Chapter Six

Bradley had only been with his therapist for just over a half an hour and he was already wishing that he had made some sort of excuse to not show up. As a Doctor of Psychology, he fully recognized that therapy was something that everyone could benefit from. He himself had benefited from it throughout his first years on Broadway, so he wasn’t opposed to the process of therapy, just more specifically the fact that he was forced to do it.

The largest part of him believed he should have made another attempt at changing his therapist, but the board saw no reason why. Though, the absolute smallest, and probably least rational, part of him muttered promises of this potentially helping.

Potentially being the optimal word.

More than anything all of this was required of him. No rational person would want their Psychologist to be not entirely right in the head, Bo had mostly come to terms with his leg, or lack thereof, so he didn’t particularly understand the entire situation anymore. One signature was all that was left before he could go back to work, and this woman seemed intent to not provide said signature.

“It’s your turn to speak Mr. Jones.” The woman who plays his therapist isn’t an amputee herself. She is in possession of all four appendages, and all her vital organs so what her specific qualifications in being his therapist are is beyond Bradley to the highest extent.

If you google her, it’ll say that she’s a therapist that specializes in loss, and while it’s quite obvious to realize what he lost, at the same time he would much rather be speaking to a brick wall than to this woman.

Bradley would usually never pass such harsh judgement on someone, but everything about this woman was unprofessional. She spoke of her own life practically every session, taking this time to use Bradley as a sounding board, and on some occasions, she would cross the metaphorical line in the middle of the room, despite the fact that it says multiple times in Bradleys chart that he does not like close contact.

It was rather a simple explanation; Dr. Jones’ is autistic.

The word can be seen on the page from across the room, and was expressly stated at the beginning of their required meetings nearly two years ago. He did not let it affect his day to day, and it quite obviously did not affect his studies in any way.

There are only two real ways that doctors react to seeing that specific diagnosis on his chart. The first is to understand that Autism is a spectrum and that every person with it is different from the next. This is the correct way to act, to not assume and to wait until the patient brings it up, because for some it does not even need to be brought up in most situations. For example, like in Bradley’s life specifically. Those that know about this particular diagnosis are a limited number, and when he joins a new production usually it’s just the director who knows.

And that is the preferred way that Bradley shares this diagnosis.

The second way to react is the way that a smaller portion of doctors react. They will see the letters that spell out his diagnosis and instantly believe that the patient has the mentality of someone much younger than they are. This is of course a minority of doctors and not every doctor reacts this way, but the fact that it is common enough to happen to Bo, even with his PhD, means that it happens much too often for anyone's own good.

Medical bias is a true fact, and in America especially.

His therapist's name is Doctor Jennifer Marion, and if Doctor Jones had any say in this specific institution he would recommend that she lose her license, or at the least, go through extensive re-training about what is and isn’t proper in therapy sessions.

Bradley looked up from the cuticle he was picking at, a frown on his face displaying the true annoyance that he felt about her overeager fake excitement that she attempts to give off, in the smallest hope of it spreading to Bo. She had made the same blatant mistake once again;

“It’s Doctor.” His voice is flat and uninterested as he corrected her.

“Hmm?” She replies, a smile that could in no way be real shining from her face. She is fully aware of what Bradley said. “What was that?”

Jennifer is, of course, also aware of Bradley’s inability to be confrontational in most situations, and her approach to it is less than normal. The first time they had met, Bradley had sat in the middle of the couch just as he does now with an uninterested face as he explained what exactly his autism had an affect on in his life. It was not an extensive list, but it was all encompassing in a sense.

“It’s Doctor Jones, not mister.” The correction was one that he commonly had to make to the everyday person he met, but to hear this doctor, who has known him for the worst parts of two years refer to him, once again, without the prefacing word was reaching the point where it was an insult. Though it almost seemed as if that were her goal. “I went on a date today.”

The topic of conversation was always different each session. Ranging from the phantom pains that had faded away throughout his recovery to the more current everyday life that Bradley was living. Though every session always turned back to her, and Bradley was feeling more and more like a sounding board rather than a patient recieving help.

“And how did it go?” Jennifer’s face twisted ever so slightly, something strange coming into her eyes, though it all together faded too quickly that he couldn’t be sure if he had actually seen whatever it was. “Was she nice? Will you go on another date?”

Internally Bo was smiling, Oscar’s lasting impression a favorable one.

Externally he picked at his cuticle. 

He was,” Bo was sure to put emphasis on the pronoun, he had told the woman at the beginning of their sessions (once again, nearly two years ago) that he was gay and in a relationship (which ended because of the “emotional strain of dating an amputee was to much” (Matthew’s words, not Bo’s)). As it was a necessary detail to be shared. “We’re getting together again on Saturday.”

There was so much more he could easily say without any form of prompting, as Oscar was someone wonderful that he felt that he could go on for hours about.

But it was just as easy to say nothing. The idea of potentially barring his entire soul to a woman more concerned on whether or not she was talking about her own life rather than his mental state was something that he never wanted to do.

But the medical board required it of him.

Pre-accident, Bo had spent a few hours every day at Bellevue hospital working with patients and actually putting his degree to use in between the Broadway shows. But after his accident, the medical board decided that he had to prove he was in wonderful physical shape as well as mental shape before he would be allowed to join the staff again, and this time as a permanent member/

That was nearly two years ago, and here he was, sitting across the room from a woman who could care less about genuinely helping him. The board had not taken him seriously when he had requested a change of doctors originally, and here he was now, two years later and still in the same boat.

“And what about your leg?” Jennifer acted like it was the most difficult thing to get him to talk. She readjusted the way she was sitting,  “Did you tell him?”

“My leg is fine.” Bradley muttered, looking up from his cuticle at the woman for the second time. “And no, I didn’t tell him.”

Jennifer sighed, though it was much different than just an out of breath sigh, or an I forgot to breath sigh, it was almost as if she were genuinely disappointed in him. “You know how Matthew reacted after it happened, you really think it is such a good idea to continue on this path?”

She spoke in a condescending tone, her voice raising in pitch, and when Bo glanced up at her once again she had a dramatic frown on her face.

“You don’t need to remind me.” The emotion still wasn’t in Bradley’s voice, he had shut down barely ten minutes into the session. Though, for just a moment he wished he could make it seem as though he genuinely cared about her opinion. Maybe if he did she would sign his forms and he’d be allowed to go back to Bellevue.

Bo flipped his wrist, glancing at his watch for just a moment before standing. He pressed onto the couch as he straightened his legs out, the left coming about it naturally, the right taking a moment to fully straighten out. A shudder passed up his leg as the heel hit the ground, the smallest part of him just wanted to pull the leg off then and there.

“We aren’t done here Doctor Jones.” Jennifer stood as well, crossing the distance between them in just a few steps, pausing a foot or so away from him.

Bo did not look at her, but rather trained his eyes on the door. “I have to go.”

“We aren’t done here Doctor Jones.” Jennifer reached a hand out to him, as if she were going to touch his arm which he had strictly warned her against in the beginning.

Bo stepped to the side, avoiding the hand and frowning at her. “You are not supposed to touch your patients.” It was the first time he put any emotion into his voice, though all he did was firm up his tone to come across as slightly angry.

“You won’t tell.” Jennifer spoke quickly, taking another step towards him and letting her fingertips brush his coat sleeve. Bradley resisted the urge to push her away, instead, he kept his face passive and side stepped the woman.

Bradley started towards the door, not missing the way that his right foot seemed to echo through the room, the silence much too heavy for anything else to pass through. He did not look back, the feeling of being dirty much too strong in his mind to be able to process through what had just happened. He had never known an advance so unwanted, after all he had never really shown interest in the opposite sex, even when he was a child.

Bo’s mind shut down.

“I’ll see you next week.” The cheery voice was back, as if she had not tried to make a move on him.

Bradley couldn’t reply, his concentration solely on getting out of the building as fast as possible, the urge to yell growing stronger as he went.

He began to hum, one singular note that stretched on for the entire elevator ride and out through the first floor of the building. Bo couldn’t think past what had happened just minutes prior, the urge to pull off his coat and just throw it away strong as he hurried home.

Bradley didn’t even care enough to step carefully, the strongest emotion in his mind was to get to somewhere he was comfortable with. The constant sandalwood smell of his apartment would do just as well, if he could keep his bearings enough to make it all the way there.

There was a constant shaking in his hands, he moved them up and down from the elbow, not bothering for the odd looks he was getting as his only concentration was being anywhere but near her.

You’ve got to go faster.” His voice was just above a whisper, the words spoken seconds before he sprinted as best he could through a crosswalk.

If he was in a decent frame of mind, he would have recognized the fact that his fear of the cars speeding past was lessened in his panicked mind. But Bo couldn’t even concentrate on whether his fake foot was facing the correct direction.

Bo seemed to blink and then he was there, standing in the middle of the room, one hand pressed into his kitchen bar top, the other rapidly trying to remove the offending fake leg. Bo let out a huff, his voice cracking as he chanted the same word over and over again (“Off”) as he tried to not lose his cool.

The leg made a hollow thunk when it hit the ground, the relief almost instantaneous for Bo. His breathing slowed, and his hands slowed their shaking. He could see clearly, the world coming into focus.

“Five, the sun coming in through the window, the countertop, the mug I didn’t wash, my hands, my prosthetic.” Bo took a deep breath, clenching his fist against the countertop for just a moment before letting them rest flat.

“Four, my coat, my sock, my ring, the bracelets on my wrist.” The next breath came much more naturally.

“Three;” Bo always had trouble with what he could hear, as everything seemed to stick out. “The fridge motor, the people down below, my breathing.”

He was nearly there, the thoughts about what was causing him such trouble originally gone from his mind as he got to the number two, “The sandalwood of my instruments, the tea packages.”

Taste, taste, “Taste.” Bo considered it for a moment, “One, Toothpaste.”

Everything was manageable.

This was a technique Bo perfected overtime, through years of late nights working towards his PhD and a much too tired mind working through Broadway rehearsals during the day. It took three years to get the hang of in his late teens, and now it was almost like second nature to him.

As common as waking up and starting the kettle for a cup of tea in the mornings, or playing the piano in the evenings. Grounding himself was what worked, and he’d do anything to make it all work out in his life.

“You’re alright.” Bo sighed as he spoke, the simple phrase brought much comfort to him.

He looked at his prosthesis sitting on the floor.

It wasn’t hideous looking, and it was very beautiful either, but rather it was plain.

The soft sleeve that covered the scarring on his leg had two different colors (black and white) that he would swap out depending on how he was feeling physically. The white is much softer than the black, and so he is more inclined to wear the white than the black, as he seemed to get much too hot in the black on normal days, and comfort was something he constantly strived for. The end of the sleeve has this little metal pointy bit (very medical, Bo is fully aware of the fact that he doesn’t know exactly what it’s called, he couldn’t be bothered with the specifics) that inserts into the inside of the socket.

The socket is the part that attaches to his leg, it’s shaped like a cylinder with a rounded bottom with a small hole on the inside that the metal piece slides into to lock it in place. It was built to perfectly attach to what was left to his leg, that way there is no real concern of further injury. The limb itself is a thin steel rod that connects to a foot attachment.

From the socket to the limb, and the limb to the foot is a joint, both joints do their best to act like normal leg joints. Only the knee is successful, it bends and extends when it’s supposed to, like it was built to.

The ankle is another story. It constantly gets twisted to the side, but not just a little bit, rather drastically to the right or left. Often reaching the point where it looks much too freaky to not fix, or causes balance issues while on his usual walks through the city.

Bo has grown to like the faux limb.

That is, as much as he can. The limb constantly reminds him of what exactly he lost, at the very same time, it also keeps him fully aware of how far he’s come. Which he would easily have to say was the only positive part of it having to wear it constantly, or nearly constantly.

I’m not putting you back on.” Bradley muttered, in the direction of the limb, entirely sure of his decision, he started instead to carefully make his way through the kitchen and into the hallway.

It was much easier to keep his balance once there was a wall on either side of him, though it was in no way simply. He had to keep both hands on the wall, carefully pull himself onto the toes of his left foot and then sort of, aggressively hop forward and move his hands across the wall as well. Usually he would have had his cane by the front door, but before he left the apartment this morning he stuck it in the corner of his room and entirely blanked on putting it back beside the front door.

It was a process, a slow, but eventually successful one, though the moment he made it into his room he had to pause to lean against the wall just beside the cane.

Sensory issues have always been something that Bradley has struggled with. His mind had a hard time wrapping itself around any form of unorganized sound, and his life on the stage was full of this particular sound. But there is such a distinct difference between walking down the street and hearing the loud shouts of people passing by and standing on a stage hearing the cheers of thousands of people here to see him perform.

Yes, he was sure in the differences between the two occurrences.

Touch is another matter, Bradley much prefers soft things. Sweaters made from cashmere and other soft materials, and cotton t-shirts worn inside as to not deal with the scratching seams that rub his skin and leave an uncomfortable feeling in his chest. Bo does not like ice cream that does not have chunks in it, and popsicles are a no.

It was all a matter of learning exactly what he needed to learn about himself throughout his time of being alive.

Bo glanced around the room, his eyes falling at the picture of his sister sitting on the dresser across the room. “When you were always at my side.”

Memories of little Bradley and Mel running existing perfectly in the universe without a speck of fear or anxiety. Before their parents turned the way they did and before Bradley left, and now they were both so different.

Despite everything that Bradley kept secret from his sister, he did truly miss her. She had looked gorgeous at the wedding, and while he was glad that that was his last memory of her for the time being, he still wished she had been here during his recovery.

Perhaps telling her wouldn’t come as hard as he thought it would.

Maybe she’ll cry, maybe she’ll be angry, both of which Bradley had to train himself to recognize the signs of. When he was a child (before coming to New York) if anyone were angry at him or sad at him, unless it was a vocal or physical thing, he could never really recognize the emotions as something he could feel or that others could feel.

The idea of seeing Mel cry was not one that he could not wrap his mind around, but it would have to be something that he dealt with once she arrived, and after he considered it for a moment longer, he’d have to deal with the husband as well.

In a way, Bo believed he could handle it.

He made a move for the cane, not missing the way that his stump seemed to protest against moving in any way. Bo leaned heavily against it as he started back down the hall he had spent the better part of ten minutes making his way down. This time aided by his cane he cut the travel time practically in half, smiling in a successful way once he reached the kitchen.

A glimpse to the opposite side of the barstools showed his faux leg still sitting in the same spot despite the fact that he had made no attempts to move it previously. Bradley waved it off, instead continuing into the actual kitchen and surveying the countertops.

Bradley was happy for how his morning was spent, especially given the drastic turn of the day. Mentally he was counting down the days until he saw Oscar and Jessamine again (two days), in actuality he was clicking his kettle on and readying a cup for tea, though this time it would be decaf. He already felt wired enough from the trials of the day, no need to add another cup of caffeine to the day.

Bo was nearly there, nearly to the end of the day, and the recognized fact that he no longer had anywhere to be was rather comforting, as his couch was calling his name. Promises of a good movie and a well-written book prompting him to make his tea just a little faster.

He felt almost like an old man as he hobbled his way across the room towards the couch, careful to not spill his tea and to keep enough concentration on his foot not getting caught on the edge of the rug.

A sigh passed through his lips the moment he settled into the corner of the couch, the blanket that kept up permanent residence on the back of the couch making its way onto his lap.

A book, a movie, and a cup of tea.

The only way to end a day that would be best thought about tomorrow.

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