CD Reiss

Songs of Submission – Book Seven

Take my hand, my love.

On sinews of air we tread

Aught but distance our guide

With no tempo to our gait

No endpoint drawn

Neither plot nor plan

By the thorns of a compass rose

We bound toward the horizon



Dr. Thorensen had put up his Christmas lights on December first, two weeks ago, decorating his wood detailing and redwood fence with tiny multicolored dots. No fat inflatable snowmen. No Santas. No elves, just classy little spots hanging around the edges of his property like a joyful little fucking aura.

I rang the bell again. The house was the biggest on my incline of a block. The door itself was four feet wide, deep mahogany, set in with a lead glass window.

It was too early in the morning to ring Dr. Thorensen’s bell. He was a single guy in his mid-thirties, and it was Tuesday morning. He should be at his office, or the hospital. Maybe nuzzling one of the women I saw come around periodically. But I was losing my shit. I couldn’t wait another minute, and I’d noticed he kept odd hours.

I saw him through the glass in a polo and jeans, carrying a coffee cup. When the door opened, he looked grave.

“Monica,” he said. “Am I blocking your driveway?” Then he looked at me. I must have been a sight. “Are you okay?”

“Not really?”

“What happened?”

Suddenly, I felt silly, as if I’d become a story he’d tell his friends. I’d become the annoying girl next door. He’d told me once that he didn’t put an MD license plate on his car or hang out a shingle because he wanted to avoid random advice-seekers and neighbors with a sniffle. I’d laughed with him at the story of the Montessori mother two doors down who wanted him to look at her son’s scraped knee. This was why I’d avoided ringing his bell for five long, lonely, friendless days.

But he was a cardiologist, and when Santa brought me a gift, I figured I shouldn’t try to cram it back up the chimney.

One long sentence poured out. “I didn’t want to bother you, I mean it’s not like he can’t afford the best doctors in the world, but I’m afraid to tell them what I think or I’ll look crazy so I was wondering if you had privileges at Sequoia?”

“I do.”

He paused for a second, and I feared he’d say something like, “sorry, I’m not working right now. I deserve to be at home in peace as much as the next person, and the fact that I spent a quarter million dollars on school doesn’t make me public property.” But he stepped aside and said, “Come in.”

I’d never been inside his house, and though I’d always been curious, when I finally did see it, my curiosity was dulled. I’d been blind to details for a week, my brain had somehow narrowed out what it thought important to three things. Breathing. Worrying about Jonathan. Desire to kill Jessica. But when I passed the living room, the flashing lights caught my eye. Three huge flatscreen TVs were up, with a leather chair set to see all of them. I recognized the steampunk settings and the particular burnished brass and wood finishes from a party I’d attended before Jonathan. In another life.

“You play City of Dis?” I asked. The online multiplayer game was highly competitive, complex to a fault, and if you had the brain power to keep up with it, more addicting than crack.

“Yeah.” He seemed a little embarrassed. “Need to wind down sometimes, you know.”

“I know this guy who wears Depends when he plays so he doesn’t have to get up to go to the bathroom.”

“I’m potty trained, even in character. Coffee?” he asked as I followed him to the marble and glass kitchen.

“No, thanks. I’m more of a tea person.”

“So,” he refreshed his cup. “If it’s not the driveway, and you’re asking about Sequoia, must be a medical call?”

“I’m so sorry to bother you.”

“You’re fine. Sit.” He pulled out a tall chair by the marble kitchen bar.

I sat, feet wrapped around the legs, a coiled tension in my hips.

“You did the place nice,” I said. “It’s probably the best house on the block.”

“It’s an investment.” He put a pot of water on the stove. “Coulda got something in Beverly Hills or Palisades for twice the price and half the aggravation, but where’s the fun in that?”

“It’s quieter and cleaner?”

“No potential, though. Nowhere to go but down. This neighborhood’s going to be Beverly Hills in ten years. And I get to live next to people like you. Interesting people. It’s all lawyers over there.” He glanced at me quickly, as if checking on me. “So, what brings you?”

“You’re a cardiologist. I’m sorry but—“

“Stop apologizing.”

“My...I guess you’d call him a boyfriend? He’s at Sequoia.”

“A patient, I assume.”

“They say he has a heart problem. That he damaged his valves when he was younger and he...”

Was I betraying a confidence? There had been so much talk of his suicide attempt that it seemed like old news already, but the talk had been within the confines of his family and doctors.

Dr. Thorensen waited, leaning on the counter, cup warming his hands.

“He took too much Adderall once when he was a teenager.”

“This is Jonathan Drazen?”

I felt a tingle of shock, like an adrenaline rush, that he knew, and that he mentioned his name right there in the kitchen, as if Jonathan’s condition and how he came to be so sick, was public knowledge.

He must have seen it on my face. He put his cup down and opened a chrome canister on the counter. It was full of teabags.

“That explains the car.”

Was I just being sensitive? Because it sounded like he thought I couldn’t possibly have bought a Jaguar without fucking someone. I didn’t have time to decide if I was mad, because Dr. Thorensen continued as if he knew he’d implied something that could twist my knickers in a knot and wanted me to forget it.

“We have a weekly meeting on the high risk cardiology patients,” he said. “Just to check diagnoses and make sure we’re on the same page about treatment. I’ve seen him.” He held up a hand as if the reassure me. “I’m not his doctor or anything. Dr. Emerson is with him. He’s highly qualified.”

“And you agreed a sixteen year-old overdose gave him a heart attack? That makes no sense.”

“Adderall is basically legalized speed,” he continued. “Taking a fistful will damage your valves, and the

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