This kid’s been sitting in my office for almost an hour and hasn’t said a word to me. He just sits there and flips open his lighter before closing it again. I told him he couldn’t smoke but he just keeps playing with that damn zippo. Again and again that damn clicking noise. I’m certain he’s doing it to test me but I’m not giving him the satisfaction. I’ve dealt with far more obnoxious patients than him.

He looks out the window or reads the titles of my books while I’m trying to get him to start talking. Occasionally he meets my gaze. He holds it for a while until I try another angle to open him up. When I do, he loses interest and retreats inside his head.

I try reading over the incident that landed him here in the first place. Broke some other student’s nose for no apparent reason. He didn’t give a reason and when he was finished he just sat down on and waited for punishment. I ask if he knew the kid he attacked. No answer. I ask if he’s angry. No answer. No twitch on his face no tick or look. Just the same stare I’ve been working to get around for the last fifty minutes. This kid was getting under my skin.

I ask about his family. The same silence. These sessions are the worst. Every minute was like being in the dentist’s chair. Except now I was the dentist, trying to pull teeth.

I ask if he wants to leave. No answer. I’m feeling my patience wither away as this punk flicks that goddamn lighter open and closed. Again and again while my questions break him like snowballs against a brick wall.

I finally ask him why he won’t talk to me. He’s not the first quiet kid I’ve dealt with. But he’s the first who hasn’t had so much as a flicker to any probe. A flicker is at least something to work with. It’s a tether I can hold onto.

He looks up dead into my eyes. His face hasn’t changed but there’s something in his eyes that I think I see. Behind those dark green eyes, behind that relaxed and indifferent look on his face there’s a world of activity and struggle. It’s a primal and savage look. It’s a look that I’d seen dozens of men try to fake in bars or even in therapy. But this is the real deal. There’s a storm of emotion inside that head.

Then it vanishes.

The session is over and like shutting a window, that churning storm is gone, cast back behind those eyes. He stands up, picks up his jacket from the table and walks out. He shuts the door, not with a slam but a polite and gentle push. I’m surprised as he leaves. I was bracing for the big annoying gesture of defiance.

As I try to decompress from therapist to me, I notice something on the table. I slip back into my flats and walk over to see what it is. I’m at a loss for even thoughts when I see the zippo lighter sitting upright on the table.


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