Transcript of 5th Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Ms. Helen Gregory, Thursday, August 29, 1996 at 2 pm.

Ms. Gregory: Doctor?
Dr. Balis: Yes. Hello, Ms. Gregory. Please come in. Have a seat.
Ms. Gregory: If it's all the same to you, I'd prefer to stand.
Dr. Balis: Okay. Is something wrong?
Ms. Gregory: It's...I just.... The code. The Company. Matthew and Simon. There's too much going on. Too much dirt. And Calvin, of course. Like a film all over everything and no way to clean it. Always and forever there is Calvin.
Dr. Balis: Well, let's just try to slow down and discuss it all one thing at a time.
Ms. Gregory: But it's all happening at once! Don't you see? Don't you listen? It's all happening at once and that's exactly the problem. If I break it all down, cut it up, factor each element to the lowest common denominator, then try to splice it all together into some tenebrous simulacrum of verisimilitude, some hollow shadow of narrative, if I try to boil all the meat off the bone and suck out a linear marrow, all the truth will be lost as well in a dissipating steam shroud of diaphanous Helen. And what would be left then? Nothing more than the specter of light on a screen, meaningless gradients, filtered. And what would be left then? What would be left but a categorically organized collection of nothing? Oh no. My life, Doctor, is no chicken bone dried up for wishing. My thoughts are not film clips. And my mind is no moving picture.
Dr. Balis: Well then, however you feel the need to express yourself will be fine. It would make my job much easier if you could at least slow down a little bit and try to take your time. I want to help but I have to understand.
Ms. Gregory: Yes, yes. I know you do. Yes, I know. It's just that everything is all mixed up together and everything happens at once. I don't even know where to start.
Dr. Balis: Is there anything specific that has been troubling you? You mentioned Calvin who we talked about last week. And you also mentioned Matthew, I believe. Why don't we start with him?
Ms. Gregory: I'm afraid, Doctor.
Dr. Balis: Why?
Ms. Gregory: I think I have lost him.
Dr. Balis: What do you mean?
Ms. Gregory: All the while he's been away I have felt him near me. And now that he's on the way home, I can feel him drifting.
Dr. Balis: I don't understand. I've noticed that when you are upset or agitated, you have a tendency to speak in riddles. Are you aware of this?
Ms. Gregory: I am aware of everything. I can decipher almost every language known in this world. And I'm working on one that remains undiscovered.
Dr. Balis: Do you think you can try to explain for me why you feel compelled to speak in riddles?
Ms. Gregory: Why. Yes, there's that question. That tireless engine. Always and forever the road leads to Calvin.
Dr. Balis: The riddles, Ms. Gregory. Why do you speak in riddles?
Ms. Gregory: Riddles are me, Doctor. They are all that I know. If you cut up and rearrange my numerous stories, if you try to compress all my layers onto one readable page, that is precisely what you would lose. Me. All of my marrow. "What is Helen Gregory? What is she?" you ask. An ultimate question. Enigma. Anomaly. Paradox. I am a riddle.
Dr. Balis: We are all complicated people, Ms. Gregory. And very few of us ever feel that we truly understand ourselves. But what are you so afraid of? It's as if you're hiding behind a series of unanswerable questions. You are hiding from me, and most importantly, I think you are hiding from yourself.
Ms. Gregory: You must try to understand me. Please. I have devoted my entire life to solving riddles and puzzles. Questions lead to clues just as clues lead to questions. Riddles are what the scholar, the detective, and the spy have in common. I am all of these, all three rolled into one. Please, please. Are you beginning to understand? Please, do we travel together? I live to assemble the strewn fragments of stories. And to search, of course. I live to search for things, including myself. But just because the questions themselves most intrigue me, I am not afraid of the answers. Answers are the goal, the resolution, the prize for the winner. So when I say that the riddle itself is the essence of Helen, I do not mean to imply that there is no resolution. But you are essentially correct in one of you assumptions. I am afraid. And I am essentially afraid of everything. But fear is another element all three of us share. Every good scholar, detective, and spy is afraid. Trust no one. Reveal no secrets. Steal, lie, and kill if you must. Have no compassion. There is no code of ethics. And there is no decorum.
Dr. Balis: Let's try to refocus our attention on Matthew. I still don't understand why you're upset. You said something about how he's on the way home, I believe.
Ms. Gregory: Oh, yes. That's correct. He's on his way home, but I can feel him drifting.
Dr. Balis: Then, he's returning to this country?
Ms. Gregory: No, no. That's not what I meant at all. For years he's been slowly coming home to me, long before he ever left.
Dr. Balis: What do you mean?
Ms. Gregory: Let me try to explain it this way, Doctor. And please, listen closely. Like a jazz soloist releasing her mind's own ineffable and Castalian subsurface to articulate the sludge of her soul's watery bottom, I have let the boy go. He is my self, my language, and my greatest creation. I speak through him even now, having relinquished control. My son is my solo. He leads me each day on an improvisational journey through a labyrinth of notes in an unimaginable scale.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Ms. Gregory: But yet, the farther he has wandered away from the tonic note, adding tension by degrees with each nuanced voicing, adding tension again and again adding tension, the farther he has wandered away from the home note of the scale, pushing tonality to the brink of atonality and flirting with ultimate disillusion, the farther he has strayed from the comfort of home, the more secure I have felt in the inevitability of his homecoming. In music, you see, tension demands resolution.
Dr. Balis: I see.
Ms. Gregory: Did you know that I was once a musician?
Dr. Balis: No I didn't. You've never mentioned it before.
Ms. Gregory: It seems I've managed to keep some secrets hidden. For years I played right here in the city. Second violin for the San Francisco Symphony.
Dr. Balis: Oh?
Ms. Gregory: That's where I met Ruby, my jewel. We sat next to each other and played. And how we played! How long ago was that? A different time. A deeper level.
Dr. Balis: Ms. Gregory, I'd like to get back to Matthew if you don't mind.
Ms. Gregory: Oh, yes. Matthew. Yes. Well there it is! Don't you see? It all ties together.
Dr. Balis: What do you mean? What's wrong with Matthew?
Ms. Gregory: What's wrong with him?
Dr. Balis: Yes.
Ms. Gregory: I'll tell you what's wrong with the boy. It's Calvin. Just like everything else. It all points to Calvin.
Dr. Balis: Can you explain that further?
Ms. Gregory: If I am the home, and Matthew's my solo, then Calvin is the fifth degree. A magnet of absolute tension. Ever since the child was born, he's been pulling and pulling him away from home. Waking the poor boy at ridiculous hours with nothing more than an inarticulate grunt. And why? To take my child, my son out into the woods and teach him to fish and to hunt. To learn him to slaughter. All that inexcusable violence! And believe me, Doctor, that's not the half of it.
Dr. Balis: Go on. Please continue.
Ms. Gregory: It's as if the man's every thought, both waking and sleeping, is devoted to stealing my child from me.
Dr. Balis: Why do you say that?
Ms. Gregory: He has taken the boy out on his walks when I was out of the country. He has given the boy dirty books to read, filthy magazines, and lurid pictures. Pulling. Do you see? Always pulling my son away from me. And that's part of the reason, I admit, I sent him out of the country. So now he hides the letters, the voice of my child. He hides them because, for now, they represent all of his power.
Dr. Balis: I see. But what do you mean, then, when you say that Matthew's "on his way home?" That he's beginning to favor you over Calvin?
Ms. Gregory: No. That's not it at all. When I say that Matthew is on his way home, I'm talking about Matthew and Simon.
Dr. Balis: Okay. Who's Simon?
Ms. Gregory: Simon is Matthew's...friend. They met in England, in school, and they are soon to be lovers.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Ms. Gregory: "Soon to be lovers? What makes you think that? How do you know, Helen? How do you know?" I can read you too, Doctor. And though you have yet to ask, allow me to answer your questions. Matthew and Simon are soon to be lovers. I know this because I know my son and because I can read his letters.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Ms. Gregory: Oh, yes. Calvin can read them as well. On the surface, that is. He is not an illiterate man. He simply chooses not to speak out of malevolence and spite. So, yes. He can read them, but he will never understand what has been written beneath the words in those letters, what has been written with something other than ink on the surface of paper. But I do understand them because of the simple and ineluctable fact that the hands that have touched those pages belong to my son. In this way I have beaten the man, and will continue to beat him until all of the clocks on the planet stop turning because inside me there is also a clock and perhaps it is with the face of this clock which sits in my belly that I am able to read all the words which are not printed in ink. And Calvin can't hear it ticking. That is how I have beaten him always already. And perhaps. Yes, yes. Perhaps that is it.
Dr. Balis: Perhaps what?
Ms. Gregory: Perhaps it is the beating itself, the insistence of victory that chains me to him as if I were always forced to fight, always fighting with my breast bared. Always and forever. As if in punishment for what I was given too long ago to remember. And I could easily beat all of the others. But with him there is something higher or larger that I am fighting. Yes. Something impalpable and transparent and inarticulate like destiny or fate or the word "man" itself. And if I am able finally to beat him, then I will have beaten them all. And I will beat them all finally, because now I know. I understand! See? An answer. An answer to that implacable engine! Tension and release. The home note. Resolution. You see? I'm not afraid of that, Doctor. I carry a magic spear. I wear impenetrable armor. Armor that even his eyes can't pierce, although he must know that I am something else. He must see that I am something else beneath all these layers of deception.
Dr. Balis: Hmm. What are you referring to when you use the word "deception?"
Ms. Gregory: The fact that the entirety of my life is a lie. I'm the ultimate pretender. And all the people I've had to impersonate over the years in my profession, all the assumed personalities, that is nothing, Doctor. That is nothing compared to this thirty year marriage to a man. Married to a man, if that's what you'd call him.
Dr. Balis: And why do say that?
Ms. Gregory: Because of Ruby.
Dr. Balis: Ruby?
Ms. Gregory: Yes. Ruby the jewel. She is my lover.
Dr. Balis: I see. And how long have you and Ruby been seeing one another?
Ms. Gregory: Almost thirteen years now. It will be thirteen years on the 12th of September.
Dr. Balis: Does Calvin know about your relationship with Ruby?
Ms. Gregory: Oh, yes. Yes, he knows. He followed me to a performance one night years ago, and then he followed us both back to Ruby's apartment. We made love in the garden that night. Oh! I still remember. My Ruby. My jewel. My garden flower.
Dr. Balis: And how did Calvin react?
Ms. Gregory: He said nothing. He took pictures of us though and left them around the apartment so that I would know that he knew. But he said nothing about it. He said nothing at all.
Dr. Balis: And Matthew? Does Matthew know as well?
Ms. Gregory: Of course he does. Didn't you even bother to read his letter?
Dr. Balis: Yes I did. I read it. But I have to admit that I was perplexed and understood very little.
Ms. Gregory: He knows. And he has known for longer than Calvin.
Dr. Balis: Well, this has certainly been a provocative session, Ms. Gregory. I trust that I will see you next Thursday?
Ms. Gregory: That will be fine.
Dr. Balis: At two?
Ms. Gregory: Yes. Goodbye, Doctor.
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