Week 3: Jesse

Jesse is in the waiting room with Marissa. He is playing with a paper airplane and wearing sunglasses. Paul comes out and Jesse takes off his glasses. Jesse says she came, just like you wanted. He greets Marissa and she returns the greeting. Paul suggests Jesse come in alone first to discuss how to proceed. Jesse said he knows Paul wanted her there so he’s cool.


Jesse looks rather sullen sitting on the far end of the couch away from Marissa -- he has pillows between them. She tells Paul Jesse got beat up at school. Jesse doesn’t tell what happened. She tells Paul he was jumped in the men’s room at the Whitney when they were on a class trip. Jesse interrupts and tells her Paul has something to tell her. Marissa says the school suspended Jesse which she thinks is wrong. Jesse denies it was an attack, that he knew the attacker. Jesse had not told Marissa that. Paul asks if it was Nate. Jesse had let Nate know that his class was going to the Whitney. Nate suggested they meet in the men’s room. They went into one of the stalls and kissed. Jesse clearly wants to make Marissa uncomfortable by describing the scene in graphic detail. Nate said he missed Jesse and Jesse sloughed that off. He insulted Nate and Nate began hitting him. Jesse claims it felt good. Marissa reaches to him, Jesse pulls away and tells her not to touch him. Marissa thinks the school acted as they did because he is gay. She defends him and he disdainfully insults her. Paul tells him he cannot talk to his mother like that in his office. Marissa thanks paul.


Paul asks why Marissa came with Jesse that day. She says he told her Paul wanted her to. Paul asks if there is anything she wants to say to Jesse. She asks isn’t there something Paul wants to tell her? Jesse looks to Paul to tell Marissa about the birth mother. Paul does not do it. 


 Paul suggests that in the week Jesse is suspended, the time is there for him to tell his parnets some things. Marissa says he could tell his father. Jesse is surprised he didn’t know. Marissa says both of them are worried about Jesse, about him getting into college. Then Jesse angrily says he is going to Westchester where his birth mother lives and tells Marissa that Karen wants him back. Marissa is upset and wonders if that is why Paul wanted her to come. Marissa says clearly they have a lot to discuss and she would be in the way. Paul tries to get her to say. She leaves.


Jesse looks upset and a bit sullen. He says he told Paul that she didn’t care about him. Paul asks if that is the way they usually interact. Paul says Jesse was angry and abusive. Jesse denies and then admits he is angry. His social worker says that bringing his mother is a condition of his suspension. 


Paul asks what was in the pictures Jesse took of the family that he mentioned last week -- why did Marissa hate them. He asks Jesse who gave him the camera. Jesse says Roberto. Jesse tells of  being at the beach with his parents and photographing two men and then finding a rusty nail and deliberately stepping on it. One of the men was calm and helpful and took Jesse to the hospital and they spent the day together until Roberto found him -- he had told Peter, the man from the beach, that he was an orphan. Paul asks if that was the first time he made up a story about his parents and he says yes. Jesse showed his pictures at school -- Marissa asked teacher to take the photos down because the men weren’t part of the family. The teacher told Jesse the photos were good. Did Roberto see them? No, but Marissa told him. Why does Jesse think that?  Because he changed toward Jesse, he says. He stopped taking him to Coney Island and stopped driving him to school. Jesse says Roberto hasn’t really spoken to him in 4 years. Paul reflects that Roberto shut out Jesse. And asks why he think he did that. Jesse is certain it is because he is gay. Paul says maybe he suddenly seemed different from Roberto and maybe that was why -- Jesse is an artist and he didn’t understand. Paul says he sometimes has trouble understanding Max because he is an artist. Paul tells Jesse he sees Marissa defending him -- Jesse protests that she is pretending and hates him because he is gay. Paul says he saw a woman who does not how to talk with Jesse and yes, they let him down. And now Karen’s call and Jesse is afraid that they will pull away from him again. Paul says Jesse is upset that Marissa left. Paul says he spoke to the social worker  that morning and she said nothing about wanting his mother to come. Paul says it was Jesse who wanted her to come. 


Jesse is silent. Paul asks what is happening in him then -- he says static. Then he says he bets she is at church because she loves church and he used to go with her every Sunday when he was little. She stopped going after Jesse came out -- he says because she was too ashamed. Paul asks if it might be that she was no longer willing to support a church that won’t include her son. He says no. Jesse cannot take in the possibility  that Marissa  looks and sighs at the church because she misses it so he imagines she went there and wants to get back in. 


Paul asks if he has heard more from Karen and has he thought about calling her back. Jesse says that is all he ever thinks about and he leaves.




Jesse managed to ambush Marissa this week despite Paul’s efforts. I am puzzled that he didn’t insist on talking with Jesse before they invited Marissa in to the session rather than letting Jesse set it up as he did. 


It is very clear that Jesse is defining himself as someone no one wants or cares about and thus blinds himself to any efforts by Marissa especially to show him care or concern. Striking out at her as he does is not all that unusual with teenagers, who desperately want that care at the same time they are trying to be independent and pull away. Under the best of circumstances this can be very trying for parents and teens. With Jesse this is compounded by his sexuality and the inability of his parents to talk about this with him. So Jesse is able to decide that they hold the same condemnatory attitudes toward him that the Church does and perhaps that on some level Jesse himself holds. So he cannot see anything that Marissa or Roberto do as indicating that they love him. 


The knot that he has to find his way through is a knot common for adopted children -- what was so bad about me that my mother gave me away? Because so long as it was something bad about the child, there is the possibility that he can find what that is and change it and somehow undo it all, which in its own way is less painful that recognizing that it wasn’t anything he did or about him, but a choice over which he never had or will have any power. It isn’t only adopted children who encounter this. Many of us unconsciously prefer to be bad rather than weak.


I want to think that had Paul started the session with just Jesse things might have gone better, but that may be wishful thinking on my part. He did set a limit on how Jesse could talk to his mother in his office but not before Jesse had managed to find his target in her. Not knowing what Jesse wanted from this and not discussing it with him before inviting Marissa in allowed Jesse to go at Marissa in the way that he did and Paul must carry some responsibility for that.

© Cheryl Fuller, 2018. All  rights reserved.