(If you’re new to Monkeytraps, Steve is a therapist who specializes in control issues, and Bert is Steve’s control-addicted inner monkey. That’s Bert at left, at an early age.
Steve was born in 1950.
Me, I’ve no idea when I was born. I do, however, remember my first public appearance.
It was on Steve’s first day of kindergarten.
Actually no, it was Visiting Day, the spring before kindergarten started, when kids visited for half a day to get their first taste of public education.
Steve has vague memories of the classroom — bright banks of windows, colored plastic chairs, fingerpaintings on a corkboard, voices rattling off the walls — but no clear memory of how he felt. Not hard to deduce, though, given what happened.
Walked in, froze up. Stood rooted to the tile floor like a stump in a stream, while the other kids bustled and flowed around him.
After a few moments the teacher called the kids over to her desk, and they clumped and moved obediently in that direction. Except Steve, who stayed rooted.
He was shy kid, inexperienced, insecure, especially in new situations. This was certainly one of those, and he found himself flooded with feelings he had not expected and could not begin to control.
At which point, Ta Da, I took over.
“Go to the corner,” I whispered.
Piled there beside the coat rack was a stack of oversized building blocks, hollow wooden cubes painted bright colors.
“Take down on the blue one,” I told him.
“Put it on the floor.”
“Sit on it,” I said.
“Now don’t move,” I said.
He did, staring blindly ahead.
The teacher came over. Nice lady, print dress. Soft voice. Steve never saw her face because he was staring at her shoes, which were brown.
She said something to him. He shook his head. She said something else. He shook his head again. She waited a moment, then walked away.
We spent the rest of the morning together there in the corner. First we sat perfectly still and tried to be invisible, convinced that if we moved or even breathed loudly someone would notice. After thirty minutes it became clear the nice teacher was content to ignore us, and we began to relax. The roaring in our ears died away. Our hands warmed up. We looked around at the room. We watched the teacher playing with the kids. We watched the kids playing with each other.
After another hour this got boring.
I noticed him eyeing a triangular block, off to one side. It was yellow.
“If you put that behind you,” I whispered, “you could lean back on it.”
The idea of reaching for the block and becoming visible scared him all over again, so we argued about it for a while.
I can’t remember how I changed his mind. But eventually he bent his upper body sideways, grabbed the yellow block and slipped it behind him. Then he leaned back and waited for someone to notice.
He found this interesting.
Maybe this place was more tolerable than he thought.
Ten more minutes passed.
“You could put your feet up,” I whispered.
He stood and reached for another block.
(To be continued.)