The woman in front of me sits with her legs crossed, one meticulously manicured clear-coat-polished hand holding a notebook steady on her knee. It contains far too many pieces of information about me, holding several meetings’ worth of material, strung out into shorthand sentences for her own use. They say and mean nothing.
She gently taps a pen, 0.5 with black ink, on the edge of the paper. It’s the only noise that has filled the room for at least fifteen minutes now. I’ve run out of things to say, as I always do, and resort to taking notice of particularly uninteresting details, like this one.
“So,” She says, pulling the cuffed end of her blazer’s sleeve with her free hand, anxiously bouncing her knee. Her eyes glance down at the scribbled, half-formed thoughts that appear at an upside-down angle, and back to me. A groomed and immaculate eyebrow raises in concern, then lowers quickly.
She’s a therapist, an astute observation that echoes in my skull. Why would she be anxious? It must be a result of some habit. Or maybe it’s her annoyance seeping out into the room. It’s not as if I’m in any place to analyze her impulses and habits. I can tell she’s been getting increasingly impatient through our meeting, though. At least, I can only guess she is. You were always better at reading people’s faces, reciprocating with a situationally appropriate smile or an expression of empathy. Anyways.
When we meet, it seems can never get a grasp on the exact words I’m searching for, like plunging my hand into complete darkness and grabbing at whatever I can reach yet losing my grip on everything I touch. That’s what I tell myself.
The truth is, I know every word I want to say. Every feeling bubbling to the surface through my throat and leaving me nauseous along the way. I know all the combined sentences and words and I want to scream them out. I won’t. I know how she’d react.
Too many moments have passed since either of us last spoke, but before I can fit another poorly-executed sentence in, she does it for me.
“Are you feeling comfortable sharing anything with me today?” She asks in a calm, carefully calculated tone, searching for any microscopic change in my expression. “Regarding his passing.”
She offers me a comfortable smile, but her eyes and forehead show noticeable strain as the words carefully come out. She tries so hard not to push me for an answer, tries to tip-toe around anything that would make me uncomfortable. Maybe all I need is a little discomfort.
“What else is there to say about it?” I say despondently, a humourless laugh forcing its way out of my throat. Displeasure for my reply shows on her face and she leans back into her plush chair. I’m not lying when I say it. I have nothing more to say when it comes to your death.
It was November when you did it. I’d left the house for no more than an hour.
It haunts me. I think about climbing the stairs, all of the creaks remaining in the right spots. I think about turning the kettle on. Nothing seemed out of place. There was wood in the fire, a comforting crackle drifting through the otherwise silent room. The lights were on. I think about wandering through the same hallway I always pattered through, seeing the bedroom door not unusually ajar. There was hardly any privacy between us. I think about you, slumped over in front of the bed, left hand tightly gripped on your pistol, instantaneous rigidity crystallizing your last action against the test of time. There was no note.
I’m not resentful about it anymore, except for when I am. Those are usually the hardest days.
Everything might be very different now if it had been an accident: A car wreck, an overdose, being in the wrong place at the wrong time. At least then I’d have some sort of reasoning, some tidy explanation. Nothing is ever an accident when it comes to you though, is it? Always one for the theatrics, seeking out the convoluted tragedy in every situation. A man of mystery. I’d say every move you made was thought out the night before, written down on a piece of paper and hastily shoved in your pocket for later reference, but no one is capable of planning everything that happens to them. If they were, you’d be one of them.
“Talking about this situation with me will help you find closure,” she says, almost flatly. “Talking about how he died, and how you’re feeling. That’s how you make progress from this point forward. That’s how you move on.”
As if I don’t know that. I make careful note of her use of you and me as separate entities, never we. Two forces, working parallel to each other, never together.
I shift uncomfortably in the chair. It’s plush, a light camel-coloured upholstery covering the arms and body. I also account for the embroidery; Small grey flowers in symmetrical rows. The carpet underneath the stained wooden legs is a garish lavender. A bold choice, if you were to ask me. I’ve tried to take careful notice of the things around me since you died. It was your habit that I’ve stitched inside me and made my own. Your tendency to keep every whistle, every freckle, every colour, burned into your memory. I’ll never be that good, but I try. It continues to astound me that even now, after all of this, your brilliance is a beacon of light, shining through.
She clears her throat in an attempt to grasp my attention once more, and just like that, I am back in her office. The image of your face in my mind, brooding but glorious in all its angles and lines, is gone as quickly as it came.
She’s stopped tapping the pen, 0.5 with black ink, and has uncrossed her legs to lean in a bit closer. There is no longer the insurmountable tension of first meetings, no uncomfortable silence. There is only her and I, two individuals, equal yet not at all. I reckon she knows what to expect now.
Still, I wish she would just disappear, that I could lock myself into this peculiarly decorated office and never come into contact with another living, breathing human ever again.
Then again, I pay to be here by the hour.
It wasn’t my personal choice to come. The stream of concern from those around me pushed me into a corner, rising up my chest and down my throat until I had no choice but to press “book appointment”. I didn’t want any of this to happen, frankly. I wanted my life to remain stagnant, a photograph to be carefully placed on the mantle. The constantly babbling, writhing shape of a voice in my head has really taken the familial tone of teenage angst in recent times. It’s just how I feel. The joke is on me.
Who has ever wanted their life to change? Sometimes, you are comfortable existing in our own space, and a tornado comes hurtling through your living room, stringing your belongings and keepsakes throughout your house. Sometimes, it leaves you feeling slightly mussed but otherwise relatively unchanged. Sometimes, your best friend kills himself. Life is constant and changing.
Right. Back to the office with my therapist, well-adjusted and collected and awaiting my next response to jot down in her shorthand with her 0.5 black pen. I drift so easily. The winter is grey and dreary outside, pristine snow fluttering past the windows, only to create a mess of sludge on the ground below. Everyone who walks past the glass parallel to me trudges through, unaffected by it all, and forever changing. I think of the sun, and the pavement, and blood, and where I am going after all of this.
There are 29 minutes left.
I’ve been silent for quite some time, and I guess that’s how it will be.