Counseling Mind

by Kelly Quinn

I was made class advisor for first year students. That means that I am responsible for the care and well-being of all students in the first year class. Last Monday, I met with the parents of a girl who was having trouble in school. Wisely I had asked a Japanese teacher to help me with the meeting. The Japanese teacher is a sympathetic figure, one of those women who reminds me of my slightly batty grandmother, even though she is only 42 years old.

Around 10:00 AM the father showed up at my office. He was wearing gold chains and a purple and black sweater in a lightning bolt design, a gold pinkie ring and a gold nugget watch.

The first thing he said was, “Have you seen my daughter? She really ought to be here.”

The mother was young and attractive. We moved to the Japanese teacher’s office. Let’s call her Ishikawa. I will attempt to capture the atmosphere of this meeting.

Father: (speaking very loud and very fast) We got to get Emi (the daughter) in here. She really ought to be here. I’ll call her. (whips out a portable phone)

Ishikawa: She is probably in class, do you think you ought to call?

Father: It’s OK. I won’t talk long.

Mother: It’s OK. He won’t talk long and she told me that she did not have the textbook for that class. Students without textbooks don’t go to class, do they?

Ishikawa: Students without textbooks usually sit in the back of the class.

Mother: Oh students without textbooks sit in the back. Then it’s OK to call.

Father: Emi. This is your father. Yes, I am at school. I’m in some woman’s office. You have to come here. I don’t know where the office is—here talk to her. (thrusts the phone at Ishikawa.)

Ishikawa: (Holding the phone the phone like a high school girl holds the hand of some boy she is not really sure whether she likes or not) Hello hello. Yes this Ishikawa. Yes we are in my office. Do you know where that is? Well I am the teacher who teaches the Language Lab class, you know Monday third period. Do you know where the language laboratory is? Well it is on the fourth floor and my office is near there, number 405. (Returns phone to father.)

Father: (Sets the phone on the table and sits down) You see the thing is that some girls at this school have been teasing Emi. I know their names, but I am not going to say their names. But I know who they are. (Sunlight flashes off the gold watch and chain, as he shakes his finger at Ishikawa) Emi does not want to go to school anymore.

Mother: She has had some health problems. And her life plan might be changing.

Father: She does not want to go to school. What happens if she takes some time off from school?

Ishikawa: (Takes out a LEAVE of ABSENCE application form) The semester is almost over. If she leaves school now she will lose all of her credits. She should finish this semester and then take next year off to think about her life plan.

Mother: What are credits?

Ishikawa: Well you get credits for classes you pass and you need so many credits to graduate.

Mother: Like collecting points at the supermarket for free stuff?

Ishikawa: Something like that yes.

Father: When does the semester end? When are the tests?

Ishikawa: Tests begin in January, after the New Year.

Mother: You know the stuff you get from the supermarket is really cheap, low quality stuff. You’re better off saving your money and buying the thing you really want.

Ishikawa: That’s true. They just do it to get you to buy the more expensive brand items.

(A knock at the door)

Father and Ishikawa: Come in. (They look at each other.)

Father: Emi come in here. Sit down.

(Emi enters and sits next to her mother.)

Father: All right, Emi tell these teachers what’s going on—tell them why you haven’t been coming to school.

Emi: I…..I …..

Father: Speak up, Emi, open your heart to these teachers.

Emi: I…(Emi makes low animal-like noises, tears well in her eyes.)

Father: They can’t help you if you don’t open your heart to them.

Ishikawa: You have been absent a lot recently. Is something wrong?

Emi Well I was going to come to school today, but …

Mother: You did not go to class this morning? Where were you when your father called?

Emi: I was in the cafeteria, talking to my friend. I always turn the bell on my phone off in class. If I had been in class I couldn’t have answered the phone.

Mother: Didn’t you have your book? If you don’t have your book you can sit in the back of the class. She (points to Ishikawa) says its OK.

Emi: I had my book. I just didn’t feel good. I was going to take some medicine, but the instructions said…

Mother: She’s very weak. In high school she could never participate in gym class. She’s very weak.

Emi: The instructions said, take after eating. So I went to a convenience store and bought some Coffee milk and some An-Pan. No it wasn’t An-Pan. It was a melon roll or was it a cream roll. I can’t remember. But, you have to take care of your health. If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.

Father: That’s true; health is the most important.

Mother: You have to take care of your health.

Ishikawa: That’s true; If you lose your health you don’t have anything.

Me: So you were late because you ate breakfast?

Father: That’s just today. That’s a special case. Tell them about the girls who are teasing you.

Emi: Well, Mayumi and..

Father: (Slaps the table and shouts) Don’t say the names Emi. Never tell them the names.

Emi: Anyway, I heard these girls talking about me and saying that I don’t have any cheeks and that my face looks funny.

Ishikawa: These days a face with fuller cheeks is considered more fashionable. (Ishikawa touches her own face.)

Emi: Its not my fault I don’t have any cheeks. I look like my father.

Father: It’s true—I don’t have any cheeks. Its too bad she doesn’t look like her mother. Her mother has cheeks.

Mother: I have cheeks, but she doesn’t look like me. She looks like her father. Her father does not have any cheeks.

Me: When was this?

Emi: The first week of school. But then they started sending me messages on my phone. They sent a picture of me and it did not have any cheeks.

Ishikawa: You can send pictures with a portable phone?

Mother: Sure, you can send e-mail, check the weather, write messages…

Father: You can buy stock, bet on horses, ….


Emi: I’m thirsty.

( Ishikawa stands up and starts to move towards the sink. The mother reaches into her large designer bad and removes a plastic bottle containing tea. Emi seizes the tea and lifts it with both hands to her mouth and drinks like a baby.)

Mother: She gets thirsty. (The mother replaces the cap and puts the bottle back in her bag.)

Emi: I get thirsty. (She coughs dryly for effect.)

( Ishikawa sits down. Emi rolls her shoulders.)

Emi: My shoulders hurt. When I feel stress, my shoulders hurt.

Mother: Her shoulders hurt when she feels stress and she can’t sleep.

Ishikawa: My shoulders hurt when I feel stress.

Father: I get it right here. (The father rubs the back of his neck.)

Mother: I get headaches when I feel stress. (Rubs above her eyes)

Emi: My shoulders hurt. (Without warning Emi plunges into the mother’s bag and grabs the tea bottle. Again she lifts it with both hands and drinks.)

Father: You need to get rid of your stress Emi. You need some exercise. Doesn’t this college have any clubs?

Ishikawa: Yes there are a lot of clubs.

Mother: Don’t act like a child. (The mother takes the bottle and puts it back in her bag. Ishikawa shows the school handbook and points to the pages showing the clubs.)

Mother: Oh look, they have tennis.

Emi: I can’t play tennis.

Father: How about badminton, Emi?

Mother: Is badminton good exercise?

Father: Badminton is very good exercise. There is a lot of running in badminton.

Ishikawa: Is that so?

Father: Yeah.

Emi: I don’t want to play badminton. It’s like tennis and I can’t play tennis.

(Father’s portable phone rings. He picks it up and moves into the background talking.)

Mother: They have swimming.

Emi: I can’t swim.

Ishikawa: Basketball?

Emi: No.

Mother: Dance.

Emi: No

Ishikawa: Handball.

Me: Mountain climbing?

(Everyone looks at me.)

(Father ends the conversation on the portable phone, looks at his watch and sits back down.)

Father: Emi, you need to join a club so you can get sweat and get rid of your stress so you can sleep at night and come to school.

Emi: Let me see. (Emi looks at the handbook.) They have Karate. I want to do Karate.

Father: That sounds good. Karate. Sweat and get rid of your stress.

Emi: I want to do Karate. I want to do Karate. I want to do Karate. I want to do Karate.

Father: (He looks at his watch again.) OK. We should go. These teachers are busy. We should go. But Emi remember these teachers are kind and they will help you. If you ever have any problems. Anything at all you just come and see these teachers and they will help you.

Emi: I want to do Karate. I want to do Karate. I want to do Karate. I want to do Karate.

Father: Stop acting like an elementary school student. (Emi dives again into the bag for the bottle of tea and drinks like before.)

Ishikawa: You know the school has a counselor. If you want to talk to someone. You should talk to the counselor. Did you know the school had a counselor, Emi?

Emi: I know. When we had our health check at the beginning of the year, we took a psychological test. The next week I got a note from the counselor saying I should come and see her.

Ishikawa: Did you go see Ms. Tabata?

Emi: No.

Ishikawa: Well if you want to see her, her office is 305.

Emi: I want to see the counselor. I want to see the counselor. I want to see the counselor.

Father: (He stands up.) We have to go. Stop acting like a child.

Emi: I want to see the counselor. I want to see the counselor. I want to see the counselor.

Father: (Moving out the door) The problem is we spoiled her.

Emi: I want to see the counselor. I want to see the counselor. I want to see the counselor.

Mother: Thank you very much. You have been a great help. (Bows deeply)

That was the worst.