Splinter In Your Eye

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“Why do you think you are a loser, Lin?”

Lin Christakis sank down in the round chair, and for a moment she thought of throwing Gerard out of her room. 

Even if her mother had paid for a psychiatrist to come home to them it didn’t mean Lin was obligated to answer stupid questions, especially when it was Gerard Lithgow. 

“I don’t think,” Lin said, “I know.”

Doctor Lithgow scribbled another note on her pad and then leaned back on the office chair that he had taken from Lin’s desk.

“When I look at all this,” he said, “your room—with all the classic books, magazines, even comics—I see the room of someone who is not a loser. Few girls your age have read a 10th of what you have here.” He pointed to a stack of papers on the table between them. “Few have even dared write their own books, although many say they have.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Lin said.

“Why can’t you focus on all those things, you have?” doctor Lithgow asked, looking over his big round glasses, “you focus continually on the one thing you don’t have. One thing.”

“And what is that?” Lin said, her hands holding tight onto the bamboo frame of the round chair.

“Your sense of not being good enough. It is like that troll in the Hans Christian Andersen tale that puts a splinter in your eye, making you unable to see clearly—to see what everyone else sees. Look, the shock of losing a parent can often be—”

“I’ll tell you what is clear,” Lin said, not waiting for him to finish. “It is clear that all of this is bullshit.” 

She felt far away now. She felt the Eyes on her. Not fucked up Gerard’s eyes. 

Some other Eyes …

Gerard frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Here.” Lin found the remote beside the paper stack and turned on the television, which was perched above her bed in the far end of the big attic room. “I’ve got it on tape.”

And on it was. Once the VHS video player on the shelf below Lin’s TV came to life, the bald, grinning head of Sky Flight Records owner, J. D. Hetchler, emerged from the static. He had been taped in the middle of an interview with the local News 5:

“—and I can tell you it makes me extremely proud to support The Power of Music Program by highlighting the talent Cleveland has to offer. We’re the home of rock and roll a lot more than anything else …”

“Will you be looking favorably upon the young band from Cleveland who is going to play at Star Searchers, then?” the interviewer, a 30-something woman, asked.

Hetchler laughed heartily. “I’m not the only judge, but I can tell you that when I give my opinion it is based on the merits of those young guys, what they can do on stage—not anything else. I’m only here, as a native son of Cleveland, to help create some buzz around the Power of Music program, which is a great, great initiative, and I would also like to thank the generous sponsors behind

Lin turned it off.

“Why have you taped that?” Gerard asked. He put down his pad on the table.

“Isn’t it obvious?”

“It isn’t to me,” he said, trying to look straight at Lin, but Lin was looking at the table.

Doctor Lithgow’s notepad looked small beside Lin’s eternally growing manuscript for her first novel, but to Lin, it looked as if the novel was a bunch of leaves that could be blown away by the wind at any moment, whereas the doctor’s pad looked like a brick.

“Lars Anestad and his friends are going to be in that competition,” Lin said. “They are not losers. They are going somewhere.”

“You can go somewhere, too,” Gerard said, “whatever that means to you.”

“No, I can’t. I will never finish my novel and if I do it won’t be good enough.”

“What about that game of roleplaying you talked about?” the doctor asked. “You were writing adventures—scenarios— for that, too.”

Lin dismissed it with a wave of her hand. “It’s nothing. It’s even more nothing than my book. Everything I do is nothing.”

“If you feel that way because your father died—” Gerard started, but again Lin broke him off.

“It’s got nothing to do with my father. I have always felt this way—always. And that’s because it’s true.”

Gerard frowned again and genuinely looked like he didn’t want to be there any longer, no matter what Lin’s mother had done to persuade him, aside from paying his considerable fee.

“Okay, Lin, but before we end the session for today, I’d like to ask you one question.”

“I can’t stop you,” Lin said, looking into the growing darkness that she saw in all corners of her room now. She decided to concentrate on it. She would not be afraid.

It was in the middle of the day and outside a new magnesium white layer of snow covered the park-like lawns around the Christakis mansion. But that didn’t matter to the darkness …

But Gerard Lithgow’s final question stopped Lin’s attempt to escape into the darkness.  

Lin felt herself floating in the eternal twilight, only she could see, looking down at the white of the lawn, thinking about what it would feel like to lie down in the white cold, and then … she was pulled back by the question. The only question she really feared.

“Lin, is there one thing—or person—who makes you feel worth something?”

Lin swallowed.

“Carrie,” she whispered.

Gerard nodded, picking up her pad again. “We’ve talked about her before. She is very important to you.”

“She is,” Lin said, her voice still faint. “I would do anything for her, only I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“She doesn’t want … well, I have money, you see …”

“She doesn’t want money from you? Gifts?”

“She is poor,” Lin said, “dirt-poor, in fact. But too proud.” Lin smiled. “I love that about her.”

“What have you been trying to do for Carrie?” the doc asked, formulating every word with precision.

“I’ve been trying to help her not become a loser, like me.”

“Oh?”

Lin stood up. “She feels like me, but for reasons that can be dealt with. She is talented—she draws. She has a good heart. And she is not rotten inside like me.”

“Don’t say that.”

“I just did.” Lin looked coldly at the doctor. “Is this all for today?”

“I guess it is,” Gerard sighed and stood up, too. He picked up his attaché case, which had been left on Lin’s bed, and then he put the notepad in it and closed it. “If you want, I will come by next Saturday, but …”

“But what?” Lin stood rigidly watching the doctor. She wanted Gerard to disappear in the darkness. That would hurt her mother, too. 

And he would never come back from that darkness. Only Lin had been able to. So far.

“Are you trying to prevent Carrie from becoming a ‘loser’—by playing match-maker between her and Lars Anestad?” Gerard posed the question as if he had just remembered to ask what Lin might have for lunch.

“Get out,” Lin said. “And never come back.”

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