52 Week Short Story Challenge #2 – A Loaded Question

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This week’s prompt is from http://www.fmylife.com/:therapist-promptI didn’t actually mean for it to happen, but this week’s story ended up a little dark.

 

A Loaded Question

When I first started coming to Amy, my therapist, I was terrified. The medication wasn’t working and I was looking for someone to help me make sense of the often conflicting workings of my mind. She was warm, kind, and I bonded with her more quickly than I’d ever bonded with another human being, which was why I was so leery of going to therapy when I knew she wouldn’t be there.

It had been weeks since the receptionist called to cancel my appointment with Amy, telling me that she was having family issues and wouldn’t be available. She offered to set me up with a different therapist but I didn’t want anyone but Amy, so I declined. When I called back to try and get a new appointment, I was told that Amy had moved to Kentucky.

As much as I wanted to believe that I didn’t need therapy anymore, I knew that wasn’t the case. I still had so much to work out and I couldn’t do it alone. So I called the office and asked them to set me up an appointment with a new therapist as soon as possible.

I was a little early for my appointment as usual, and much to my relief the office still had a comforting scent of lavender and eucalyptus, and the couches that were so soft I’d struggle to get out of them were still in place. I don’t know why I’d expected things to have changed just because Amy was gone but I had.

“Good afternoon,” I said as I signed in at the front desk. “I’m here to see Mr. Davies.”

Doctor Davies,” the receptionist corrected me.

“Sorry,” I said, a feeling of dread rising in the back of my throat. “I didn’t realize I was going to be seeing a doctor.”

“Don’t worry,” she said with a smile. “He’s very good.” I didn’t respond to this. Instead, I went to the couch against the wall and sat down with my eyes fixed on the hallway.

Part of the reason I liked Amy so much was that she wasn’t a doctor. Once a month I went to my psychiatrist for an evaluation of my meds, but that wasn’t a huge deal because my appointments with her weren’t terribly in-depth. In fact, most of them boiled down to her asking if the meds were working, my saying they were, and her telling me she’d see me in a month. Real doctors were another story altogether. Between neurologists telling me that my blackouts were just really bad migraines and my last GP accusing me of lying about the headaches so I could get pain medication, I hadn’t had many good experiences with them lately.

I was still trying to decide whether or not I was going to suddenly remember a previous engagement when the door at the end of the short hall opened up and a man came out. He took the chart from the receptionist and glanced at it.

“Mariah Pierce?”

“That’s me,” I said, fighting my way out of the couch and hoping I sounded more self-assured than I felt. When I made it over to him, I extended a hand. Doctor Davies was too busy looking at my chart to shake it and I dropped it to my side, feeling awkward.

“Come on in,” he said. I went ahead of him into the office and sat down, noticing as I did that he pushed a button on a little white box that was sitting outside his door. It emitted a soft, static-like sound that I assumed was supposed to cover up our conversation and my feeling of discomfort intensified. Amy had never used one. Maybe she hadn’t thought I had anything to hide.

Dr. Davies sat down at his desk and started reading my chart, something that didn’t inspire confidence in me. I felt like he should have at least flipped through it before I got there and hoped I wasn’t going to be billed for this. While he did, I took a minute to look at him. He was trim and tanned, though I couldn’t have told you if it was natural or a spray job, and his open-collared blue shirt and half-rimmed glasses made him look like he was trying to be someone’s cool uncle.

“So,” he finally said, setting my chart aside, “why don’t you tell me a little about yourself?”

“Uh,” I said, my body threatening to launch itself from the chair and run back outside. “Well, I’m 26 and I’ve been diagnosed with—“

“No, no,” Dr. Davies said, shaking his head. “Tell me about yourself in regards to your therapy. How do you think you’re progressing? What techniques have you found that work for you? Do you think your medication is working? That sort of thing.”

“Oh. Amy had me keeping a journal,” I said. “That seems to work. I use it to keep track of projects I’m working on.”

“What kind of projects?”

“This and that,” I replied, not really wanting to go into detail with him. Amy never asked for specifics, she just waited for me to tell her. “I collect things. And as for my medication, I guess it’s working. Sometimes I forget to take them but most of the time I do.” A sigh worked its way out of my chest and I caught it before it escaped. “I think the biggest problem I’m having right now is that I keep falling asleep.”

“Falling asleep?” Dr. Davies picked up a yellow legal pad – the definition of old-fashioned – and a pen whose shiny silver barrel was giving me a headache. “That can be a side effect of the medication you’re on.”

“No,” I said. “It’s different. I mean, I doze off at weird times. And sometimes I’ll find myself someplace and not know how I got there. Like I’ll be sitting down doing some work or at a restaurant and the next thing I know I’m back home in bed.” I took a deep breath and I glanced at Dr. Davies, who wasn’t looking at me but writing on his pad. “I have these dreams sometimes, too. Amy had me keeping a journal of them. Separate from the regular journal, I mean.”

“What kind of dreams?”

“They’re weird,” I said. “They’re me, but I’m usually watching myself from far away. I know what I’m doing or what I’m supposed to be doing but I’m never actually doing it. A lot of times I’ll think I can give myself orders but I never follow them. Sometimes I’m actually screaming at myself and I wake up with my throat raw but in the dream I just keep doing what I’m not supposed to. And when I have those dreams, I’m usually wearing someone else’s face.”

“You mean, you’re someone else.”

“I guess that’s what I’m supposed to believe, right?” The silence that followed was the definition of awkward. Amy would have been tapping on her tablet, which would have been comforting, but Dr. Davies was just staring at me as if he expected me to go on. I cleared my throat and forced a smile onto my face. If I couldn’t have Amy, I could at least try to break the ice like I had with her. “So what do you think? Am I crazy?”

“Well,” Dr. Davies said, setting aside his legal pad and pen, “That’s a bit of a loaded question, isn’t it?” I can’t remember if my mouth was actually hanging open or not but I didn’t wait for his answer. I got up and started out of the room, hearing him say something about seeing me next week that was drowned out by the white noise machine by the door.

The receptionist was waiting for me at the desk and I took my wallet out of my bag automatically to pay. My face was burning and my hands were shaking. This was exactly the reason I didn’t want to come to therapy in the first place.

“Twenty five,” the receptionist said, completely oblivious to my distress. “You need an appointment for next week?”

“I’ll have to call you,” I said, surprised how steady my voice sounded as I handed her some cash. “Did Amy leave an address? I’d like to send her a note to thank her for everything she’s done for me.” The receptionist shook her head.

“No. Her email said she was going out to Kentucky to take care of her aunt but I haven’t heard from her since. I’ve been waiting, too. There’s a pile of mail I’ve been wanting to forward to her.” She handed me a receipt and I folded it up without looking. “Do you want to leave me an email I can pass on to her?”

“That would be great.”

I took the stairs two at a time and managed to wait until the door to the back of the building was shut before I lit a cigarette and sank down onto the steps, my hands shaking. A couple of drags calmed me down a little and I closed my eyes, hanging my head so that my hair fell around my face. In spite of the nicotine seeping into my blood I was suddenly very tired.

When I lifted my head again it was dark, and the stub of my burned-out cig was still between my fingers. I looked around the parking lot, which was lit by a single flickering bulb. In the limited light I could see Dr. Davies walking to his car. He didn’t even have his keys out, something that told me he’d never had anything to fear. I tossed my cig into the weeds and got up.

If he wanted to see crazy, I was more than happy to show him.

I might even let him see where I’d kept Amy.

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