The room was brightly lit, too brightly for his taste. It was almost dazzling, especially with the walls being white, as well as the desk he was sitting at. Even the skin of the man before him was palish, his bald head yet another one of countless sources of reflection for the light. Maxim felt like he had just walked into a mirror chamber. Maybe that was the intention here, creating a situation where he gazed upon his own self everywhere he'd look or upon his own reflection, at least. Create another incentive to reflect on himself, some sort of subconscious trickery. Well, if that was the intention, it wasn't working, especially now that he had pondered about it that much. Just one more reason for him to feel like he was at the wrong place.
The man before him cleared his throat, adjusting his glasses with his right hand. That was a spectacle--- 'something' he was wearing, he didn't know the English term for it. String maybe, or cord. Spectacle string, was that it? Either way, it looked silly. Usually, Maxim could have appreciated such a rare piece of accessory, for its uniqueness alone, but with this person, each and everything related to him just served for him to be put off even further. A psychologist, someone who made a living by looking into other people's heads and then conceiving an image of his own, like he was dissecting that person's brain. It was just so...grotesque, that's how he felt about it.
"So, Mister, uh...Keylenbrank? Is that how your name is pronounced? Or should I simply call you Maxim, what do you prefer?"
The man smiled at him, showing off a set of straight white teeth. Of course. Had to demonstrate how he was a perfect human being, superior in every way. This person had it all figured out, how life worked, what one had to do to master it. Goddamn ridiculous. And to top it off, he didn't even know how to pronounce his name, his own client's name correctly. Not like him calling him Maxim helped much, he had managed to pronounce that incorrectly as well. Again, this did not bode well for any hope he had regarding the man's competence.
"Just refer to me as 'you', that should do. In Germany, even this would be a problem, we have different terms for a formal and informal 'you.' It is more convenient in your language, I will admit as much."
Maxim stroked his chin for a second, letting his gaze wander through the room. It was just so empty, so devoid of anything he could distract himself with. Again, maybe that was the point. Probably not, though. He was in no way ready to accept or even consider the possibility that this man was in possession of that much foresight. "And by the way, no, that is not how my name is pronounced. Neither of them."
The doctors reaction was different than he had expected. His smile did not fade, not even an irritated blink or a frown came from him, nothing. He simply kept up the same facial expression, it was almost eerie to witness. In fact, his smile only seemed to get wider. Was he amused by him? Thinking something along the lines of 'How amusing, this little foreigner trying to act all grown-up et cetera.' Probably not, realistically speaking. A man like that should have known better, after all. Then again, he had no idea of who this man was, what he was like, what he thought, anything at all. Really, why did people bother coming to these people in the first place? Getting lectures on their life from men and women they didn't even know a thing about.
"Very well then. You may do the same with me then, unless you prefer referring to me in a different way. Choose whatever you are comfortable with."
Well, there was a statement. Had he done, had he really made the choice to do what he was most comfortable with, he would have simply stood up and left. But that was no option, of course. For one, because he had been taught the basic rules of human interaction by his parents - and that was more than an understatement - and then there also was the fact that his father had paid for him being here, spent a good deal of money for him to sit here and talk to a stranger for an hour. Again, if that wasn't pure nonsense, then what was?
"Shall I start by asking you a question then? Or would you like to start, tell me something about yourself?"
'Well technically, you did already ask me a question.' Oh, how much he wanted to say this, show how little he cared for that doctor's feigned attitude, that whole spiel. Again, he was prudent enough not to. Only an unbelievably rude or simply moronic person would have done so and he did not consider himself to be either of those. Though again, he could not repeat this in his head enough times, he had been a moron for agreeing to come here.
"You may go ahead. I couldn't think of anything if I tried, I'm sure. It will be better if you lead this conversation."
Though wasn't he being a hypocrite, accusing the man of displaying a faked attitude? After all, he himself was doing exactly the same, playing polite and docile, when in reality, he couldn't have cared less about what the other person had to say. Yes, he was probably being hypocritical. But really, he didn't mind, it was a mere fact to him, but nothing else. Not like he was going to feel guilty over this at any later point in time.
The doctor nodded, noting something down on his scratchpad. Even the sound of the pen scribbling on that paper felt worse like nails on a chalkboard to him, just for what it was representing; the other man judging him, trying to read him on the basis of two sentences he had uttered. God, it made him angry. It was an unique experience and thus an unique sort of anger he was feeling. He wasn't fond of changes and completely new experiences, not in PRGs, not in books, not in real life, so obviously not now either.
"What is it you're writing down?" A bold question, yes, but he just felt too much like asking it. It would not leave him be in peace if he didn't, would roam his head for the entirety of the remaining hour. He had to ask it.
The doctor looked up from his notepad, with an expression that indicated genuine surprise to Maxim. Somehow, this created a strange satisfaction within him. No, not strange, he could actually understand why it made him feel the way it did. He had caught that man off-guard, destroyed his little illusion of him, Maxim, just being one more patient like all the others, just another nutcase to pigeonhole. No, he was something else and that man now knew it. Yes, it did feel quite nice. Like the first victory he had achieved in this otherwise depressing session.
"Well, I could tell you, of course, but I think that would defeat the purpose of me noting it down here, right now. I may bring this up at a later time, should I consider it necessary or helpful to you. Unless of course, you insist I tell you now."
That man was still smiling. It was just purely unnerving; why was he smiling with every sentence he said, even when there was no reason to do so? Maybe, just maybe he was smiling because he knew he had just backed Maxim against a corner. Forced him into a position where further impudence on his part was required, where he had to act against the assertion of the man, against his judgment, just to get what he wanted. In other words, this was a test, a test of how desperate he was getting. Not a bad idea, he had to admit, the first somewhat astute move the man had made. Granted of course, he had figured him out correctly and wasn't just imagining things, coming up with wild conspiracy theories out of the blue. But no, the look in the doctor's eye, that smile, with those goddamn perfect teeth, it just told a very specific tale, one of cunning and guile. Maybe he had been wrong about the man earlier. Maybe he was smarter than he had given him credit for. Just in a different way, a way that was in no way suited to convince Maxim that he had made the right choice coming here. In any case, he was not falling for all of this.
"No, I'm sorry to have interrupted you, please go on. I'm sure you haven't been asked this before, it must have been a little surprising to you."
The doctor's smile changed somewhat. Showed more teeth, yes, it was getting wider, again. What was it he had said this time?
"Oh, you'd be surprised. A lot of people have asked me this, I assure you. So no, you're not unique or even strange in that regard, don't worry."
Maxim bit his lip. He did so instinctively and he hated that he did. He hated not having absolute control over himself, displaying signs of his own weakness that easily. The doctor had completely duped him, rendered his earlier triumph meaningless. It was almost like he had read his mind and made it his personal quest to smite that little joy Maxim had felt. In short, he had done everything a psychologist was not supposed to do, made him feel awkward, stupid, uncomfortable. And from the looks of it, he was either completely oblivious to it or just a sadistic bastard. Either option was just as unwelcome.
Not much else he could say. He had to accept it, for now. Maybe there would be another opportunity, one for him to show that he was not going to let himself be characterized that way. Just a little patience, that was all it took.
The doctor scratched his chin now, creating that peculiar sound that was heard when stubble that was just a tad too thick to be considered well kempt was scratched. Either that, or he was off imagining things again. Even with his own father sharing the doctor's current level of facial hair most of the time, Maxim decided for himself that he did not like it.
"So, let me ask you this then: What do you think you are here for?"
That...that was actually not a bad question, not bad at all. Though he was initially much inclined to see it as yet another psychological trick on the doctor's part, he was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt here. While it was obvious that he had asked everybody who had ever sat in the same chair as Maxim that question, he still felt like answering it. Because now, now was the opportunity for him to truly prove himself to be unique; didn't matter in what way. He just was and he wanted this man to know.
Maxim ruffled his hair, massaged the top of his head a bit, to exterminate a pesky itch that had just set in. "Well, I suppose you already know the answer. My father probably told you that over the phone. I didn't overhear him make the call to your office, but still, it appears to be logical that he would have told you. I mean-"
"Let me interrupt you right there, please." The doctor had raised one hand, not in a reprimanding way, not even admonitory, it was almost casual. So much in fact, that Maxim couldn't help but take immediate offense to it. It had the same effect like someone telling him to calm down whenever he got agitated. If anything, it only made the situation worse for him; it was idiotic of people to even make use of that flawed approach.
"What you just said may be correct. Yes, your father has indeed told me about what he hoped you'd be able to experience here and why. However, that was not the reason for why I asked you this. You are quite a smart young man, that much is evident, so you will have figured that out yourself, I have no doubt. So please, tell me what I - and maybe you as well - are interested in hearing. What do you think you are here for? Why are you here, if that helps you with the answer."
Of course. What had he been thinking, of course the other would have asked this in return. And somehow, that compliment, him being so 'smart', it just didn't feel rewarding at all, coming out of that man's mouth. With that quiet, patient tone and that raspy voice of his. It was as if anything, every single little thing about the doctor was just continuously going to drive him up a wall, until he'd hit the ceiling, inevitably. Still, he had to keep his cool, couldn't let it come to that. Exploding would only give the doctor another reason to declare that he needed help, medication, therapy - the mere thought only made it even more mad. Had to answer the doctor's question, quickly so.
"I suppose-" He stopped, only for less than a second. He could have said 'I suppose you could have asked me that last question the first time, since you left me much room for interpretation with the first.' Only for a short moment, then he dropped the thought. Again, he was not going to let himself be provoked.
"I suppose I am here because I am considered anti-social, by society's standards. I usually stay by myself, in my own room. I don't deal with other people a lot, or rather, my peers. I stay by myself, as I said and I don't particularly mind it. And apparently, that means something is wrong with me. That is why I'm here, why I was sent here."
There, he had said it. That had been what that shrink wanted to hear, right? Make him open up, confess, admit to his own shortcomings, his weakness. Now that man had what he wanted and he could go to hell, for all Maxim cared.
The doctor just...nodded. Nodded like it was completely normal, like he had to deal with this on a regular, even daily basis. He felt like crying. He was trying his best to hide it, biting down on his lip even further. He would chew all the way down to the bone if he had to.
"Alright, thank you for being honest here." The man leaned back in his own chair, folded his hands. This was so clichéd, the most stereotypical a psychologist could get. All that was missing was that his face suddenly turned into that of Freud.
"When you just said all that - how did it make you feel? I'd like you to be as honest as with your last answer here."
He hadn't even changed his expression, hadn't smiled, nothing. Just stared at him with that blank expression, those damnable eyes hiding behind their thick glasses. That doctor, what was he trying to do? Had he not humiliated him enough already, made him express his bitterness? What more did he want of him?
"I- I'm sorry, do I have to-?"
"Yes, I would prefer it if you could answer this for me. Trust me, it will be insightful to you as well."
He didn't even mention another option this time. No 'but you don't have to, if you insist', nothing like it. Just that glare, like he was trying to burn out Maxim's eyes with his own. He felt like he was beginning to sweat. He wanted to shift around in his chair, but he didn't, didn't want to show even more weakness. Only now did he notice that small set of small figurines hidden away behind a potted plant, right there on the desk in front of him.
"Those three - those are the three wise monkeys right? 'See no evil, hear no evil, say no evil.' A representation of your doctor-patient confidentiality, right?"
A desperate attempt. It wasn't going to work, of course it wasn't. As if he could manage to distract the doctor with cheap methods like that. He didn't know why even tried.
"Yes, you are correct, on both counts. You are a bright boy indeed."
He smiled again. Somehow, that only made it worse. Again.
"But you still haven't answered my question. I know this probably isn't all that pleasant to you, but I really think you should answer this, if not for my sake, then for yours. What did you feel when you said those words before?"
As expected. Well, it seemed there was no use in trying to play dumb, play curious, whichever. He was cornered, as much as he didn't want to have to admit it. That shrink had him where he wanted him, once more. The itch in Maxim's eyes only got stronger.
He almost hissed the word, pressed it out between clenched teeth and plenty of saliva.
"I was feeling angry, damnit. Is that enough of an answer?"
He felt worse than he ever had before, it had to be so. Such humiliation, such anger and loss of control all at the same time, it was too much to bear. Too much for anyone to bear. He just wanted this to stop, to be able to go home, lock himself up in his room and sleep until the next morning or so. Maybe just forever, as long as he wouldn't dream about this awful man. Maybe just not dream at all.
"I see. I'm sorry I had to force you to get that out, but you will see, that it might have been necessary."
He was scribbling on his notebook again. Stop. He had to stop that, stop it or he'd personally tear that thing apart, page for page.
"Now, if I may ask one final question related to that line of thought: When you say you were angry, who were you angry at? Society? Me? Maybe yourself?"
The doctor's face still didn't budge an inch. Except for his mouth, every other part of him just seemed to be frozen in time, in eternity. Eternal, that was how this torture felt. Why was he insisting on prolonging this? He had to have noticed how much grief he was causing him by now. This had to be deliberate, it had to be!
"I don't want to answer that question. Can we please move on?"
His voice sounded like he was choking. The doctor didn't move, wait, no, he did, he blinked, shifted slightly in his position, repositioned his feet. A reaction, an actual reaction, he was not ignoring him. Maybe he'd give in to his plea. He'd get to his knees and beg him to stop at this point. He just wanted it to be over. The verge of tears was reached now, he had never felt so close to breaking down before in his life, except for all the times he had actually broken down. This was different though. Worse. So much more fucking worse.
"Very well. I am sorry, it was not my intention to get you upset like this. If you need a moment-"
Maxim got up from his chair. He couldn't take it. Couldn't, wouldn't, couldn't. He had to leave, call his father to pick him up early. There was no other way, he was at his limit.
"I...I'm sorry, this is just..."
His vocal cords felt like someone was holding a million tiny knives against hem, his lips were quivering, as were his jowls, his face, his whole being. A single tear escaped his eye and rolled down his cheek. He closed the other eye shut, forcefully. He did not want to shed another tear. Under no circumstances at all.
"This isn't working for me. Not at all."
He shook his head, furiously at first, then slower and slower. He inhaled sharply, put his hand on his chest, then started breathing in a more steady peace. His heart was going renegade in his chest, like it was trying to escape his body, be freed of the torment it had been put through.
The doctor stood up as well, as soon as the last word had escaped Maxim's lips. Maxim did see his eyes, they were different now, looking almost tired, filled with actual regret. Or maybe he was imagining it. Like he always was.
"I'm sorry, I really am. I did not mean to do this to you. Maybe you should go home, have a talk with your father. If you can bring yourself, somehow, to try this again some time in the future - I will be ready to have you here once more. And frankly, I feel it would be for the best that way." He stretched out his hand towards him.
Maxim stared at him. His mouth moved, but no sound escaped it, so he just stared. No. No no no no, he wasn't falling for this, not again. He had made a mistake, one simple mistake in coming here. That was all there was. There wouldn't be another meeting between the two of them. There never should have been a first one.
He turned around halfway, his eyes still wet, but mostly under control now. He wasn't going to cry anymore, that was dealt with. Still. The doctor had offered a final handshake. If anything, he had to take the invitation, show him this final sign of respect, even though he had none, not for that man. He'd shake his hands for convention's sake. He wasn't a freak. He was normal. Normal enough to know that you had to shake another person's hand if they offered it.
"I'm sorry too."
He tried not to make it sound resentful, but he probably had. He reached out his own hand, gingerly, then shook the doctor's hand with as much enthusiasm as if he was touching a rat's rotting corpse. It was cold. Of course, what else did he expect?
He let go of the man's hand, almost as soon as he had touched it.
With that, he turned around, walked towards the exit. He didn't risk another look back, didn't dare look at the damning gaze of his tormentor. This was over. Once and for all, dealt with, finished.
Maxim inhaled once more, staring at the doorhandle in front of him. This was it, his final barrier between him and his freedom. And yet, he was almost scared to touch it. Like he was afraid it was just going to crumble away as soon as his hand came near it, leaving him trapped here, alone with that man. No, he was being ridiculous. Time for him to leave.
His hand shivered at first, but then he clenched it to a fist and opened it again. Better now. It was all better. Determined and yet politely, he pushed down the handle, which was as cold as the doctor's grasp mere moments ago, opened the door and slipped out of Dr. Woolsey's office as soon as he could fit through the gap between door and frame.
The three wise monkeys. They had been the first thing he noticed upon entering the office, they were no longer hidden away behind that indescribable thicket of green that they called a potted plant. No, they were in plain sight this time, sitting at the very edge of that brightly polished white desk, staring directly at whomever found himself sitting opposed to them in that chair. And even though he had sworn, sworn to himself and only himself, since he didn't believe in god or superior powers of any sort, that he would not be that person ever again.
A misjudgment that couldn't have been any more false, as it had turned out. It had been six months now, a little over six months since he had last stared into the greyish eyes of the man before him. He was smooth-shaven this time, no more signs of stubble. Still wore the same glasses though, as far as Maxim could remember, along with his spectacle cord- yes, he had looked up the English term for it by now. Even his bald head was as hypnotizing and shiny as ever. In cartoons, those sort of heads would often be mistaken or compared to bowling balls. Yes, he could definitely see that.
Dr. Woolsey's expression was just as blank and brimming with prudence as he could remember. Well, not quite. There was something more in it this time, he was sure of it. It looked like a hint of concern mixed in, maybe cautiousness. He couldn't blame him. Not after his own disgracefull display last time, fleeing from this room like he had been beaten, defiled and branded with a hot iron. It was the main reason why he had been more than reluctant to agree to come here again. He hadn't been sure if he was going to be able to handle the pure embarrassment of looking into the doctor's eyes again, knowing what he had done. His father had been understanding though, even telling him anecdotes of his own youth that amounted to very much the same. Still, he had been more than uncertain if those were going to be of any help to him. He still was.
The doctor finished whatever thought had apparently been processed in his mind to lean forward a bit and lay his notepad and pencil on the desk before him. "Alright, so: As I have said before, thank you for returning here. I know this must not have been an easy decision to make, but I respect the fact that you have mustered the courage to do so. Know that I don't hold any sort of grudge against you, to the contrary. I have reflected on my own behavior back then and realized that the result back then had been my fault for the biggest part. For that, I would like to apologize to you."
The look in his eyes was honest. There was no hidden agenda behind them this time - there had never been one in the first place, not the first time, not ever. He knew that now. At least, he thought he did. Because even despite all what he had been told, by his father, his godmother, other people and now Dr. Woolsey himself, he still couldn't bring himself to fully trust this man. He just couldn't, it wasn't how he did things. He wanted to, he was sure of it. Or was he? Either way, there was no room for doubts now, moving forward was the only option at this point. He would not let it come to the same end as last time, no way.
"No, it's alright. I was- not in a good mood at the time of the last meeting, the whole thing was simply inconvenient in its entirety. So I accept your apology and..."
'Ask you to accept mine as well.' That was the right thing to say here, admit to his own fault as well. But again, doing so would have equaled a full declaration of trust. And he was not there yet, not ready to commit to that. So he did not say it. "And propose we leave the past in the past. That should do."
Yes, that worked for him. Carrying on like he had never been here before, like this was their first meeting. Well, not like their first meeting, but rather a fresh start. Anything to make him forget the humiliation that the first time had been.
Dr. Woolsey nodded. He seemed to do that a lot. Fair enough. Better than a lecture or any other sort of pseudo-sage advice. Damnit, there he was again, drifting into that deprecating state of mind; exactly what he had wanted to avoid. He had sworn to at least give the man a chance this time. After all, he had still ample opportunity to ditch him after the session was over. He would not be forgiving of any signs of incompetence, of sentimentality or - whatever else the doctor would do to upset him. Of course, there was still the possibility that the other man would be actually able to enthuse, or at least convince Maxim to take further part in these meetings. But that chance was all too small.
"As you wish. But first of all, shall we stick with me simply referring to you as 'you?' You chose this last time, but maybe your preference has changed since then. What do you say?"
Now it was Maxim's turn to nod. Which didn't make sense in hindsight, seeing as he had just been asked a multiple-choice-question, so nodding really didn't help at all. To hide his embarrassment over his, he rearranged himself in his seat, setting himself more straight.
"Just 'you' is fine I don't really like being referred to by name, much less by nicknames. So leaving it like before is perfectly fine with me."
Another quick scribble from the doctor. Maybe he shouldn't have mentioned all that about nicknames and such, now he had given the other man plenty of room for premature conclusions. He had to be more careful, couldn't give away too much at once. Yes, that point of view was under the premise that Dr. Woolsey was his adversary, rather than someone who wanted to help him, but again, he couldn't help it. It was that same phenomenon that occurred in school for many children, them seeing the teachers as evildoers who had it ought for them and wanted to make them suffer. Nonsense, of course. But now, he almost felt like he was stuck in their shoes.
"Very well. Let us proceed then." The man cleared his throat, which, given how gravelly his voice was, Maxim was not surprised to see at all. "Be aware though, that you may ask me to cease pursuing a certain line of questioning whenever you feel uncomfortable with it. I do not wish for me to accidentally go down the same route as last time. Make your feelings known to me and I will act accordingly, you have my word."
"Alright." Maxim's response came fast, so fast in fact that he almost managed to stutter while saying that single word. It was the anxiety, it was still there. It would have to fade soon or otherwise, this wasn't going to work, going to go horribly. He breathed in and out. Like his godmother had told him. All was fine, he just had to focus.
Dr. Woolsey nodded again. He seemed to note something down on his pad again, but Maxim could hear no scribbling noises this time. Maybe he was simply going over what he had already written down? No, it didn't matter. There was no reason for him to be distracted by that. Only staying calm and answering everything to the best of his abilities, that was of importance.
The other man looked up from his jottings again, back at Maxim. "Well then. I will start by asking you something that may seem trivial to you. How are you feeling? Not right now, not just today, but in general."
Maxim liked the question. It was not too vague for him to accidentally or purposefully misinterpret it some way nor was it too specific and pesky for it to get under his skin. Just a harmless inquiry, nothing else. And yet, coming up with an answer wasn't all that easy. It required for him to reflect on so many things at once and then come to a conclusion that would consider every single one of those things. Those things all relating to his own life, of course. Or, he could just throw all that out of the window and go with his gut instinct for a change. While not tempting, it would save him time and not make him look like an idiot who took ages to answer a simple question. Yes, maybe that was the right course of action.
"I would say I feel okay, for the most part. Content, overall."
Even though he hadn't thought much about that answer, it still seemed quite right to him. He wasn't sad with how things were going in his life, not angry, not disappointed or anything. He was simply living and living for himself only, plain and simple. Nothing for him to feel ashamed about. Yes, he was content. He was sure of it.
"Alright." What had that strange pause been just now? The man had taken a moment to respond, too long, for his taste. Like he wasn't buying it, doubting him. Like he was asserting that he knew Maxim better than he himself did, simply preposterous - he had to stop. Dr. Woolsey was a good man, that was what his father had told him. And while his father's judgment was not always to be trusted, far from it, he did respect him enough to pay heed to his words this time. Try to, at least.
That was all the doctor had to say, apparently. Didn't even take notes this time. Maybe the question really just had been completely casual. Probably not though, the idea of a psychologist making casual inquiries during an actual consultation seemed just a tad too odd to him.
"Is that all you want to know on that subject?" He had to ask, better than being unsuspectingly ambushed later on.
"Yes, for now. Unless you would like to tell me a bit more about the subject in question yourself? If so, be my guest."
Maxim was tempted to chew on his lower lip, but resisted the urge to do so. Again, he had foolishly rushed ahead without considering the consequences. Yet more behavior for Dr. Woolsey to examine and pick apart under his mental microscope. No, no, no more of that, really, he had to stop seeing him as the enemy here. He started getting annoyed at himself for continuing this line of thought, those childish fears of the unknown. Maybe seeing the doctor as neither friend nor foe, but as a necessary evil would help.
Maxim shook his head, even reinforcing it with a hand gesture. "No, excuse me, I was just being curious. Carry on."
That actually was the truth, for the most part. Well, his motives had been deeper than mere curiosity, but that was not for the other man to know, it would just serve to further distract them both. Then again, the session would go on for a whole hour either way, no matter if they talked or just sat there in silence, it would pass eventually. Time was fascinating in its own right. He'd have much rather philosophized about that than sit there and do what he did.
"Alright, so I want to ask of you: Is there anything in your current life you would want to change? Not something like your financial situation, but I'm sure you already figured that out."
There, he was smiling again. It didn't bother him as much as usual though, not anymore. It didn't make him feel any more comfortable or secure either, but no minus was already enough of a plus for him. It did surprise him somewhat that he managed to retain a positive outlook here. A start, maybe. Though again, the answer to the question asked was...well, actually, no, it was quite obvious to him. He certainly would have changed the fact that his father was sending him to people like this man, to not senselessly waste his time. But other than that.
"No. There isn't."
Maxim was very careful not to change his own facial expression, distort his mouth, change the position of his eyebrows to break up his eternal frown, not even blink. His intention was to show just how absolutely sure he was about this. Sure, he could simply state he didn't want to talk about this any further, but that would only prompt the doctor to try and come back to it later, one way or another. Good man or not, it was what shrinks did. No, instead, he was going to showcase his determination, so that Woolsey would simply not dare delving deeper into the subject.
"Are you sure?" The doctor had raised an eyebrow somewhat; his expression still remained the same, but he was doubting his words yet again, that much was certain. It was tempting, so tempting to get angry at him again, to curse his nosy tongue, his prying nature, that mind of his, the man himself. So very tempting, but not enough. Not enough for him to lower himself on that level.
"Yes, I'm sure. As I said earlier, I am content. I suppose it is hard to understand, being content with being alone - by oneself for most of the time. But I feel that way and I honestly wouldn't want to change it."
Now he had even got a chuckle out of the doctor. What was next, was he going to get him to laugh out loud? Well, now he was thinking of Goodfellas. Like he was a clown, there to amuse him? How the fuck was he funny? God, he really needed to see that movie again. Maybe right after he came home. He could relate to Tommy all too well all of a sudden, except for him shooting Spider. That still made him angry to this day. All that rambling almost made him miss the fact that the doctor had started to speak again.
"... as you think."
Maxim blinked, wiping a single strand of hair out of his face. "I'm sorry, could you repeat that?"
Damn, goddamn. Now the doctor knew he hadn't paid attention. Unless he feigned being a bit hard of hearing or so, but that would have only made matters worse. Someone with an IQ half as big as the one of this man could have figured out he was lying. So unfortunately, all he could do here was bite the bullet and learn from his mistake.
"Oh, of course. I said, it's not as hard to understand as you think. For me, at least." And before Maxim could even gather his thoughts to try and determine what exactly Dr. Woolsey meant, the doctor had already continued. "My purpose here is to help people, as you know, of course. Help them realize things about themselves or about others or maybe about something entirely altogether. But that does not mean I spend a lot of time with people myself, you see?."
The doctor adjusted his glasses with the use of only his index finger, pushing his spectacles upward by the nose bridge; his gaze as serious and stoical as ever. For the first time since he had sat down in that chair, Maxim felt genuine eagerness to hear what the man in front of him was going to say next. It could have been a ruse, of course, an oh so cheap tactic to make him more compliant, but he just knew it wasn't. It didn't feel like a smokescreen to hide the doctor's intentions, no. He was being honest here, absolutely so.
"Apart from those sessions here in my office, I rarely interact with people in my spare time. And for a somewhat similar reason as you, I'd say. I don't see it as something necessary for me to feel fulfilled or complete."
He paused for a second, clearing his throat once more with his fist held in front of his mouth. "I mean to say, you are not alone with that sentiment. I think I have a good grasp of where you're coming from. By the way, would you care for some water?"
All that was almost too much for Maxim to process at once - not even the entire first part, that, he had fully grasped within the second it was spoken. But the last inquiry, so casually following a revelation of that magnitude - somehow, registering it took him longer than anything else of what the doctor had said so far did. In turn, his answer came all the quicker for it.
"Yes, that would be nice. Non-carbonated if possible, please."
Woolsey nodded, reaching under the table and producing an apparently yet unopened bottle of water. Dasani. Maxim liked the brand well enough. Still had two empty bottles of those lying around in his room somewhere, if he remembered correctly. He had probably swept them under the bed, to not have to bother to bring them down into the kitchen, where they stored all the empty bottles. Even so, the sight of something so familiar served to calm him, even more than he had already managed to himself.
The doctor reached out to grab two cups that looked like they were made of marble, judging from the color. They were actually quite pleasing to look at, had something vintage about them. Of course, that would not influence the taste of their content in any way, but it was still nice to see that the man before him seemed to have good taste at least.
Seconds later, Maxim was holding a cup of cool water in his hand, which actually surprised him, given how he didn't expect it to maintain a temperature like that when it had simply been stored away under a desk. Maybe there was a cooler down there, he wouldn't have been surprised. Did this job pay well? He didn't know and he didn't really care either, but it seemed to be the case, judging from the whole interior.
"Thanks." He took a slow sip, savoring every bit of the non-existent taste; but the cool temperature alone was more than enough to be deemed satisfactory by him.
Then and just then did he truly begin to ponder about what the doctor had told him, about him and himself. Somehow, the entire meaning behind those earlier words had escaped him, the subject of water alone had occupied his mind for the last thirty seconds.
In short, the man had tried telling him that they were not so different - yet another ridiculously overused trope, be it in books or video games, probably even in musicals, but he hadn't stumbled upon one where that particular cliché had been used yet. Even so, this did not change the fact that the doctor had most likely told him the truth. There was little reason for him to lie; Maxim would not be so paranoid as to see fraud and deceit everywhere again. Dr. Woolsey, he and him did have something in common after all. He didn't want to admit, but it almost seemed promising. Promising, yes. Maybe. He'd see.
"Do tell me if you want your cup to be refilled." The doctor put the bottle back under the table. Yes, there had to be some sort of cooling mechanism down there. Maybe a miniature fridge, though that seemed too farfetched, really. Either way, he nodded in response, no words in need of being wasted on an answer here. Not out of disdain, but habit.
"Alright, well. I think now would be a good time for you to tell me a little more about yourself. I know we could just continue with me asking questions and you answering, but I think a change of pace could be of help here. What do you say?"
This was a reasonable proposition, one that made sense. It was a good one and exactly that was why it was much to Maxim's chagrin. He didn't want to agree to it, he hated having to talk about himself that way. Choose what he deemed important and what he did not, reflect on himself in a manner that he was uncomfortable with. Answering clear questions was that much more pleasant, there was ample room for him to dance around the matter of hand or refuse to, if he wished to do so. But telling the doctor things on his own accord, of his own choosing, it was simply strange to him he couldn't help it. It was because he didn't trust the man enough, because there was no one he trusted enough for that. Not even his own father. But the proposition itself, it was reasonable and that made it all the more painful for him to have to rebuff it.
"I'm sorry, I'd rather we continue like before."
That was it, plain and simple, all he had to say. No explanation why, no justification, just that. Dr. Woolsey would have to work with that and if he couldn't, then that was regrettable, but unavoidable. If the man insisted Maxim do as he had asked anyway, then that was going to be the final nail in the coffin of this. Not that there were any nails as of yet, not really, he was actually fairly content with how things went. But if the doctor would act against his will, then that was worth an entire van stuffed with nails.
Dr. Woolsey adjusted his glasses once more, his expressionless eyes still focused on Maxim. "As you wish. Should you ever feel ready to do otherwise, don't be afraid to tell me. As for now, we will stick to the old formula."
There was something about that, something that really rubbed Maxim the wrong way. His gaze became somewhat frostier, his frown more visible. He couldn't put his finger on it, but something about that was really to his disliking. Not the last part, not the first, something in that second sentence the man had said, something about it.
It hadn't been in a mothering manner, the way he had put it, Maxim always hated that. No, something else, still. He told him to not be afraid. To speak up when he was 'ready.' Yes, those two things. The implications, he didn't like them. Not one bit.
It implied he was weak now, cowering, ducking away from the pressure. That was not the case. He wasn't afraid to talk, just unwilling. Fear was not one of his motivations, not even close. And 'ready' - what was that supposed to mean? How was he going to be ready at a later date; it implied he would change, implied he was not ready now. Or lacking, in other words, lacking in some way. Yes, he didn't like that, it was like some part of his consciousness was being tickled, the unpleasant, pesky kind of tickle. He had never liked being tickled, but that was beside the point. Woolsey saw him as someone weak, looked down on him. He felt very tempted to just leave again, he wouldn't have any more of this.
But no, retreating would have been the equivalent of him admitting to those shortcomings, shortcomings which he was sure didn't even exist. He was fine the way he was, he didn't need to change. He wasn't afraid and therefore he didn't need to change. And he was going to demonstrate that. He wouldn't let the doctor construct an image of his based on misconceptions like that, based on delusions. He would show him, plain and simple. Destroy any touch of infatuation in the process. Maxim noticed his fist slightly clenching on the armrest and he immediately tried to relax the muscles in his hand.
The other man cleared his throat, to continue talking. "I would now like to ask-"
"I changed my mind. I will do it, what you asked before."
The doctor's expression notably changed. His facial features were twitching, just for a brief moment, he'd have missed it had he blinked, but he hadn't. He had caught him off-guard, once again. Yes, this was pure satisfaction that he was feeling. Seeing that man's thoughts stop dead in their tracks, come to a slithering halt, it was great.
"Oh? May I ask what made you change your mind?"
"You may not."
Maxim was shivering, the good kind of shivers, the feeling that made it seem like pure bliss was washing over your body. He was only a breath short of getting goose bumps, it was hard for him not to contort his facial features. His lips were quivering slightly, a hint of a smile on them. He had showed him. Absolutely showed that doctor; yes, even with him not being his enemy, his adversary, anything, but he had showed him! It was simply too great a sensation to bare.
Dr. Woolsey leaned back slightly, having laid his notepad back down on the table. "Very well. Then proceed."
Oh, he would, he absolutely would. He was in control over the direction of this conversation now, how had he not seen before that speaking for himself like this was the right way, the way for him to enjoy all this? It was obvious and yet, he had not seen it. Well, he saw it now and he wasn't going to let it go, not anytime soon.
Yes, he was having fun now.