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“I killed a man,” I say to my new therapist.
I’ve barely settled onto the couch … which isn’t a couch at all, but a chaise lounge that looked inviting and proved horribly uncomfortable. Like therapy itself.
I’ve caught her off guard with that opening line, but I’ve been through this before with other therapists. Five, to be exact. Each time, the gap between “hello” and “I’m a murderer” decreases. By this point, she should be glad I’m still bothering with a greeting. Therapists do charge by the hour.
“You…,” she says, “killed a man?”
The apprehensive look. I know it well—that moment when they’re certain they’ve misheard. Or that I mean it in a metaphorical way. I broke a man’s heart. Which is technically true. A bullet does break a heart. Irrevocably, it seems.
When I only nod, she asks, “When did this happen?”
“Twelve years ago.”
Expression number two. Relief. At least I haven’t just killed a man. That would be so much more troublesome.
Then comes the third look, as she searches my face with dawning realization.
“You must have been young,” she says. “A teenager?”
“Ah.” She settles back in her chair, the relief stronger now, mingling with satisfaction that she’s solved the puzzle. “An accident of some kind?”
She’s blunt. Others have led me in circles around the conclusion they’ve drawn. You didn’t really murder a man. It was a car accident or other youthful mishap, and now you torture yourself with guilt.
“No, I did it on purpose. That is, pulling the trigger was intentional. I didn’t go there planning to kill him. Manslaughter, not homicide. A good lawyer could argue for imperfect self-defense and get the sentence down to about twelve years.”
She pulls back. “You’ve researched this. The crime. The sentence.”
“It’s my job.”
“Because you feel guilty.”
“No, it’s my job. I’m a cop.”
Her mouth forms an O of surprise, and her fingernails tap my file folder as she makes mental excuses for not reading it more thoroughly. Then her mouth opens again. The barest flicker of a smile follows.
“You’re a police officer,” she says. “You shot someone in the line—No, you were too young. A cadet?”
“Yes, but it wasn’t a training accident.” I settle on the chaise. “How about I just tell you the story?”
An obvious solution, but therapists never suggest it. Some, like this one, actually hesitate when I offer. She fears I’m guilty and doesn’t want me to be. Give her a few more clues, and she’ll find a way to absolve me.
Except I don’t want absolution. I just want to tell my story. Because this is what I do. I play Russian roulette with Fate, knowing someday a therapist will break confidentiality and turn me in. It’s like when I was a child, weighed down by guilt over some wrongdoing but fearing the punishment too much to confess outright. I’d drop clues, reasoning that if I was meant to be caught, those hints would chamber the round. Magical, childish thinking, but it’s what I do.
“Can I begin?” I ask.
She nods with some reluctance and settles in.
“I’d gone to a bar that night with my boyfriend,” I say. “It was supposed to be a date, but he spent the evening doing business in the back corner. That’s what he called it. Doing business. Which sounds like he was dealing coke in some dive bar. We were actually in the university pub, him selling vitamin R and bennies to kids who wanted to make it through exam week.…”
Copyright © 2016 by KLA Fricke Inc.