Walk Down Misery Street

Who knows what kind of war hero would I have been if I was thrown into the trenches and saw real blood and death? Would I then need to be treated for PTSD and drug addiction like Adam?

Fortunately, it didn`t happen. My fate spared me.


In our clinic, Adam was a primary counselor for veteran patients from the Korean, Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghan wars. I remember awful cries and cursing from the patients in his office: “Fuck all! I’ll shoot this bitch! . . . I’ll buy an M-16 and shoot all these fucking bureaucrats in the Veterans’ Department!”

How many times did Liza and I and other counselors approach Adam’s office, thinking it was time to save Adam and call the police. We opened the door: an enraged patient stood in the “gun for preparation” pose, yelling, “I’ll kill! I’ll shoot!” We gestured to Adam asking whether we should call 911. He responded in a calm but determined sign: do not call anywhere, the situation is under control. After a while, that patient, indeed, calmed down.

“How do you manage them?” I asked Adam, impressed by his clinical skills. “What is your secret?”

“No secret. At all times, I try to remember what this person has gone through.”

In fact, he gave every patient time to the max. He often spent more time with them than the usual 45 minutes of an individual session. His “unprofessional” approach in spending a significant amount of time with each patient might have really annoyed Francesca. However, I never saw Francesca make any negative remarks to Adam, and it was evident that she appreciated him a great deal. Franchi used to visit him in his office and for some reason often stayed there a long time. Adam would close the little window in the door with a cardboard sign saying “Session in progress. Don’t disturb!” as if there really was a psychotherapy session.

Soon I found out that Francesca’s youngest son, against the will of the parents, joined the U.S. military as an ordinary Marine.