Week 5: Jesse

Paul and Jesse are making pancakes. Paul asks him how school is. Paul asks if he misses his friends and Max says he will make new ones. Then he asks how things are going with Steve, is he growing on him? Paul says he wonders what kind of guy he is. There is a knock at the door. Jesse is there. Jesse says he needs to see him tonight. Paul says he doesn’t do that. Jesse swears. Paul asks what is going on. Jesse says he went to see his birth parents and they kicked him out of their house. Paul tells Max he needs to see Jesse and will be with him in few minutes. Max looks startled.

Paul asks Jesse what happened. Jesse says he called Kevin after the session and he said would come to them to see them. Paul asked why he felt it so urgent to see them. Jesse accusing him of thinking he made a mistake. They were supposed to meet that day at 6. So he took an early train and it took just an hour to get there. He saw kids in the front yard and he thought it must be the wrong house. And then he thought they belonged to the neighbors so he looked at them through the zoom lens of his camera but he felt sick to his stomach so he went looking for a diner. He walked around for a couple of hours and went back. They were gone, the kids were gone. All evidence of them was gone. A chalk drawing on the driveway was gone and the driveway was wet. He rang the bell and Kevin answered. Paul asks what he was like -- blonde and tall. They looked rich. She has nice legs and was wearing stockings and has a round face. He looked like a good guy and has a wink. Paul asks if they invited him in. Jesse says they put out oreos and milk like a commercial. Paul asks if he felt patronized and he says yes, that he was starving so he hate half the package. He was looking around the room for signs of other kids. The outlets were childproof. They held hands the whole time and looked at him like he was going to set their house on fire. Then 10 minutes later they asked him to leave. He says he can’t believe he got dressed up to see them. Jesse says he knows they were their kids. He knows because he saw a bar by the toilet for handicapped people. He unzips his back pack and takes out his camera and shows Paul -- one kid was in a wheelchair. Jesse says now he knows why they got in contact with him. He says the kid in the wheelchair looks just like him and he thinks they want his blood or something from him. Paul asks why he thinks the child is dying. Jesse asks why else they did  they get in touch with him and they eliminated all signs of the kids. Paul asks him about the conversation. Jesse says he doesn’t remember what they said. Jesse says he was stoned. He says he got  high while he was walking around. Paul asks why they asked him to leave. Jesse says he thinks it has something to do with RISD. Paul asks if he asked them for money. Jesse says he asks if they could work out a deal -- a summer for something from him and they said nothing, Kevin offered to drive him to the station and Jesse leaves.

Paul says he is frustrated with him, that he deliberately sabotaged the meeting by testing them the way he did, that he hurts the people who care about him so he can conclude he is unlovable. Was he testing Paul too to see if he cared about him. Jesse yells at him that Paul fucked up his life by taking his advice and he screams he can go back to Max.

Paul sees Jesse on the stoop and goes to him and sits next to him. He says his birth parents made a mistake by not telling him he has siblings but he doesn’t know what their intentions were. Jesse cries and says he ruins everything, his whole life. Paul says he is just 17 and hasn’t ruined his whole life. Jesse asks what is wrong with him. Paul asks how old Kevin and Karen when he was born -- Jesse says 17. Like he is. Paul says what if they gave him up because they were just too young. Then Paul hears the smoke alarm and runs inside to find smoke and the pan on fire and Max apologizes. He hugs Max and goes to see if Jesse is still there but he is gone.


As in other seasons, Paul often shines with teenagers. He engages them with more energy than he does adults and seems to be able to form stronger empathic connections with them. When a patient like Jesse shows up as he did, even though it is outside of office hours, it is not an error to agree to see him, at least briefly. An adult would likely call rather than appear like Jesse does, but Jesse is a kid and acts impulsively. It is also quite probable that on an unconscious level, Jesse was testing the limits of Paul’s care for him. 

Doesn’t your heart go out to Jesse? In addition to all the usual confusions and miseries of adolescence, Jesse is struggling with why his birth parents gave him up. He cannot help but wonder what was wrong with him, especially when he sees that they have a child with a disability that they obviously kept. That why-me is mixed in with a lot of anger that they abandoned him to be raised by Marissa and Roberto, who love him but he is not theirs in the way he wants to be. Jesse has to deal with the ways his birth parents do not match his fantasies of them and what they are like and what his life would have been had they kept him. They too have to deal with the differences between their fantasy child given up so long ago and the and the real Jesse sitting in their kitchen. 

And what about Max? He looked anxious when making the pancakes and when Paul tells him he must see Jesse. We see awkwardness in the relationship between the two of them. 

© Cheryl Fuller, 2018. All  rights reserved.