Printed from WriteWords -


by  hannahjane

Posted: Wednesday, April 4, 2007
Word Count: 1514
Summary: I've finally realised that going over and over work, trying to improve it and decipher what's wrong all by yourself is a bit like trying to play a one man game of tennis! I have so many different versions of this extract, it would be fantastic if I had some feedback on this particular one to get some pointers on how it is/what works. (I should have done this a long time ago!). Thanks.
Related Works: For Milk - (Um, nothing to do with milk, really. Please look!) • 

Do you, remember, I wonder, Alix, the first time we met? The first time in person at least? I had told you to press the second to bottom buzzer on the left, but you had been pressing the bottom, hadn't you?, so I couldn't hear it. Well eventually I spotted you from the window, standing on the steps,so I came and I let you in. Do you remember?

I really remember it! I remember you were wearing a red t-shirt underneath a tweed coat and these jeans that clung to your legs. I can't think they'd be very comfortable, but there you are. I don't know whether they're in fashion at the moment, I think perhaps so, maybe, probably actually, but you wear them quite often, anyway. It might just be the case, simply, that they make you feel better. We all, each of us, have little things we do to cheer us up, daily routines. I think it's fair to say, it's fair to say isn't it, Alix, that day, when we met, that you needed cheering up?

You moved nervously. Understandable. I offered you a seat, and I remember, I recall you asking - because there are three sofas, four armchairs, two footstools and a chaise-lounge - I remember, you said, "Where?"

"Anywhere you like", I replied, and then I waited to see where you would choose.

You chose the sofa opposite the bookcase; the sofa on the door wall next to the window; the sofa I had been sitting on. My glasses case 'gave the game away' and you realised what you perceived to be a mistake.

"Oh! You were seating here, weren't you? Sorry, sorry, I'll move".

But I told you that it was fine, that I preferred the biggest of the armchairs. I don’t prefer the biggest of the armchairs, if I'm honest - and I do like to be, honest I mean, - I preferred where I was sitting, the sofa opposite the bookcase, on the door wall, next to the window.

I offered you a drink, and you did what most people do: Hesitated. And then said no. Waited for the Sure? And then you asked for Water, please.

You were not how I expected; on the basis of the emails. I said this to you, in the hall as I let you in, when you were worrying about looking stupid for pressing the wrong buzzer over and over again. I said, “You’re not how I expected”.

 “Why? How? Like, in a bad way?”

I reassured you: no, no, not in a bad way. “Different in a good way”, I said, and I smiled.

You made a nervous joke about coming across badly in your emails then, and you laughed and squeezed all the fingers of your right hand together with your left.

You are different of course, and of course not in a bad way. What I meant was - what I had tried to say - was that, in the emails, you came across as very articulate. Very polished and proper, and that was what had intrigued me so much; I didn’t think sixteen year olds were that articulate. That polished and that proper. I suppose that was why oh I don’t know!, I didn’t expect you to actually be sixteen. Of course I knew that you were sixteen; that my first appointment of the day was with Alix, a sixteen year old who had emailed me, but I was still surprised to see the tight red t-shirt and the slim jeans, a mobile phone angled out of the pocket, or perhaps it was a hip. I’ve never worked with an adolescent before.

And then, clearly a little of it was nervousness, but even there in the hall, the first time we met, you were…aloof, and funny, and there was none of that in the emails. I suppose, what I'm trying to say, is that it was perfectly clear from the off that you were very clever, yes, but also, it was clear that that wasn’t all there was to you. Because a part of me did expect, I'll admit, the velvet-ribbon straw hat public school gal. The velvet-ribbon straw hat public school gal would have been in-keeping with my recent clientele, was probably the spawn of each of my clientele, a sort of cumulative climax of the clientele, a middle-class Trojan pony. But of course there was nothing straw-hat about you at all.

So to summarise, to clarify, because I did feel bad after saying it – it wasn’t the most professional thing to say I must admit “you’re not how I expected” – was that, I did like the sound of you from the email correspondence, very much so, really looking forward to meeting you, actually, in fact, as it was, anyway, trust me, just that, to use a suitable age-appropriate analogy (I know, I know!), it was like expecting a B grade, and getting an A.


There is always awkwardness of a first time. Always. You mentioned it, and I said, Oh, Yes! Always. Or most of the timeat least. It is only natural, it's a very daunting experience. Beginning therapy. My job was to make you feel as comfortable as possible, regardless.

Which, if I’m honest, and I do like to be, is why I was worrying about that ‘not how I expected’ comment. I hoped it hadn’t put you on a back foot. I was on a back foot, which is why I had said it, you see, because I had never worked with an adolescent before and you took me by surprise. It’s not that I hadn’t expected a sixteen year old, I knew that my first appointment of the day was with Alix, a sixteen year old who had emailed me.

Terms and conditions. Tedious, but absolutely necessary. Absolutely necessary, Alix. You nodded and clasped your hands together and nodded some more when I talked to you about them, but you looked startled and frightened when I handed you the bullet-pointed A4 sheet.

Just whip out some contract then, you thought.

But you just said; “I like the paper. I have…a thing. About paper. Now I sound all weird but it’s just like if paper, like, feels nice, ok I probably shouldn’t have said anything because it makes me sound like a right nutter…but what I mean is, I like the paper…”.

I merely nodded and smiled. To be honest, I was keen to ensure you were reading the sheet properly, regardless of the property of the paper, taking it seriously. Because there had been trouble in the past. There is with every mental health professional, somewhere along the line. Somewhere along the line there is trouble. With every mental health professional. And the sheet of paper that I had given to you, the sheet that I would ask you to sign, was the one that kept us all from being sued and abused every, week, month, year. But it wasn’t just for me; it protected you too. I asked you to read through thoroughly, so that you were happy you had taken everything in, absorbed, understood. Take your time! I said, Don’t rush. Thoroughly, thoroughly.

You read the document quite quickly. Hm. I thought perhaps you were embarrassed you would take too long and had just skimmed it. However, I was satisfied you realised the gravitas of it - I didn’t want to patronise you. I gave you a pen, it didn’t work, I gave you another pen, you dropped it, I picked it up, you signed two copies. I smiled again and told you to keep one copy for your own reference and I took the other one back. Then, I reclined in my chair.


You asked what I was thinking. You like to know what other people are thinking? Erm, I, um, er, no, you were just interested in other people s'all. You looked interesting, you did, yes, and I had spent less than twenty minutes with you at this point.


"You're absolutely right, yes! It is a little bizzare to work on a Sunday, yes!"

But you actually made my day, Alix. Of course you did. Just because, well, I suppose one is not supposed to admit it, but of course we like some better than others. Similar to teachers, in a way: everyone has their favourites.

You began to do this thing with your hands: interlocking the fingers together, but keeping the palms flat, so that you were making teepees with them. And once you stopped doing that you started to pick at a hole in the couch-throw that an obsessive compulsive works on from 2.05pm (and thirty seconds) to 2.57pm (and forty-four seconds) every Wednesday.

I said we'll [meaning the clients at the centre and I] talk about our clients' situations but not by name. You looked unnerved and were thinking,

Christ, it'll be like a game of Guess Who: Psycho Edition

so you asked for an example and I gave you one. And then we started to talk about why you were here.