WEEKLY WRITING CHALLENGE: LEAVE YOUR SHOES AT THE DOOR
We sit staring at each other, I blank as the wall behind his head, he contemplating lunch, perhaps; his next holiday, the chance of a round of golf on Sunday.
A fifty-minute void that my father pays him to let me fill with my secrets. But there are no secrets. I simply am: a child, almost a woman, reduced to the basic state of merely being.
The desk between us is as wide as the golf course he dreams of: wide as the gulf between our understanding. Wide enough to stop mad people lunging for the thoughts inside his head as he gently probes for nuggets of truth in ours. I let my gaze slide to the tree outside his window, a bird flying free into a world of light. For a moment I yearn, but will not tell myself for what.
Only thoroughbreds feel like this, he tells me; cart horses plod on in placid mindlessness. I wonder if he thinks I should be reassured, but I am not. I have no interest in diagnosis, only in cure, and even then the interest is fleeting. I have forgotten what normality is, and the thought of it frightens me.
It isn’t always like this. Sometimes panic screams so loudly in my head that only willpower stops it bursting out. I’m good at that. Willpower. Too good, they say, but who are they to judge? It’s what they wanted, after all. Endure, they said. Lose yourself to find yourself, love thy neighbour and never mind thyself. So I did lose myself, and now I’m here because I’m lost. How ironic is that?
And even the screaming isn’t the worst. On some days the black hole inside is so full of scorpions that the pain is unbearable. I curl up tightly and wait for it to pass, but what if it doesn’t, one day?
So blankness is almost euphoric, in my world. A drifting haze that I hold tight in my mind, willing it to last. He is beyond the glass; the glass through which I see his world posturing in silence, unreachable and unsought. It would be kinder to leave me here forever, particularly if what they say is true: that forever wouldn’t be long.
He asks me how I reached this place. How would I know? I was too busy doing what was expected to realise that I’d walked away and left myself behind. And it’s so long ago, now, it scarcely seems relevant. This minute is all there is: the effort required to stop the shell shattering into pieces too infinitesimal to mend. Although why that should matter is a paradox in itself. Pride, perhaps. So humiliating to fall apart.
He wishes he could use a truth serum to free the raging demons in my soul, and the idea stirs something that might once have been a laugh. The truth is that my soul is empty.
He looks at the clock on the wall behind me, checking the minutes until our mutual silence is over. I look at my watch. I’m not the one being paid.