Transcript of 8th Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Ms. Sarah Wright, Monday, November 25, 1996 at 2:00 pm.

Dr. Balis: Good afternoon Sarah. Please come in and make yourself comfortable.
Ms. Wright: Thanks Dr. B. I could use some comfort today.
Dr. Balis: Rough weekend?
Ms. Wright: Robby moved in this weekend.
Dr. Balis: I see. How did that go?
Ms. Wright: Oh, the moving part went fine. I took the day off from work on Friday so I could get the apartment cleaned up. Jeff and Robby got all the big stuff moved on Saturday. The apartment is kind of small so Robby doesn't have room for a lot of his things. I think when he sells his house, he'll have to have an auction to unload the rest of the crap.
Dr. Balis: What arrangements has Robby made about his dental practice?
Ms. Wright: He just rents the office, so that's no big deal. He is sending a letter to all his patients saying he is retiring and recommending they allow their records to be transferred to the office of Dr. Martha Grant. She just opened an office over on Geary Street and she's agreed to take over his patients. It helps Robby out of a tight spot, and Martha will get a good start, too. It'll work out for both of them.
Dr. Balis: How did things go emotionally this weekend?
Ms. Wright: Oh, there really wasn't much time for emotional baggage. Too much work to do. I did get a chance to speak with Robby alone though, and that was pretty heart-wrenching.
Dr. Balis: What happened?
Ms. Wright: Last night Jeff went to the office to catch up on some work. I was going to start the laundry so I went up to see if Robby had anything to be washed. He seemed a little uncomfortable being alone with me. Anyway, he told me how much he appreciates my letting him move into the apartment, especially under the circumstances.
Dr. Balis: What was your reaction?
Ms. Wright: I really didn't know what to say, so I didn't saying anything. I just stood there staring at him. Finally he said, "Sarah, it's not like you to be speechless. I know you're hurting too. Say what's on your mind." The last 15 years went through my mind like a videotape on fast-forward. It's hard to believe this is the same man I've known since high school. It's hard to believe one person can bring such joy and such sorrow in the same lifetime.
Dr. Balis: Did you tell Robby what you were thinking?
Ms. Wright: No, there's just too many things I haven't resolved in my mind yet. I'd rather not say anything right now. I have two reactions to difficult situations: either I break down and cry, or I yell and scream. Neither are effective means of communication. I turned around and walked out.
Dr. Balis: You realize this living arrangement is going to be extremely....
Ms. Wright: Nerve-wracking? Heartbreaking? Yes, I've already thought about all that. Nothing to do with Robby will be easy from now on. I know it will be difficult to stand by and watch him die.
Dr. Balis: Has Robby started any drug therapy for his illness yet?
Ms. Wright: Yes....I think so, but I'm not sure what it is. Jeff was trying to tell me about it, but I can't stand to be in the same room with him anymore, so I wasn't really listening.
Dr. Balis: What do you think is going to be more difficult; living with Jeff or living with Robby?
Ms. Wright: I'm not sure. Living with Robby I imagine will be the hardest part. Seeing his health deteriorate, watching him cling to life. I have no feelings for Jeff so being in the same house with him won't effect me one way or another. Of course, Jeff is sucking up to me big time. Seeing him so humbled makes me laugh inside. I told him the only reason he is still living in the house is because of the kids. I refuse to allow my children's lives to be torn apart over this. Jeff is more of an annoyance to me than anything else and he knows it. He'll do anything to keep on my good side. A big change from the way things have been between us over the last 15 years! I set down some rules for him and he has sworn to abide by whatever I want.
Dr. Balis: Rules? What sort of rules?
Ms. Wright: Mostly concerning physical contact with Robby if the kids or I are anywhere near. I know that neither of them will risk Jeff getting AIDS, but I still don't want the kids or myself to see them in a compromising position.
Dr. Balis: What other rules did you set down?
Ms. Wright: Oh, mostly just bullshit. I was making them up as I went along. Actually it was kind of fun. I'm finally in a position of control over Jeff and it feels wonderful! I told Jeff that this was my game now, and we'd all play by my rules or we wouldn't play at all. One of the things I told him was that I wanted $300 deposited into my private account every week. Since I'm not going to be working, I want some compensation for taking care of his sick lover. He asked me what I was going to use the money for and I told him it was none of his business. He laughed right in my face and said, "You're not getting any more money out of me than you need to run this house." That was the wrong thing to say to me. I slapped him upside the head so quick he never saw it coming! It was great!
Dr. Balis: You hit your husband?
Ms. Wright: No, I didn't hit my husband! I hit Jeff....he's no more my husband than you are. A husband doesn't do the things to his wife that Jeff has done to me.
Dr. Balis: Do you really think resorting to physical abuse is going to make the situation any better?
Ms. Wright: Oh please! Don't talk to me about abuse! What the hell have I been through the last 15 years? Emotional, verbal, psychological abuse! It's pay-back time! If I can protect myself, I will use whatever is necessary.
Dr. Balis: Sarah, I understand how you feel, but you're not in physical danger from Jeff. How can you justify hitting him?
Ms. Wright: Look, all I did was give him a good slap across the head. I didn't hurt him. All it did was get his attention. And it will teach him not to laugh at me anymore. I have to set some precedents for the way things are going to be from now on. I've been under his thumb for so long and I'm not about to let him take advantage of me ever again. He'll soon learn his place and then I won't have to worry about it again.
Dr. Balis: I hope you know what you're doing.
Ms. Wright: Well I've certainly never heard or seen a situation like this, so I'm not sure of the proper ettiquette. I don't think Emily Post has written anything about this. How does a woman treat her gay husband? How does a woman treat the man she loves who is dying of AIDS? I'm trying to keep the two issues separate. The man I'm married to is in love with another man. To me that is totally separate from the fact that the man I love has AIDS. I try not to think about the fact that they are the same person for both of us. I will treat Jeff like the dog he is, and I'll do my best to be there for Robby if and when he needs me.
Dr. Balis: If I may ask a personal question Sarah, what is the purpose of having Jeff deposit money into a private account? Don't you normally have access to Jeff's money?
Ms. Wright: Are you joking? Jeff gives me just enough money every week to buy groceries. No more, no less. I have no idea what he spends the rest of his money on. I mean, I know he pays the bills and things, but if there's anything extra, it comes out of my pay. At the beginning of the school year, J.J.'s teacher sent a note home saying she thought he needed his eyes checked. Jeff threw a fit. You'd have thought I'd just asked him to cut an arm off. I ended up paying for his eye exam and new glasses. I buy all the new school clothes, I buy all the Christmas presents and birthday presents, I make the payments on my car. I need that money to survive on.
Dr. Balis: If that is the case, I can certainly understand your reasoning. Do you think Jeff will give you any trouble over the money?
Ms. Wright: No, because if he does...well, let's just say it wouldn't be in his best interest. I think once he realizes I hold all the cards and he begins to take me seriously, all will go smoothly.
Dr. Balis: I hope you're right.
Ms. Wright: Me too. I'm just going to take things as they come, one day at a time.
Dr. Balis: Speaking of time, ours is up for today. Can you come in next week at the same time?
Ms. Wright: Yes, that'll be fine.
Dr. Balis: Okay, that's Monday, December 2nd at 2 pm.
Ms. Wright: Thanks Dr. B. See you next week.
Dr. Balis: Goodbye Sarah.
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