Pity would be no more
If we did not make somebody poor,
And Mercy no more could be
If all were as happy as we.
And mutual fear brings Peace,
Till the selfish loves increase;
Then Cruelty knits a snare,
And spreads his baits with care.*
I ponder these words as I sit at my desk. Can we only judge joy if we have measured sorrow? Are we only merciful because people need help? Does ‘mutual fear’ or mutual pleasure still bind Christian Grey to Elena Lincoln?
I sit. I think. I draw no conclusion.
I keep hearing the voice of Christian’s mother echoing through my skull. I asked her if Elena had children – Grace’s answer chilled me: I think she prefers my children.
Indeed she did, Dr Trevelyan. And she still does. She will not let him go. She will not set him free.
For seven years Elena bided her time. Seven years she waited for the man-child that was Christian at 15. The thought sickens me. Christian still believes she helped him. I feel defeated. He wants to change but can he progress if he continues to believe that she was his saviour?
And if he were able to admit her role in his damaged psyche, how would it affect his relationship with his family? They see her as one of them – a trusted, loved member of their inner circle.
God, I’m such an idiot! That’s it! Of course! This is exactly the reason why he keeps himself at a distance from his family, particularly his mother. He can’t reject Elena without rejecting his mother. If he severed ties with Elena, there would be questions – questions he doesn’t want to answer or even admit to. He understands – at some level – that his relationship with that woman was wrong; by extension, admitting that to his mother would hurt her. He will tolerate any pain for himself – as Elena demonstrated determinedly and repeatedly over the years – but he will not tolerate more pain for the people he loves.
He admits he brought so much hurt to his parents during his adolescent years, he refuses to do it again by ridding himself of the Lincoln woman.
But no, that’s too simplistic. He can’t quite bring himself to let her go either. We all wish for one confidant, a person who knows the ‘real me’. My beloved Rhian fulfils that role. Christian still believes Elena Lincoln does the same for him.
My intercom buzzes and Edna’s maternal tones float through the air.
“Mr. Grey is here to see you, doctor.”
“Thank you, Edna. Do send him through.”
He strides into the room, his expression carefully schooled but his eyes are wary.
“Good morning, John.”
“Good morning, Christian. Please, do take a seat.”
He arranges his long limbs elegantly and meets my gaze unwaveringly. I wonder, ridiculously, if he practises not blinking. If so, his eyeballs must be as dry as the Gobi desert. I know why his defences are up yet again – I met his family.
And so we begin our dance: two steps forward and one back.
“I did enjoy meeting your family.”
He shrugs. “Everyone does.”
His subtext is glaringly obvious: Everyone enjoys meeting them because they are good – I am not.
“But I must apologise – I did not realise that the event was organised by your mother. I would not have presumed had I known.”
He waves his hand dismissively. “I’m aware of that, John. I’m glad you met them.”
“Might I ask why?”
He looks surprised, maybe even a little confused. “Why wouldn’t I?”
Avoidance by answering a question with a question.
“You keep your life so compartmentalised. I was expecting you to have me thrown out on my ear by that fearsomely saturnine driver of yours.”
He smiles. “Yes, Taylor is not renowned for his verbosity. But in any event, I drove myself last night.”
“Ah, of course. The Spider R8. Driving, soaring, flying your helicopter, sailing your yacht – all adrenaline sports. The kickboxing, too, I imagine, to some degree.”
He shrugs. A sophisticated gesture with him. “They all take focus and energy or mental energy. It helps.”
“And all expensive.”
He blinks. Aha – a point to the doctor from Dedham.
“The ex-Olympic instructor notwithstanding?”
“It didn’t start that way. Bastille is the best.”
Yes, the best of everything. All that money can buy. We do not mention the things it cannot buy.
“And music,” I suggest.
“Yes, music has charms to soothe a savage breast.”
“How whimsical of you, Christian.”
“The Mourning Bride is a tragedy.”
One-all. I can’t help smiling.
“And you mentioned you enjoy art.”
“To look at. I can’t draw for shit.”
“You mentioned in a previous session that you have purchased several works. Have you bought anything recently?”
For some reason he shifts uncomfortably in his seat. Christian rarely fidgets. Unwittingly, I have struck a chord.
“As it happens, I have.”
We do that a lot.
“Your reticence makes me curious, Christian.”
“The doctor’s dilemma?”
“It’s an early fifteenth century work by Nicolò da Voltri.”
He finally meets my intrigued gaze.
“Madonna and Child.”
He raises his eyebrows and waits for me to put two and two together. I must be feeling a little skittish myself because I don’t feel like humouring him.
“Not a Pièta?”
For the briefest moment he glares at me, then a grudging chuckle breaks from him.
“You should be on the fucking stage, John.”
The first stage out of town if I can’t help this man.
“Tell me a happy childhood memory, Christian?”
He scowls, his temper swinging towards the amber warning light.
“What the fuck is the use of that?”
Well, frankly it’s glaring obvious. From the man who spends millions on the ultimate mother and child memorial. Remembering a happy time – remembering how to be happy – is important in reinforcing a sense of worth, or peace. Many therapists ask clients to repeat positive affirmations as a way of increasing their sense of self-worth, to the point where it becomes a new, learned behaviour. The purpose is to over-ride previously established negative feelings.
I know this, Christian knows this, but he doesn’t want to play the game. That in itself is interesting. At his core, he doesn’t believe he deserves to relearn happiness.
I pick up my fountain pen to make some notes.
“What are you writing?” he snaps, trying to read my script that is upside down to him.
“A shopping list.”
I look up.
“Christian, this is how it works: I ask a question because it has a purpose, not for my own amusement. I would simply ask you that you give me the courtesy of an answer, otherwise you’re wasting my time as well as your own. And I calculate that so far your evasiveness has cost you in the region of $23,000. If only my own fee were commensurate.”
His mouth twists because he doesn’t know whether to be amused or irritated. He’s probably a little of both.
“Tell me more about Aspen.”
He closes his eyes and looks down.
“Our parents took us skiing. I was six the first time and Elliot was nearly nine. Mia hadn’t come to us yet. I remember liking the snow. It was different from the snow at home – drier.”
“Do you ski, John?”
“I have been known to flail around on two planks of wood, but no, I wouldn’t call it skiing.”
A small smile causes tiny creases around his eyes and some of the tension is eased from his shoulders.
“Elliot was pissed because I picked it up more easily than him. He thought because he was older that he’d be better at it.”
“It made our mother crazy.”
“Because I was catching air by the end of the third day. I had no fear and…”
His face muscles appear to freeze.
“I’ve never been afraid of physical pain,” he says, quietly.
No indeed. It is mental pain that tortures him.
“What else did you like about Aspen?”
He takes a deep breath.
“The space. The snow. Everything looked so… clean. Fresh. When it snowed, it was as if everything was new again. Yes, I know how that sounds, John – all the dirty little secrets covered up under a blanket of white. What a fucking cliché.”
I won’t be side-tracked.
“But you had good memories there?”
“Tell me one.”
He leans back and closes his eyes, his forehead heavily lined as the pain he feels when I ask him to think of pleasure manifests itself.
Finally, he speaks.
“We spent quite a few Christmases and New Years there.”
He doesn’t elaborate.
“So, you have a number of good memories of Aspen?”
“When was the last time you went?”
“Fuck, I don’t know.”
“Yes, you do.”
This time he grits his teeth.
“Before I left for Harvard.”
“Why didn’t you want to tell me that?”
I move on.
“Did you ever mix with other children while you were there?”
“‘Not really’ isn’t no.”
He tugs at his hair, leaving it standing on end.
“One year, there was a girl from my school. My parents knew hers a little.”
“How old were you?”
Just before he met Elena.
“What was she like?”
“She was… pretty. I remember Elliot fucking teasing me about her.”
“Was she a brunette?”
“As far as I recall.”
“As far as I recall, Christian, you have a near photographic memory.”
He scowls but doesn’t answer, instead crossing his arms across his chest in a rare, defensive gesture.
“What happened to her?”
“Nothing, that I know of.”
“So this friendship didn’t develop when you were back at school?”
“You know why not.”
“If I knew I wouldn’t ask.”
His anger is only just in check.
I move on.
“I noticed you dancing with an attractive blonde woman at your mother’s event last weekend.”
“I assumed it was Elena Lincoln because other than your family members, she was the only person with who you could be persuaded to dance.”
“Was my assumption correct?”
Pause. Clenched fists. I watch as he forces himself to relax.
A step back.
“You dance very well. Your mother says that you learned from seeing your father dance.”
He snorts with amusement.
“Is that what she said?”
“Yes. Was she wrong?”
“Dad didn’t teach me to dance. Christ, if he had… my mother made him go for lessons because he broke her toe once.”
“So who taught you?”
His smile fades.
I was not expecting that answer.
“She taught you well.”
“We didn’t spend all our time fucking.”
“Or being punished?”
“Do you see her often?”
“How many times a year?”
“Four. Maybe five.”
“So once at your mother’s fundraiser and the rest… all social occasions?”
“As I said: we’re business partners.”
“What do you talk about?”
“Business.” He sighs as I stare back. “Specifically, her chain of salons.”
“It’s your conversation, Christian – you tell me.”
“I don’t know. Life. The universe. Everything. Nothing. It’s just talk.”
“‘Life, the universe, everything.’ That is not nothing. Do you talk to anyone else like that? Shoot the breeze with friends from work, perhaps?”
“For fuck’s sake! No, of course not. They’re my employees.”
“Old friends from Harvard?”
He is sullen and silent.
“Do you talk to anyone else the way you talk to Elena?”
His eyes are frigid.
“No. No one.”
“Not even Elliot?”
“No, not really.”
“What do you talk to your brother about?”
“His renovation and restoration business mainly.”
Again, he runs his hands through his hair in frustration.
“Most of it’s a load of crap – women he’s fucking, ballgames he’s seen. That kind of thing.”
“Do you think your brother is shallow?”
“No, I fucking don’t!”
“You make him sound that way.”
He glares at me.
“My brother has always looked out for me. I don’t have to… pretend with Elliot. He doesn’t ask me about my work. We go hiking. We go sailing. Fishing sometimes. He’s a good person. He gives out this happy vibe. Everyone loves Elliot.”
“But he doesn’t know about your submissives?”
“Of course he fucking doesn’t.”
“What about Mia?”
“What about her?”
“Do you talk to her?”
“Fuck. This is getting tedious. Yes, of course I talk to my sister.”
“And I suppose you’ll tell me you talk to your parents?”
“Get to the fucking point, John.”
“I’m trying to establish the facts, Christian. You say you talk to your family, that you’re close to them, but they’re not even aware of your sexual orientation. The only person with whom you really share ‘life, the universe, everything’ is Elena. Do recognise this definition, Christian? ‘Emotional dependency is manifested by a marked and habitual inclination to rely on another for comfort, support, guidance, and decision making.’ Would you say you’re still emotionally dependent on Elena?”
Light the blue touch paper and stand well back.
His mouth sets in a hard line but I can see that his brain is whirling at a thousand miles an hour behind his iron stare.
He stands up in one graceful movement.
“Time’s up,” he spits out, then turns on his heel and leaves.
So how do I sum up today’s session? Exorcising Christian’s demons is like battling the hydra: I cut off one head and two more spring up in its place. I am not a violent man so I am glad I did not have the chance to speak to Elena Lincoln at the recent fundraiser.
All I can do is to keep on presenting Christian with questions that he must answer for himself. And hope. I must not give up hope. I won’t. But has he?
* William Blake, The Human Abstract