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Therapy for Therapists / Cleaning Tesla’s

by Ben Davies


Therapy for Therapists

 

Helping Hearts & Minds

245 San Mateo St

San Francisco, CA

 

Client Name: Wayne Johnson

Client DOB: 09/14/1975

 

Date: 11/07/2023

Start Time: 17:03 

End Time: 17:58 

 

Client’s Subjective Concerns/Chief Complaint: “I feel bored right now. That’s the flat-out truth. I think I always need that something exciting and I ain’t sure I got it.” Client noted concerns about his mood, urges to isolate from his romantic partner.

 

Clinical Observations: Client sat in a hunched position upon the beginning of the session. Client appeared dishevelled, which is unusual for him, and a marked change since last session. Therapist observed client might be under the influence of alcohol as evidenced by his thought process. 

 

Issues and Stressors Discussed/Session Description: Client discussed experiencing increased difficulty with his romantic relationship, following an argument with his romantic partner. Left him feeling dissatisfied in his relationship, exacerbated by appearance of a new individual in his life who seems to show a romantic interest in him, something that has troubled client.

 

Interventions/Methods Provided: Discussion of symptoms, more counselling, identification and exploration of emotions. No medication.

 

Assessment: Client’s endorsed symptoms and presentation show little signs of depression. Life dissatisfaction is more likely due to the impact of his romantic relationship and the pressure of his job.

 

Plan: Client has committed to having productive conversations with romantic partner and not ignoring her needs. Client has also committed to getting more help to reduce the demands and stress of his current job.

 

Clinician Signature: Michael Walker

 

You’ve heard this one before, too many times. Copy and paste, just with a different client digging their nails into the seat. The middle age dissatisfaction, the pressures of a career, the various strains on a relationship and then bam, the exciting new person magics onto the scene and chaos duly follows. It’s almost like you get one every year, invariably always lost males. A tale as old as time and here it is again rearing its serpent head, Wayne the latest to fall. He’d mentioned this Mia before of course and even from the very first time you’d sensed she was someone to keep note of. Over the following sessions Mia then continued appearing, each time with a bit more mental weight behind her whilst simultaneously Jazmine, his wife, was talked about more and more negatively. It was like a set of scales that over time changed balance. As one side comes up the other goes down. That’s just how it was. You knew that, of course. After all you’d experienced it first hand, just from the other side. 

You’ve been seeing Wayne for a good five years now, one of the many too wealthy clients you gave therapy to in and around the Bay. Wayne was a little different from the rest though. Whereas literally every other client you had was white, largely because most people search for a therapist that reflects themselves because they think they might be able to understand their issues and experiences better, Wayne was black. He was black and not only was he black, his dad was an ex-Panther, Jazmine worked for a non-profit in Oakland fighting black oppression whilst Wayne himself had aspirations to be Mayor of Oakland running on a very politicised campaign. From the start you flagged this as an issue and awkwardly said you might not be the right fit, listing other reasons alongside the main one you skirted. Wayne ignored them all. At your first meeting he told you, this is your job man, and that he very purposely sought you out because he wanted to understand the psyche of the standard white guy. This you told him was a bit of an insult and also not the point of therapy, in fact it was the opposite. That you were there to help him, not act as a case study. To that he slammed his hand down on the table and said, exactly, this is exactly what I’m talking about. We haven’t even started yet and damn, here it is.

And so your therapy began though you never talk about race, only about life. About jobs, about relationships, about kids, though over time you realised that race played into every single one of them, something you were depressingly ignorant of before, and you began to understand a bit better why Wayne chose you. Not that you give him any details about your own life, that was therapy 101, but your life comes through in your questions, in your responses and your reactions, a counterpoint to his experiences. The scales once again. Where Wayne does see a more direct value with your services right now is with this Mia, who was also white and who he hoped you might better understand. So you try to unlock her train of thought for him, though the psyche of a white women in her twenties is even more remote and in reality every second you spend talking about Mia, your mind is being dragged back to your own Mia-like conundrum. The one that finished with the car crash end of your marriage.

See, for Wayne’s Mia, you had Dylan f-ing Jones, the man wonder himself. Only Wayne was in the role of Sarah, your wife, and Dylan was Mia and you were Jazmine left on the side. You wish it had been the other way round. That you had been in the alpha-Wayne position making all the calls, deciding who to love, but inevitably that was never your card to draw. Instead for you it was Sarah and Dylan f-ing Jones popping up in practically every conversation you shared. Dylan who burst onto the scene at exactly the wrong time in your relationship and wreaked havoc in the kernels of your brain. A jealousy you were unable to contain. Even now, six months later, sessions like this with Wayne bring it all back. Suddenly Dylan’s face is right there again like a dart flying straight for your forehead. Dylan with his Ginsburg glasses, his flowing, dark hair and deep blue eyes. Dylan with his pseudo-celebrity History Channel career and adventurous academic past. Dylan with just his name, Dylan, which meant a set of parents who combed the hippy fields in the seventies looking for daisies to string round their neck compared to your accountant bore of a father. Why he had had a thing for your Sarah, why he pursued your wife instead of all the millions of women who no doubt fawned after him, only added to the frustration. It’s not like Sarah was a knock-out. Sure, she is funny, smart and beautiful in an intelligent kind of way, but you thought you were the only person who saw that. It’s why the whole thing took you so much by surprise and made you act like you did.

It all kicked off with Sarah’s new job, she the producer to Dylan Jones’s award winning Discovering Fidel show. Just the fact that he was presenting a show on Fidel Castro was enough to highlight your stark differences. In one end it was you, Mr Play-by-the Rules with your school pick ups, your sudoku before bed and your intermediate Spanish, whilst in the other was Indiana Jones reborn with his books about revolutionaries, his second home on the beaches of Mexico and his death defying tales involving murderous priests down in the Bolivian jungle. How does one even compete with that kind of person? Instead all you could do was moan to Jenni, your ex-nanny, every time his face came on screen. Able to say all the things to her you couldn’t say to Sarah because Jenni actually listened. You felt heard by her which couldn’t have been said about Sarah, who if she wasn’t distracted by Dylan then she was by her job and then by Sam, your little boy. You were a pitiful last on that list. Last to get any attention. And it was all that that broke down your marriage. Her actions, not yours, as she lit up all your insecurities and treated you with such neglect which led to a series of unavoidable consequences that had you where you were now. A situation Wayne could be in shortly if he didn’t sort things out fast.

 




Date: 11/14/2023

Start Time: 17:02 

End Time: 17:59 

 

Client’s Subjective Concerns/Chief Complaint: “It ain’t easy being me. Doing what I do. This helps keep my mind off that.” Client shared stress of his professional life and how he is distracted by new individual in his life.

 

Clinical Observations: Client appeared more content this week, more alert and engaged in the session. A new energy and purpose shown by the way he sat in his chair and spoke.

 

Issues and Stressors Discussed/Session Description: Less issues and stressors as client discussed how getting extra help in his professional life has helped his romantic.

 

Interventions/Methods Provided: Discussion of symptoms, more counselling, identification and exploration of emotions. No medication.

 

Assessment: Client’s endorsed symptoms and presentation show little signs of depression. Life dissatisfaction similar to last week, though improvements suggest progress

 

Plan: Client will continue getting help in his work. Client wants to continue conversations with new individual and is convinced that is right course of action. Therapist does not tell him otherwise. 

 

Clinician Signature: Michael Walker

 

Wouldn’t be good for his mayoral campaign, disastrous even, especially because of his race which is the shit reality of the day. These things always come out in the end, but Wayne knows that. He’s a smart man, smarter than you. It’s not your job to tell him what to do, you’re just there to listen. To listen and tell him you understand. Other therapists are more direct than you, give advice. Some even give their clients a step by step of what to do. You’ve always been the gentler type. A nodder. Quiet man they say, but that’s only around people you don’t know.

Sarah used to nag at you to find more friends. That you needed a different outlet as if that was the problem in your relationship and not Dylan f-ing Jones. Go out and meet some people, she’d crow, as if finding male friends in your forties was the easiest thing in the world. I’ve found loads, she’d brag, ignoring the fact they were all work colleagues or linked to work colleagues whereas you worked alone out of the rented office two miles down the road from where you used to live. After her pressure became overbearing you gave Bumble meet-ups a go, swiping your way through the city. It just made you feel rotten. Every single man you saw on there either worked in tech or was into gaming which was the last thing you wanted. Not your scene. But you’re weren’t looking for friends anyway. You just wanted your absent wife. That was enough for you and moreover, for little Sam too. Not that Sarah was having any of it when you used to ask for her to be home a bit more, for his sake and yours. 

And sacrifice my career, she’d grunt. Everything I’ve worked at for years, smashing down all these walls around me, to just give up because I’ve had a baby and now you want me to be a fifties housewife. Is that what you want?

You wonder how much she actually spends time with Sam now, considering she got custody. The horrid irony that she got him after all you did to raise him whilst she was away flirting with Dylan f-ing Jones. You barely get to see him now, things ended that badly, and when you do there’s a distance there that she has clearly manufactured. Another resentment of yours to add to the list, especially as if it was the other way round you’d be at his side non-stop. Sam used to love all your trips around the city. Those days in Dolores park, to the MOMA, to watch the Giants. All memories he’s likely forgot now.



Date: 11/21/2023

Start Time: 17:04 

End Time: 17:58 

 

Client’s Subjective Concerns/Chief Complaint: “This isn’t how I thought it would go. We were like one person once, but these days I can’t be dealing with her.” Client returned to his dissatisfaction in his romantic relationship, though it did not get him as down as before. 

 

Clinical Observations: Client appeared energised, with greater purpose, even though his romantic relationship is under duress. New individual in his life has had a clear impact, alongside growing success of his professional life.

 

Issues and Stressors Discussed/Session Description: Client discussed how his romantic relationship is struggling. 

 

Interventions/Methods Provided: Discussion of symptoms, more counselling, identification and exploration of emotions. No medication.

 

Assessment: Client’s endorsed symptoms and presentation show little signs of depression. Life dissatisfaction is more likely due to the impact of his romantic relationship.

 

Plan: Client will continue getting help in his work. Client wants to continue conversations with new individual and is convinced that is right course of action. Therapist does not tell him otherwise. 

 

Clinician Signature: Michael Walker

 

Walking out the session you feel empty. Hollow at the way he talks about Jazmine because you can only think that these are the same, sad words Sarah used too. Did she also feel turned off to come home and see you in slacks putting the kids to bed? Did she feel annoyed when you painted the sink in hair? Did she feel unhappy when she realised this was her future, forever?

Every word Wayne says about Jazmine just cuts deep into you as it brings it all back. How small you felt, how little. How you retreated further and further back into a clamped, little shell. A shell you couldn’t seem to break from, which you imagine Jazmine is now locked inside too. You almost wish you could get in touch with her to talk her through what she’s going through right now instead of listening to Wayne mutilate you unknowingly. It’s almost impossible to keep your lips clamped. At times your listening persona breaks and you bark back. You can’t help yourself. It’s too personal now. Even more problematic, your questions are loaded, not the innocent therapist you’re meant to be. 

How do you think that makes Jazmine feel when you do that Wayne? Would something with Mia be real, long-lasting, like you have now? Do you think Jazmine deserves this?

Questions you never should be asking but you can’t help yourself. As if pushing him back to Jazmine might bring Sarah back to you. And when Wayne replies there is a guilt there but also a confidence in his actions, a sense of security that he is in complete control and you’re jealous of it. Wishing you could had been that type of person instead. 

 






Date: 12/12/2023

Start Time: 16:55 

End Time: 17:56 

 

Client’s Subjective Concerns/Chief Complaint: “I feel good, alive. First time in a while. No complaints from me, life is on the up.”

 

Clinical Observations: Client appeared energised and content with current life situation. Stark improvement from a month prior.

 

Issues and Stressors Discussed/Session Description: Client discussed how this new individual in his life was impacting him positively.

 

Interventions/Methods Provided: Discussion of symptoms, more counselling, identification and exploration of emotions. No medication.

 

Assessment: Client’s endorsed symptoms and presentation show little signs of depression. Client is content and happy with support counselling gives him.

 

Plan: Client has no plan other than a continuation of current affairs. Therapist does not tell him otherwise. 

 

Clinician Signature: Michael Walker

 

A few weeks away from sessions and you can’t believe how much things have escalated. One day Mia was a story, a temptress in his complicated life. Now she’s a familiar feature as they’re meeting up for a coffee, “bumping” into each other on the street, messaging every day. All above board but how long before that breaks? You can tell Wayne is trying to hide his emotions, his lust, even though you should be the one person he can speak openly with. Highlights how careful he is, which you respect. Couldn’t have got this far up the political chain without it. 

He seems a man reborn though, a new zest in the way he carries himself and tells you his thoughts. This is no doubt influenced by his Mayoral campaign too, one that’s gathering steam at a rapid rate. This despite the fact he’s up against the self-dubbed, “White Knight”, his rival in the Democrat primaries. Zach Lawrence, with his shiny bright teeth and his endless funds due to his tech start-up. Zach Lawrence with his beautiful house, his obnoxious wealth and his bachelor life. The Bruce Wayne of Oakland they say, yet it’s your Wayne who’s rising up the polls, not Zach. It’s Wayne who is bringing in more and more followers to his aggressive socialist platform with a hint of black nationalism to boot. Not overly dissimilar to his dad’s Panther beliefs, he tells you proudly. Exactly what this city needs and even though you shouldn’t share, you tell him you completely agree. In return Wayne says, that’s good to hear Michael, this city needs more white guys like you. Then he starts listening off a load of other white guys he likes until it inevitably ends with, that guy on the History channel, the one who does loads about Latin America liberation. I’d love to meet that guy. 

Your throat clams up and even if you wanted to say something, you can’t. You just nod like always. Nod, nod, nodding your way into nothingness.

      





Date: 12/19/2023

Start Time: 17:04

End Time: 17:59 

 

Client’s Subjective Concerns/Chief Complaint: “Things are good, things are really good”

 

Clinical Observations: Client appears completely turned around from a month prior. Happy with his current life situation, shown by the way he sat in his seat, gestured and smiled.

 

Issues and Stressors Discussed/Session Description: Client discussed limited stressors.

 

Interventions/Methods Provided: Discussion of symptoms, more counselling, identification and exploration of emotions. No medication.

 

Assessment: Client is happy with current life situation even if it is precarious and could quickly fall around him. This does not seem to bother him as he lives day by day, not looking too far ahead.

 

Plan: Client wants to keep things as they are and continue on current trajectory, wherever that leads.

 

Clinician Signature: Michael Walker

 

Messages here, meet ups there, the whole secrecy of an affair even though one hasn’t actually started yet. Just puts a sad mirror up to your life and how depressing it is.

You weren’t born to be the exciting type, to live a life people talked about. Any attempt at that was just a facade. You think back to the day you pathetically tried to change things and add some spark into your persona. To hopefully sweep back Sarah in the process. In hindsight the whole thing just looks as painfully naive as it was painful.

You had decided for once in your life to just act. To do something bold and try and gain back some of that control that Dylan f-ing Jones had stolen. So you’d ordered an Uber because where you were going you wouldn’t be driving your car back. You remember how charged you were as you skipped to the entrance to wait. That this was your moment. This was how you clawed it all back. Your marriage, your self-esteem, heck even your masculinity. This was all now.

The Uber arrived quickly, a Latino called Pedro, and you scooted across the city in a flash. From then on everything was a blur, the whole transaction taking place scarily quickly. One hour later you were gliding out of the car dealership in a bright red Tesla. Reflecting now it just screams mid-life crisis but back then it felt powerful. Cruising through the hills of San Francisco in a car that made a statement. That said I am Michael and I am here. Listen to me. And for the first time in ages you had felt as if your rocket had launched. That you were worth something and the sensation was electric. Utterly electric, just like your fancy new car as you drove through the city streets on your way home, ready to surprise Sarah later that night. A car you were only able to afford because of all the money she was rolling in at her work. And on that note, an even better idea blossomed, because why hit one when you can hit two at the same time. If only hindsight were a guidance that appeared in advance.

You had spoken to your car, because it could do that now, and it directed you straight to Sarah’s work for your master plan, arriving just as things were coming to a suspiciously early wrap. Adding logs to that fire, just as you glided into the parking lot you had immediately spied Sarah in a conversation with none other than Dylan f-ing Jones himself. You’d slowly crawled up to them both in what looked like quite a heated conversation. Certainly not romantic. A lovers tiff you’d deduced. Well, not on your watch. You whirred down the windows to make your entrance, your big entrance, and suddenly you were there. Face to face with the man you despised.

They’d both turned and so you pinched down your shades like you’d seen in the movies so many times. Then you said, voice weirdly low, evening Sarah.

For a second she had looked confused. Didn’t recognise you or the car. Then the fog cleared and she simply questioned, Michael?

Ignoring her, you went straight for the reason you were there. And you must be the famous Dylan Jones, you muttered nonchalantly, pleased to meet you. You had then extended your hand out the window and offered a shake and when it was met you made sure to hold firm and let him know you were no weasel. A creature just going to lie back and let his wife be stole. Oh no, you were a man. A real man who made bold, exciting moves. 

When Dylan finally replied, after breaking free of your fierce shake, he did so with a question. Nice to meet you too. Sorry though, but who are you? Have we met?

Have we met indeed Dylan Jones, you thought to yourself, only in all my dreams. But you didn’t say any of that of course. Instead you had lowered your voice and explained that you were Sarah’s husband, here to surprise her and pick her up from work. 

Sarah had then interjected at this point to say she was nowhere near finishing and now off to the office so couldn’t come home. Then she bent down to your eye level and asked, Michael, whose car is this?

And as you explained you didn’t see any of the admiration you’d hoped for. None of the wide eyes you’d dreamed of at this out of the blue, so unlike you, move. Instead it was just confusion on both her and Dylan f-ing Jones’s face, which in itself made you confused. And so you had rolled quietly away, back to Jenni, Sam and Baby Shark. And when Sarah finally did make it home later that night she burst into the room and asked, what the hell was today all about, and when you went to reply you realised quite quickly that you had no idea what to say.

Nasty even to think about, but all memories now. No Sarah in your life anymore, no Dylan Jones, no Jenni and barely any Sam. The only thing you have left is the red Tesla, the one remnant that stays with you forever. A sad, depressing reminder of everything that’s been and one you see far, far more than you’d like.






Date: 12/26/2023

Start Time: 17:00 

End Time: 18:05 

 

Client’s Subjective Concerns/Chief Complaint: “I can’t think about anything else.” Client is nervous and excited about upcoming meeting with the new individual in his life.

 

Clinical Observations: Client appeared agitated this week, perched on the edge of his seat. Anxiety highlighted by the way he played with his wedding ring and rubbed his fingers against each other.

 

Issues and Stressors Discussed/Session Description: Client discussed how meeting up with new individual was causing him stress but also excitement and he wasn’t sure what that meant.

 

Interventions/Methods Provided: Discussion of symptoms, more counselling, identification and exploration of emotions. No medication.

 

Assessment: Client seems on edge this week, unsure of himself and what to do. Is fighting an inward battle yet seems determined to continue on with current course.

 

Plan: Client has decided to meet with new individual in his life, despite recognising the impact it could have on his romantic relationship and professional life. 

 

Clinician Signature: Michael Walker

 

So this is it. Wayne, after all your sessions, has made his decision. This Saturday, with Jazmine visiting her parents over the Christmas period, he has been invited round Mia’s for a meal. When he tells you this, instead of trying to talk him through the whole process and his thoughts and feeling around the event, you just feel dumbstruck. Unable not to compare it to you and Sarah. And the whole thing just makes you feel so sick and hollow. Disgusted. 

You hark back to when it was you. The night when the new production kicked off. This time Dylan f-ing Jones’s Who Killed Camilo Cienfuegos? The night Sarah didn’t come home. You were there waiting for her with Thai takeout but she never arrived. Instead she just sent a message saying, so sorry love, everything has overrun. We have kick-off drinks now and then they’re putting me up in a hotel. I’ll see you tomorrow.

And you knew what that meant as you read the message again and again and again. And then you cried because what else could you do. And now Wayne was going to do the same, like Sarah no doubt did, whatever she says now otherwise and it makes you want to cry all over again.

 





Date: 01/02/2024

Start Time: 17:08

 

I go there, anxious, walking up the stairs to her small, featureless apartment, as if something in my gut was off. Wayne is reclined back in your leather chair, staring intently at you as he speaks.

And Mia is there, dressed up in this slinky, tight fitting orange dress. Her chest out and her smile glistening like some blonde-haired, blue -eyed, Margot Robbie, Barbie. And I was wowed, struggling to keep my eyes off her, but as we sat and shared a bottle of wine, I finally began to realise there wasn’t much more to this Barbie. I suddenly realised, as if a message from above, that I’d rather be back home with Jazmine in her slacks, sat on the couch watching re-runs of New Girl, than be here. It’s taken me long enough, don’t I know it. I’ve been a bad partner this past month but new year, new me, ain’t that right. How could I start this fresh year betraying the women I love. And sure, I’ve been tempted, but what was a fling when you had true love and I choose love. Love, love and love some more. I choose love. And so I cut the dinner short and ran all the way back home and waited for my Jazzy to get back. And me and Jazzy are like newlyweds again. Laughing like we’ve never laughed, fucking like we’ve never fucked. And it’s all just as well, Wayne continues to tell you, because the next day I got a card from Zach Lawrence, you know, my closest rival for the primaries, and all it said was, waste of money.

See, the whole thing was a dirty, underhand tactic to get me to mess up in the run for the Mayorship and it almost worked god dammit. Mia was never into me. She was a poor pawn being used by that rich white guy probably for crazy amounts of money. The truth of it is she was a challenge sent to me. Not from Zach Lawrence, but from the Lord himself, and it’s a challenge I overcame. I’ve never been more sure of myself and I’m so darn grateful for your help for leading me there. 

He goes on to say that he thinks he’s going to win the Democrat Mayoral primary. That the polls are looking good, and he thanks you for that too. Wayne then breaks out into that huge, booming laugh of his and he expects you to meet it, but you can’t.

Of course you should feel happy at all this. Happy that your client made the right decision. That he did the right thing. But instead you feel empty inside. Because they succeeded where you and Sarah tore apart. Wayne and Jazmine blossoming where you were trampled. They were better than you, as simple as that. And that hurts, but it also jolts another feeling in you. One of a shame. Something you’ve suppressed for a good while now because previously your actions felt justified. But hearing about Wayne saying no, not only puts a mirror up to Sarah but it also puts a big fat mirror up to what you did on that foggy night in October. The one you like to side line. Unimportant alongside Dylan f-ing Jones, but now seemingly very real and relevant. Because where Wayne decided no, you actually said yes. Wayne did not step over to the other side, but you did. Cool, popular Mayor Wayne shook his head, but awkward you, Michael the therapist, did. And him telling you all this just takes you straight back to that horrid day when you walked in your front door to find Sarah sat on the floor playing with Sam.

Where’s Jenni? Why’s she not here? You had mumbled, knowing full well the answer.

Sarah snorted in response, I was going to ask you the same thing. She called me this morning to say she’s quit. That she has to leave suddenly but she can’t explain why. I tried to call you but you didn’t pick up. 

You felt the colour flush into your face as you mumbled again, I was in session with a client. Then, she quit? Like quit, quit? 

         Yes, Sarah replied, a bite in her tone. Did she not tell you this when you drove her back last night? What the fuck happened? 

And that’s it. You can’t lie to Sarah, never have been able to. And so you finally told her about how unhappy you’ve been. About not being heard, and most of all, about Dylan f-ing Jones. Let her know that you knew all about what she’s been up to and how it has ruined you. How it’s eaten you up inside and made you more jealous than you’ve ever thought possible.

And she cut you short there and then and said, okay Michael, I’m listening, but how is any of this relevant to Jenni?

And so you then go back to the night before. That cold, mist strewn night in October. The night you wanted to get your marriage back, to feel like a man again and get control of your life. To shape your narrative like Wayne, not have someone do it for you. And so you told her it from the start. How you had looked up an event for them in the city. How you settled on some live music, the type you used to go to when you were young and in love and laughing, and you put the event in her calendar with no chance to say no. And how that whole morning before you’d been nervous but excited too to try and pump some energy back into your relationship and finally compete with Dylan Jones. To make your story your own again. 

Then you tell her how when the night came she was as emotionally unavailable as ever. Polite, kind, friendly but just talking logistics and stuff with Sam and Jenni. And when the music started you put your arm round her, just like you used to, yet you felt her body shudder. And that’s when you accepted that you’d lost her. That she’d gone and Dylan Jones had won and you were the crumbs down the side of the sofa. And how that thought sat with you as you drove home and then as you drove Jenni back to hers because it was too late for her to get the BART. And then you told her about how whilst you drove Jenni you talked to her about how you were feeling, how low you felt, how down and the whole time Jenni had listened. She actually listened which no one but Jenni had done in so, so long. About how you spend your whole life listening to others, but here was someone who listened to you. Who gave you therapy without even knowing it. 

And then you took a pause, one breath, maybe two, and told her the final part. Told her how it was that, the whole emotional attractiveness of that combined with how low you felt and how crushed you were by Dylan f-ing Jones, that sparked your next action.

See when Jenni was just about to leave the car you had turned to face her, nose to nose, and then lifted your head gently forward. Closer and closer until you could fell Jenni’s nervous, excited breath on your own lips. Then you had kissed her. Kissed her hard, with passion and with force, taking back everything she, Sarah, had stolen from you over the past months. And for a few seconds the two of you were locked in this moment of exhilaration before Jenni roughly pushed you away, no doubt just because she was worried about what problems this would cause which made sense. Then she had rushed out the car but you didn’t mind because you hadn’t felt that good in so long. Hadn’t felt that alive.

And then you finished your story, thinking that was the end of it. That you’d said your piece and all was square now, failing to notice that a fire was now lit in Sarah. One that rarely ever shows. 

Our nanny? Our actual nanny? You kissed Jenni. My god Michael. Actually. I can’t believe it.

When she finished berating you, when there was no more anger left to give, you decided to fight it. To not back down for once. 

Well you shouldn’t have started this. You shouldn’t have got with Dylan in the first place then none of this ever would have happened. It all stems from you.

To that Sarah threw back her head and laughed. What kind of therapist are you? Like seriously? What do you even teach your clients?

I don’t teach them, I listen, you reply resolutely.

Then what is this, Sarah jabs back.

You take a moment before the tip of a smile touches your lips. An eye for an eye, you reply before adding, just like the priest in Dylan Jones famous story.

Sarah sighs despairingly. For what eye Michael? Dylan? Dylan f-ing Jones. The single most annoying man on the planet – after you that is. Michael, I can’t stand Dylan Jones. No one on set can. He’s literally unbearable. The worst. Constantly relaying stories we never ask for. Oh this one time in Bolivia, oh when I was in the Congo or Mali or Venezuela or wherever the fuck he goes. Never asking any questions, just telling, telling, telling. The fact that you thought I could be with him just shows how little you know me Michael? Dylan? I can’t even.

Dumbfounded you didn’t know what to say. You were and still are convinced she was lying but you never got the chance to question it. Sarah threw you a suitcase and out you went, on the road in your Tesla like you still are now. Heading to the office because you’ve got nowhere else to go. Because that’s your home now. And while Wayne snuggles into bed tonight with his Jazmine, the man who dabbled with an affair for god knows how long, you are the one who sleeps alone. And that thought follows you every day as you drive to restaurants in your flash car, gliding down the San Francisco streets. It weighs down on you as you sit down to eat alone once again and replay everything that’s happened. As you try to figure out if you’re a fantastic therapist or the absolute worst.




Cleaning Tesla’s

 

Wash, rinse, repeat. Wash, rinse, repeat. Arms flexed, biceps tense. You press down and you wipe. Scrubbing away the dirt, the grime, the dust. The dark. Everything you wished you could scrub away inside of yourself, but you can’t. Only on cars. High quality cars of the rich men and women of the Bay. Expensive electric cars that couldn’t even work in your country but speed the roads violently here. Always shining, always glistening, especially after you’ve been to work. Sometimes the owners tip, sometimes they don’t, sometimes they buy you something from the store. It’s harder now no one carries cash. Only the tip is what you rely on, the money you need to save to get you back home, because that’s all you can think of these days. To get back to Guatemala. To your country, your people and your little brother rotting in his cell. To the country Americans are scared to visit even though this country, the land of the free, has had nearly three hundred school shootings in the last ten years and your dangerous, violent, no-go-country has had none. Zero. But home is the new Wild West and this country is developed. At least that’s what they say whilst you just count down the days until you can return. Back to your black sand beach with the swaying palms and the mangroves and the cocos and the mangoes falling from the trees and the fresh fish caught that morning and the cervezas outside the tiendas and the laughter on the streets. The smiles and the warmth of your people, not this fake Californian niceness that makes you feel hollow inside. But to do all that, to get back home, you need money. Because that’s the reason you came, why you made that trip you try your best to forget. Bodies packed above you and below. Some alive, some dead. Hidden in a truck compartment for days on end to make it over the border to this strange land where the only people who really talk to you are the people who speak your tongue. But you didn’t come for gringo friends. Instead you came to work and to graft and do everything they say you should to live the American dream, a phrase that makes no sense, but you did it anyway. You worked your way up the country, from LA to San Diego to San Francisco and now into San Rafael. The first months nearly broke you but you had expected that. You could do hard. From pot cleaner to gardener you did your best. Not saving much, but at least opening doors. And then you became a nanny, the one job you were really good at. The one job you truly loved and the one you couldn’t believe what they paid. More in thirty minutes than you’d got for a day’s work back home. All for something that everyone did for favours or for free there anyway. And then you really began to save, to put money in the bank. Saving, saving, saving in the most expensive city in the world. Not that you lived there but you worked there, taking the BART up into the Mission every day from San Jose, to an area full of people from home. Them on the streets, mingled together with white people paying crazy amounts to stand by your side and call it culture. And it was there with a gringo family that the bills vanished. Pocketing more and more until you could almost touch home. Nearly enough saved to build something liveable for your family on your abuelos empty land. Not that you had much family left with your papí and mami both gone and your little brother in his cell. But that didn’t mean one day you wouldn’t have a new family of your own. That’s what you want and Julio always said he would wait for you and you still believe him even though you know he hits the parties hard. But that’s the dream that loops like a cassette on rewind. The one that keeps you alive. The dream that had become more and more of a reality as you took on hour after hour after hour until it was so painfully close, there, dusting the tips of your stubby little fingers, right until the moment it happened. The one you can never wash, rinse and scrub away. 

      You were in a car which it even more depressing that you work at a car wash now. His car, one you had been in so many times. Of course a show-off red Tesla like all the other road dominating, dick swinging Tesla men. Despite that, he was actually a nice man at the start. Smiling, a bit goofy, interested in your life. A good papí to his boy and a therapist too which made him sound clever, though everyone’s a therapist out here. Everyone’s got problems, everyone’s got trauma and everyone’s got a therapist. Everyone but you because no real people can afford that even though you probably need it most because your papí swung his fists, your little brother is in prison, and you were sexually assaulted in your employers car.  It happened right at the end of the night on a drive back to San Jose, like the last pages of a horror novel. You’d been looking after his little boy because Michael was at a concert with Sarah, his wife, on one of those organised date nights to try and save a marriage that was falling apart. Not that anyone had told you that but you had seen it all with your curious, deer-like eyes. The growing resentments, the arguments, the tiredness over being parents, the jealousy over her relationship with the TV guy. All of it heating up, up, up before burning black under the flame like a tortilla left on a comal too long. And that night you could sense the date had gone bad. Had seen the resigned, defeated look in his sad eyes. The short, monosyllabic sentences, different to the normal friendly Michael as he drove you to your place. Your dark, overpriced one-bedroom condo with it’s small windows and cold walls which you couldn’t believe because you always thought California was meant to be the sunny state, not a carpet of fog. Just before you arrived however, Michael suddenly jolted out of his misery, a spark reborn and you soon found out that spark was you. 

      He pulled up slowly to the street where you lived, edging into a parking space under the dark of a London Plane tree that sat outside your house. Then he started asking you questions, being nice and friendly again and you were happy because you liked Michael. You enjoyed his company and being nanny to Sam, so you weren’t ready when he lunged like every shit stereotype you’d seen in the TV shows. The dad and the nanny. The husband and the immigrant desperate for a visa.

      You felt the bristles of his beard scratch against your face before you felt his tongue. A warning sign, an alert to your body of what was coming. Big and sloppy and wet and you were horrified which surprised you as guiltily you’d always found him kind of attractive but now he was here you felt repulsed. Sick at him, sick for his wife Sarah and sick for little Sam. But you couldn’t move, couldn’t react, couldn’t respond, you could only take it. Sat there on the sweating vegan leather of his stupid Tesla as his tongue lunged into you again and again like a line searching for fish. For its’ prey. Only you weren’t prepared to give him that and after the longest few seconds of your life, which is surprising considering every other shit you’ve been through, you found the strength to lift both hands up and plant them on his chest and roughly push him away. Michael stop, you cried and first he looked confused and then his face changed as if he understood, but there was no remorse there. Instead it was as if the reason you said no was for all the other reasons you couldn’t do it, like Sarah and Sam, and not because you felt ruined. Because how could a poor, short, broad-shouldered Guatemala girl feel sick being kissed by a rich Tesla-owning therapist like him. But sick you were as you pushed the fancy button to lift up the Tesla's door and darted out before another word could be shared. Then you ran up to your room, your small, dark, little room, and fell face first into your pillow and cried. Cried not just for him and for what happened but also because what it meant. About how there was no going back now. How your dream job was done. Gone. You could never face Michael again, but also Sarah and little Sam, and more, it had rocked your faith in the whole idea of being a nanny. That the films and the cliches were all true and that turned you rotten, because maybe that’s how everyone saw you. The Guatemalan nanny, one of many, who fucks the dad on the sly even though you’re not that person and never could be. And so the next day you called Sarah and told her you were resigning, then you packed up your bags, moved out your flat and made your way north again, settling this time in the county of Marin. Here there were more Guatemalans and community and even a Guatemalan restaurant near where you lived, though the prices were ten times of home. And for your first few months there, things were good. You found a room with a family who also led you to a job at a local car wash which you didn’t like but you didn’t hate either. It was good enough, a place to earn before you could finally make your way home and so you were happy. The car wash didn’t pay as well as the nanny job, nowhere near, but it was steady and it was easy and the sun shone most days which was different from San Francisco and reminded you of home. There was a group of you who did it. Guatemalans, Mexicans, an El Salvadorian, with a gringo in charge. You had fun as a crew, helping each other out, covering each others backs, some with the same goal as you, others building their life out here hoping for something better for their hijos. Maybe that’s why you wanted to go home so much. Because you didn’t have hijos here and all you could think about was yourself, your own needs and how much happier you were back there where the pace of life moved to the gentle rock of the hammock. No gringo hustle down at the beach, though your brother told you that was changing in his calls to you from his cell. A smuggled phone for late night calls with his sister, whispering as he told you of his innocence and what had actually happened on the beach where he was accused of murdering a gringo for raping a Latina. The history of your countries in a nutshell. What he did you supported, especially after what happened with you and Michael. An eye for an eye as the Mayans say. Only you wouldn’t be taking Michael’s eye too because you’d cut all ties and vanished from his life. You often wondered if Sarah and his relationship survived it, though you kind of hoped it did for little Sam’s sake. It was something you had accepted you would never find out, right until now. This moment when the car you are washings’ window buzzes it’s way down and Michael’s face is suddenly there once again. Close. Smiling right at you, his horrid tongue flopping about between his shiny teeth. 

      It is a Tuesday. The heat aches confrontationally in the air, as if it knows what is to come. To break it Eddie plays around with the hose of the car wash, spraying you all down under the blaze of the sun whilst you waited for more cars to arrive. Laughing and joking as the little droplets of water fall down upon you, covering your sweat stained face and the white T-shirt underneath. The T-shirt you wish you never wore. You don’t notice the red Tesla when it pulls in, they are so common round here so it’s normal to see a few each day, even red ones. Watching it glide forwards in a silent buzz sparks no alarms and quickly you all go to work. First Eddie and Ricardo scrub it down before the car goes through the machine. El gran secador de pelo, your nickname for it. Then the Tesla whirs its way round to you and Gaby to vacuum the inside. You point for the driver to pull the car close to the curb then knock on his window to ask him to unlock. He must of seen you by now, seen you covered in the spray of the hose, all before you know it’s him. But then the window glides down and Michael’s face is there and instantly you feel shock and then you feel green and vulnerable as you wrap both arms across your chest and the flimsy white T-shirt behind. And there he looks right at you and he smiles.

      Jenni, he says, eyes wide in manufactured surprise. You work here? 

      You can’t smile back, you won’t. All you can do is nod, say yes and then slink back into the shadow of the shitty shade your boss put up last month. There you stand, breath shallower  by the second until it’s hard to suck any in and Gaby sees you and comes to your side and asks what’s wrong but you can’t even reply. You just say that you’re hot and you need a break and ask if Ricardo can cover you for a second. She says yes, so that’s when you run. Bolting across the cracking concrete that lines the garage, over the road, weaving through the traffic and right into the Nordstrom on the other side. There you skip up to the ladies department, grab a dress from a rail and then dodge into the changing room and hide. Waiting for thirty minutes or more until you exit, putting the dress back on the rail because you could never afford anything that nice from here anyway. When you get to the road you scan every direction around to make sure you’re in the clear. Then you shuffle back to the car wash where everyone is looking even though they pretend they’re not. Then Ryan, your boss, storms out and asks where the hell you’ve been and you lose an hours worth of pay. The rest of the day passes in a blur, worried glances over your shoulder, scared he might reappear. But for now he doesn’t. Gaby tries to find out what’s wrong but you can’t bring yourself to tell her. Feels too degrading somehow. The only person you can tell is your brother from the dark of his cell and he comforts you. Warms you with his words and that he’s here to help even from his damp, shitty cell. And then you fall asleep.

      That night you dream of cars, but not just any cars. Tesla's. You’re in a field. A great, big grass field though the grass isn’t yellow and dead like it is in California, but green and healthy and full of life like what they say about the South. And you’re in the middle of this field when all these Tesla's arrive and they start circling you, going round and round and round, the circle getting smaller and smaller with each loop. And they’re all pearl white and solid black and silver metallic and deep blue metallic but not red. Just those colours circling and circling until they’re so close that you can feel the rush of the wind as they speed past sweeping into your face. And just as they’re getting so close you could reach out and touch them, that’s when the red one arrives. Only one, joining the circle but standing out, alone, forcing the other ones to all start circling wider. And you’re scared and terrified because you know this Tesla and so you try to run but you can’t because the other cars won’t let you. They just keep you there and that’s when the panic kicks in. Anxiety they call it here in California but for you it’s just fear. The same fear you had when your papí was drinking and you knew what was next. And it’s here now but you try to be greater than it. To breath deep and to conquer it, and finally you see that your feet are able to move and you start skating across the field which is no longer green and healthy but yellow and dead just like a Californian summer, and you think you’re going to escape. But just as you are, just as you see a gap to make your exit, out the corner of your eye you see a flash of red and suddenly the red Tesla is there in front of you. It is driving straight at you, head on, but instead of run away this time you have found your courage and now you charge straight back at it. You, toes pressing off from the dead grass, against the Tesla, electricity humming like blood thirsty mosquitos at sunset. But you’re not scared anymore. You’re fierce.

      The next morning you get to work early, determined to make up from the lost hours of the day before. You wash, scrub, vacuum faster and harder than you ever have, surprising all your colleagues. Even Ryan notices, little eyes glancing through the window, though of course he won’t give you any dollars for it. But you don’t mind. You’re here to work and work hard. To earn your money and to leave this shit-stained land as soon as you can. Also the work distracts you from thinking about him, though if he does come now you’re ready. Almost wanting it to happen so you can say your piece. But he doesn’t come that day, nor the next. Tesla's do of course, red ones even whose windows whir down in a suspense, but they’re never him. For a whole month nothing, yet a leopard stays a leopard and can never change its spots

      When Michael returns it’s a different version from last time. You can see it in the length of his beard, the stain on his shirt and the rough of his hair. When you get to work vacuuming his car this becomes even clearer. Empty coffee cups, cheese puffs stamped into the floor and a pillow stuffed under the seat. The whole time you’re cleaning you ignore him. Don’t share a word as if he’s any other customer, but towards the end it’s you who breaks the silence, unable to dance anymore. 

      Why are you here Michael, you ask in English so your colleagues don’t understand.

      I need to talk to you he replies, desperation painted over every inch of his unkept face and for a moment you feel sorry for him, imagining everything he’s been through. But then you see the clumps of his unshaven beard and you remember how it felt when they spiked you and all mercy is gone. You decide to let him have his moment and then be done for good.

      Okay Michael, tell me what you need to tell me. And the two of you walk over the road to the cafe, Ricardo covering you yet again, Ryan watching from the window no doubt calculating everything he’s about to deduct. 

      Sarah left me, he says straight out and you act surprised even though that was obvious from the moment he rolled down his window. I told her about us and what we did and our feelings for each other and why you left and well everything. And it was the final straw, she left me for good. I still see Sam but I’m basically living out the office and the Tesla while we work things out. I was so lost, not sure of myself, then that day I came here, which was by pure chance by the way and I saw you and I suddenly knew. That we are meant to be together. That the moment in the Tesla was the end of something corrosive and the start of something beautiful and I’ve decided that I really do want you. I’m sorry I’ve been distant and not committing but now I’m ready for something between us. I really am Jenni. I’m just angry it took me so long to get there.

      The whole time you stay silent because you’re so shocked you can’t think of a word to say. Shocked and amused and outraged all at the same time at this clown who just thought he could waltz in and take you like you were some Disney princess counting down the minutes until your white saviour came. But you don’t tell him any of this. You just nod your head silently and thank him for sharing and tell him you need time to think. That he should return next week after you finish your shift at two. To that his face lights up, his imagination on fire and you feel wrong for encouraging him but also you’re happy with what you’ve done because it really gives you time to think. Then you cross back over the road and Michael gets back in his shiny clean, show-off car, his face now a sorry smile of happiness, and drives off.

      That night you give your brother a call and together you decide upon how you should respond. The rest of the week you think it all over and by the time the day comes you’ve made your peace with the idea.

      The Tesla rolls in at exactly the minute you asked, as if it had been patiently hiding round the corner waiting until he could skulk for his prey. Michael pays for another wash and clean because the car needs it. Then he pulls over at the side and waits for you. Wordlessly you enter his car, the stupid doors going up instead of out in parade. For a moment you’re scared to sit down, remembering what happened last time you were in it. Then you think of your plan and it gives you enough strength for those fears to melt. And so you tell him where to go, to a hidden hiking trail up in West Marin, and together you glide away and even you are impressed by how swish the car is. How silent it is as its wheels roll across the concrete before it leaves the buildings behind and already you’re zooming into the hills and nature and towards your trail. When you park by the side of a road, towering redwoods all around you, Michael asks if it’s safe to leave his baby here and it’s that phrase, my baby, that removes any doubts over what you’re about to do. You shake a no back and tell him we’re not in San Francisco anymore and reluctantly he lowers the doors and you start marching through the woods. Whilst you walk Michael talks like every white man who loves the sound of his own voice. Though this time he’s not bragging but he’s opening up, telling you about his life, his failures, his marriage, his parents and being a parent and his work, all like he’s had it rough, not you. And the whole time you nod along, say yes and no and I understand as if you’re the therapist, not him, and it makes you think how easy this therapist gig is and maybe you should have trained in that and no wonder everyone does it these days. When he finally reaches the end of his monologue you’re back at his car and he takes a deep breath and looks at you. Looks you up and down like he did that night and you dart your eyes around, panicking that it’s only you and him here. The only people for miles around and suddenly your breathing starts to race and you doubt your plan. He takes a step towards you, places a hand on your shoulder, his breath hot and his forehead sweaty and says, Jenni, I’ve really missed you. Then, only then, do you reach for your phone.

      You pull it out, your heart thudding relentlessly into its cage, and go to call who you need, only there’s no signal here, something you’ve never been able to get your head around. Living near the tech capital of the word yet the phone signal is worse than the rural beach village where you grew up. And you start to sweat and panic as Michael looms in closer and suddenly there is a hand on your back sliding its way down the curve of your spine. Lower, lower, lower and all breath stops and you’re as paralysed as you were before, but just at that moment your phone spark into life.

      Michael’s hand immediately jumps off your back as your brother’s face comes into picture on the blurred pixels of your phone. You hand the phone to Michael and slowly he raises it until your little baby brother is looking right at him. Then Juan begins to talk. A relentless attack of words, fire in his breath and Michael just stares back whilst his colour drains. Occasionally saying sí, claro, claro, because his Spanish is actually quite good. When Juan finally finishes Michael calmly hands you back the phone and then he reaches into his pocket and pulls out the keys to his shiny red Tesla. He lifts them up, a sob in his throat, and reluctantly drops them down into the palm of your hand. Your fingers smartly clamp around them and you say nothing as you bolt over to the driver side of his car and open up the stupid doors. Then you fall down into the light vegan leather of the seat and press the button to bring the whole fancy electronic vehicle to life. Suddenly a dashboard of lights are flashing back at you, like the clearing of a throat before speech, but you’ve watched Michael drive this enough, had studied him as you came here today, so you know what to do. And with that and a light press if your foot down on the accelerator, away you go, leaving a confused, expressionless Michael stood alone amongst a sea of redwoods. 

         Then you snort. You snort and you snigger and then you erupt. Doubled over with a delirious kind of laughter full of relief and then joy. An uncontrollable satisfaction at the thought of Michael’s face as your brother told him that he needed to stay away from his sister. That he had harassed her for far too long. That he’d lost her a dream job, all her money, shifts at her new job and worst of all, he had touched her without her permission. Then he had asked Michael if Michael knew his story and why he was in prison. Michael had nodded sí, and even though your brother is one of the sweetest boys you know, Michael had always been terrified of him and you used that fear to attack Michael now. Juan had said slowly, let me tell you again, and he then told the whole story of why he killed the gringo for raping a Guate women and an eye for an eye and how that’s the way things go. And the whole story got Michael more and more worried until your brother started telling Michael what he was now going to do. How he was going to give his sister his fancy car, give her the keys right now, and he was going to let her drive away. Drive wherever she wanted to go and never contact her again. That he was never going to contact the police about it but instead do nothing and return to his little therapist life. And if he did contact the police or tell anyone or cause even the tiniest bit of a problem for his sister then he, your brother, was going to make it his lifetime mission to get him. That he might be in a cell but that meant he had connections, not just in Guatemala but in the United States too and all he had to do was make a call and Michael would be in more trouble than he ever could imagine. And the whole plan never should have worked in a million years as it was so beyond stupid, but for once in your life the reputation of your home country helped you. The stupid reputation that your beautiful land was a world of death and destruction and this land of school shootings and new Nazi’s wasn’t. But Michael was stupid. He believed it all even though my brother quite obviously had no dangerous connections in Guatemala and definitely not in the US. Michael never doubted it though, just handed over the keys and away you go, heading south, all the way home. Of course you’ll sell the car along the way, this thing only works where the rich people live, but that money will be more than you’ve ever known. Real money to finally build something on your abuelos land, to try and help get your brother out of jail early, to be in Julio’s arms once again and start a new, happy life in the beautiful country you call home. So you glide smoothly along, through the hillside roads, the redwoods, the rivers and the vineyards, a painting of American happiness before you, lounged back inside your sparkling clean red Tesla which shines brightly under the Californian sun.


 

Ben Davies is a writer based in California. Originally from the UK, Ben has had fiction published or forthcoming in LeftBrain Media, Downtime Review, MiniMag, Firework Stories, Unlikely Stories & Short Story Me, with articles published in magazines including Huck, Lost and The International Times. He is currently finishing a short story collection, And So I Took Their Eye and debut novel, A Question of England.


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