The therapist forced his eyes to remain open as Kitty Weathers, née Arbuthnot, spilled out the petty annoyances of her week.
“There was no way that ball was out. I hit it long, but there’s no way it was past the baseline. And Cynthia actually agreed with Dierdre, the traitor! I’ve been playing doubles with Cynthia for years!
“So, I had the dream again last night, but this time it was different.”
(This was a classic Kitty non-sequitur. The therapist checked in long enough to determine that nothing new was coming, then let his mind wander again.)
“It was the same test I told you about before, junior year algebra, that’s a funny word, isn’t it, algebra, I heard it’s Arabic - fancy that, those desert people coming up with something like algebra, well, they’re all crazy anyway, all that sand. So, anyway, I hadn’t studied, as usual, and I was beginning to freak out a little bit about finishing when this boy, early twenties maybe, woke up from where he was sleeping on the floor at the front of the room with his head on a rolled-up jacket.
“Well, I remember thinking he was kind of cute. Surely Arnold couldn’t hold that against me, right? The boy cursed when he sat up, and I’m sure I never heard such language before. He stood up and looked around, took the apple off the teacher’s desk, and bit into it. Then with his mouth full of apple, he said, ‘Why don’t any of you people ever dream of a sandwich?’ Which I thought was very odd, since I was the only one in the classroom. He put the apple core right on my paper, and asked me, ‘Does this place have a cafeteria?’
“Well, I’m sure I didn’t know, so I tried to keep working on the test, but then he grabbed my arm -- actually grabbed my arm -- and made me stand up. Then I saw that there had always been lots of other students sitting at the other desks, all working on tests like mine, all looking miserable. It made me feel better about the whole thing; I remember thinking that I’d be all right if they graded on a curve.”
(Kitty’s therapist perked up. He rarely bothered taking notes, especially when it seemed she was just going to be relating another variant on the same tired stress dream, but this was new material.)
“So, this boy then puts his hands on either side of my face and makes me look him straight in the eye. He told me that I needed to go to the cafeteria, it was incredibly urgent that I eat. You know how sometimes it’s suddenly very important in a dream that you go somewhere or do something? Well, it was like that, all of a sudden I had to get to the cafeteria, so I left the classroom, and the boy followed.
(The therapist wrote in his notepad: “Male figure directing subject to eat – subconscious progress with body image issue?”)
“I then realized that the school was a huge building, entirely made up of these classrooms, all of them filled with students from all over the world. Some of the time there was English on the blackboard, sometimes French or German, sometimes one of those cute little Oriental languages with all the funny lines and circles. But I couldn’t find the cafeteria, and I was starting to cry, so I sat down.
“The boy came up behind me and put his hand on my shoulder. He said that he was sorry, and that he hadn’t eaten anything but apples in a week.
“Well, I thought that if he needed food, Cook could make him something nice. As soon as I thought that, we were in the kitchen at home, and these faceless people were putting together this huge buffet table for Thanksgiving dinner.”
(“Juxtaposition of multiple room schoolhouse w/ mansion (also mult. rooms) – building as metaphor for mind/body? Head vs. stomach/mental vs. physical needs?”)
“The boy looked startled, but then went to the buffet and started stuffing his face. He didn’t even use a plate.
“Between mouthfuls, he said thank you. Then he got this weird look on his face, and said, ‘This isn’t school food.’ I remember that in particular; he sounded angry or scared. I was going to tell him that Cook’s food was the best, but he ran to the window, cursed again, and then ran outside through the deliveries door.
“I followed him outside, and where we were standing I could see that the whole house was on the edge of a cliff. He told me to take us back to the school. But I couldn’t do that, since it was Thanksgiving and school was closed.”
(“Pressure at home not to excel at school?” the therapist jotted excitedly. He had not expected Kitty to have the depth for such insights.)
“He then said the F-word, and paced around for a minute before telling me I needed to wake up. He told me that he had a message for someone. What was it, ‘Tell the heart I’ve left school and can’t get back,’ something like that. I started to tell him that he shouldn’t drop out of school, like all those people on TV say.
“Then he grabbed me, shouted at me to wake up. After that he threw me over the edge of the cliff. He apologized as he did it, but I ask you! After I fed him and everything.”
Kitty tilted her head to the side to look at her psychologist. “So, Doctor, what does it all mean?”
The therapist nodded thoughtfully. “I think perhaps we’ve made a breakthrough, Kitty. I’d like you to think about whether adding some additional sessions each week might be helpful...”
* * *
[Go to Chapter 6.2]