Tuesday, April 20, 2021


This is a story I wrote some years ago, and it represents a style that I've moved on from since. I still like it, but I'm not submitting it any more, so it's perfect for the blog site. Hope you enjoy it. Feel free to leave comments, even criticisms.


By Jeffray Harrison

Alex sat down in the marriage counselor’s office and immediately sank back into the huge sofa with the bundle of papers in his lap. The sofa was soft, with a light green fabric that felt smooth against his skin. It couldn’t have been more comfortable, and yet Alex felt as anxious as he had ever been in his life. He pulled himself out of the depth of the couch and perched himself on the edge instead, elbows on knees, hands clasped in front of his face, ready for whatever this man said that would help him to fix his marriage.

“Well, this is a peculiar situation,” Dr. Martin said, in the same Boston accent Alex had picked up on the phone, “Marriage counseling for one.” He smiled, “Don’t worry, you’re not the first.”

Alex grinned back, hoping he looked normal. “I’ve been asking her to start counseling for a couple of months, but she doesn’t think it’ll do any good.”

Dr. Martin sat back in his armchair, “Could be,” he said, screwing up his eyes and shifting his head to the side. “But it couldn’t hurt.”

Alex shrugged his shoulders and nodded.

Dr. Martin looked at Alex, right in the eyes, for what seemed like a long time, until Nathan felt almost compelled to say something. 

“I just want her to come back.”

“Let’s talk about that,” Dr. Martin said, clipping Alex last word. “Are you sure that’s what you really want?”

Alex was shocked. What the hell else would I be here for? he thought. “Yes, absolutely.”


Alex started to doubt whether this was the right thing, or more correctly, whether this was the right man. “Of course.”

“That’s what you want,” the counselor repeated, “So she comes back and you’re happy as a schoolboy in summer. That’s it?”

Alex tried to look convincing, tried to stand his ground, wondering if this was some kind of test of his resolve.

“Everything goes back to the way it was, say, six months ago, and you’d feel like you got your money’s worth?”

Alex nodded his head and swallowed hard, shoving down the tears he didn’t want to cry in front of this man. “Yes, with all my heart.”

“With all your heart, I get it.” Dr. Martin leaned in closer, putting his elbows on his knees just like Alex's were. “Let’s say it was within my power to make this happen, today,” he said, speaking softly and drawing Alex in, “where are you gonna be six months from now?”

Alex clutched the papers closer to him, the emails he had printed out, both the ones addressed to him and the ones addressed to her girlfriends, the ones he had hacked her account to get. Some of those emails, he knew, were over six months old.

“I don’t know.”

Dr. Martin settled back into his chair, nodding his head.

“So then I ask again,” Dr. Martin said, “What do you really want?”

Alex put the papers down on the sofa beside him. He read the first couple of lines of the topmost one, addressed to Charlotte’s cousin, and then turned the whole stack face-down.

“I want my wife to respect me.”

Dr. Martin cocked his head to one side, waiting.

“I want her to stop taking advantage of me.” Alex continued. “I want to stop worrying about where she is and who she’s with, and whether or not she’s okay. I want to be able to talk to her again, without feeling like I’m getting beat up with every conversation. I want to ask her how her day was, and for once not hear some miserable, petty story that shatters my mood. I want to stop avoiding her when she’s home and waiting up for her when she’s gone. I want to be in love with her again, and feel like she’s in love with me.”

Alex waited for a reply, but Dr. Martin only closed his eyes and nodded his head again. This didn’t bother Alex a bit, since his eyes were starting to feel hot. He rubbed them with the back of his hand and looked at through the window at the parking lot, where the only cars there were his and Dr. Martin’s.

“I’m gonna shoot straight with you, Alex,” Dr. Martin said, opening his eyes and leaning forward. “When we talked on the phone, you said she had already moved out. In cases like this, it’s very unlikely she’ll come back.”

His words hung in the air like the silence after the smack of a judge’s gavel. Alex understood the import of it, and whether he liked it or not, realized that he had known it when he walked into this office by himself. 

“Now, I can guide you in the best course of action available to you, the best way to repair this marriage that’s still healthy for you.” Dr. Martin leaned over far enough to place both his hands on the coffee table between them. “But I can’t guarantee she’ll come back.”

Alex felt a pressure in his chest. Leaning back into the sofa and looking up at the ceiling relieved it a bit, but still Alex could feel it tightening.

“But here’s the thing, Alex,” Dr. Martin paused. “Alex?”

Alex forced himself to look away from the ceiling and back at the counselor, his eyes now feeling like they did when he had a high fever, like they would burn up or burst out of their sockets, and yet he held back the tears. He looked into this man’s honest, compassionate stare.

“Do you realize that out of all of the things you said you want,” Dr. Martin held his gaze, his face completely relaxed and open, “only one of them requires you to still be married to her?”

Alex felt like he had been sparring at the gym, when some guy knocks you around for a while, puts you on your butt, and then reaches down to help you up, with a friendly smile on his face. 

“Okay,” he said, “So how do I start?”

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Foxes Guarding the Hen House

 Here's three things I learned about racism in March:

1) A lot of people who say they don't have a racist bone in their body should make an appointment to get their pancreas checked out.

2) People who get very triggered by phrases like "white supremacy" and "white privilege" are very comfortable saying phrases like "China virus" and "Wuhan flu."

3) We probably should not let racist people define racism for us, or decide what is racist and what isn't.

It may be that the trial of Derek Chauvin is bringing this out in me, with all of the details of the crime and the trial in the news, or the video being back in rotation. It just feels as if the very definition of racism is being redefined, or at least questioned. For many people watching the trial, it seems like a clear case of racism, from the callousness of Chauvin to the human life he was snuffing out to the neglect from others on the scene. But for others, it's not so clear. Those people say we can't know what was in Chauvin's heart, and after all one of the other officers was of color, and Chauvin had a Black friend once.

Something similar happened with an announcer at a state tournament basketball game between Norman High and Midwest City. In reaction to a peaceful protest during the national anthem, an announcer battered the crowd with F-bombs and racial slurs. Later, the man blamed his verbal attack on the teenage girls on his blood sugar spiking because of diabetes. Now, I'm not a doctor, so feel free to take my opinion on this for what it's worth, but I did do a cursory search on WebMD, and racism is not listed as one of the symptoms of type 1 diabetes. It's probably more truthful to say that his blood sugar levels are responsible for him saying out loud the things that he often thinks or for him being unable to contain the hatred that lurks in his heart. Either way, it seems like the kind of thing, shouting the N-word at students involved in peaceful protest, to be specific, is the type of thing that we used to all agree was pretty racist.

One of the sure-fire ways to stop accusations of racism cold is to point to one's friends or relatives of color as evidence of the impossibility of racism in one's heart. Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted tried that defense after he tweeted "So it appears it was the Wuhan Virus after all?" To some, this might be pretty innocuous, since the virus did originate in Wuhan, China. Many of his defenders, as well as defender of the former, twice-impeached president, have pointed this out, that it can't be wrong to simply state the origin of the virus. That's why it was called the Spanish Flu, right? Except it wasn't, and the Spanish Flu didn't start there. In addition, Asian-Americans have been warning us for the duration of the pandemic that these types of rhetoric are causing an increase in violence towards them, their families, and their businesses. To continue to fuel that violence seems to suggest racism, but then Husted insists that he has many Asian-American friends and neighbors, as do his children. He defended his comment by saying, "I was just pointing out that this is an international crisis, in my opinion, that the Chinese government is responsible for and I wanted an independent investigation." Once again, I did some research here, and my findings indicate that the latter statement would fit into a tweet just as easily as the former. It's true. Not only that, but the countless Asian-American friends and neighbors that Husted used as human shields against the bad press that his racist garnered wrote him a scathing letter about his words. In the letter, which he apparently still hasn't read, they very graciously educated him about the impact of his words on their families. 

This is a real issue for blended families. There is the idea that relationship with certain minorities comes with some kind of racism immunity or get-out-of-racism-free card. Being invited to the barbeque doesn't come with the freedom to get drunk and try to take over the grill. People get into relationships for a whole variety of reasons, and very often those reasons are self-serving. It's not ridiculous to imagine someone getting into a friendship or even more intimate relationship with a person of color just to create a smokescreen to blur their racist behavior. And this doesn't even have to be a conscious effort, either. It could be a totally subconscious part of the already internalized racism. We saw some of this dynamic in the fallout from the Harry and Meghan interview with Oprah, in which they exposed, in remarkable restrained terms, the racism that Meghan experienced while connected to the Royal Family. Many people have noted the problems with Harry saying that he was unaware of the problems Black folks face. For many, it seems like the kind of talk that should definitely come up while a mixed couple are courting each other, but I would give Harry the benefit of the doubt, if only because his actions have shown a desire to rise above his initial ignorance. On the other hand, many people have also criticized his brother's statement that the Royal Family is not racist, even while he aspires to an English throne adorned with African gold. 

It all depends on the definition of racism. If people decide for themselves if their words or actions are racist, they almost always reshape the definition in such a way that in includes everyone else and excludes themselves, regardless of the truth, like some gerrymandered district of racism. We need to listen to people who know about racism, either academically or experientially. The best chance for this to happen is in our churches, and yet too often we neglect to talk about race and racism there as well, or, worse, we make excuses for it in ways that we never would for any other sin. Because it is sin. Whether you want to call it partiality or oppression or injustice, racism is a dangerous sin that has the potential to infiltrate and destroy not only the heart but the church as well. Our definition has to include and emphasis that aspect of racism, so that we can stop blurring our vision and see clearly enough to call it out, in ourselves first and then in our communities.