You can read this series from the beginning here.
"Thank you for seeing me on such short notice," I said.
"I made time on my schedule," my psychiatrist said. Unless she’s my psychologist. There is a subtle but important difference between the two professions, or so I have been told. I know that psychologists don’t like it when you call them psychiatrists, and psychiatrists don’t like it when you call them psychologists, so I kind of use the terms interchangeably. I figure I have a fifty-percent chance of getting it right.
"I hadn’t thought that there would be that many people with anxiety and concern regarding the Hillary Clinton campaign," I said.
"I made time," she said. "Your father’s hedge fund owns this building. Least I could do."
"Oh." I tried not to squirm on my couch. It’s important for me to remind myself to check my privilege, but it gets weird when someone else reminds me about it.
"Look, Justin. I understand that you have concerns. But I pushed back my eleven-o’clock to talk to you, and while she’s a very nice person, she is also a kleptomaniac, who is sitting in my outer office stealing all my office supplies. So if we can speed this up, that would be great."
"One problem I have," I said, "is that sometimes people are impatient with me, and talk down to me as though I were a child, or stupid."
"I understand that you have several problems," she said. "Most of us do. What is specifically bothering you at the moment? I do hope it’s personal and not political."
"The personal is political. Well, at least it is in my case. I am dealing with a tremendous inner conflict with regard to my job, which is political, and involves trying to get the former Secretary elected President, and my personal code of ethics, which is taking kind of a beating at the moment."
"This is about the deleted e-mails?" she asked.
"Yes," I said. I knew that they weren’t just deleted–I knew that they were shredded, because I’d done it myself, after Emma showed me how to use the industrial shredder. But I wasn’t about to reveal that to anyone.
"You have to understand about the Clintons," she said. "This is who they are. This is what they do. They are monsters. I don’t mean in a literal sense, but in a moral sense. They believe they are unique and special and therefore get to behave in ways that normal people do not get to behave. That’s all this is. It doesn’t have anything to do with you or me or the way we live our lives."
"It is not that they are unique and special," I said. "It is that they are in a unique position to do special things. Not everyone gets to be President. Not everyone gets to serve in the Senate, or as Secretary of State. Not everyone gets to be able to go to the rich leaders of foreign countries and get them to contribute to earthquake relief."
"Does that excuse the things that they do?" she asked.
"It explains them. You know. The end justifies the means."
"And you’re working towards the same end, aren’t you?"
I shifted uncomfortably on the couch. "I suppose so."
"Then what conclusions can we draw?" she asked.
"Trigger warning," I said.
The psychiatrist (or psychologist) sat up in her chair and tilted her head at this. "Excuse me?"
"Trigger warning. You were about to call me a monster. I want a trigger warning if you’re going to do that."
"I wasn’t going to…"
"Seriously. Trigger warning. Please?"
"Justin, I wasn’t going to call you a monster. The goal of therapy is not to be judgmental, or to call people names. The goal of therapy is to get people to realize the underlying truths about themselves. To help you grow as a person. You don’t get a trigger warning for your own personal insights. That’s not how it works."
"Well, maybe it should."
The psychologist (or psychiatrist) got that look on her face that my mother gets when she sees my dad reading Forbes. "I think we’ve done enough for one day. If you see my kleptomaniac on your way out, tell her she can’t have my stapler."
After lunch, I cued up the video of the former Secretary at the United Nations, going through her words over and over again, trying to make her statements consistent with what I knew had actually happened. I had about convinced myself that most of what I had shredded was old yoga schedules when Stanton interrupted me.
"Are you okay?" he asked. "You seem a bit on edge."
"It’s been a rough week," I said. "You know, with all the lies and distortion in the right-wing press."
"And it’s only going to get rougher when the campaign starts for-real. That’s why I did what I did."
"What are you talking about, Stanton?"
What Stanton was talking about was a room. "They used to have servers in there, before they moved everything out to the data center in West Virginia," Stanton explained. "They left the racks, which was great, you know, for storage."
"This is amazing," I said, and it was. Stanton had carpeted the room and removed the fluorescent lighting. There was a comfy couch and a couple of yoga mats on the floor. The lighting was soft, and there was a multi-colored strobe lamp in one corner. Soft jazz was playing from a couple of unobtrusive speakers.
"You haven’t seen the half of it yet," he said. "We’ve got toys over here–all vintage, of course. Nothing sexist, either. Some children’s books–those were harder to curate, but I think I did a good job. Over there on the other rack are some comfort foods. Chocolate pudding and stuff. I got the Hunt’s Snack Pak, because I figured if I got the Jell-O people might have Bill Cosby issues."
"Peanut butter?" I asked.
"Dude," Stanton said. "Allergies. Do I look like an idiot? Trader Joe’s almond butter, that we have, and organic jelly, but you’d have to bring your own bread."
"This is just fabulous," I said. "Is that a Fisher-Price Corn Popper?"
"It is," Stanton said. "The handles come in blue and pink, because patriarchy, so I bought a blue one and painted it purple. I’m very proud of that."
"This is the best trigger room ever," I said. "I mean, think about it. Any time you needed to relax, or meditate, or watch Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood on your iPad without anyone judging you, you could just come in here and do it. I’m so glad you shared it with me."
"When you’re in here, it doesn’t matter what people on the outside do," Stanton said. "Microaggressions. People applauding instead of doing jazz hands. Supervisors complaining about the quality of your work, and how you spend too much time away from your desk. All of that goes away in here, man. It’s epic."
"I just wish I’d brought a pair of pajamas," I said.
"Bring them from home," Stanton said. "Keep them in your cubby, See? I made one, just for you, out of reclaimed wood. There’s just one thing."
"What’s that?" I asked.
"Don’t tell anyone. If it gets too crowded, it won’t be as peaceful and calming."
I took the purple Corn Popper and started to run it on the floor. It sounded just like it did when I was three.
"Thanks, Stanton. Thanks so much."
"You’re welcome, "he said.
Stanton and I enjoyed the safety, comfort, and serenity of the trigger room for two whole weeks, until he tried to light an aromatherapy candle in there and set off the sprinkler system and ruined everything. He got fired for that, unfortunately, but I hired him to re-decorate the guest bedroom in my apartment the same way, and I think he has a future for himself in that line of work. It’s just another way to make a difference.
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