Group Therapy

by Cecil Stokes

Group Therapy

The men sat there, jealous of each other, wanting to be each other. Five men so different in was unexplainable why they would all end up in the same town, much less the same room. The chairs formed a large circle with Peter leading most of the discussions. Tonight, it seemed like everyone had something to talk about and as the stories were told, each tale became more grandiose than the one before.

Marcus went first, as usual. He was 33 and had been quite a successful model in his life. He appeared on the cover of Men's Vogue and had at one time hung above every borough in New York on one billboard or another. He was beautiful. A sharp patrician nose, eyes that were truly the color of the sea and tousled blonde hair that really completed the surfer look he had created. Marcus talked of being washed up though he felt lucky that he had almost five years more than most models. He hadn't smoked or done drugs or any of the trappings of the young, wealthy and gorgeous. He knew his face was his paycheck and he never worked it overtime.

Colt was next. Everyone doubted that was his real name, but in this room, there was no criticism, only acceptance and love " or at least that is what the poster on the door said. Colt idolized Marcus, but his idolatry manifested itself in uncomfortable ways. At some point during each session, he felt like it was necessary to take his shirt off. He would spill his drink on it or complain that the room was always too stuffy, but whatever the reason, it was never long before everyone was gifted with his washboard abs and perfect tan. But disrobing seemed to only fire him up, he peppered the room with accusations that none of their lives were as hard as his and then he withdrew sullenly in the hope of getting their attention.

Trey West had reclined his seat to the limits of any folding chair and in his mind, he knew he must look just like James Dean on a break from filming "Giant." You could almost see the invisible cigarette he pretended to delicately balance in the corner of his lips. Trey was as you might expect, a third. His real name was Richard Lee West but he had gone by Trey West for so long that it had actually morphed into one name Treywest. Trey had just returned to his senior year of college after taking a year off and moving back in with his parents. It is amazing what your state of mind will cause you to do. He never dreamed he would move back home but that time was over and he was back at State cheerleading again. That was what truly gave him pleasure. Every time le lifted his partner over his head and balanced her on one hand, he felt strong. He felt like he could do anything and he loved that each nondescript face in the crowd was watching him. But in the recesses of his mind and more so when he returned to his apartment, he realized the reason he held their gaze was that they wanted him to fail. They wanted him to drop her. And as he fell asleep at night, he worried that the next day he might give them exactly what they want.

Tristan watched these men as an owl memorized the routine of his prey waiting for just the right moment to indulge. Of all the guys, he was the quietest " both in this group and in life. He worked for a global telemarketing company with an office so high up that on hazy days, he could see nothing but his reflection as he peered out the window. Tristan had messages in his inbox from almost three weeks ago that he hadn't even read. Their importance was of no importance to him. During the day, he donned his Brooks Brothers suits and pastel ties and was quite successful at his job or at the very least, making those around him think he was successful. And then on the weekends, he wore sweatshirts with the hood cloaking his face in an effort to be noticed when he felt unnoticeable. There were the few times he allowed himself to break out of his shell, spread his arms wide in a group photo with his friends and allow the camera to capture the demeanor of a man who didn't have a care in the world.

And finally, it was Alessandro's turn to speak. He was diligently working on a documentary that would rival "An Inconvenient Truth." Al Gore was supposed to attend a fundraiser for a play Alessandro had written but he was a no show. He sent his mother Pauline instead and while the paparazzi photographed her like she was the Queen of England, it just wasn't the same. Even then Alex had been working on a green doc that could shed some light on what we are doing to the planet on a daily if not hourly basis and now the stakes were even higher. "An Inconvenient Truth" had actually made it into the theatres, a rarity for a doc, especially one about global warming and made an impressive amount of money. Alex thought of scrapping the project and doing something else, but he had a hard time changing the course he set for his life. That was his plan and he intended to get the film made.

Though all that was served at these "get togethers" - as Peter called them - was coffee and a few sodas, tensions escalated as if every man there was competing in how many shots he could down before someone gave in. Marcus nervously clutched his cell phone knowing that since it was on vibrate, he had to feel the call from his agent. The call that would probably come just as he was listening to the droning on of these narcissistic posers. Trey found himself staring a little too long at Colt's definition and hoped that Colt hadn't noticed. He hadn't, but only because he was wandering just exactly how Marcus got his hair to do that "bed head" thing perfectly. Did he really wash it daily and create that mess or did he roll out of bed just before group? Tristan sat with the same smile on his face that appeared every week just as he entered the door, it was perfect mind you, but in the wrong setting as empty as the head of the girl he went out with the previous night. And just as the switch had been turned on, when Tristan left group the smile disappeared like a candle being snuffed before bedtime. Alex was mentally making a check list during the entire session of who he could interview and what would be an even better name than "An Inconvenient Truth" for his film.

But tonight was a bit unlike most of this group's therapy. Peter believed it was finally time for these men to admit why they were here. What had caused them to come to this place during this time in their lives. What had led them to finally realize they needed help...

Marcus viewed his answer as a "Shakespearean" soliloquy, he was surely the story that would be remembered tonight. Marcus railed about his weight as a child, how even at the young age of 8, he already had two chins and had the photograph seared in his mind of him holding his birthday cake, alone in an empty room, with a smile not unlike Tristan's. A cake that he would eat himself and wonder why his parents hadn't invited anyone else to his party. Trey's jaws clinched when he heard this story and he couldn't fight the voices in his head "How many plates can the Trey fit, Hey Fat Rat " come over here and bring me a beer, It's just baby weight " you'll grow out of it as you get taller as long as you don't keep eating more and more." Alex remembered spending hours trying on clothes at the department store until he found one that had a extra thickness so that it didn't cling so much to his form and when he found one that actually had double pockets at the chest, he would buy it in every color. Colt could still hear his middle school friends laugh when they told him his breasts were bigger than his girlfriend's. And Tristan had the same memory, that was probably why he always kept his jacket on in the office and wore bulky clothes in his leisure time.

As these memories came to the surface, for the first time this crew began to empathize with one another, each wasn't as different as they thought. Peter was especially pleased, these men were now one step closer to realizing that it is not only these painful memories they share, but one body.

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