Week 2: Jesse

Paul is at his desk reading information online about Parkinson’s. Jesse is outside texting when Max comes up the stairs and enters through the back door. Jesse goes into the waiting room after glancing at Max.

Jesse chews on string of his hoodie. Paul asks if he had thought more about his birth mother. Jesse asks if he has heard of RISD because they have a summer program he is interested in. He says he applied online and sent some of the pictures he showed Paul. Paul asks if he completed the application and Jesse says he did and asks if Paul wants to see the brochure. He showed it to his adoptive mother and she said we can’t afford it -- which Jesse first reports as “we can’t afford that shit”. He won’t ask for financial help. 

Jesse is cocky and flirtatious -- talks crudely about his social worker who is supportive of him. Paul questions this. He says he thinks Paul and his social worker should go out because they are both such sad people. He tells Paul he told his social worker he had the cost under control. Then he says he will prostitute himself then that he will sell his Adderall. Then that he will call Karen,  his birth mother, because she is rich. Paul asks if he has told his parents. He says no, it’s none of their business.  Paul says he thinks he is anxious about telling his parents and about calling Karen back. Paul asks him how likely it is that she will just give him the money.  Jesse gets angry and threatens to leave. Tells Paul to ask him other questions, like how was his week. Jesse lies back on the couch. 

Paul asks how his week was and Jesse says fine. Anything out of the ordinary ?-- yes, we got prank called. Jesse says at first he thought it was Karen because his cell mailbox was full. He says it wasn’t her but Nate, an athlete he was involved with sexually. Paul asks when he last saw Nate and Jesse says a couple of months ago.  He says  Nate asked a lot of questions like wanting to see where he lived. Jesse told him he was homeless. He says the lies he tells Nate turn him on. Paul asks if he believes if he tells Nate the truth he won’t be wanted by him anymore. Paul asks if he hoped it was Karen. Jesse says Paul is obsessed with that.

Jesse gets up and goes to the shelves and picks up bronzed baby shoes. Jesse asks what his son’s name is.  Paul tells him he told him he doesn’t discuss his children in therapy. Jesse says he saw Max in the hall and he looks sad. Then he asks what Paul would do if he threw the shoes through the window. Paul asks why he would do that. He asks if Jesse is angry that Paul protects his son’s privacy. Jesse  says his mother pays no attention to what he does, she would ignore it. Because he is a degenerate. Jesse makes a move as if to throw the shoe at Paul, who flinches.

Jesse says he bets Paul is regretting he took him on pro-bono. Paul says he didn’t take him on pro-bono. Who is paying? Paul says his parents pay. Jesse thought he was being seen for free. He says they can’t afford this. Jesse looks stricken for a moment. He says he should have known that she would rather pay for therapy than talk to him herself. Jesse says he is just not going to feel toward his mother the way he is supposed to feel. But he isn’t her baby and when she sees him she doesn’t feel anything. He says he feels fine because he doesn’t feel anything when he looks at her either. He starts to cry and says it is the pretending that he loves her and she loves him when his whole life has been a giant mistake. Paul asks who made the mistake -- Marissa?Karen?  Jesse then says look at you, you have a hard on now -- sexualizing Paul’s response. Then he apologizes. He asks if Paul thinks he has Tourette’s. Paul says no.

Jesse goes back to talking about Nate. Should I get a restraining order? No -- talk to him about why his calls upset you. Paul says Nate is interested in getting to know Jesse and that scares him. Paul says he makes up the homeless story every time he gets into an intimate relationship he steps into this homeless id so the “real” Jesse can’t be hurt. And he is on the verge of finding out where he comes from.

Are you going to call Karen? Paul says Jesse knew Marissa would fail the test of paying for RISD which would let him be angry and call Karen. He thinks Marissa will be glad for him to go.

Jesse walks out -- he says to Paul that his son is in for a world of hurt, that it  it takes one to know one and leaves.

Paul puts the shoes back.


Jesse, as is typical with adolescents, presents some real challenges in working with him. The task is to see between the provocations to the vulnerability he tries so hard to conceal. Paul seems to be able to pretty much avoid the trap of responding to the bait Jesse keeps throwing out and to be able to hold clearly in mind just how vulnerable this boy is. 

This week we see again how he uses sexual language with Paul to try to provoke him and then quickly backs down and tries to make light of it. Paul could have responded more to that but chose instead to interpret Jesse’s fabricated homeless identity as something he uses to hold himself out of intimate relationships. Jesse has to come to terms with the part of him that is homeless -- without the secure home of knowing and being with his biological family. He creates walls between himself and anyone who might actually want to get closer to him, as he does with Nate. Thought Paul did not pursue it, I suspect that on some level Jesse’s joking attempt to fix up Paul and his social worker is an unconscious effort to bring together the two people who actively care about him. They both take a piece of a parental role with him and despite all the noise he makes, he trusts them.

We can also surmise that Jesse was upset to see Paul’s son. Max belongs to Paul, with Paul in a way that Jesse does not belong to his adoptive father, to any man. Remember all of the aggression when Jesse picked up the bronzed shoes. But he can’t yet talk about what it is that he feels because I doubt he can allow himself to feel it. So he strikes out at Paul. Paul does well holding his ground through this. Jesse does aim an arrow at Paul at the end by telling Paul that his son is in for a world of hurt. Paul could have probed a bit to see how Jesse felt about seeing Max, though I doubt he would have gotten much about it. But we can see pretty clearly that Jesse has very strong feelings because of the aggression he shoes with the shoes.


© Cheryl Fuller, 2018. All  rights reserved.