When night fell, the psychologist went to Calviá, a town in the mountains of Tramuntana, Mallorca. She saw a traditional side of the island, where livestock went through the streets and houses were more than a hundred years old. In the center, there was a cathedral, not as beautiful as La Seu, her home base, but enticing nonetheless. Calviá was not a tourist-friendly place and she saw inhabitants from Mallorca looking at her as an alien. She did not speak a word of Catalan and usually her Dutch or English was reduced to German. Linguistically, the Catalans had a point, because all these languages share a common ancestor. But historically and socially, she did not like to be equated with the Teutonic race, maybe because she was French.
Sitting on the steps leading to the cathedral, Adriana approached the psychologist. She told Bego that she had to download data and process them overnight. The hypermarket Carrefour had asked her to examine customer behavior. Perhaps they bought more chocolate in winter and perhaps they combined diapers with beer? She shuddered at the latter combination, but knew better than to judge. Raising a baby was taxing and an alcoholic beverage could bring comfort.
She had never visited the hyper market, she told the psychologist. Being a developer, did not exactly mean that you knew how a company actually functioned in real life. Of course, there were new school developers who combined the technical with the social, but Adriana preferred keeping it abstract. She reduced the world to what the computer could understand; the business logic that at once compressed reality, but also had a far greater impact than what it had shrunken down. It was harrowing that algorithms could predict with 90 percent certainty when someone was pregnant and that once, in America, the parents of a teenager heard the big news earlier than they could bear.
Bego also thought about The Circle and how life had already become digital. Even though our minds were the size of a water melon, as quoted in this novel, we increasingly treat it as if it is digital. Navigating through a web is not what humans are programmed for and our water melons can explode if they, in this novel, are forced to share every thought and experience.
As she was thinking about this, she did not notice that her former friend Adriana was speaking to her. And her friend did not notice that the psychologist was not listening. It was as if synthetic cues, looking at somebody, yawning or nodding and agreeing, were not picked up by the programmer. She was used to a Boolean world, in which there were only two values, true or false. In this world, there were truth tables and she imagined that if two humans were talking to each other, the condition for a conversation would be true. Life was more complex than this, there were infinitely more conditions and a conversation was not true or false.
The psychologist tried to give nillable therapy, at least that is what she had picked up from the programmer. She wanted her therapy not to exist in her patients’ heads, because the best therapy was not experienced, but internalized and not caught in the confines of words. Adriana did like this idea and expanded it further, telling her that therapy lived on the stack and never made it to the heap. The stack only contained references to actual content, value or data. It was therefore a promise, not the actual remedy itself.
~ * ~
It was Sunday and the Costa d’en Blanes beach was filled with people. Minutes before, there was a protest against the nearby marine zoo. Your ticket is my life sentence, the signs read. As the noises dissipated in her head, she opened Adriana’s notebook again. There was something that Adriana left out of the conversation. Maybe it was her aloofness that triggered the psychologist to dig into it. What was it that set Adriana apart from the others? She never heard anything about her going to a party or having friends over for dinner.
While she was researching into Adriana’s life, something else was happening. She became engrossed into the subject matter, but as she thought about it more deeply, she also drew the parallels between her patient’s life and hers. Being a psychologist was not what she was destined to become, but she saw it as a means to get into touch with people. While she never spoke to anyone, giving therapy was a way to converse with people in a shielded environment. There was always the guarantee that a conversation would last for the duration of the session, be it fifteen minutes or two hours. A patient seldom bored her and she did not care to bore them, because it was therapy after all.
To help her, she interviewed patients with help of a guide. The principles of private therapy was the book she held in high regard. But it was not possible to give therapy and look at any entry of this book, which accounted more than two thousand pages and had numerous torn pages. She needed a way to do both things, that is why she sometimes went to fetch for red bush tea.
In a sense, patients had to wait. She was no longer present next to them and the operation she carried out was synchronous. It was not concurrent, she could not glance at the book and give therapy at the same time. Also, it was not asynchronous, which means that the patient would still be able to talk to Bego, while she was thinking about the right course of action.
But in reality, there was no book or solution. She just took a break from time to time, because she honestly did not know what to say or do. The truth was that she had never been in the situation of her patients. She never had endured what other people found so common. There was no heartache or petty fights in Begoña’s life. It was all dreary like the flower she was named after. She was an ornament to other people’s life, but never participated actively.
Even now, as she was thinking about her own situation, she forgot to look into her patient’s life. She could not bring herself to step into the shoes of Adriana. They may have been alike, but Begoña was afraid to lose control. What was she going to find on her computer and how could she gain the trust of what was a stern Eastern European lady?
She was not permitted to dwell on this issue when some of the protesters came to her. They asked for her advice on how to tackle the authorities. It was high time for the zoo to close and Begoña surely must know how to get the cards right. Amidst the protesters, there was a familiar figure. It was Adriana.