Mr Stevenson Believes by D.I. Jolly
Mr Stevenson liked to believe he was a good person, not a great person, no one history would remember, but good. He tried to be kind where he could, complimented people he worked with, smiled at babies on the train or in supermarkets when they looked at him. He knew he was never going to be a superhero, or any hero really, but he liked to believe he was a good person. Occasionally one of the people he spent time with would make fun of him for being so quiet, and accusing him of being the scary quiet one who probably had a serial killer past. Although he’d smile and laugh along with the others it always stung. He didn’t like people to think of him that way and although he knew it was a joke, he found it hard to feel the joke. In fact, it was the reason he’d started seeing Dr Edwards. After one too many jokes he found he couldn’t get the idea out of his head that people thought he was cruel and it bothered him how angry it made him, which quickly turned into a downward spiral and before he knew it, he could barely take two steps out his door without starting an internal argument with himself about the thoughts of total strangers. Dr Edwards first advised Mr Stevenson to talk to his friends about it, tell them that he didn’t like that joke and that he didn’t like people to think of him that way. Which, although sound advice, didn’t fit with Mr Stevenson because he didn’t really think of them as friends, they all spent time together but he’d never felt any deep connection to any of them, or anyone really. They were just guys who liked to drink in the same bar he did and after awhile invited him to sit with them. Once he shared that piece of information Dr Edward then suggested maybe making friends with them, or perhaps with some of the people he worked with, or, as the last attempt, going to drink somewhere else. Which Mr Stevenson did try, but it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t as comfortable and he had to ask for his drinks which he didn’t like that, and besides he didn’t want to stop the people from making jokes with him, he wanted himself to be better at taking them. He wanted to be able to accept them and not fall into such a dark hole every time someone challenged his sense of self. It was a long time before Dr Edward made a new suggestion for a way to tackle the problem. He wanted to dig deeper into Mr Stevenson’s thought processes before making another analogy and it wasn’t until the day that he finally opened up about his childhood that something started to become very clear.
“My neighbour used to make fun of me too, and it used to stay with me, like it does now. Only he used to tell me that no one liked me and that my parents only pretended to like me because they had to. I knew that it wasn’t true but he said it so often and with such conviction that it started to play over and over again in my head like when you get a song stuck there, and it used to drive me crazy, I couldn’t sleep some nights because I could just hear him saying those awful things to me.”
“So what did you do? How did you overcome these problems as a child?”
Mr Stevenson shifted a little uncomfortable and then sighed.
“I eventually told my parents about it, and they told his parents about it and it stopped.”
Dr Edward watched him for a moment and something in the way he shifted prompted the question.
“Mr Stevenson, what happened to that little boy?”
A heavy silence suddenly fell on the room and Dr Edwards could see a shine on Mr Stevenson’s eyes.
“His, well, I think he was so mean to me because he was secretly asking for help because, his father locked him in their basement for a while, and, and when the school realised he wasn’t attending classes anymore and started looking into it, it was too late and he was already dead.”
Dr Edward leaned closer and in a soft voice tried to say something but Mr Stevenson instantly cut him off by blurting out,
“It wasn’t my fault, I was only a child! I didn’t know what was going on in his house I just wanted him to stop bullying me, I didn’t know he was going to get killed, it’s not my fault! I’m a good person!”
Silence filled the room while Mr Stevenson wept into his hands and Dr Edwards tried not to think about the whiskey bottle that was no longer in his top desk drawer, and the next few minutes passed slowly.
“Mr Stevenson, it wasn’t your fault, you’re right, and I believe you are a good person. No one can be expected to know what is going on behind closed door, least of all a child. I’m going to go back to my original advice and say talk to you bar people, and just say you don’t like that kind of joke. You don’t have to make a big production out of it, just simply tell them you’d rather they didn’t. I really don’t think it will end badly.”
“Will, will you come with me?”
“You don’t have to join us, but you’re a doctor you’ll be able to tell if something is wrong, something deeper and then you can tell me if there is and we can do something about it, before it goes wrong. Please. I’ll pay for all your drinks and everything and your normal fee.”
Dr Edward’s face went blank for a moment and he thought about how many years it had been since he’d been in a bar, and the things that had happened there. Then he blinked himself back into the room and smiled.