Transcript of 6th Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Mr. Thomas Darden, Friday, April 18, 1997 at 4:00 pm.

Dr. Balis: Hello, Tom. Have you been waiting out here in the hallway for very long?
Mr. Darden: Only a little while. I know I'm early.
Dr. Balis: Where are my keys? Oh, here they are. Bear with me a second while I unlock the door.
Mr. Darden: No problem.
Dr. Balis: Did you take some extra time off from work or something?
Mr. Darden: I took the day off.
Dr. Balis: Here we are. Let me flip on the lights. Come on in and have a seat.
Mr. Darden: Thanks.
Dr. Balis: I apologize that you had to wait out there; I'm usually loitering around the office most of the day, but I had to make a few errands this time.
Mr. Darden: I understand. It wasn't your fault I was early.
Dr. Balis: Have you been ill?
Mr. Darden: Why do you ask?
Dr. Balis: Well, you said you took the day off. I assumed you were sick.
Mr. Darden: No, not really. Just a little hung-over. I've had a lot on my mind lately.
Dr. Balis: I see. Is it a subject you want to discuss?
Mr. Darden: I don't know, Charles. It's really nothing new. I usually go through this cycle about once or twice a month. This is the first time I've called in sick because of it.
Dr. Balis: Cramps?
Mr. Darden: No, not that kind of cycle. Clever.
Dr. Balis: It was a stretch as far as humor goes, but what do you expect on a lazy Friday afternoon?
Mr. Darden: I just go through this period of...I don't know how to describe it--mourning.
Dr. Balis: What is it exactly you do during these periods of mourning, besides drink?
Mr. Darden: I do a lot of reflecting. Looking back into the past, remembering people. Remembering Sharon.
Dr. Balis: Your ex-girlfriend.
Mr. Darden: Yes.
Dr. Balis: You spoke of her briefly during our first meeting, if I recall. Perhaps we could discuss your relationship with her further. How long were the two of you involved with each other?
Mr. Darden: One year, seven months, almost to the day. We met February 22, 1994.
Dr. Balis: How did the two of you meet?
Mr. Darden: I had been working at the newspaper for a little over a month. There was a guy downstairs, in customer service, who I met in the lunchroom. We started meeting regularly. I was comfortable talking with him. Jay was about five years younger than I was and a bit slow for his age, but not so much that he didn't realize how anti-social I was. Anyway, I guess he pitied me in a way. I think he had initially tried to befriend me thinking that I was this older partying stud who could hook him up with some beer and invite him to parties or something. As it turned out, he actually took me under his wing. His fiancé's best friend had just broken up with her boyfriend and one day he talked me into going out with her on a blind double date.
Dr. Balis: You were how old at the time?
Mr. Darden: Twenty-two.
Dr. Balis: And Sharon was?
Mr. Darden: Well, all right. I know I originally told you she was eighteen, but I didn't want to make a big issue out of her age. She was actually 16 when we first met. Fortunately, the age of consent in Pennsylvania is 14, so I wasn't breaking any laws.
Dr. Balis: That fact wasn't much of a consolation to you, I imagine.
Mr. Darden: No, it wasn't. Jay had originally told me she was 18 and a senior in high school, which in my mind was still too young. But then, only twenty minutes before Sharon and Crystal--that's Jay's fiancé--pulled up into the driveway to meet with us, Jay takes me aside and whispers, "I lied about her age, man. She's actually 16, but she turns 17 in May." I was so shocked that I wanted to sprint to my car and drive off, but then I thought, "This is only a date. It's not like we're going to get married or anything." So I decided to stick around and just go through with it and try to have a good time. Besides, I was very lonely and very bored and welcomed any opportunity to get out of the house.
Dr. Balis: How did the date go?
Mr. Darden: It went about as well as most first dates go. A bit awkward, especially since I'm so quiet. It was bad enough that Sharon was so young, but to top it off, I noticed she wore braces. That just seemed to punctuate the age difference. The four of us went out to one of those miniature golf courses and hit some putts, then we bought the girls some ice cream and headed out to see a movie. We saw "Mrs. Doubtfire." I was very nervous sitting next to Sharon, but thankful that I was in a place where I wasn't expected to talk. Anyway, we returned to Jay's house and said our goodbyes; Crystal asked if I could drive Sharon home, so I did. I tried my best to make small talk with her on the way to her house until finally I said, "I know I'm probably the oldest guy you've ever dated." To my surprise, she said I wasn't. Then she told me she was much more comfortable around older men, which put me more at ease. In fact, after our little chat in the car, I realized I really liked this girl. She was funny, smart, friendly, and loved to smile. That was one of the most exhilarating evenings I had ever had with a girl. She made me forget my pain and my insecurities. I kept her number and called her back a few days later. We started chatting over the phone--talked for hours at a time--and went out more and more frequently. In less than a month, we were a couple. My life seemed to change for the better at that point. I became a lot more optimistic for the future. I quit drinking entirely. Things seemed to fall into place.
Dr. Balis: How did her parents react to your relationship with their young daughter?
Mr. Darden: I don't think they had too much of a problem with it. When I found out a little more about Sharon's past, I began to see why. I think her parents believed for a while that I'd settle her down a bit. She was very...wild. She had probably slept with more men than most women do in a lifetime. Her past boyfriend had gotten her pregnant and she promptly got an abortion. Jay and Crystal, in fact, were getting married because he had gotten Crystal pregnant. I think Sharon regretted aborting her child, especially since Crystal and she conceived at about the same time. After Crystal's baby was born, it really affected Sharon. We'd visit with her and the baby a lot, and Sharon took to it immediately. Needless to say, that made me nervous.
Dr. Balis: Because you were uncomfortable with the idea of having sexual relations with someone her age?
Mr. Darden: Oh, no. I overcame that hangup fairly quickly. A few weeks later, after the braces came off, Sharon seemed a lot older to me. We had a very active sex life. Four or five times a week was pretty much the norm throughout the course of the relationship, and sometimes we'd have a go at it a few times a day. I definitely know where all my gray hairs come from. I was more concerned that she would try to get herself pregnant, like "forget" to take her birth control or something. It would have been ugly if that happened. I wasn't ready for a child, and I certainly didn't want to see Sharon ruin her life by having a kid while still in high school.
Dr. Balis: She never got pregnant, I gather.
Mr. Darden: There were a couple of times that she was late, but they were always false alarms. We lucked out.
Dr. Balis: Was the relationship fairly stable?
Mr. Darden: I would say so. It got to be pretty routine. After I quit my part-time newspaper job and started working full time at the computer company, we lost a lot of time together. That sort of put a strain on us, but we managed. We began to appreciate our time together more on weekends. During the week, she would either greet me when I came home from work, or drop love letters in my mailbox. Then I'd drive over to her parent's house and stay with her until late in the evening. We'd wait until her parents were asleep and then make love in the living room. I remember driving home from her house some nights happily smelling my fingers...well, never mind.
Dr. Balis: That's all right.
Mr. Darden: I loved her very much. After nearly a year, I began to see her as the person with whom I'd like to spend the rest of my life with. We talked a lot about marriage and I really began to look forward to that possibility, despite the fact that I knew it couldn't happen. College loomed ever nearer for Sharon. I've seen too many relationships end in college to think that our relationship was going to last. I even told Sharon that once. She assured me it wouldn't happen, but...I knew.
Dr. Balis: How did your relationship end? Was it a clean break?
Mr. Darden: No. In fact, Sharon will have nothing to do with me now. She won't even speak to me. She broke up with me after only a week in college. Maybe it had something to do with that self-fulfilling prophecy you were telling me about last week, I don't know. The college she ended up going to was only a ten-minute drive from my house. I caught her walking from her dining hall to her dorm room with another guy one night when we were supposed to go out. He was tall, long black hair, tanned and was visually undressing Sharon when I intercepted them in the lobby of her dorm. I knew it was over when Sharon introduced me to the guy as "my friend, Tom." Not "boyfriend" or "honey bunny" or "sweet cakes" or anything, just "friend." My heart crushed inward at that moment. He realized who I was and immediately left, and Sharon and I started fighting. I told her that if she wanted to break up with me she should say so. So she did, and that was that. I got in my car, bought a case of beer, and bawled my eyes out.
Dr. Balis: Why did she stop speaking to you?
Mr. Darden: Well, that was my doing. After the breakup, we still got together once in a while and went out, but we were no longer intimate with each other. She'd call every now and then and we'd talk as friends but I needed more. I was horribly distraught after the breakup. I wrote her letters, sent her cards and flowers, anything to let her know that I still loved her and wanted her back in my life. But she kept toying with me. She'd come over to my house sometimes and give me mixed signals, like hug me, and pinch my ass or kiss me--it was very confusing. It would have been better to just stop seeing each other rather than being together but yet not as a couple. I couldn't handle it. Finally, out of frustration and rage, I took all of her love letters, highlighted certain parts of them and wrote nasty comments in the margins. I then collected them all and mailed them to her in a large manila envelope. Her phone calls to me immediately ceased. I finally called her about a month later to see how she was doing, but she screamed at me and told me I was a psycho and to stop calling her and to stay out of her life.
Dr. Balis: Did you?
Mr. Darden: No. And I know it was wrong. Sometimes I'd call her number and hang up, or leave cryptic messages on her answering machine. One time I drove out to her campus and stood outside her dorm window for about two hours.
Dr. Balis: What were you doing?
Mr. Darden: Just staring. Trying to catch a glimpse of her as she walked past. It made me feel close to her in a strange way. Jesus, maybe I am psychotic. I mean, that's called stalking, isn't it? I was stalking her. I think back on that and it really scares me what was going through my head.
Dr. Balis: Was this something you did for a long time?
Mr. Darden: No, just that once.
Dr. Balis: And when was that?
Mr. Darden: That was about a year and a half ago. So do you think maybe that's what I am, Charles? Am I a stalker?
Dr. Balis: It's difficult to pigeonhole a person into one particular category like that, Tom. Society likes to classify certain types of behavior in neat, tidy packages with bright, colorful labels, but the reality is that there are many circumstances involving many types of people that don't fit these molds. My interpretation of a stalker involves a high level of malice aimed at another person. You may have altered the love letters out of spite, but that type of revenge is a somewhat natural response to being hurt, although your method might have been a bit unconventional.
Mr. Darden: I would never hurt Sharon. I just missed her, you know? I felt like she betrayed me. I still wish she'd forgive me and talk to me again.
Dr. Balis: Of course you do. But I feel the best thing you can do is get your mind off Sharon and out of the past. Try occupying yourself with other activities. That's the only way you're going to overcome these cycles you say you experience.
Mr. Darden: So basically buck up and get out of the house more, right?
Dr. Balis: In a nutshell.
Mr. Darden: I guess I'll give it a shot, but it's difficult.
Dr. Balis: It will be at first, Tom, but you must help yourself take the first steps at socializing and starting new relationships. I know this will sound trite, but you must put the past behind you. As for our next session, I'll see you on Friday, April 25th at 4 pm.
Mr. Darden: All right. Thanks, Charles.
Dr. Balis: Take care.
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