering him.
“But don't you love going to Jackson's Lake? You know, the one with the big slide and the restaurant that's only a walk away.”
“I know what it is,” Justin admitted, “and I've been there before.”
“Good. I thought you probably had considering it's the top hang out spot around here. I use to go there during the summer all the time when I was your age. Heck, I still go there when I can with my grandkids.” He pointed to a picture on the wall that had him sitting on the floor with a baby in his left arm, a baby in his right arm and a baby laying in his lap. “Their triplets. They're four now and are all really great swimmers. They still wear life vests of course though, and I go with them when I can. You know, try to give their parents some down time and all.”
Justin couldn't believe this guy. “That's great.” he said, deadpan. Dr. Crosby was apparently unfamiliar with this style of sarcasm.
“You got that right,” Dr. Crosby said while nodding his head and smiling a goofy smile. “So why are you here then? You seem to be a normal teenager. Normal teenagers aren't supposed to be sitting in a shrink’s chair when they could be at the lake, or at the mall, or even just sitting at home watching television.”
Justin heard a song come from Dr. Crosby's pants pocket. It was a song from a popular kid’s cartoon that he just discovered this summer as he was flipping through the channels. Dr. Crosby leaned to the left so he could remove his phone from his right hip pocket. “It's from my grandkid's favorite show,” he informed Justin. “It plays whenever my daughter calls me. The kids hear it and they just start screaming, 'Mama, mama.' I love it.” He put the phone to his ear and leaned back in his seat before he spoke.
“Hey Becky.” A long moment of silence as his daughter conversed with him. Dr. Crosby never changed his expression of anticipation as he waited for his turn to speak. “I put the vests in the shed at your house on the middle shelf.” He covered the phone with his hand. “She's taking the kids swimming! Isn't that cool!” He paused to listen. “No, I was just telling my new friend about taking the kids to the lake and then you call up and say you're taking them swimming. I thought that was kind of random, but still really cool cause I said today was a great day to go to the lake.” Another pause. “Sure I'd love to come. I'll be done in about an hour or so and then I could come by and treat everyone to an ice cream at Sylvester's. How's that sound?” He sat quietly for a moment then unexpectedly leaned forward in his chair and made an expression that looked as if he was punched in the gut. He listened for a couple more seconds then responded with a burst of excitement. “Praise God! Why didn't you tell me that in the first place? You know I've been praying for Cheryl ever since the accident.” That sparked Justin's curiosity. “She did what? She forgave him in the courtroom. In front of everybody?” Another long pause. “That's crazy. Look, I got to go. Let's talk about it some more in an hour or so, okay?” His daughter approved. “Awesome. I love you, Sweetie. Bye.” He hung up and turned to Justin with a big, toothy grin on his face.
“Cheryl forgave the guy that killed her husband in an accident.”
“Oh,” Justin remarked, not really knowing what to say. “Sorry to hear about that.”
“Yeah, it was a shocker when it happened. Her and her husband, well, late husband, were the ones that opened our church building up for prayer every morning. She's in her eighties and he was almost eighty-five, I think. They were going to the church to open it one morning and a guy ran a stop sign and hit the driver's side where Jim was. Killed him instantly. She was okay, but the other guy had to be med-flighted out of there to the local trauma center in the city.”
“She told the guy that killed her husband that she forgives him during the trail?”
“You got all of that out from hearing me on the phone?”
“It wasn't that hard.”
“I guess not, being I talk so loud to begin with.” he scrunched his face up and looked at the clock on the wall. “I'm sorry about all of this. Not very professional of me to answer my call during our visit.”
“It's okay. Do you need to go?” Justin asked hopefully.
“Nah,” Dr. Crosby said. “I'll find out everything later. We need to get this conversation back on target, though.”
“I guess so.”
Dr. Crosby gave a small smile of approval. “Very good. Now, tell me again why you're here.”
“Didn't my dad tell you?” Justin asked, confused.
“He mentioned to me some of his concerns, but never really said as to what you were doing to create them in his mind." Dr. Crosby, in between his thought, seemed to change himself instantly. He toned down his playful mood and looked serious for the first time. "His main topic of worry is suicidal tendencies.”
“He told you that I have them?”
“No, he's just worried that you might have them. He was looking at the history of the computer in your den and he saw some sites that scared him. Some ritual and, well, other sites of concern.”
Justin sat there motionless. His lack of defense against his father's suspicions spoke loudly to the doctor.
“Please don't say nothing," Dr. Crosby said. "Silence isn't as golden as everyone would like to think it is. I'll talk to you if you want to talk, but if not we can cancel this and be about our way.”
Justin had a realization that angered him. “Why would you care about anything? You're only talking to me cause my dad is paying you.”
“No he's not,” Dr. Crosby stated. “My first sessions are always free. Helps me to see if who I'm meeting with really wants to fix the reason they're here. That way, no one is out anything, and I can prove to you that I'm not a doctor just because I make a lot of money. I actually care. How about you? Do you care? My guess is that you're the type of guy that wouldn't let someone make him do anything he didn't want to do. Even his dad. You're here so I figure there's hope. Your silence is already speaking louder than anything you could tell me, so why not try. I've helped a lot of people. Not bragging, but it's the truth.”
Justin started picking at a tear in the leather on the side of the chair. He wasn't really comfortable unless he was doing something with his hands. His short fingernails proved that to everyone. “Have you ever thought about suicide?” Justin found himself asking. “Not what other people tell you that are suicidal. I mean, have you ever thought about killing yourself?”
“I can honestly say that I never have. I've thought about killing others, though.”
Justin was surprised by that. “Who?”
“My dad,” Dr. Crosby confessed. “I thought about it quite a bit from the age of sixteen to eighteen.”
“Because I hated him.”
“I figured that,” Justin responded with a laugh, forgetting the seriousness of the conversation. “I mean, what did he do that made you want to do that?”
Dr. Crosby saw an opening so he took it. “Tell you what. I'll tell you my story if you open up and talk to me. Deal?”
“I guess so,” Justin said, his curiosity getting the best of him. In Justin's mind Dr. Crosby didn't look like he could throw a punch let alone plot a murder. “So what happened?”
“Nothing too surprising, really,” Dr. Crosby began. “Parental abuse is a major problem. Sometimes people don't turn out the way they want to, and they take it out on those around them. That was the case for my dad. He had a nervous breakdown of some sorts and, violently, took it out on us.”
“Is that why you have a limp?” Justin guessed. He could tell by the expression on Dr. Crosby's face that he was right.
“Good detective work,” Dr. Crosby congratulated, as he rubbed his thigh. “I got this as a Christmas present. My mother got worse, and my father ended up in jail. Needless to say, that was the final straw for me. Mom still loved him, for some unknown reason, but I began to plan out his murder.”
“Why didn't you carry it out?” Justin asked.
“That's easy enough to answer,” Dr. Crosby laughed. “He was in jail. I couldn't get to him. Mom went to go visit him, but I didn't go for the first two years.”
“How did she go see him?”
“It was in one of those rooms with the Plexiglas between the chairs and they spoke over a phone.”
“So what's your relationship like now?” Justin asked.
“Non-existent,” Dr. Crosby shrugged. “He died about a month before I turned thirty.”
“What about before he died?”
Dr. Crosby thought about his answer before he spoke. “You know that phone call I just received.”
“Well, I was really happy that she forgave the man that killed her husband because that's what I did with my dad. Well, mom did it first and I thought she was crazy. That was before I knew the Lord. My mother had some people meet with her from a local church and, funny enough, my dad was meeting with a Christian ministry at the prison. They both got saved, and I was left with a deep confusion about the whole situation. I thought she was moronic to forgive him after what he did to us, but she did, and later on, I did too. It's amazing how easy it is to forgive someone after you realize what you've been forgiven of by Christ.”
Justin sat there shaking his head. “I couldn't of trusted him if he did that to me.”
“Oh, I didn't trust him,” Dr. Crosby informed Justin. “I forgave him, but I wouldn't have gotten in a room alone with him if they made me.”
Justin's face showed signs of confusion. “So you forgave him, but you didn't trust him? That makes no sense.”
"Sure it does."
Dr. Crosby leaned forward in his chair and rested his elbows on his knees. He waved his hands about as he spoke. "Look at it like this. Say your parents and you go out of town and ask me to watch your dogs if you have any."
"We have two," Justin informed him.
"Very good. So, you ask me to come over and feed them and walk them while you're gone for the week. Now, I come over, accidentally leave the fence open, and one of your dogs runs out into the street and gets hit by a car. You'd be mad, but you'd forgive me if I was genially sorry and it was totally done by accident, right?"
"Yeah, I guess I could."
"I figured you would, but would you let me come over and watch your other dog the next day?"
Justin slowly shook his head as he realized the point the doctor was trying make. "I get what you're saying.”
"So there you have it," Dr. Crosby explained as if it was clear all along. "Forgiveness can be quick, but there should be a time set aside to regain trust. That time is different for every situation, though. The Bible says that we need to be, 'wise as serpents, but gentle as doves.' That's kind of what I did with my dad after I got saved and forgave him."
"So the only reason you didn't get to kill him was cause he was in jail," Justin said, still stunned at Dr. Crosby's honesty.
Dr. Crosby decided to turn the conversation around at this point. "That was my excuse. What's yours?"
Justin dug into his pocket, pulled out a coin and started to make it roll over the back of his fingers. When it got to the pinky he quickly fished it through his palm and used his thumb to propel it back over his knuckles again. Dr. Crosby noticed that Justin didn't even concentrate on the quarter and assumed it was something habitual Justin did all the time. Justin on the other hand was somewhere lost in his thoughts.
"That's a neat trick," Dr. Crosby said. Justin jerked his head towards Dr. Crosby quickly, but never lost his rhythm.
"Huh?" he asked, realizing he hadn't been paying attention. "What did you say?"
"I said that's a neat trick," Dr. Crosby repeated. “I doubt you even realize you are doing it because you are still in deep thought at my first question.”
That made Justin stop flipping the quarter. “I really don't know why I think about killing myself?” he confessed. “It just pops into my head and I dwell on it.”
“I know your father is a Christian, but he seemed uncertain about you. Do you mind if I ask if you are?”
“No, I don't mind,” Justin answered without hesitation. He had the home field advantage when it came to questions about his beliefs. He always had the same answer. "I don't know."
Dr. Crosby smiled. Justin didn't realize it but he had just entered Dr. Crosby's playing field as well. "Good."
"Good?" Justin asked, wondering why he wasn't getting the “you're going to hell speech," that everyone else gave.
"What I mean is that you're close."
Justin felt as if he stepped on a baseball field dressed for football. "I think you might be misunderstanding me."
"No, I think I pretty much figured it out." He finally took the crumpled bag of cheese curls and hook shot it into the paper waste basket by his desk without even looking. "Haven't you?"
Justin tilted his head a bit to the right and squinted at Dr. Crosby for a second as he began to flip his quarter again. "Yeah, I have," Justin lied and rolled the coin faster and faster over his fingers as he thought. Suddenly it came to him. "It's like, you know, no one can really find the truth. I mean, who could go through everything that's out there and say they know for sure. That's why I say I don't know. I think that keeps me honest."
“Don't forget suicidal,” Dr. Crosby reminded him. “Not knowing leads to not caring. That leads to . . . well, you know. The good thing is that you’re forgetting one main point.”
Justin tilted his head a bit more to the right till his neck cracked causing Dr. Crosby to make a sour face. “What's that?” Justin asked.
Dr. Crosby stood up and limped towards a door leading to a small bathroom. “You can take a second to figure that out while I go to the bathroom.” The door closed behind him with a small click and he could hear a loud vent kick on from behind the door.
This guy's crazy, he thought to himself. He now at least knew why his dad picked him. He was a Christian. His dad never really ran him over with the gospel, but the kids at church sure did. That's why he stopped going. It's like they all knew he didn't really believe anymore, and these were people that he had been going to church with since he was six. He had to stop for a second and get back on track.
Okay, he said something about missing one point. I have no idea what he means. I haven't missed anything. There is no possible way for someone to find the answer to life. Mankind has learned a lot over the years, that's for sure, but there's just so much more to consider. There are tons of different religions out there. Some are similar, sure, but there are thousands that have nothing in common with each other except for the fact that they believe in something else beyond what we can rationally see.
He heard the door to the bathroom open as the light and fan were turned off. Dr. Crosby made his way back to his seat without saying anything. He sat down, leaning on his left side for comfort, and took a deep breath as he starred over at Justin. "Figure it out yet?"
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