Late Apple Road Center for the Abused, ph. 1971.
I was sure of it, that I’d held his hand through most of the hypnosis. But toward the end it became impossible; he’d begun convulsing, merging sentences into unintelligible screams. When he started shaking, the doctor called it off, unwilling to put him through any more of this. Tears rained down his swollen face, blotched red around the cheeks, as he stood and walked to the boy and placed a hand on his shoulder and said, “Calm down now.” The boy said, “What happened?” As a novice, just a newly hired staff photographer out of place in the session and unable to contribute much more than my meager friendly support, I stood up and moved myself to the back of the room, behind the three doctors present. A social worker seated by the door, facing the room, did not look at me; uncomfortable, she lowered her head, pretending to smooth out the hem of her skirt. She lifted her hand to curtly brush away tears from her cheek. She would not raise her head again or glance in the child’s direction. The hypnotist turned back toward the other two doctors and smiled shyly. And the boy continued to cry even after situating himself into the post-hypnosis state, where everything was fine and he was safe again, and it became very difficult to look at him. The bruises on his body were still yellow and gray from the last night spent with his birth father. Now, he was an orphan, hospitalized and lost among a mostly silent, very troubled crowd. This was the sixth session under hypnosis, but the first that worked so profoundly. Truly I was very shaken. I remained at the back of the room, feeling relieved that I was out of the picture for now. Later, I would undoubtedly cry myself. These things just happen. If you surround yourself with horror, it does not necessarily become easier as the multitudes shuffle in and out of your life. It may be expected, but never welcome, and for the most part you do not get used to it. For those few able to remain composed and without visible emotional outburst, I felt a professional envy. For the boy now leaving the room I felt great sadness, and for those responsible for his hospitalization I felt grave anger and untold revulsion. But, as my position dictated, I kept to my camera and my notes. On the way out of the room, I nodded to the social worker, a pretty lady slightly older than myself, whose face was streaked with tears and stress.