Therapy Sessions
By: Walter Jones

Day turned into night.

Daydreams turned into nightmares.

Jason Powers yearned to end this routine, but for the past week, the process repeated itself daily. His stitched open right eye fixated on the whirling ceiling fan. He felt like gorilla glue clamped his left eye shut. He tossed like a rabid cat in the bed. He jumped to his feet, opened the bedroom door and gazed on Taylor, his ten–year–old daughter.

"Why are you at my door, daddy?" she asked.

"Just making sure that you are safe," Jason answered.

"You were just here a few minutes ago."

"I'm sorry Taylor," he said. "Go back to sleep."

Jason returned to the bedroom and kissed his wife, Peg on her cheek. "Having trouble sleeping Jason?" Peg asked.

"Yes, a little," Jason responded.

He opened the medicine cabinet, yanked out the Zoloft and gulped down three. The therapist said that he should take his anxiety and depression medication as prescribed. Maybe, he thought, a few extra would help him sleep. Tonight, he would break the cycle and wake up rested in the morning. He would have breakfast with his wife before she went to work and his daughter before she went to school.

Instead, he drifted into the same nightmare.

His lanky body laid frozen on an oak renaissance park bench. The rain that drizzled during the warm spring night mixed with the drool from his mouth and dripped to the glistening morning grass. The orange sun climbing in the sky burst a ray of light over his slim unshaven face and woke him up.

Numerous sightseers strolled on the well–kept plush green, and robust trail that led them around the bench. Most stared, then ambled pass his lifeless body. Others shook their heads in disgust.

"Look Mom. there's a bum," a ten–year–old girl exclaimed.

His mother grabbed her hand and steered him through the quacking glossy green and grey– brown ducks towards safety. He staggered down the road in the small quiet Pennsylvania suburban town. A police car headed in the opposite direction, eased up next to him, and the officer on the passenger's side rolled down the window. Sweat rolled down the side of his puffed cheeks. He sped up to a near trot.

"I recognize you," the officer said. "You're Jason Powers, the basketball player."

He stopped. He flashed a seething glance at the officer.

"How's the leg?" the officer asked.

Now he remembered. He no longer played basketball because he had torn his Achilles.

"You never recovered from that injury, did you?" the officer probed.

He never recovered. His once promising career ended in the high school championship game when teammates helped him off the court while the fans cheered. He could have made millions and not be living in a small apartment.

"A lot of kids don't make it to the NBA," the officer said. "Don't hang out on these streets. Pick yourself up. Get a job. Try to make something of yourself."

After the car drove away, he continued to walk through the streets. He wobbled through the flower beds that decorated a red brick home with blue siding. A woman stepped out of a white encore Buick.

"Peg!" he yelled She did not notice him as she disappeared into the house. He peered into the window and saw Peg kissing another man. Taylor ran off the school bus and joined the two of them. Peg hugged Taylor first. "Daddy," the girl said as she and the man hugged one another.

He rushed into the house. "Who are you?" he asked as he confronted the man.

"I should be asking you that question," the man responded. The two came toe to toe and were about to exchange blows.

"I'm going to kill you," he yelled.

The nightmare dissolved, He sat in the converted room in a house that was now psychologist's therapy office.

"Welcome, Mr. Powers," Dr. Savage said. Dr. Nicole Savage bore an uncanny resemblance to the woman with the child in the park. She tapped her roller pen on the mahogany desk. "Are you having your dreams again?"

He surveyed the room. He locked in on a picture of Dr. Savage, her husband and daughter. It reminded him of his own family.

"Hello, Mr. Powers. Is there anyone in there listening?" Dr. Savage asked.

"I saw them at a nice suburban house," he answered. "Peg was coming home from work and Taylor ran off the school bus. There was another man. Peg is married to another man."

"That's not your family, Mr. Powers. Your family, Peg and Taylor are at home waiting for you. I have a message from Peg on my phone."

Jason is missing. He should have been home over two hours ago.

"Have you been taking your medication?"

"I have missed sometimes, but for the most part, I have taken them."

"I am going to change your medication to Seroquel and Risperidone." Dr. Savage scribbled her signature on a prescription. "And I am going to invite Peg to one of our sessions. I think that will help you a lot."

"I don't need different medications. I'm not hallucinating."

"Maybe not but try the medication. At least it will help you sleep better."

Taylor ran towards him as he entered the apartment. She hugged his knees while a large Cheshire grin graced her face.

"Daddy, where have you been?"

Peg had the dinner – chicken, macaroni, and greens, on the table. "I will have to reheat it," she said. "Dear, we are going to have to talk. I can't take it anymore. You are coming home late. Your job called and said that you have not been into work for two days and if you miss another day, you will have to provide a doctor's excuse."

"Who are you?"

"Why, I'm your wife," Peg answered.

"If you are my wife, why is there a family living in my house?"

"This is your home. It may only be an apartment, but it is our home. There is no other family," Peg answered. "This is your family. I'm your wife and Taylor is your daughter. Any other family is just your imagination." Peg watched Jason as he inspected the food before he took small bites.

"Daddy why weren't you here when I came home from school?" Taylor asked as she ended the silence.

"I saw the real Taylor get off the school bus."

"I'm the real Taylor. There must be someone pretending to be me."

"Maybe. I'm just not sure anymore."

That night started out the same as those during the past week. He couldn't sleep. The man in the other house with his family preoccupied his thoughts. This man had stolen his family, yet another woman who called herself Peg presently slept next to him. He got up from the bed and headed to the living room. There were multiple pictures of him with Peg and Taylor. There were pictures of him playing basketball and individual pictures of Peg and Taylor. This could be his family he thought. It must be his real family. Why would the pictures be there? He turned on the television. Two headlines caught his attention:

Police in Philadelphia have clashed with protesters after an officer fatally shot a black man who was suspected of carrying a gun. The average salary for an NBA has increased to 8 million dollars a year.

He returned to the bedroom.

"Hard night sleeping again?" Peg asked.

"Very hard," Jason responded.

The visit to Dr. Savage's office was different than the first time. Peg reclined in a chair across from him.

"Mr. Powers as you can see your real wife is alive and well," Dr. Savage said.

"She's not Peg. I saw Peg at the house."

"That is impossible Mr. Powers. The other Peg is in your dream. The real Peg is here. You were with her at night. You ate dinner with her. She is your wife. You have no other wife, no other daughter, and no other family. "

"Jason, what are you doing to us?" Peg cried. "I am your wife."

That evening he sat at the dinner table with Peg and Taylor. The sharpened knife that Peg used to slice the ham obsessed him.

"Your job called again," Peg said. "They want to know when you are coming back."

"Where do I work?"

"You are scaring me Jason," Peg responded. "You work in the maintenance department at the school district."

Another night of restless sleep.

He headed to the kitchen, opened the kitchen utensil drawer and yanked out a knife. He twirled it in his hand then sliced it through the air. He heard Taylor moving.

"Daddy what are you doing in the kitchen?" Taylor asked.

"Just getting something to eat."

He waited for the toilet to flush before he headed back to the bedroom. He carried the knife in his hand as he crept through the rooms. He inched open Taylor's door and briefly gazed at her. He did not enter the room. Then he went into the room with Peg. He continued to carry the knife in his hand as he stood over her. She turned over to her right side.

"You are not my wife," Jason said to himself. "Who are you?"

Jason dozed off to sleep and woke up on the same park bench. He dragged himself to the same house where the man lived with his family. He tightly gripped the knife.

"Who are you?" he asked when the two confronted one another again on the back deck of the house.

"I should be asking you that question," the man responded.

"I'm really going to kill you this time," Jason yelled.

The two came toe to toe and were about to exchange blows. Jason plunged the blade of the knife into the man's stomach. Blood gushed on the wooden deck. A bullet from a police officer's gun blasted through Jason's head. He crumbled to the deck.

Jason laid on a bed in a hospital room.

"I'm sorry," Dr. Savage said to Peg. "I thought the medication would work."

The physician wrote down some notes. He's lived a lot longer than anyone could have expected. He won't be alive much longer now that we have taken him off life support, Mrs. Powers."

"Thanks for all you have done," Peg said. She got into the car parked outside the hospital. A man, the man in Jason's dreams, opened the door for her. Taylor waited in the back seat of the car.

"Mommy is Daddy ever coming home?"

"No, daddy will never live with us again."

The family drove off down the road to the nice house in the suburbs.

The End


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