The young man went into the therapist’s office looking very depressed. He had a neo hippie appearance. Long curly brown hair, and two earrings on his left earlobe. He was dressed in a plaid flannel shirt and blue jeans. Very beautiful blue eyes, thought Dr. Jenny Black. He has to have a lot of luck with the ladies, if that’s his thing.
“Hi, er… good afternoon, doctor.”
“Good afternoon, John. My secretary told me you don’t want to use your real name. Do you know that everything that you say here is strictly confidential? You don’t have to hide your identity.”
“Yeah, I know, Dr. Black, but I have to say things that could harm people I care about. I don’t want to cause any more damage than I already have.”
“Please, sit down, and explain why you are here.”
The young man sat in the armchair opposite to the doctor’s one. He interlocked his fingers and let them rest on his lap.
“Well, in a few words, I have to drag myself out of bed each day. I don’t have the will to live anymore. I’m very depressed.”
He paused, and his eyes filled with unshed tears.
“Did something happen that made you feel like this?” asked Dr. Black.
“Yeah, something happened,” the young man sighed, and then went on, “Something happened four months ago. It was aired on national television, but fortunately, everybody has forgotten that. Maybe you saw me on tv.”
“Maybe, but sorry, I don’t remember.”
“Well, to cut a long story short, I was a T.A. in Rainier, and I was about to finish my doctorate in anthropology. I had finished writing my thesis, but I hadn’t submitted it to the committee. My mother, god bless her, sent it to a publisher, who liked it so much that was ready to offer me a lot of money for the publishing rights. He let out excerpts of my dissertation to the press, without my agreement. That wouldn’t have been a problem, except that my thesis theme was very problematic. It was a draft, and it included the name of my investigation’s main subject. This subject is no one other than my roommate and best friend. A cop. What I said in the thesis could be used against him, and do a lot of damage to him and the whole city’s safety.”
“Okay. I understand. You are depressed because that information was leaked without your consent…”
“No, that’s not all of it. What I’m about to tell you is very confidential and I want to know that you’d never say anything of this to anyone else.”
“You have my word, John.”
“Okay. My thesis was about a person with heightened senses. Very, very heightened. Richard Burton, the explorer, called them ‘sentinels’. So, I was studying a modern day sentinel. That sentinel was, as I already told you, my roommate and best friend. And he’s a policeman. He uses his heightened senses to solve cases, and he’s very good at that. So, the leaked information would cause a lot of damage. I had to do something. That’s what was aired on national television. I gave a press conference saying that my thesis was a fraud.”
The young man closed his eyes and lowered his head.
“So, the thesis you were about to submit to be granted your doctorate, was considered a fraud. You lied to protect your friend,” said the doctor.
When John raised his head, his face was tear streaked.
“Sorry…” he said and reached for the Kleenex on the coffee table between them.
“Don’t worry. I understand.” The therapist waited until the young man was composed again.
“What did your friend say about what you did?”
“Oh, he’s a great guy. One of the best persons I ever met. He was very grateful about what I did. He and his captain offered me a detective’s badge. I had to go to the police academy, of course, but they wanted me there. My friend’s captain knows about the sentinel stuff.”
“You didn’t go to the academy, or you’d have cut your hair, I suppose.”
“No, of course, I didn’t. I couldn’t. I didn’t have the strength. I’m not cop material. Never could use a gun against another human being. It’s funny that several times Jim gave me a gun to point to a perp, and I did it. I’d do anything for Jim. I jumped from an airplane using a parachute, something I had never done and was scared out of my mind to do, but I did it. For him, anything.”
The therapist saw John’s rueful smile, and understood. It was a case of unrequited love. And her patient didn’t even know he was in love.
“So, this Jim, he’s your roommate. Are there any other persons living with you, or is it just you and him?”
“Just he and I. We get along very well. The apartment I used to live in blew up. There was a drug lab next door. I asked him to let me stay at his apartment for a week. It’s been almost four years and I’m still there. I think it’s because of the sentinel thing. But he doesn’t need me anymore. He’s learned to use his senses without my help. That’s why I’m here, mainly. I need you to help me make up my mind about leaving my friend and going somewhere else to start a new life.”
The therapist looked at John, concerned. She was pensive for a moment.
“I think you should consider the pros and cons very carefully. Your friend mightn’t need you for the sentinel thing, as you say, but he’s your friend. You don’t lose ties like that so easily, not if they were tied for so long. You might suffer a lot for that loss, and that would only increase your grieving.”
“Yes, doctor, I know. It breaks my heart to think of leaving Jim. I love him so much.” He blushed. “As a friend, of course.”
“Are you sure about that?” asked Dr. Black, smiling.
John frowned. “I don’t understand,” he said.
“That you love him just as a friend?”
“Of course, doctor! I’m not gay!” John looked affronted.
“All right. I won’t pressure you on that. We’ll have more appointments to discuss the matter. You should think about it, though, about your feelings towards your friend. See you next Thursday, John.”
John didn’t answer. He got up and left.
Dr. Jenny Black watched him as he closed the door behind him.
Sentinels. Maybe it was all a construction of his mind. Could he be delusional? She had to research that. See if there was really a press conference. If all that he said was real, she had no doubt that John was in love with his roommate. If this Jim, his sentinel, existed. It wouldn’t be the first time she learned of someone building a whole universe around them, that only existed for them.