Week 6: Jesse

Jesse is in the waiting room wearing a gold crown. A girl leaves Paul’s office and he asks her what’s wrong -- she says she has an eating disorder. He tells her Paul is his uncle and is taking him out for dinner. He says is is from Milwaukee when she asks him what school he goes to. Then he tells her he thinks she is beautiful just the way she is.


Jesse is with Paul and singing happy birthday to himself. He says now he is 17 and he is at the age of consent in New York state. Paul wishes him happy birthday. Jesse asks what happened last week, did his son set the house on fire. Paul says it was just an accident. Jesse wants to know if Max is all right and Paul says yes. Paul asks why he ran off. He says he shouldn’t have been there, that Paul should have run him off when he showed up. Then he asks Paul why he became a therapist. Paul says because he wanted to help people. Jesse asks if he is a good therapist. Paul asks if there is a way he could be better for him. Jesse says he doesn’t know what the point is, do people become happy? Paul says happy isn’t always the point. So Jesse tells him about running into the girl in the waiting room and asks what he is telling her? Paul says he is trying to help her see why she sees herself that way. And that what he thinks doesn’t really matter; it is what she thinks. Jesse says that sounds like the guys who sell fake watches. Paul says objects and people are worth what we ascribe to them.

Jesse sighs and says he got an email from Kevin. That Kevin says is it was a mistake to contact Jesse prematurely, that they won’t again but will wait for him to contact them. Jesse claims to feel nothing about it. Jesse says it is over, they don’t want him to get in touch with them. And on his birthday. He sits on the floor and picks up the crown again. Jesse asks how long Paul thinks he will live -- Paul says 80 or so. Jesse says that means he has to make it through another 63 years. Paul tells him he won’t always feel the way he feels now. Jesse says you mean it will get better? Paul says yes. Jesse says he has always felt this way. Paul asks what he means. Jesse describes a friend of his who had a huge nose even when he was little -- yet he is always happy and people like him. Jesse says it always confused him until he met his dad -- and then he understood because the dad has the same nose. And his mother is beautiful and they seem like the perfect family. Barrett looks just like his dad and his dad is happy so why shouldn’t he be happy. Jesse says he used to spend hours looking in the mirror trying to tell if he was handsome and it depended on what people had said to him. Paul asks if he saw himself when he looked at the faces of Karen and Kevin. Yes, and they looked rich and happy -- until they kicked him out. Paul asks is that he how he remembers it. He says yes. Paul says when he heard the story of Barrett, he was remembering Jesse said he was willing to donate his kidney to his brother. Paul says he seems to believe that happiness is passed down as a contract between father and son and maybe he thought if he gave his kidney they would have to be his parents and recognize him as one of them. Jesse says probably yes and thanks, without conviction,. Paul says Kevin has left the door open. But Jesse sees it as a rejection. Jesse says if he had wanted to maintain a connection with him he shouldn’t have given him up for adoption. He takes off his sweater and curls up on the couch.

Paul asks if he has plans for his birthday. He says he plans to go to the Marriott in Times Square and ride the glass elevators. Paul asks if he is going alone or asking someone to go with him. Jesse says nobody. He would like to ask Nate but hasn’t talked to him since he beat him up. He is sure Nate hates him. Paul asks if he remembers what happened before the punch. 

Jesse asks why they don’t want him in their lives? Is he that awful, he asks? Paul says no. Then why don’t they want him? He is Kevin’s son and he kicked him put of their house, Paul says he was frightened, Jesse was high and very emotional. Paul says he has been fantasizing about them all of his life, thinking they would be his saviors and now he has met them, he learns they are ordinary people and that is disappointing. Jesse says he doesn’t want to be anywhere or talk to anyone. He wants to disappear. He gets up and goes to the window and sits there. He looks very young and sad. Paul moves closer. He says he is not supposed to tell him what to do but he is going to. He tells him to go home to the people who love him. He says he can’t. He says he is going to RISD-- they want to set up an interview. Roberto gave him money for his birthday and he is going to use it for a train ticket. He says he is going to show them the pictures he took in Westchester and tell them the story. Paul says and hope they will want to take him in and appreciate and embrace him. Paul asks if he sees what he is doing, Paul says he needs to stay there and deal with it. That it will never go away but it will lessen and he will be stronger. 

Jesse asks how Max is. Paul says fine. Is he still there? Paul tells him he went back to live with his mother. He asks Paul if he would like to come with him to a special place on the waterfront for his birthday. Paul asks why he doesn’t ask Roberto. Jesse says he can’t that Paul doesn’t get it. Paul says he does. Jesse asks if the session is over. Paul says yes. Jesse asks if he wants him to leave. Paul says not alone and would like permission to call his mother and father to pick him up. Jesse says please don’t, just give him a few minutes. Jesse says he was looking forward to this all week.


Now the full force of his birth parents’ rejection of him is hitting Jesse hard. He comes back several times to why they didn’t want him. His confusion and feelings of abandonment are palpable. And, painful though they are, he has to feel them to find his way through them. He is giving us a great example of Guntrip’s observation is that we usually prefer to be bad rather than weak, that is to assume that it is something about us that causes people to not love or want us rather than face that we have no control over how others feel. Jesse keeps asking what is wrong with him, because if he can figure that out, there is a hope he can change and then the people he wants to love and want him will, and will in the way he wants them to. Working through this is very painful. We see how Jesse starts by telling the girl Paul is his uncle so she wont know he too is a patient -- because he wants to be special to Paul. And then he wants RISD to want him to replace or make up for Kevin and Karen not living up to his fantasy. And then again at the end wants Paul to be with him on his birthday, this day he had looked forward to all week. Anything to avoid having to be with his parents, the people who adopted him and want him, because they are not he people who abandoned him and he is not really ready to forgive them for that.

I share Paul’s concern about not letting Jesse leave alone He is very depressed and it is his birthday and I would be concerned that he might act out in some way to harm himself, either by direct action or by making a casual and potentially dangerous hook-up with someone. But we don’t see how Jesse actually leaves. Jesse is so vulnerable right now and adolescents can so easily act out impulsively. Forcing the issue with Jesse quite likely would result in him bolting, so this is something for Paul to consider in threading his way through the concern about letting Jesse be alone.

© Cheryl Fuller, 2018. All  rights reserved.