Week 4: Jesse

Jesse rummages in his backpack as Paul asks how his week was. He says kind of weird. Then he tells Paul he got a letter from his birth father -- Paul has a big sneeze which he says is an allergy. Paul asks when it arrived and Jesse says a few days ago. He says he married his birth mother. They got pregnant when they were 17, broke up and got together again after college and married. He says he wrote on Karen’s behalf because she is depressed that he has not responded to the phone call. He wants Jesse to respond and let them know if he will contact them. And he says he loves Jesse. Jesse is angry and says he thinks they may be assholes. And he may be getting a B in algebra, which he says is a miracle. Paul asks if he studied for the test and he says yes, Roberto helped him. Paul says Jesse must have told him about the suspension. He says Roberto thought it was no big deal. Paul says he thought Jesse was nervous about how he would react but Jesse says he was cool. He told him about Nate and why it happened. Paul gropes for the right term and Jesse mocks him. He says no he did not tell him what Nate was doing. He wants to know why Paul won’t leave it alone and let it be a nice thing that his dad helped him and he got a B.

Paul goes back to the letter. He asks what his father’s name is. Jesse says Kevin. He thinks it is inappropriate for them to contact him and to want in to his life when other people have raised him. He has one set of parents and that is enough. Paul asks if maybe they are seeking some other relationship like friendship. Paul asks if he told his parents about the letter. He says he wrote a response. In his letter he says Karen’s call distressed his parents and he does not want to be in contact with them and asks that they not contact him at his home and he signs it with his full name. He says he took an Adderall to write it and he thinks it came out well. Paul notes it is pretty formal. Jesse says he is smart and wants them to know it. He thinks Paul doesn’t like the letter. 

Paul asks what about the week was weird, besides the letter. Jesse says Marissa was weird. She didn’t get out of bed and when he asked, she said she was sick and asked him to close the door. He and she have not talked at all about Karen’s phone call. Marissa told Roberto and he blew up and said it was inappropriate and he wanted to call the cops. Jesse says he had never seem him that angry. Jesse says he used to try to make Roberto angry when he was younger.  Now Jesse claims to understand why Roberto withdrew a bit from him, that he was overwhelmed with work and family demands. Paul asks him what he feels about Roberto’s response to the letter. Jesse liked it because he feels he cares. Jesse is furious with the birth parents because they haven’t earned a relationship with him. And Roberto and Marissa have earned that. Paul asks if he thinks he was difficult to raise and he says yes, he has ADD and is a slut. Paul asks how did Roberto react to Kevin’s letter -- Jesse says he didn’t tell him after the way he reacted to learning about the phone call. Jesse puts his head in his hands. Paul suggests he is feeling a lot of pressure -- how is the static and Jesse says it is very loud.  Jesse thinks Kevin is left-handed like he is because of smudge marks on the letter. He shows the letter to Paul. Then he sees how similar the handwriting is on both. He is distressed and asks what he should do with that information. Paul asks how it feels. Jesse asks if Paul thinks Kevin looks like him. Paul says maybe you look like Karen. Paul says he thinks he is still interested in a private relationship with Karen and Kevin but Roberto’s reaction shows he cares about him and so he is caught between them -- if he reaches out to the birth parents, he will lose Marissa and Roberto. 

Then he says Paul was wrong about Marissa and the Church. He went into Marissa’s room and saw Marissa in the closet on her knees and praying. Paul says she is scared. That she is afraid he is slipping away from her and she turns to her religion for comfort. Maybe she is afraid he will think she is choosing the Church over him.

Jesse says he can’t believe they married each other. What is their house like? Paul suggests they talk more about the letter next week. And think about he wants to respond to them.  Jesse says okay and that he thinks it will all be okay for some reason. Paul says good and Jesse leaves. Jesse asks him to keep the letters.  He is afraid Marissa would find it in his bag. Jesse leaves.


I don’t know about you, but I feel a lot of relief about Jesse this week. His bristly defensive anger was far less in evidence and he was able to allow Paul to see some of his vulnerability. It can be very difficult to make empathic connection with teenagers when they get caught in their very real need to assert their independence at the same time that they need to be cared for. Jesse allowed Paul in enough to be able to let down a little and we see the result in how he feels at the end.

What Paul was able to do this week was help Jesse to have a more nuanced attitude toward both sets of parents, to begin to entertain the idea that Marissa and Roberto care about him and their reactions stem from that caring and to begin to consider how he might want to connect with his birth parents. This is a big step from his very either/or thinking of previous weeks and early in the session. And this builds on the relationship Paul has with Jesse which we know began before we met Jesse this season. 

Jesse has yet to face squarely into how much it hurts to now know his birth parents gave him up and then married. that their lives have gone on without him, leaving him to wrestle with how it feels to be abandoned by his parents. Today is the first time we can see that he is attached to Roberto and Marissa, fragile though that attachment may be at times. In instances like this, there are psychic wounds all over the place -- the adoptive parents and their inability to have a biological child and their fears about birth parents appearing and snatching their child away from them. The birth parents desire for the child they gave up and wanting somehow for that to have turned out well. And Jesse's issues of abandonment  by his birth parents and fears that he cannot have a relationship with both the birth parents and his adoptive parents. And these wounds will not heal quickly.

I have no idea what the very first part of the episode is about, why Paul was sniffing the herb bottles but I trust it will make sense when we see the next episode with Adele.

© Cheryl Fuller, 2018. All  rights reserved.