It was well after six o’clock and the amber glow of the sunset was already streaming through the window like sticky honey when the psychologist and social worker from the Mental Health Unit finally left Cameron’s office that evening. Chris and Lynette remained for just a few minutes longer before they too headed home and Cameron found himself alone for the first time since midday.
As soon as the door clicked closed behind them, Cameron pushed his pages of notes aside, and wearily rested his head in his hands as he thought over the last several hours of meetings.
Despite being confronted with their knowledge regarding the internet sites he’d been accessing, Tyrone had flatly denied any intention of suicide and obstinately refused to discuss the matter with either Cameron or any members of the Mental Health Unit.
He maintained that he’d been bored and knowing that all internet usage was monitored he’d visited the sites with the single aim of stirring up a bit of trouble. He hotly rejected the offered counselling, and told the visiting psychologists in no uncertain language that he wanted nothing further to do with them.
Although the visitors from the Mental Health Unit were no more convinced of the truth of Tyrone’s story than were Cameron or his senior staff, without Tyrone’s consent and in the absence of any other indications of suicidal ideology there was no further intervention they could take.
After long and involved discussions the final conclusion was that continuing with Tyrone’s current program and ongoing level of supervision would provide the best support possible in the circumstances.
Cameron had been frustrated that he’d had no opportunity to speak to Claire in depth about her conversation with Tyrone, but he’d been grateful for her quick perception of the situation when she’d rung him, and her brief report been enough to confirm his own assesment of the situation.
He’d decided not to disclose that he’d sent Claire down to speak to Tyrone, and as the psychologist independently came to the same conclusion about Tyrone’s state of mind and made his recommendations on that basis, Cameron felt there would have been no gain in involving Claire officially.
He had enough experience of official procedure to know it was possible that the Mental Health Unit might demand the details of all her conversations with Tyrone and place everything she said on record.
Not only would that put Claire under great pressure to break Tyrone’s confidences, but if any of her information was acted upon and Tyrone became aware of her involvement, they would certainly lose their only channel of communication with him. Claire is certainly very important to me, he mused, and in more ways than one.
He straightened up and stretched, his head clearer for the few moments break. It was funny, the foremost thought in his mind that morning had been the progress he’d made with Claire - he’d been thrilled that she’d finally admitted her feelings about him and he was confident that over lunch he’d persuade her to let their relationship deepen - but all of that had been totally eclipsed by the developments with Tyrone.
In fact he hadn’t even seen her again since she’d fled his office blushing crimson, only moments after her admission to him. Cameron flicked through the phone book on his desk for her number, but as he reached across to dial the phone he caught sight of the time on his watch.
He sighed and replaced the receiver. He’d have to wait until later to talk to her - he’d told Tyrone he’d come down to his cabin around six - and he was already late enough.
Although Tyrone had been less than enthusiastic when he told him he was going to join him for tea, Cameron wasn’t in the least deterred. He knew that Tyrone was at his lowest - regardless of what he chose to say to anyone - and he planned to take every opportunity to support him.
Tyrone’s room was oppressively dim when Cameron entered a short while later, the walls stained the colour of weak tea by the dying embers of the sunset. Tyrone lay on his stomach with his chin resting on his hands and watched indifferently as Cameron turned on the light and drew the curtains.
“I’m sorry I’m late with your tea,” Cameron said, “Did you think I wasn’t coming?”
“Nah - somehow knew you’d be here.”
Cameron handed Tyrone his plate, and glanced around the small, neat room, gaining the strong impression that everything in it was just the same as when he’d left some hours earlier that afternoon, and that Tyrone himself hadn’t moved an inch.
“Did Julie come down for your physio this afternoon?” he asked, starting on his dinner.
“Yeah, told her not to bother though - been mucked about enough today.” He glanced warily at Cameron, as if waiting to be told off. Cameron merely nodded and began to eat his meal.
“And you had lunch with Claire?”
“She talk to you about it?” he demanded, looking up quickly.
Cameron caught the look of panic which had flashed across his eyes. “I’ve hardly spoken to her all afternoon. I’ve been rather busy, you know.” he answered, relieved he’d decided against ringing her before seeing Tyrone. “But this morning when I tried to arrange to have lunch with her I found out she was already planning to have lunch with you.”
Tyrone’s face relaxed slightly and Cameron appreciated for the first time exactly how difficult Claire’s situation had been when he had previously pressed her for information about him. And tonight he was grateful that he hadn’t caught up with Claire and was able to speak freely without any specific knowledge of what had passed between Claire and Tyrone that lunchtime.
“Was she okay?” Tyrone didn’t meet his eyes as he spoke.
“What do you mean?”
“When you spoke to her this afternoon. . .did she seem . . . okay?”
Cameron wondered what was behind his question. “As far as I know - I didn’t see her - I only spoke briefly to her on the phone. Why? Was something wrong ?”
“No . . .just wondered . . .thought I might have upset her.”
“She did tell me how worried she is about you, Tyrone,” he said, deciding it wouldn’t hurt him to know that there were people who did really care, “but that’s hardly surprising considering the kind of trouble you’ve been stirring up today.”
Tyrone didn’t reply, and Cameron noticed he still looked uptight. If the aggression he’d shown the visitors from the Mental Health Unit was anything to go by, he wouldn’t have been surprised if Tyrone was regretting not mincing his words with Claire either.
Well, it’s a good sign if he’s beginning to think about the impact his actions have on other people, Cameron thought, although he wasn’t really too worried about Claire. She’d had enough experience dealing with patients in similar situations to Tyrone to know not to take his insults personally.
Tyrone was pushing the food around his plate with his fork, and had eaten hardly anything while Cameron had nearly finished his own meal. As he’d been too busy to stop and eat anything since breakfast, Cameron was ravenous, but he realised that unless he slowed up he’d have no further excuse for staying and keeping Tyrone company.
He lay down his fork, and took his time drinking his juice as he began chatting about inoffensive topics. In contrast to his belligerent attitude earlier that day, Tyrone was quiet and preoccupied, and Cameron too lapsed into silence after his several attempts to make conversation were met only by disinterested monosyllabic responses.
Never mind, Tyrone, he thought, I know you’re doing it tough, but we’ll get there step by step.
The discovery of Tyrone’s internet research had certainly concerned Cameron, but it only brought out into the open what he had always suspected and actually made the situation much more straightforward to handle. Even though neither of them had verbally acknowledged it, Tyrone was now aware that his plans of suicide were known to Cameron, and it was being regarded seriously.
Cameron deeply felt the weight of his responsibility for Tyrone, but he was certainly not overwhelmed by it. Despite encouraging an informal relationship with all his patients, he never compromised his own professional attitude towards them, and remained objective while working through to a solution.
While confident in his own ability as a doctor, his real strength came from being able to take his concerns to God in prayer and relying on Him to provide the wisdom he needed.
He looked thoughtfully at Tyrone, aware that the boy’s greatest need was to know the incredible peace of God which had made all the difference in his own life. Cameron wished he had the freedom to share his faith with Tyrone, but his relationship to him as his doctor restricted him from initiating that kind of spiritual discussion.
Not only would trying to influence his patient’s belief be entirely unethical, but it would also be impossible to discern whether a patient, especially one as young and vulnerable as Tyrone, was truly interested in Christianity, or only appeared to be because they felt pressured by his authority over them as their doctor. But while he was limited by not being able to witness directly, he was confident that God could still work through him indirectly without his own position being compromised.
Cameron had made no secret of his own faith and was always available to talk about it with anyone who asked, and as well as placing Bibles in each of the cabins he arranged for chaplains to visit the centre regularly.
“Might as well as take it,” Tyrone held out his mostly untouched meal to Cameron, “I’ve had enough.”
Cameron reached out and put it on top of his own empty plate, fully aware that he had just been dismissed.
“Oh, well - since you’ve given me no excuse to stay,” he replied with a smile, heading for the door, “I suppose I’d better go back to my office then and make a start on that mountain of paperwork on my desk - I think it’ll keep me going well past midnight.”
He paused on the threshold, and turned back to Tyrone, “Just ride it out, Tyrone - there’s more strength in you than you realise. And if you need anything, or even just want company - give me a ring - you know I won’t be going to bed early.”
Back at his desk a few minutes later, Cameron didn’t even glance at the piles of forms, but reached instead for the phone, and began to dial Claire’s number. Part way through he hesitated, and then cancelled the call.
Maybe I should just wait until the morning, I’ve never rung her at home - I’ve no idea what she’ll think of that - it might not suit her at all, he considered before picking up the phone again. But then again she’ll be anxious to know how things are with Tyrone . . . his hand hovered over the number pad, before he sighed and put down the phone again. It would be different if I had good news about him . . . but I’ve got nothing positive to pass on, it would only make her even more concerned . . .
He pushed the phone to the back of his desk with a gesture of finality, acknowledging that he had nothing but selfish motives for wanting to call. He couldn’t even use the justification of needing to know about her conversation with Tyrone - he didn’t expect to speak to him again before tomorrow - and even if he did see him tonight, it would probably only be more awkward if he knew what Tyrone had actually told Claire.
No, I just want to talk to her about us. . . he admitted with a rueful smile, impatient to discuss the feelings which she’d finally confirmed were mutual.
He pulled the nearest stack of papers towards him, telling himself that they’d have plenty of opportunities for discussing their relationship, without trying to talk over the phone. Now that she’d decided to be open about her own position, he felt secure in what the future held for them.
© R Brown 2005