Lucy begins talking before she even makes it into the office. By the time she takes her seat, I'm hearing the details of her day. She floods me with vivid descriptions of friends and enemies in her school, and, without prompting, I learn about the fight at dinner the previous night with her elderly grandparents, who are now, somewhat unwillingly, her guardians.
I draw a sociogram as she speaks, frantically trying to make sense of what she's pouring out, and also trying, in vain, to slow her down as I scribble a schematic who's who of her world. My arrows and jagged lines illustrating relationships in all directions resemble a web built by a spider on hallucinogens--a chaotic mess.
When she's done, she exhales sharply, studies my drawing for accuracy, grabs my pen to embellish one big conflict, and glances up at me triumphantly. Yes, that's everyone--that's her life. My intake questions, the usual provisos about confidentiality and scheduling, are all postponed as I follow her compelling agenda.
All the while, Lucy has been sorting out the contents of her large purse. She spreads them on my couch as if they were science specimens: four notes passed to her from class, folded in carefully-tucked triangles; three other odd little pieces of paper with doodles and phone numbers on them; a pack of Marlboros; a fistful of loose change; a small, pink, bulging wallet; a guitar pick; an accordion of photos held together by a frayed rubber band; crumpled class…