‘Are you all right, doc?’ Bruno didn’t bother to shake my hand, but immediately sunk down in the easy chair on the other side of my desk.
‘Not bad,’ I said. ‘Yourself?’
‘I’m absolutely knackered. I’ve had a dreadful week.’ He looked downright miserable, too, with his legs stretched in front of him, his elbows propped out on the arms and his bald head between his high shoulders.
‘Would you like to tell me what happened?’ Last week we made a list of action points, and we were supposed to revise them this week, but if a patient comes in in such an emotional state, I always pay attention to it.
‘Everything is turning to shit, doc. It seems like I can’t do anything right.’
‘What happened that makes you feel that way?’ I asked.
‘It’s just that the whole world seems to be against me. Everything is turning to shit.’ When Bruno’s upset, he finds it very hard to be specific. The first time he came to see me, he managed not to tell me any fact at all. When I pointed this out to him at the end of the session, he looked at me in surprise and remarked: ‘but isn’t that what I’m here for, doc, to speak about my feelings?’
‘Remember, Bruno,’ I said, ‘bite sized problems are easier to handle. What exactly went wrong?’
‘Shit, I’m sorry, doc, I can’t even talk properly. Last Saturday, I took the car to go shopping, and I drove it into a parked van. For no bloody reason. I can’t believe how stupid I am.’
‘Was Charlotte there when it happened?’
‘Of course she was, we always do a big shop together on Saturday, like you told us to.’
‘So what happened exactly?’
‘It was very busy in the parking lot, and Charlotte was chatting shit constantly, when I saw a free spot. But from the other side of the aisle there was this Volvo 460 approaching. You know, one of those anti-social family cars, ugly as fuck and virtually indestructible. Which is why there’s so many of ‘em on the roads, still. Anyway, I thought, fuck it, I’m not gonna let you push me away! We had all the time in the world, but I just didn’t want that wanker to get to my spot first. So I pulled up quickly and dived right in.’ Bruno cupped his right hand around his forehead and sighed. ‘But well, perpendicular parking has always been my weak spot, so before I knew it, the front of the car was rammed in the side of that Ford Transit.’
‘So you lost your temper again?’ I asked.
‘Hell yeah. I tried not to, doc, really, that’s why I thought I should get that spot, so that I wouldn’t be aggravated with Charlotte. But of course she immediately started to take blame for it, saying that she shouldn’t have distracted me and such. Hell, she really did my nuts in! So I snapped at her, and then she wouldn’t sleep with me for a whole week.’
‘And how did that affect you?’
He pushed himself up in the chair and looked at me with his head slightly tilted. ‘I’m not gonna lie about this, doc. I can’t go too long without sex. I’ve been very irritable. I’ve been a downright arse.’
When Charlotte came into my office she looked a lot more cheerful than I had expected. ‘Bruno told me about the accident,’ I said when she sat down. She crossed her legs and folded her hands in her lap. ‘You don’t seem too affected by it.’
‘Why, should I?’ She looked surprised.
‘That’s up to you,’ I said. ‘Why don’t you tell me your side of the story?’
‘I really don’t think it’s that important,’ she said. ‘I’d much rather talk about my diet. Last week, I managed to eat properly every night. And in the course of the week I’ve weighed myself only twice. But I reckon I can give you a short account of the crash, if you wish.’
‘I’m glad to hear about that, Charlotte,’ I said, and pretended to make a note of it in my file. ‘But I really do think we should speak of the accident first.’
‘All right,’ she said, and tugged at her jacket. ‘We were heading to Sainsbury’s. I was just telling Bruno that my brother would drop by on Sunday, and I asked him if he could help me with the roast, when he started yelling at me that he had other plans for the weekend. He wanted to go fishing with Stuart, I think. And then he yanked at the steering wheel and drove into another car.’
‘So he lost his temper and then he drove into the van?’
‘And how did that make you feel?’
‘I don’t really care. Why, obviously it’s a shame about the car, but we’re insured for this sort of thing. And I figure it thought him a lesson about self-control, you know I mean?’
‘And what lesson is that?’ I observed her reaction closely. She blinked. Once, twice, three times. Then she swallowed and smiled a fake smile.
‘I know what you’re thinking, doctor Randle. You’re thinking I’ve got too much self-control, because I’m an anorexic. You’re thinking I should be more like Bruno, eating and acting on impulse. You’re on his side, because you’re a man.’
‘I’m not calling you stuck-up, Charlotte,’ I said when she paused to breathe. ‘Your words, not mine.’
‘Yeah, well, you were being terribly suggestive. By the way, I taught you weren’t even supposed to tell me what you’ve discussed with Bruno. Let alone demand that I tell you about the same incident. In all honesty, doctor Randle, I think you’re a very dodgy psychologist, and I do not feel the need to discuss anything else with you.’