PART A (The Psychologist) — 16

Ray. 30’s. OUTLIER!

Ray was referred to me by my long-time associate, Officer Minkrit.

Minkrit called early yesterday to discuss a case for which he requires my particular expertise.

A woman named Caylee has gone missing.

Caylee is not presumed kidnapped or dead.

She has actually vanished like this several times before, though this is her first disappearance in close to a decade.

Minkrit asked if I would meet with Ray because Ray and Caylee once took off together, 17 years ago.

Ray’s recent whereabouts are all accounted for.

He is not a suspect (the case is not a crime).

My task is simply to uncover any useful information about Caylee’s whereabouts or reasons for leaving.

Ray cannot know why we are meeting.

According to Minkrit, Ray underwent some sort of breakdown late last week at work, even threatening his boss.

He was told our sessions together would be to discuss the incident.

It seems he took the bait; our first session just ended five minutes ago.

As always in these new notes, I will begin with more general impressions before combing through the recorded transcript to measure my predictions in detail.

I must say, I greatly enjoyed meeting with Ray today.

Most in my position would likely be irked by his constant second-guessing and sporadic bouts of stutters.

Yet unlike traditional therapists who push solely to pin labels, my Method allows me to step back and appreciate a particular anxiety apparently sparked by pressure to commit to one’s own words—words Ray seems terrified will be identified as representing his true thoughts (and self).

I hold that conventional methods could serve only to exacerbate such a fear, shutting down real communication at the outset.

No, it was not particularly easy to pry information from Ray today, at least not at first.

Yet here we come to a second cause for my enjoyment: I was already looking ahead to these notes and what valuable insight I should surely have to offer on drawing out quieter clients.

A third source of professional whimsy was how Ray’s words, whenever he did manage to string more than a few together, were such a refreshingly wide berth from the safe and templated responses I hear from all my Normals.

Normals seek the simplicity and certainty of the narrowest possible paradigms to set their lives to and forget.

Sure, a Normal might be forced to ask “What if?” at times (only once their natural models show signs of nearly crumbling).

Yet such uncharacteristic ponderings are but single spikes destined to dull and fade out fast into the next overwhelming wash of whatever is most generally understood to be the way things ought to be.

I am no sociologist, though I would venture to guess a largely unquestioning majority could make for more stable, ordered populations.

Outliers cannot help but operate from an almost continuous, compounding “What if?”

And I already see in Ray quite an odd balance of unlikely forces—an unprecedented balance, really—unlike anyone I have ever met.

How is Ray unusual even for an Outlier?

Outliers tend not to care (or be much aware of) how they come across.

Yet Ray seems petrified by just how strange his words might reveal him to be.

Today I witnessed at least two vastly divergent motivations crashing together and repelling beneath each careful, choppy utterance.

I will undoubtedly have my work cut out in digging deep enough for my Method to identify and reveal the true nature of those motivations (to Ray).

Yet that revelation, I am already sure, will be what brings him to his Sticking or Breaking Point.

Yes, I feel excited for the challenge, and for what treasures I shall have to impart here to you as my Method draws Ray’s uncertain polychotomy to the surface like pumping water from a well—somewhat automatically.

Next time, I plan to delve fully into his workplace breakdown.

I suspect far more than a simple case of office politics, or whatever might cause someone to lose their temper at work . . . money-stress, perhaps?

Yet, again, I am getting ahead of myself.

I must endeavor to keep these new notes more linear and sequential, unlike my previous disconnected attempts.

Truly, I apologize.

So, Ray was my first appointment today after lunch.

I remember feeling surprised to check my schedule and see so full an afternoon.

He arrived early, giving me the opportunity to observe him for a few minutes on camera out in the waiting room.

I would describe my first impression of his appearance as being the opposite of anything formidable or charismatic: droopy posture; tacky clothes with no real style; his face, sullen and unremarkable.

Yet I became almost suspicious at how perfectly still he sat, not busying himself in the least with any of my planted magazines or pamphlets.

Nor did he look around the room at all, or pull out his iun.

He just sat there, waiting.

First-time clients tend to be quite nervous and jittery.

They usually do all they can to distract themselves in moments before we meet.

Most expect our sessions to be the Freudian undertakings of TV and movie therapy.

They picture themselves reclining on a couch as I deftly extract their deepest secrets.

Many fear having nothing worthwhile to say, or saying the wrong things and being misanalysed.

I called Ray in on the intercom, still watching as he stood and stepped into my office in one fluid motion like liquid through a release valve.

Once seated across from me, his demeanor changed entirely.

Though his body remained placid, his eyes began to dart everywhere like crazy bats flittering haphazard through a cave.

I began with my usual round of general, ice-breaking questions—name, age, brief reason for visit…

Ray fought for what many would have found agonizing minutes to force his first words out.

He mentioned having worked at a church until last Friday.

Minkrit had not told me where Ray had worked.

Ray’s ties to religion—his breakdown having occurred at a church—piqued my interest, adding colorful dimensions to the clear picture already forming in my mind.

Again though, I had a specific aim for our session today, which I would not deviate from.

I had to find the best and fastest route to broach his experience with Caylee.

ME:

“How was your childhood?”

RAY:

“I guess I was pretty . . . angry . . . as a kid.”

ME:

“Tell me about a time you got mad.”

He stumbled through a long, overly complicated story of how he and a friend had once been roughhousing with an older male babysitter when, due to a sudden rage impulse, Ray kicked the babysitter hard in the groin several times.

Upon crumpling to the carpet, the older male had begun screaming threats to take Ray’s life.

Ray recounted having dropped to the floor then as well, sobbing and trembling in fear.

Yet here is where his story gets interesting, and where Ray reveals himself to be a true Outlier.

For as soon as the babysitter had left the room (presumably to confirm he had not just received a free vasectomy) Ray leapt to his feet and boasted to his friend something along the lines of: “I’m a true ninja, see? My greatest skill is my ability to make an opponent think I’m weak. I could have destroyed [babysitter] just now if I’d wanted to.”

I would have appreciated more time to work a smoother transition.

Yet Ray seemed to be opening up enough for my priority to take precedence.

ME:

“So were you angry when you left with the girl when you were 15?”

RAY:

“How did you know?”

ME:

“I never heard the full story, just that you and someone might have disappeared from high school for a few days?

“Maybe it caused some worry?”

Notice the way I purposefully left my phrasing so unsure.

My aim was to immediately establish a secure distance between Ray’s actual history and any assumptions on his part about my opinion.

I wanted the raw account, unaffected by fear of judgment.

Most of all, I wanted Ray to feel safe.

As he began to share, I was careful to look for any programmed defenses or signs of deflection.

. . .

“Well, it was because, I mean…

“Okay, something really bad happened before that.

“When I was 14.

“No, you don’t have to write that down.

“I won’t go into it now.

“I just…

“I guess everything with Caylee and me leaving was, like, me trying to make up for . . . something.

“Something bad.

“That’s all.

“But Caylee never said that much at school.

“She was always just . . . there . . . kind of like me . . . except I think she had some pretty good friends.

“So, I was in the hall one day, and I saw her sitting by herself.

“And she had these mixed-up pictures of horses on her bag, all different sizes, and…

“And I usually don’t talk to anyone, but I just said something like, ‘Hey, I saw a horse like that one on Sunday.’

“She told me she loved horses.

“All animals, really.

“But you don’t have to write that.

“It was just, like, right away I could tell we’d be friends, y’know?

“Like, everyone else always had to be into all the important stuff . . . but Caylee and me could just sit and talk for hours about this bunch of horses I saw near the train tracks.

“Oh, that was at this place I started going on weekends.

“It was after the bad thing…

“But that’s not important, um…

“I’m not sure what you’re writing.

“Okay, I . . . I won’t keep saying that.

“I mean, I guess you’d know what to…

“Anyway, I started talking to Caylee all the time.

“One thing: I never got nervous around her, and that was huge for me.

“I usually couldn’t sit next to a girl in school without feeling like my whole body was getting electrocuted or something.

“Seriously.

“But Caylee was different.

“She told me I was easy to talk to.

“We started going to the train tracks together, and…

“Okay, I just have to say this: It was like we never even thought about, like . . . sex, or kissing, or going out, or anything like that.

“It just wasn’t like that with her.

“It was more like we were kids together.

“We’d go watch the horses in the long grass, and then sit up over the train tracks with our feet dangling over this big tunnel.

“Then one day, one of the conductors had to show us why that wasn’t such a good idea.

“He screeched his train to a stop, and then yelled up at us to get down.

“And as soon as we were off, he let up this huge puff of black smoke right where we had been.

“We never went up there again.

“But sometimes we’d walk around inside the tunnels and hide in these little openings in the walls along the way, plugging our ears tight whenever roaring trains went by.

“We’d do things like that all day.

“That was kind of all we did.

“I didn’t really have that many other friends.

“And things at the Church were . . . weird.

“No, you don’t have to put that.

“Um, Caylee was just really nice to me.

“That’s all.

“One day, we decided we were going to go hang out under this bridge by the ocean.

“I still remember how careful we had to be, climbing down, so we wouldn’t fall into this, like, swampy riverbed thing underneath.

“We found a place to sit where we could see the riverbed stretching all the way out to end right where waves hit the beach.

“We started singing all these old songs from back then, or . . . or maybe we were making up our own songs, I can’t remember.

“But there was always this constant wind.

“It never stopped.

“I mean, the wind and waves in the distance were all we could hear while we were there.

“And yeah, our own voices.

“When it was night, we could see all the stars off over the ocean.

“That first night, I remember looking down to see she was holding my hand.

“I already knew I loved her, but…

“But it was the most amazing…

“I never said anything to anyone.

“It just wasn’t the way most people…

“Okay, I’m not sure how you’ll write this part down, but we honestly just forgot to go back.

“That’s all.

“We were looking at the stars and the waves.

“We were singing.

“We were talking about . . . I forget . . . silly things . . . people.

“And she was the only one that knew about the bad thing that happened with me before.

“She was the only one I could ever tell.

“We really didn’t know how long we were gone, or what was happening with the news and everything.

“That probably makes no sense.

“But I think we were down under that bridge near the City for about four days.

“We didn’t eat.

“We had a camping canteen with us, and some water . . . but I don’t remember ever drinking.

“It really just felt like we’d left the world or something . . . like, so far away we forgot all about everything else.

“And when we got back, everything was different.

“Caylee’s parents took her from school, and I never saw her again.

“There was nothing like iun’s back then.

“She was gone.

“You probably think I sound so stupid, or crazy, but it was just a . . . a different kind of situation.

“I mean, I hope you don’t get the wrong idea.

“Like, I don’t remember missing her at all.

“I wasn’t sad.

“It was more like Caylee was always with me.

“And she still is.

“I didn’t cry.

“I…

“What are you writing now?”

. . .

Ray seems to respond to prolonged eye-contact as if being sighted by a pistol.

As he spoke, I found I could only meet his unsteady gaze for brief stints, and only whenever he raised it to hover anywhere in my general direction.

I listened to his whole story without interrupting, endeavoring even to move as little as possible so as not to disrupt his flow.

Once finished, he asked again about what I had been writing.

I told him I had made a note to ask if he thought Caylee would describe herself as being the same as him or different, and in what ways.

Something about Caylee was not adding up.

So far, she sounded like a Normal.

Details of young, Normal, female clients had connected in my mind as Ray spoke, all blurring together as usual.

Yet adolescent Normal females do not form close bonds with male Outlier peers.

The social hierarchies of high school seem designed to impede such ties.

Ray never did speak to my question about how he thought Caylee would describe herself.

Do I suspect he was lying at all, or withholding information?

What he shared about their time under the bridge obviously contained elements that cannot be true in reality.

People do not forget their lives.

They do not forget to eat and drink.

Ray mentioned having never had any thoughts of romance with Caylee.

He also mentioned loving her.

And what set of teens would write off sex as unimportant?

If not for the fact that Caylee’s disappearance with Ray had been confirmed as voluntary, my assumption would be he just grossly overestimated their connection.

Such self-deceptive embellishments are not uncommon for Outliers.

Yet Ray, again, seems grimly aware of his particular peculiarities.

We will certainly be returning to the “bad thing that happened” before his time with Caylee.

At present, I am more concerned with measuring the exact weight and essence of his apparent fabrications or misrememberings.

ME:

“So you never talked about sex with Caylee?”

There was a long pause.

RAY:

“I think the love we felt was too…

“But no, I don’t think we ever talked about it.”

In all honesty, I was momentarily translated back to specific instances from the time of my own youth—though I should always endeavor to keep personal experience from affecting my assessments a priori (especially when it comes to what I choose to include in these new notes).

There simply must be more to Ray’s story for me to uncover.

My current conclusion is that his reported relationship with Caylee defies both biology and my extensive knowledge of Normal/Outlier dynamics.

We arranged another appointment.

I have plenty to roll over as I consider how to best dig further next time.

In a way, Ray comes across as unbelievably genuine.

I do not buy his innocent-at-all-costs routine.

Though I would not call it an “act.”

Any embellishments on his part certainly seem unintentional.

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