The office was large and filled with big books stained with colors like hunter green, bistre, scarlet, and falu red, and silver or gold words scrawled across. The large desk had carvings that traveled from the feet, crawling and curling up to the center; a vine with large magnolias, growing out of the deep cherry wood. The top was cleared off except for one file, closed and lying in the center. The only light was from the window; afternoon sun refusing to let go of the day, turning everything in the room into long tall shadows of themselves.
The woman behind the desk was still. She didn’t look like the kind of woman that would sit behind a desk. Her skin is tan and flawless, unlike the other pale agoraphobes he’s had before. Her hair is long and a little unkempt, and she tends to push at it like she’s fighting with it. Her hands are noticeably small, even from across the room, and her fingers display lots of rings of silver that squirt fragments of light across the room as her fingers move. She is the first person that hasn’t stared in shock at his bandages and scars.
There, on the floor in the looming shadow of books, sits the boy. Large brown eyes that hide a secret. If you look very closely you could see where a little boy used to be. He never looks into her eyes, or anyone’s for that matter, but he is always respectful. A “yes ma’am” and “no ma’am” the few times he spoke.
The file has references to his family; a healthy family, good history and well off financially. Until the last 6 months he was always an honor roll student and in advanced art classes. He had a list of friends a mile long, was always referred to as a well-adjusted boy. He played soccer and football and many afterschool activities. It made his fresh wounds all the more disturbing. No signs of family abuse, no issues at school. But something secret lie inside of him.
Her expression was soft and relaxed. This is the third visit; she really needs to hit a breakthrough. Small talk has failed to work in previous sessions; he’s too smart to fall for it. There was a long list of failed attempts in the file of other types of therapy. She doesn’t need to look at the file, she’s memorized each page, each reference, each note and comment.
Slowly, she opens a drawer and reaches in for something. The large fern, in its aged vase with elephant carvings, obscures what she’s doing from his sight. It seems to be reaching out and over, pointing its fingertips purposefully to hide the detail from him.
He peeks from the corner of his eye. These methods are new. She hasn’t spoken at all. What a relief that has been. He can’t even count how many offices he has sat, stood, and laid in over the last few months. He has been questioned, tested, interrogated, and preached at. Every office is different but they are all the same. Adults are all the same, just different degrees of bad and corrupt.
He looks up and finds her in front of him. He quickly looks away. It’s better to ignore them, eventually they give up.
She’s asking if she can sit on the floor. She smells of lavender and books. He likes that smell; it makes him remember his mother. They always think it’s about the mother. They are wrong, as he is quite used to only seeing her in dreams.
No response. That could be considered a failure, but she smiles with the fact that he didn’t move, or cringe, or say no, as mentioned by colleagues.
So there she is, next to him, smelling like summer and libraries and knowledge of women. Why does she seem different? She doesn’t; she’s not. She is as silent as he is. He doesn’t dare turn his head to acknowledge his space is being invaded. He’s never felt so intensely about looking at his hands. Keep looking. Hands. Stare.
She crosses her legs and puts the scratch pad on her lap. The charcoal moves across the page like butter. A soft noise pollutes the quiet, the sounds of pictures whispering onto blank paper. Whhhhish… whoooosh…. Hhich, Hhhhich.
He’s sure she’s drawing a picture of butterflies and rainbows, a picture of him without markings looking happy, or some other contrived picture in her brain designed to manipulate him. But it won’t work. It won’t, because she wouldn’t understand.
The lull of the moving charcoal, the black on white, her small hands moving in fervor, he forgets his own hands for a moment. She pretends to not notice he is next to her, hurting and alive. Her hands are flowing, like water over mossy rocks. Smooth and comfortable.
He slowly scans across his lap, her lap, her fingers, to what is underneath. As soon as he sees it he feels a stirring in his chest. There are no fuzzy bunnies or hearts with wings. It’s not even him. He studies the face of the girl on the page for a moment to be sure. Yes, it is. He gets it. Does that mean she gets it?
He reminds himself to breathe.
She keeps drawing.
The sounds of hurt and art collide when the buzzer of the timer goes off. She lays the pad on the floor and quietly gets up. She moves like a sheer curtain in the breeze, soft and without purpose. The door squeaks as it opens. The spell is broken, and the broken boy starts to walk out.
His eyes stay on the floor. But this time, it’s not to stare at his feet, and he almost lingers.