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A Microcosm of Society

No one appeared in the back half of the courtroom. Thoughts raced through Steven Kohl’s mind as his eyes darted across the room. How did this happen? Was he really to blame? Will the jury members decide whether there is enough evidence against him to warrant a trial? Why are there cuts on his hands? Why can’t he remember the last three weeks of his life?
Steve thought he might wake up soon, and discover that none of this had ever happened. That he wasn’t trying to defend himself. That Erica wasn’t dead.
He shifted in his chair. The wet cotton of his shirt collar burned against his neck. Like the branches of the trees in the ravine where Erica was found, the wool of his suit scratched his legs, his hands. He wanted to wipe the sweat from his forehead, but he was afraid that he would seem too nervous to the jury if he moved. He wanted to run out of the courtroom, stand in the February snow and feel his tears freeze as they rolled down his face.
He looked over at the papers in front of his lawyer. The names Stonum, Smith and Manchester embossed the top of the page. Steve couldn’t bring himself to look at Stonum’s face.
Stonum’s face was chiseled and sharp. There was no room for emotion, unless closing remarks in a case called for a strong emotional appeal. The same thought kept going through Stonum’s head: this boy couldn’t remember who he was, much less where he was, for the last three weeks of his life. When Stonum suggested that Steve go to Dr. Litmann for a psychological examination, Steve broke down. He told Stonum that his cocaine use became daily about six weeks ago, and he started mixing drugs shortly before he lost his memory.
It was the beginning of the fourth day. The prosecutor stood.
“I would like to call to the stand a Miss Kathleen O’Connor.”
Stonum jumped. “We have testimony from a Doctor Litmann, with whom she has been seeking therapy, that Miss O’Connor should not be able to testify in this case. I submit his report to you, your Honor, which outlines the fact that Miss O’Connor has been known to compulsively lie and that her perception of the truth is often distorted. We believe that it would be inappropriate and possibly detrimental if Miss O’Connor testified.”
The testimony for the case was beginning to rely on character witnesses, and because no specific reason was mentioned for having Kathleen O’Connor testify, the judge said he would review the report and decide whether or not to allow her to testify the next day.
Kathleen looked at Doctor Litmann seated next to her, then bowed her head. Her letters to him were in a pile on his lap. She stood up, adjusted her dress and solemnly walked away.

Dr. Litmann stared at the chair where she had sat. When he gained the strength, he looked at the letter at the top of the pile.

Dear Doctor Litmann:
I just had a session with you, and you asked me to start writing letters to a friend every day so that I could start to open myself up and understand myself more. Well, I don’t have any friends. I don’t know if I’ll ever let you see these letters, but I’ll write them to you.
You were asking me about my childhood in session today. Do all doctors ask about a person’s childhood? I guess you must figure that any patient of theirs must have been abused by their father or wanted to kill their mother or something. No, I wasn’t beaten, or starved, and I didn’t even know what the word “incest“ was until I was checking the spelling of “insect” in the dictionary.
I know, I know, I’m avoiding the subject. Open up, you said. Open up, God-damnit.
As a child I wasn’t liked by other kids. I was too smart, you see, and I had been taught at an early age to respect authority. Actually, I don’t think I was ever taught that, because my parents didn’t seem to teach me much of anything. I just knew I had to listen to them when they yelled at me.
All of my life I was afraid of my father. He never really was a father to me, for he wasn’t home often, but when he was home, all he seemed to do was yell at me. I always figured that I must have done something wrong, because he was never happy with me. Hence the self-esteem problem, I guess. I think that’s why I got messed up with all those other men, too, doc. But you said we’d get to that in a later session.
The thing is, they always told me that I had to act a certain way, and that I had to do all of these things, but I never knew why I had to do them. If it was to be a good person, then I wanted to know who the hell decided what was good. From what I understood, good wasn’t fun. It wasn’t even self-fulfilling.
But I was going to do what they wanted. I got into a good school, and decided to study in a field that I didn’t like. But, you see, that would get me a job with good pay -- even if I didn’t like it -- and would make everyone in society think that everything was good in my life. If I just went through the motions, people would think I was happy, and then they might leave me alone.
But that didn’t work.
Doc, I’m tired. The medication you make me take at night really knocks me out. I’ll write later.

She never signed her letters, and she always typed them so that they could never be traced to her. She made sure she covered all of her bases.
Litmann pressed his right hand over his eyes, almost in an effort to hold his face together.

Dear Doctor--
Hi. I’m back. It’s night again. I like writing at night. I write at the desk in my room by two candles. I could turn on the lights, but the candles make shadows on the walls. I like the shadows. They make me think of everything out there that I’m not supposed to do.
In our session today you wanted me to tell you about the turning point of my life. You figured out that there was some sort of event in my life that made me want to rebel against all the empty values my parents tried to shove down my throat. That event was a man.
You see, he was a boyfriend of mine -- a boring one that fit into my plan of having a boring future. I’d get a boring job, and I’d marry that boring man and we’d live in a boring house with boring children and act happy. I thought it would all be simple enough -- I mean, the man seemed harmless and all. But he wasn’t.
He went away to school with me, and at the first chance he got, he got me drunk. And he raped me.
It occurred to me then that my boring life wasn’t going to happen. Doc, I thought I could just float by life, going through the motions without feeling anything, whether it be pain or happiness. The rape tore me apart inside. This man was supposed to be the security in life, and he killed any security I thought I could ever feel. I knew that what he did wasn’t right, but I also knew that there was nothing I could really do about it, because society seemed to ignore things like rape. Nothing seemed right anymore.
I looked into different religions. I read the new testament, and I tried to go through the old one, but the reading was just too dry. God just seemed like a joke to me. I deduced that religion was just a means to keep the masses in their place. But it wouldn’t hold me down.
I wonder why I don’t tell you all of these things while I’m in session with you. Maybe it’s because you’re trying to make me “normal” again -- normal in the eyes of society. Well, their rules don’t make sense.

Dear Doc --
I can’t love unconditionally.
I think everyone thinks I’m just very cold. But it’s just that I can’t love someone that I can’t respect or admire. I don’t think I love my family, because I can’t respect their values, and I can’t love other people because I can’t trust them. That’s where my value system comes in. I decided that the only person I could trust and love is myself. So my goals should be to make myself happy, right? If I do that, what more could I want? Why should I want to please others?
And I liked having those one night stands. I liked the power I felt when I could make a man want me so much and I had the power to do with him whatever I wanted. You could say that I wanted to get back at the man who raped me, you could say that I was looking for someone to care for me the way I wanted my father to when I was a child -- but I wanted the power. I wanted the control of others -- and it was an emotional control, which was even stronger than a physical control. I felt an emotional high from making them weak. I don’t know which high was stronger.

Dear Doc--
I’m not afraid to tell you the next part, for even if I do give you these letters, you can’t tell anyone about them. I’ve checked into the laws, and because of the nature of the case and client confidentiality privileges, you couldn’t utter a word.
Now, I never got into drugs. I drank a lot, which I guess I get from my father, but I never touched drugs. But I had ways of getting a hold of them, and cheap. So I started selling stuff to some of the college students -- particularly the good looking men. If my plan was going to work, I had to pick the right kinds of people. I’d go to the men in the elite fraternity houses -- the ones that you needed not only good looks, but also a lot of money and a lot of connections to get in to.
Then I found the man. Steve. Gullable bastard, isn’t he? Then I found the woman. A typical bitch -- bleach blond, sorority, stupid as all hell. The type that makes me look like something is wrong with me for not wearing designer clothes. I knew I could make Steve do something he normally wouldn’t -- and maybe this would be my little way of destroying a microcosm of the society. It’s destroying Steve. And it destroyed Erica.

Litmann looked up. He pulled his glasses from his face. He didn’t know if the steam on the glass was from his sweat or his tears. He got up, clenching the letters. He left the room.

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