Transcript of 21st Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Ms. Sylvia Bows, Tuesday, December 3rd, 1996 at 4 pm.

Dr. Balis: Hello Sylvia. How was your Thanksgiving dinner?
Ms. Bows: You don't mess around Doctor, do you?
Dr. Balis: Just occasionally.
Ms. Bows: Well I'm here.
Dr. Balis: That's good.
Ms. Bows: My in-laws left.
Dr. Balis: I suppose that's good too.
Ms. Bows: That's very good.
Dr. Balis: So the dinner--would you like to talk about it?
Ms. Bows: I'm still trying to digest it all--excuse my pun.
Dr. Balis: Did Rene and Robert come?
Ms. Bows: My parents brought Robert early for dinner. But Rene said that she had an assignment--a photo essay about Thanksgiving dinner and San Francisco's homeless.
Dr. Balis: Did she show up later or not at all?
Ms. Bows: She came after the dinner was over. So to answer your next question Doctor--she wasn't as much of a release valve as I had hoped.
Dr. Balis: I see.
Ms. Bows: It was a very strange evening Doctor.
Dr. Balis: I still don't exactly understand why you agreed to go in the first place.
Ms. Bows: I thought it would be good. I told you, it's like a chess game with Tom and me. He is demanding that I stay home and rest. But at the same time he throws a Thanksgiving dinner party with, shall we say, a controversial guest list. Anyone would agree that having both sets of parents and in-laws for a holiday dinner during a nasty divorce would not contribute to the peace of mind of a pregnant woman on bed rest.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Ms. Bows: I've done a lot of strange things for which I will be held accountable. And I want the judge to see just how unreasonable Tom is. But to tell you the truth, now that it's over I feel that I made a mistake.
Dr. Balis: What do you mean?
Ms. Bows: It was too trippy. Here we all were pretending like there was nothing wrong. I've known these people longer than most of my friends. I met Tom while I was still a student at NYU. Just a little after that, he introduced me to his family. I've seen his sister get married, go through horrendous infertility problems, lose a baby, lose her husband, lose her job, lose her mind. I've stayed up nights worrying about Tom's mom after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. I've watched Tom's dad turn gray overnight as he waited for his wife's biopsy results. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I've been through a lot with these people. They are my family too now. I care for them.
Dr. Balis: What was their reaction toward you now that they know that you and Tom are getting divorced?
Ms. Bows: The strange thing was that Tom's mom seemed mostly concerned that all the stress is having a negative effect on my pregnancy. I know that Tom's parents know that Tom's not the father but they acted as if they are expectant grandparents. I think this was the most surprising and uncomfortable thing for me. I would have preferred them to be angry with me for cheating on their son. But they expressed nothing but care and concern for my well being. Tom's mother brought me gifts for the babies--she had saved some of Tom's charming little baby clothing and blankets. I felt guilty about taking them but they insisted saying that they wouldn't think of giving them to anyone else. Tom's sister wanted to help me by offering her extensive knowledge and research about pregnancy complications. She said that she has first-hand experience with most of the drugs and procedures used to prevent early labor. It was very touching. I know how difficult it was for her to even look at me and now to offer to help me go through this...I don't know. I don't think I would have been able to do the same if our roles were reversed.
Dr. Balis: How was the interaction between your parents and Tom's?
Ms. Bows: It was hard work for both of them. Since they live on opposite coasts, there never were that many opportunities for them to get to know each other. The last couple of years they've seen each other during the holidays. They just don't know each other, but they could be friends perhaps under different circumstances.
Dr. Balis: I understand. To be thrown together in this situation would have been difficult even if they were the best of friends.
Ms. Bows: That's right--"So congratulations on your daughter's expectancy. Do you know who the fathers are?" "No we don't. And we are so sorry that your son gave up his ability to father children." "That's okay. We wanted never to have grandchildren. We look forward to our family name dying off with this generation." God!
Dr. Balis: But they managed to be civil to each other all evening?
Ms. Bows: Oh yes. They even talked during dinner, although the main topic of conversation was the difference in weather between the East and West coasts. It was hell. The only one who seemed to be happy was Robert.
Dr. Balis: Why is that?
Ms. Bows: You know how he is obsessing about fatherhood? I think he misunderstood this all to mean that Tom and I might be trying to work things out. Who could blame him? There were some Oscar-winning performances that night around our dinner table.
Dr. Balis: What about your brother?
Ms. Bows: You know, the last time I saw him was when he stormed into my office about two months ago?
Dr. Balis: When he confronted you on having an affair?
Ms. Bows: I know he disapproves of me. Hell, disgusted is probably a better term. But he was on his best behavior that night. I expected him to try to instigate a fight or at the very least to humiliate me. But he was civil and even charming. At one point when the conversation strayed into some rocky waters, he managed to change the topic and steer it away from danger. I found myself being grateful to him.
Dr. Balis: How did you feel that night?
Ms. Bows: I felt like I was in Twilight Zone. It would have been so easy to pretend like there was nothing wrong. I kept finding myself almost forgetting that Tom and I are getting a divorce. We are not even friends any more and there we were hosting a Thanksgiving Dinner right out of Norman Rockwell. It was so surreal.
Dr. Balis: I see.
Ms. Bows: More than that. I found myself enjoying those moments of feeling like there was nothing wrong--like Tom and I were still family. I was looking at him and remembering Thanksgiving dinners of the past. We had eighteen Thanksgivings together. God, it's a very long time to spend with someone. I didn't live with my parents that long. I keep thinking about how it was when we still loved each other.
Dr. Balis: Do you still think about it?
Ms. Bows: It's just so easy to fall back into it--it's like an old habit, like being on automatic pilot. As the evening went on and I was getting tired, I had to constantly remind myself that this is not real. That this is just some sick game that Tom is playing with me. At the end, when everyone was leaving, Tom and I were standing at the door saying our goodbyes to my parents and Rene, and my brother and his date. When we closed the door, I instinctively found myself leaning on Tom's shoulder. It was as if my body had a memory and mind of it's own. When I realized what I was doing I jumped away with a shudder.
Dr. Balis: How did Tom react?
Ms. Bows: He just looked me straight in the face, smiled, and told me that I was a good hostess. He said that he admired just how well I held up knowing how tired I must have been. It was this general sense that there was nothing unusual that kept washing over the evening that I found the most frightening of all. Maybe Tom is trying to drive me mad.
Dr. Balis: You don't really think so?
Ms. Bows: You know the movie "Gas Light?"
Dr. Balis: A husband tries to drive his wife crazy? Ingrid Bergman won an Academy Award in that one.
Ms. Bows: Yes, yes that's the one. I keep thinking about it Doctor.
Dr. Balis: Are you identifying with that story?
Ms. Bows: Not exactly. But sometimes I feel that Tom is much stronger than I am and that I could easily slide down that slippery slope into insanity. Maybe that's what he wants. He knows me so well. For all those years he was the closest person in the world to me. He knows how I think. He knows my desires. It would be easy for him to destroy me if that's what he set out to do.
Dr. Balis: Do you really think that that's Tom's goal?
Ms. Bows: Why is he being nice? So attentive? I sit down in the chair to read, Tom brings me pillows for my back and feet. I go into the kitchen, and Tom is there offering to make me a sandwich. He is trying to anticipate my every desire, my every impulse. But at the same time he is trying to restrict my freedom. He puts me in situations that he knows will be difficult for me to bear emotionally. It's like he wants me to be dependent on him. I've got to get out Doctor!
Dr. Balis: Get out where?
Ms. Bows: Anywhere away from Tom. Or I will lose myself!
Dr. Balis: Calm down Sylvia. Relax. Sit down. You are getting too worked up.
Ms. Bows: I think about Tom and I get anxious. Almost frightened. What does he want from me? He doesn't really want these children, so what is it? It can't be just about money, can it Doctor?
Dr. Balis: Do you think Tom is doing this all to get a better settlement?
Ms. Bows: I don't know. I always thought that that was what it was all about. But maybe it's about revenge. Maybe he is trying to ruin me Doctor. I do need to go away. Maybe I can disappear for a couple of month until the boys are born. I can go to France. They have a very good medical facilities there so that wouldn't be an issue.
Dr. Balis: You can't just go away Sylvia. Think about it. In the custody battle, Tom would win. If you just disappear, you will lose your chess game. It's like giving up. You're a lot stronger than you think you are. Look at what you've accomplished so far. You were told you cannot have children. And here you are twenty weeks pregnant! You're almost there. Don't blow it. I think you are feeling a little anxious after a tough holiday. Don't turn this feeling into panic. Don't run. Ultimately it won't solve anything.
Ms. Bows: You're right of course Doctor. Tom would just hire detectives and they would hunt me down. I'll have to talk to Kelly about making some kind of arrangements where Tom and I live apart. He could even have a spy in my house if he really wants to know what I am doing. I don't care. I'm not planning on doing anything very controversial anyway.
Dr. Balis: That's better. Use Kelly to play your game for you. That's what the attorneys are for. And try to relax. You really need it. Maybe it would be a good idea to invite Rene over for a couple of days. It would calm your nerves.
Ms. Bows: You're right Doctor. I'll ask her. Thank you.
Dr. Balis: Good. And call me if you begin to feel anxious again.
Ms. Bows: I will Doctor.
Dr. Balis: Okay Sylvia. I'll see you next Tuesday at 4 pm. Let me know if you need to change our time or if you start on your bed rest before than. I'll be happy to come out and see you at your home.
Ms. Bows: Thank you Doctor. Hopefully I'll see you in your office--there is a certain smell here and it help me relax and look at things in a different way.
Dr. Balis: I'll see you soon Sylvia. Goodbye.
Ms. Bows: Goodbye Doctor.
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