Transcript of 10th Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Mr. Thomas Darden, Friday, May 23, 1997 at 4:00 pm.

Mr. Darden: Hi, Charles.
Dr. Balis: Hello, Tom. How have you been these past two weeks?
Mr. Darden: Okay. Sorry I had to suddenly cancel last week but I had a surprise visitor show up.
Dr. Balis: Oh?
Mr. Darden: Yeah, my brother Alex flew out here last Friday and stayed with me for a week. It was completely unexpected. As soon as I found out he was here in San Francisco, I knew there was trouble. He's been having some problems lately with his live-in girlfriend. They've been together for four years but the last six months have been fairly tumultuous. I'm just glad their son is still too young to understand what's going on.
Dr. Balis: How old is their son?
Mr. Darden: He'll be two in July. His name is Jordan. Alex is a big Chicago Bulls fan, you see.
Dr. Balis: Got it.
Mr. Darden: Anyway, Alex and Martha graduated from Penn State a year ago. They stayed in Swiftwater for about a month before Alex found work as a graphic designer for a firm in Pittsburgh. The three of them packed up and moved out there, and Martha took a job waitressing until she eventually got hired at an advertising agency. After their move, things began to steadily go downhill. Of course, I've only heard one side of the story, but it sounds pretty bleak for them, which sucks. I've always hoped that Alex would end up being successful and happy so at least one of us wasn't a disappointment to Mom.
Dr. Balis: I'm sure your mother doesn't see either of you as disappointments.
Mr. Darden: I wish I could be so sure. I've always been sort of the black sheep. What the hell--black is my favorite color, anyway. But Alex, well, he always seemed to have a more level head. Things seem to bounce off him a lot easier than they do me. He always did better in school, was far more outgoing and had a lot of friends. He's pretty much the exact opposite of me. It's strange that I see him that way, because I've noticed we seem to think alike on a lot of things. We have a tendency to finish each other's sentences and, over the phone, my Mom can't even tell us apart because our voices are so similar. He's led a decent life so far. It has really shocked me that he's having problems now after seemingly doing everything right for so long.
Dr. Balis: What sort of problems do you mean, if I may ask?
Mr. Darden: Well, it's a little embarrassing to talk about, even for me. Alex has always been overly suspicious of Martha, in my opinion. Her job requires her to work late on projects and I guess staying home with a kid every night, waiting for your girlfriend to come home, gets the imagination going. He was sure she was cheating on him. He told me once it was only a matter of time before he had proof, but I told him he was being ridiculous and should focus on getting his family settled in Pittsburgh. It bothered me that my brother was beginning to look more at the pessimistic side of things. I mean, that was my territory to cover, not his. He has everything I wish I could have. What gives him the right to destroy it all with accusations he can't prove? It's ridiculous and paranoid.
Dr. Balis: What prompted him to fly out to visit you? Did he get the proof he had sought after?
Mr. Darden: In his eyes, yes. I met Alex at the airport, and the first thing he did was pull me close and whisper in my ear, "The bitch gave me herpes." He told me that Martha tried to give him some explanation her doctor had presented to her that she could have given him a form of the herpes virus from a cold sore in her mouth while she was performing oral sex on him. Alex wouldn't accept this possibility. He had the proof he needed that she was unfaithful. He said he grabbed a suitcase, packed some clothes and a toothbrush and bought a plane ticket here. In the car on the way to my apartment he told me that he was going to leave Martha.
Dr. Balis: You said he stayed a week. Did he manage to work things out?
Mr. Darden: I hope so. Every night he was here was spent on the phone with Martha. I overheard bits and pieces of their conversation, partly because he was screaming and it was unavoidable, but I think he realizes he needs her and he's been unreasonable. They've got a kid to worry about and I don't think they're ready to bail out on each other. When I dropped him off at the airport this morning, he seemed a lot more optimistic. I think he just needed some time away from Martha to sort his feelings out. It was a good week for him.
Dr. Balis: A diversion from the standard routine is usually healthy.
Mr. Darden: I tried to get his mind off home as much as I could. Over the weekend, I took him to the usual tourist spots: we drove across the Golden Gate, walked around downtown and rode on a cable car. It was clear and warm Wednesday so Alex and I went to the Giants game. Of course with our luck we had to see the one game in the series they lose to the Colorado Rockies. I don't think I've ever been to a baseball game where the home team won. I must be jinxed.
Dr. Balis: I wouldn't let any of the ballplayers catch wind of that. They tend to be very superstitious. You might not get to come back. Did Barry Bonds get any hits?
Mr. Darden: Nope. Walked once, but that was it. The Rockies won 10-7. It was still a good game, and I was itching for a beer, but you'll be happy to know my brother and I sat in the Pavilion. They don't serve alcohol in that section.
Dr. Balis: Right.
Mr. Darden: My brother kept calling the stadium Candlestick Park but I had to keep reminding him that it was now 3COM Park. Everything has to be corporate these days. 3COM Park, Pacific Bell Park, Cinergy Field, Turner Field--you can't go anywhere without seeing some corporate label attached to something.
Dr. Balis: That's true. How comfortable were you this week, taking your brother out to all these public places?
Mr. Darden: I felt better than I usually do. I wasn't as self-conscious. I don't know if it's due to the Librium you prescribed me or just the fact that it was my brother or maybe a combination of the two. I definitely felt more at ease.
Dr. Balis: Good.
Mr. Darden: Maybe a little too much at ease sometimes.
Dr. Balis: What do you mean?
Mr. Darden: Well, there were some occasions while Alex and I were out that I reacted to situations differently. Instead of being edgy and nervous out in public, I sometimes felt...drunk. My inhibitions seemed to drop completely a few times and just about anything or anyone was fair game for my amusement.
Dr. Balis: Go on.
Mr. Darden: Well, my brother is a vegetarian, so I took him to a street cafe I had heard about, one that serves primarily meatless entrees. The setting didn't stop me from ordering one of the few red meat options on the menu: a double cheeseburger with mushroom sauce and onions. My brother didn't mind but it was obvious from the stares I got that everyone else wanted to throw me off in a corner somewhere with the smokers and lepers of the world. Hypocrites. I mean, these people complain that beef production contributes to the world's deforestation yet they think it's okay to waste reams of paper on their stupid art projects or that they can wear those stylish leather jackets. Anyway, instead of feeling embarrassed about the situation, I took advantage of the opportunity to offend them more. A couple of college girls who were seated near us and who were especially bold with their glares and finger pointing became my target of entertainment.
Dr. Balis: Uh oh.
Mr. Darden: When the waiter arrived with my burger, I picked it up, opened the top bun and moved it up and down as if the burger were talking to me. "Eat me, Tom, eat my big, beefy, greasy body!" it said loudly to me in a voice not unlike Grover from Sesame Street. The girls looked disgusted. Alex couldn't stop laughing. Then I bit an unusually large bite out of the burger and began making chomping noises and moaning in ecstasy. "Oh, you're such a good burger, oh what a good burger, oh my GOD!" There was sauce dripping down my chin but I didn't wipe it off so as to add to the effect. By this time the two girls were quickly grabbing their things and trying to get the waiter's attention so they could pay and get the hell out of there. It was kind of a crude, juvenile thing to do but it was more of an experiment for me than anything else. I wanted to see how far I'd go. I would never have had the balls to do that before, not in public. The embarrassment I would usually feel simply wasn't there. Amazing what a little pill can do, assuming that's what caused me to put on the performance.
Dr. Balis: How did this performance make you feel?
Mr. Darden: I felt like everyone's eyes were centered on me, much like they were when I went to the Dozin Pozers concert, but this time it was almost as if I welcomed the attention. The more people who noticed my antics, the more animated I got.
Dr. Balis: Like you would act if you were drunk.
Mr. Darden: Right. To be honest, I don't think I would have done it if my brother hadn't been there, so that's why I think it wasn't all the work of the medication. It seems like I can't have a happy medium; I'm either petrified of socializing and being in public or I have to be on a virtual stage, putting on some kind of show with the whole world as my audience.
Dr. Balis: I see. Why do you think that is?
Mr. Darden: I'm not sure. An uncle of mine told me once that he thought I remained quiet and anti-social to draw attention to myself, not avoid it. I had never really thought of it in quite that way, but maybe he's right. But it still doesn't explain why I would feel anxious in public. Maybe it's because I feel obligated to put on a show in those situations, I don't know. Maybe now that I have Librium in my blood I can follow through with the performance.
Dr. Balis: Let's give the medication a little more time before we start drawing conclusions. Our time is about up. Can I expect to see you next Friday?
Mr. Darden: Yeah, I'll be here. Oh, and I wanted to let you know that I'm leaving for vacation in early June and won't return until about June 10th, so I'll be missing the June 6 session.
Dr. Balis: Vacation, eh? Anywhere special?
Mr. Darden: I haven't really made any firm plans. Just needed some time off work.
Dr. Balis: You're not having any more problems there are you?
Mr. Darden: Yes and no, but nothing I can't handle.
Dr. Balis: All right. Take care, Tom.
Mr. Darden: Later.
Arrow, Straight, Left, Earlier Arrow, Straight, Right, Later

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