by Hamen Cheese

Chapter 23: My Date with a Doctor

At the risk of being rude but in order to make a point, I just have to say that Dr. Angelina D. Baker, PhD…




She was wearing sparkling jewelry around her wrists and neck. Many layers of gemstones were draped across her chest, which immediately made me think of fortunetellers. Of course, unlike fortunetellers, I had the distinct impression that all the diamonds, rubies, and whatever other precious stones glinting on her were actually real.

Her eyes were framed around thick catlike glasses that were also encrusted with little stones. The frame was made of what looked liked solid gold, elegantly blending with her light complexion. Her hair was tied in a tight bun held together by two ivory chopstick impaled into the back of her head. She looked remarkably like what Cleopatra would have looked like if she ever decided to model for Gucci.

Of course, if she ever did model for Gucci, she certainly wouldn't be holding a large carving knife in her hand like she was doing that very moment. Or if it really had to happen, it would have been a diamond-encrusted meat cleaver at the very least.

"Hello, Derek," she purred still holding the carving knife at a posh angle in her extended wrist. "I'm just preparing a snack. Would you like a wiener?" She indicated with her other hand the cutting board that was in front of her. Bits of vegetables, bread, and sauces were scattered around what looked like a humungous wiener.

"No, thank you," I said warily watching the carving knife in her hand. I was suddenly feeling weak in the knees.

"Suit yourself," she said with a shrug which made a multicolored wave across her bosom. She let the carving knife fall onto the board with a loud whack, swiftly turned her wiener into two wiener juniors.

I heard the door close behind me and I realized that I was alone with the crazy looking woman. Not that Karen's eccentricities would have helped me any…

"Have a seat," she said, not indicating any particular one. "I'm almost done with this." She whacked her wiener several more times.

I looked cautiously around the room but didn't make any move towards any direction. As far as I was concerned, being alone with a glittering woman holding a large knife in her hand was not good for my health. I didn't want to be too far from the exit in case I needed to run for my life. Still, I was curious with the surroundings.

It certainly didn't seem like an office. It looked like a first class waiting area in an international airport. The place was literally littered with seats and other things I could sit on.

Next to the door were two sturdy wooden seats with cushions arranged around a coffee table with an arrangement of fresh looking flowers in a vase.

Several thickly padded couches were near bookshelves with neatly arranged books.

The table where the wiener was slowly being murdered was actually a countertop as it was connected to what looked like a kitchenette that had somehow been accidentally built inside a library. Every surface was covered in wood or other natural colors. A moderately sized round table was placed in the middle with seats that could fit a small family of three. It was right next to a microwave and refrigerator.

A large flat screen TV was set against a wall covered in a mosaic that reminded me of a wheat field. What looked like several video game consoles littered the front of the TV in a disordered manner as though someone had just finished using them and couldn't be bothered cleaning up after himself. Soft beanbags were on the floor in front of the TV. Behind those beanbags was a large cozy looking couch.

In the far corner was a desk in the same mahogany design of Karen the Camel-Hoarder. Several pens, notebooks, and folders were organized neatly on top of each other across her desk. Two black, conventional plastic chairs sat across her desk.

On the opposite side of the room from her desk was a large aquarium that seemed to take half the wall on that side. Large sharp-toothed fish that looked suspiciously like piranhas were swimming around excitedly inside and I had the distinct impression that they lived quite well on a diet of wieners. In front of the fish was yet another long, comfortable-looking velvet couch. Beside that was a dark brown lazy boy type of chair that had small attachments to the sides where you could put food, drinks, or perhaps a book once you were tired from reading it.

Finally, in the last wall was what unmistakably a queen size bed. It was covered in a thick comforter embroidered with native looking designs. Several plump pillows sat at the bed's head looking quite inviting. I wondered if Dr. Baker actually slept in that bed. Next to the bed was a high-backed chair covered in a scratchy-looking material that glittered in the sun.

"Where would you like me to sit?" I asked after a few moments of ascertaining that she wouldn't run at me, hacking away.

"Sit anywhere you like," she said with a smile before putting her wiener between her buns.

For a moment, I contemplated lying down on the couch next to the fish tank. It was the only one that looked like the typical place where a psychologist's patient would be asked to lie down. I figured that was the normal thing to do. Yet she did say that I could sit anywhere I like, and somehow I found my eyes drifting towards the kitchenette instead. Something about it radiated a more welcoming aura than any of the other seats, and I quickly found my legs drifting towards that direction.

I had barely taken a seat when Dr. Baker harrumphed.

"Sorry," I said as I lifted my butt off the chair. "Was I not supposed to sit here?"

"Oh no, that's fine," she said. "And I suppose, it will make it easier to eat these." She had apparently managed to place two sandwiches on separate plates while I wasn't looking. Somehow, from somewhere, she also managed to procure chips, which were scattered around one side of the plate. "But something tells me, you didn't pick this place so you could eat." She then placed one of the plates in front of me while she placed the other in front of a seat across.

"What do you mean?" I asked, as I once again got comfortable in the chair. She moved towards the refrigerator and opened it. I noticed it was stocked full like a large sized family lived there. She took out a large carton of lemonade and began pouring them into two glasses.

"Well, you see the first choice you make when you enter this room is where to sit. Well no, that would be the second. To be honest, the first choice is always whether or not my client will stay. And fortunately for the both of us, you decided not to run away."

"Oh, so do you always greet your patients with a carving knife in your hand?" I asked before I could stop myself.

She gave a hearty, throaty laugh. "Goodness, no. Not always. Sometimes I'm sharpening my sword." She then took a tender bite of her wiener making me wonder if she was being serious.

"So, what's the deal with me having to choose a seat?" I asked when she just sat there for several minutes eating as though I wasn't there. My wiener remained untouched.

"A lot, my dear," she said in such a way that made me think she was somebody's grandma. But then her looks gave the impression that she had just recently graduated college… or perhaps the seventies. "I can tell a lot from a person just from the first few things he or she does in my office. For instance, if you had chosen to sit by the seats near the door, the ones farthest from everything else, that would tell me that you are likely shy. It shows that you want to be unobtrusive, that you'd rather take the nearest easiest path until someone else come's along and tells you otherwise. Then again, I could have crossed all that out from your posture as you entered the room. But sometimes, first impressions can be deceiving so I've devised some ways to verify my theories."

I figured as much. I thought there were far too many seats in the room and I knew they each had a special purpose to them. I wondered if she explained all that to each of her clients. She probably did. I knew instinctively that it gave her some sense of control. It gave off the impression that she knew what she was talking about. Despite myself, I found myself curious about the other places around the room and what they meant. But, I didn't know if she would answer me. I knew some time had already passed and I was supposed to be there for just an hour, maybe two at most. Nonetheless, I couldn't squelch my curiosity.

"Do you sleep in that bed?" I asked nudging my head towards it. I could feel my cheeks heating rapidly, as I wondered if I asked something too personal.

"Oh no," she laughed. She seemed to do that a lot, laugh I mean. "That's just another option for my clients to take if they want."

"And what does it mean if I chose that place to sit on?"

"Well," she said as though pleased I asked. "It would tell me that you have no respect for privacy and the space of other people. As you had just asked, you wondered if I actually slept in that bed. But without knowing the answer earlier, you could easily have been violating my personal space by choosing to lie down there. It could also tell me that you were feeling rebellious. The bed would be perhaps the most disrespecting place you could choose to sit or lie down on. It would warn me that you were angry and perhaps were trying to get others angry as well so that you can justify your own anger." She took another bite of her wiener and chewed like she was eating the most delicious thing in the world.

"So, what does it tell you about me choosing to sit in the kitchen?"

She took several sips of her lemonade as though mulling the question over in her head. "Had you chosen to accept my offer of something to eat, it would tell me you're hungry." She laughed. "But aside from that, it would also tell me that you feel deprived, possibly inadequate. Perhaps you feel you don't get enough at home, not necessarily of food. It could be of love, attention, and care. It depends on the manner you accepted the offer. But as you didn't accept the offer, the implications of those choices aren't relevant to me at the moment."

She took another dainty bite of her wiener before continuing. "But as you didn't accept my offer to eat something, and yet you still chose to sit here, it tells me that something about this place feels comfortable to you. Perhaps you spend a lot of time in the kitchen at home. Perhaps that is a focal point of your family. It could be that you spend your time bonding with them or even with friends in your kitchen. The kitchen could be for you, a place you shared specially with someone."

I let my mind drift to thoughts of Charlie. I wondered if those things did apply to us. Maybe with all the times we'd snuck into the kitchen to get something to eat, with all the times my mom had spent cooking meals for us to eat there, with all the times we'd spent goofing around sitting next to each other or on the floor. Those distant memories with Charlie coupled with the most recent ones made me sad.

Something about my face must have changed because Dr. Baker said, "hit the nail on the head, have I?"

"What?" I asked feeling flabbergasted. "No, it's nothing."

"Mmhmm," she said knowingly. "Of course not." She stood and walked over to the coffee machine. For a moment, I thought she was going to make us coffee, but then she started speaking to it. "Karen?"

"Yes, Dr. Baker?" came the oily voice of the Camel-Hoarder.

"Could you bring me Derek's file, please?" File? I had a file already? I just got there for crying out loud.

"Of course, Dr. Baker," she said in a uniform and practiced way suggesting that her day was never complete until she'd said of course, Dr. Baker at least ten times.

Dr. Baker returned to her seat. "Aren't you going to eat?"

"I'm not really hungry," I replied.

"Suit yourself," Dr. Baker shrugged like she really didn't care either way. For a doctor, she didn't seem very empathetic towards her patients. I suppose it came with dealing with crazy people all the time.

Not that I was crazy of course…

Karen came in carrying a green folder with my name written on the side in big bold letters. She walked briskly to our table and handed the folder to Dr. Baker. "Is there anything else I can do for you, Dr. Baker?"

"No, thank you, Karen. That will be all."

"Of course, Dr. Baker," she nodded before leaving us alone again.

"Let's see here," Dr. Baker said as she adjusted her Gucci glasses. "Who is Derek Hampton? He is a Southmore High School student. He is the present student body president."

"I'm right here you know… You could ask me…"

"He's quite active in extra-curricular activities. He shows substantial leadership qualities."

"Do you know it's rude to refer to people like they weren't right in front of you?"

"He's also consistent A student. He's the captain of the basketball varsity team… How's that going by the way? Your captainship I mean?"

The question caught me off guard. It felt almost planned the way she skipped over the other details and decided to ask that question first. It was almost like she knew something about the troubles I've been having at school regarding that. The calmness and openness I had felt earlier shrank away a little and I could feel myself getting irritated. My eyes narrowed at her. "Why?"

"My… defensive are we?" she asked as though the whole thing was amusing her. "I happen to have married a man quite enamored and dedicated to the whole sport of basketball. He lives and breathes the damn game so naturally I was curious how you felt about the issue? Why? Is there something particularly troubling happening at school right now?"

I kept my eyes narrowed at her. For one thing, I could not imagine a man normal enough to like basketball and yet end up marrying a woman as crazy as her. And despite her assertions that she was unaware of anything happening at school, it still felt like the whole thing was staged. "I don't really wanna talk about it."

"Well," she laughed. "I'm afraid you have to talk about it dear because I want to talk about it."

"You can't force me to talk about something I don't want to talk about," I replied a little heatedly. Any attempt to be polite was going out the window. "And I don't feel like talking to you anymore."

"Oh but I can, dear," she smiled sweetly. "You see, in this place, I'm the queen. I'm the ruler in these walls and what I say follows. You're here because I want you to be here. You do what you do because I tell you. So talk."

"Well, sorry Dr. Baker," I replied, putting as much disdain in her name. "But I'm here only because I want to be here. I can leave any time I want and I don't have to follow any of your stupid commands. If I don't want to talk about something, I won't."

"Really?" she asked feigning surprise. The gems on her jingled merrily. "Okay then, if you can leave any time you want, then go ahead. Walk out of this room and go run back to mommy. Tell her you can't handle seeing a shrink. Go on, the door's unlocked. You can even take your sandwich with you if you want, plate and all."

I glared at Dr. Baker. Her whole demeanor somehow reminded me of Mrs. C and I wondered if they were perhaps related in some way. I was sorely tempted to stuff my wiener down her throat, plate and all. But then I remembered my promise to my mom, the strain I've been putting her through, the way her face seemed to lighten up when I said I would do this for her. This was supposed to help her even if in the end it didn't help me. So despite what my feet wanted to do, I kept them rooted on the floor and crossed my arms tightly around my chest.

"See?" Dr. Baker laughed. I realized then that she had a horrible, annoying laugh.

"Aren't psychologists supposed to be nice?" I asked in an irritated voice. "Aren't you people supposed to be understanding of your patients? Sympathetic of them?"

"Sorry to tell you this, dear, but I don't play nice. It's not in me to treat my clients nicely. I am very specific about those I take on as clients. If you want someone who will sympathize with you then you're better off finding a support group where you can go hug each other, make love, and all that other senseless mumbo-jumbo."

I sat there glaring at her but unfortunately it seemed to have no effect as she sat there cheerfully as though expecting to open presents quite soon. "Did my mom put you up to this? Is this some act to get me to spill everything that's happened at school? What is it we're really doing here?"

"Well," Dr. Baker said as she thought over the questions. "I have yet to meet your mom. We're, at the moment, eating. We're dressed up, or at the very least I am. We're getting to know each other so I'd say it sounds like we're having a date."

My brain froze over at those words. "A date…?"

"Oh yes, isn't all this what people normally do on a date?"

I gaped at her. "Are you…? Are you trying to seduce me or something?" My eyes flicked towards the bed.

"Oh dear, no," she laughed. "I'm not into jailbaits." She looked down at her file and gasped in apparent surprise. "Oh look at that. You're eighteen. Hmm, maybe there could be something else here." Her eyebrows undulated suggestively.

"Ugh," I said as I gave her a look of disgust. It wasn't particularly hard. "Sorry, but I'm not into old, wrinkly psychos who wears more jewelry than twenty people."

"Hmm, might as well," she said sounding quite disappointed. "I'm not into fat little children either."

"Fat?" I asked aghast. "There's no fat in this body, lady."

"And there are no wrinkles on this face," she laughed. "So how's your captainship of the basketball varsity?"

"Why do you keep asking that?" I asked. I could feel my eyes threatening to pop out.

"Why do you keep not answering it?" she retorted. "It's a simple question you know. It's not like it involves a lot of mental computation or anything. Though if you really are a consistent A student then you shouldn't have trouble either way." The way she said those last few words made it sound like she doubted their truthfulness very much.

I gritted my teeth. I really didn't want to talk about it. What would happen if I just sat there and kept my mouth shut? Would she tell my mom that I wasn't trying? Then again, was it even an option to keep quiet? I promised my mom I would try and I really didn't want to break my promise. It felt important not only for her but also for me.

"It's been… difficult," I said. "I'm having some trouble right now."

"What kind of trouble?" she asked.

"Some… people want me removed as captain. Don't bother asking who because I don't know who they are. I just know that I have to excel in my game. Unfortunately, the last few sessions, especially today have been less than stellar for me."

"What do you mean by less than stellar?"

"I mean I've been missing my shots. I've been failing to get rebounds and I even had someone successfully block me once."

"Do you think that whoever wants you removed from the team will succeed?"

I recalled the look on coach's face as I left practice earlier that day. I didn't really know how to describe it. I just knew that his usual strictness seemed diminished. And I had a feeling he was worried about the whole thing as much as I was. I wondered… I wondered if I had somehow disappointed him. "I don't know."

"Hmm," she said as she popped some chips into her mouth. "How about your friends, how are they?"

I frowned at her. "What do you mean?"

"Friends," she repeated. "You know, people close to you?"

"I know what friends are," I said just slightly miffed by her tone. I hated it when people made it sound like I was stupid. "I was just surprised. Aren't you going to ask me other questions about my captainship?"

"Why?" she laughed throatily. "You already answered a few questions. Why would I keep asking about it?"

I stared at her jovial face and felt like I was being played though I couldn't figure out how. I wasn't sure if the whole thing was an act or what. Well, I was pretty sure it had to be an act but I just didn't know what the whole point of the thing was.

"So," she said cheerfully, "how are your friends?"

The obvious answer that was about to slip from my lips was "fine." Yet, I couldn't say that one words because I wasn't sure if it was true. My friendship with Charlie was in ruins. The last girl I ever dated and actually liked wanted to wipe my face from existence. I'd recently screamed at the whole basketball team. Most of them, including Mikee, were tiptoeing around me like I was about to explode. Even I was wondering if that would happen soon. Without realizing it, my shoulders slumped.

"That bad, huh?" she asked. She didn't sound like she was making a joke or sarcastic comment. If anything, it was the first time she sounded like what I expected shrinks to sound – like she cared.

I shrugged. It was generally considered rude to answer a question without words but I couldn't bring myself to say anything. It felt like anything I had to say at that moment about the issue would be a lie.

"How are things at home?" she asked cheerfully.

I blinked at her. Another topic already? "Why are jumping from one topic to another?"

"Why not?" she laughed. It felt like she was mocking me.

"I dunno. Maybe it's not normal?"

"Oh, and you're the expert in normal, are you now?" she smiled mischievously.

"What is that supposed to mean?" I glared.

"Nothing it's not supposed to. So, how are things at home?"

"Seriously, enough!" I said angrily. "You can't just jump from one topic to another if you want only one or two sentence answers. I came here because this was supposed to help and you jumping from one thing to another is not helping. Aren't we supposed to talk about specific issues in length so they get resolved? Isn't that what this thing is for? This whole thing won't make sense otherwise."

"Makes a lot of good sense to me," she shrugged and laughed. "We're on a date and I'm getting to know you."

"God damn it! Are you trying to make me angry?!" I yelled so loudly I was surprised my mom wasn't running in from the other room.

"Oh, absolutely not," she laughed. "I'm just asking you things about yourself."

"Well, I don't want to talk about those things!"

"Well, what do you want to talk about?" she laughed, apparently unaffected by all my yelling. It made me all the more furious.

"CHARLIE!!! I WANT TO TALK ABOUT…" I stopped, my chest heaving as it gulped air rapidly. I had stood up with all my yelling and was staring at her across the table. "Charlie," I said quietly. "I want to talk about Charlie."

Dr. Baker leaned one elbow against the table and inclined her whole body forward. She let the side of her head rest on three fingers as she tilted it to the side, smiling in a way that made me think she got what she wanted quicker and easier than normal. "Okay. Let's talk about Charlie."

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