“Welcome, Michael, welcome. Please sit down.”
The two men entered Dr. Gimmel’s little office. Gimmel shut the door and settled into a large, grandfatherly leather chair, studying his guest. Michael Avey took his seat, folding his hands primly on his lap. He always wore the same suit: cheap, gray, threadbare, but exquisitely pressed.
“Of course this is very unusual,” said Michael. “I know you’d prefer to meet Mr. Jones personally to discuss his condition. Psychotherapy by proxy isn’t exactly what they trained you for, eh? Mr. Jones would prefer that as well. But of course, a man in his position…any hint of psychological weakness, even a rumor he was seeing a therapist…well, you understand.”
Dr. Gimmel frowned, upsetting a great gray mustache. He set aside his notebook and leaned forward confidentially.
“You’ve explained this before. What I’m still trying to understand is the exact nature of his condition. Tell me again about his symptoms. He feels…?”
“He feels anxious, mostly. So much responsibility, so many people depending on him. You understand. A man in his position…”
“Sometimes his hands shake so much he can’t even sign his name. I’ve watched it happen. He has his secretary do it. Dr. Gimmel, if you could prescribe some small dosage, something mild to get him through the rough spots without interfering in his critical decision-making capacities…”
“He must have a great deal of faith in you. Letting you represent him like this.”
The hands parted, exploring the question. “Yes. Yes, I believe he does.”
“And I have great faith in you as well. I believe the two of us can make real progress.”
Michael grimaced, looked down. He smoothed his pant legs. “I am irrelevant, Doctor. Mr. Jones…”
“Michael, this is the fifth time we’ve met. I know there’s something you want to tell me. Why don’t you go ahead?”
“Mr. Jones would prefer – ”
“Michael, is there something you want to tell me?”
Michael Avey was visibly sweating now. He wiggled his shoulders, settling the suit jacket. Thin lips moved, but said nothing.
“Michael. You represent yourself. Do you understand? There is no such person as Mr. Jo – ”
“NO!” He leaped from his seat, turned away, leaned heavily on the back bookcase. For a long minute, neither man spoke, and the only sound was frantic breathing, gradually growing calm again.
Finally Michael turned again. His face was tight and pale. “This is very difficult. Very difficult. You understand, of course. A man…” He swallowed. “A man in my position…”
Dr. Gimmel nodded encouragingly. “I understand, I understand. Have a seat, Michael. Tell me about yourself.”