A Friend of the Family: Chapter One
"Curse away." We returned to my office, her combat boots clomping on the floor; Mina, my rather conservative Lithuanian office manager, took note of the boots and rolled her eyes.
"And so," I asked, once we were back in my office, "with all this stress in your life, you haven't been able to eat?"
"I don't know." She shrugged. "I guess. I've definitely lost weight. My clothes are loose."
"How much weight, would you estimate?"
"Maybe eight, ten pounds? I don't know," she said. "This is all really my dad's idea. Seeing you, I mean."
"Okay," I said. "Well, I think you're probably fine, but I'm going to order some blood work just to make sure, and if you're feeling depressed and you don't like your therapist, come back to me and I can refer you to a"—I couldn't help myself—"a real doctor."
"Oh." She sighed dramatically. "You're part of that medical establishment, then."
"I'm not sure which particular medical establishment you mean."
"The one that disrespects alternative therapies. The one that would rather feed me antibiotics than send me to acupuncture."
"Actually," I said, leaning back in my chair, "I think antibiotics are overprescribed. I have no problem with acupuncture. And if your reflexologist is doing the job for you, that's terrific. But I'd still like you to see a shrink."
"I just never really liked shrinks much."
"Some of them are nice."
"Some of them are full of crap."
"I'm recommending one to you who isn't."
"Promise?" she asked, smiling. She really wasn't as tough as she first made out.
"Promise," I said.
She tucked a piece of black hair behind her ear, smiled demurely, took the sheet I'd ripped from the prescription pad with the name and number of Round Hill Psychiatric.
When Roseanne Craig left my office, I never thought I'd see her again.
The drive from the park back to Round Hill takes about fifteen minutes, although today I take the long way up to Route 9W, through the back roads of Rockleigh and Alpine. Up here, in winter, the trees are bare and you can see straight across the Hudson; in spring and fall, wild turkeys and deer congregate on the shoulder. Today somehow I miss my exit and have to double back to Maycrest Avenue, Round Hill's main drag. Down a long, steep hill to the heart of town, punctuated with speed traps, stoplights, and DRUG FREE SCHOOL ZONE signs. This is a town that likes to play it safe. My fingers are tight on the steering wheel.
Our prosperous little hill is divided into three parts, east to west: the School District, the Manor, and Downtown. The School District is geographic, not administrative, and named for the three square miles surrounding Round Hill Country Day—lush two-acre plots bearing Tudor palaces, Spanish-style haciendas, Georgian piles with helicopter pads and infinity pools. We've got celebrities up there, two or three well-known rap stars, the CEO of the hospital, and a handful of dermatologists, plastic surgeons, and orthopedists.
In the Manor, where Elaine and I live, the plots are more manageable, three-quarters of an acre at most. The houses are mostly Victorians and colonials, sometimes a shingle-sided renovation, and a few 1980 "contemporaries" with birch siding set on a slant and trapezoidal windows. Downtown is literal, at the base of Maycrest Avenue; it's where we keep our hospital, our businesses, our blacks, and the public school where nobody we know sends their children.