(Previously: THE HEART OF THE MATTER)
Jack Rory looked around the group therapy circle with suspicion and dismay. How could Destiny have possibly thought this was a good idea? In his discomfited state, he made accidental eye contact with a particularly chipper-looking couple, and before he could look away, they were on their way over.
“Hi there, folks!” the female half of the couple said brightly. “Y’all new here this week?”
Jack Rory felt Destiny dig her nails into his spine, so he reluctantly responded.
“Yes. This is our first time.”
“Oh, y’all are gonna love it!” the male half said enthusiastically. “But where are our manners? I’m Louis, and this here’s my wife, Bonnie.”
Jack Rory opened his mouth to half-heartedly introduce himself and Destiny, but was saved–at least temporarily–by the arrival of the therapist.
“Namaste, everybody,” she said, pressing her palms together and then lifting them over her head.
“NAMASTE, LISA,” everybody–except Jack Rory and Destiny–said in return, mimicking her hand gesture.
“I see we have some newcomers this week. Welcome,” Lisa said earnestly, first locking eyes with Jack Rory, then with Destiny.
“Thanks,” Jack Rory and Destiny mumbled.
“What we like to do here is warm up with about 15 minutes of deep breathing exercises, followed by 45 minutes of chanting,” Lisa explained. “After that, we’ll go around the room and share.”
Jack Rory contemplated sprinting for the closest exit. But Destiny, seemingly reading his mind, fixed him with a glare, effectively locking him into his seat.
Together, the couples diligently inhaled and exhaled until Lisa felt they were on the right plane, and could move onto chanting.
“Ommmmmmmm aaaaaaaahhhhhhh,” she crooned, echoed by everyone except Jack Rory, who was visibly squirming with secondhand embarrassment.
After what seemed to Jack Rory an interminable period of chanting, Lisa declared it was time to share.
Sharing entailed each couple introducing themselves and outlining the biggest problems in their relationship, after which Lisa would offer her counsel.
There was Chuck and Stephanie…
Chuck was a bit old-fashioned, whereas Stephanie identified as a feminist. Lisa was helping them learn to channel their frustrations.
Next up were Mike and Dave. They had been a couple for eight years, yet Dave still had trouble believing that he was worthy of Mike’s affections.
Lisa was working on reducing Dave’s insecurities, and increasing Mike’s capacity for empathy.
Then there was Regina and Chewy.
Lisa was trying to help them communicate better. (It wasn’t really working, and privately she thought their relationship was doomed.)
Louis and Bonnie didn’t need any help with their relationship. They were blissfully happy and in love, and had only joined couples therapy as a way to meet new people.
Lisa gave them her full support.
Finally, there was Jack Rory and Destiny.
“How can I help the two of you?”Lisa asked. “Please remember that this is a safe space.”
“Thank you, Lisa,” Destiny said. “It all started with the baby. Everything was great up until that baby showed up.”
“Can you tell me more about the baby, Destiny and Jack Rory?” Lisa asked.
Jack Rory knew he had to speak up for his side of the story to be heard.
“She’s my baby with another woman,” he said, ignoring the collective gasps from the other couples in the room. “I didn’t know about her until her mother left her with me. But it’s not even a big deal because we have a nanny now and we never see her.”
Lisa’s eyes lit up. “‘Not even a big deal.’ Jack Rory, what do the words ‘big deal’ mean to you?”
Jack Rory rolled his eyes. “Like, something really important. Life altering. Earth shattering.”
“I see,” Lisa said. “And suddenly discovering you’re a father doesn’t fall into any of those categories. Tell me, Jack Rory, how was your childhood?”
Jack Rory felt as if she had stabbed him in the heart. “My childhood?” he repeated.
“Yes, your childhood,” Lisa said. “What are some of your most powerful memories of childhood?”
Jack Rory felt woozy, as if he was about to faint.
“I don’t remember my childhood,” he said, abruptly standing up and making a beeline for the door.
TO BE CONTINUED…