The Outcome Of Things

Photograph by Sarah Commerford, All Rights Reserved 2016

There it is. That fluffy little thought bubble that pops up over my therapist’s head as he looks back at me with his make-me-want-to-puke, earnest look. His lips are moving. He’s slowly twirling a pen between the thumb and forefinger of his soft left hand. He’s saying something like, “Do what you feel is best for you…Acceptance…Blah, blah…”. But scrawled in bold font across the bubble, now bobbing ever so slightly in the soothing office light, are the words I’ve seen a million times before: “I don’t have a fucking clue what to say, so I’ll just deflect back to her…” That’s psychology 101 right there.

I look back at him. Sensible brown leather shoes — Clark’s, I think — Dockers, green fleece vest, and a collared shirt with extra pens in the pocket — same outfit every week. A nice enough guy, even if he does annoy the crap out of me, more often than not. He’s jotting something on the yellow legal pad balanced on his lap; his penmanship is straight-up Catholic school, Palmer Method. A polished stone, Zen fountain on the bookshelf gurgles in the background, and a white-noise machine by the door is set on continual “shush” for privacy. On the coffee table he probably brought from home when his wife re-did the living room, there’s a box of cheap, rough tissues, strategically placed for easy patient access. I bring my own Puff’s though, because really, I can’t see adding to my pain by scratching my eyes raw with generic tissues, all while trying to fix myself. Tonight, I’m sitting on the brown leather love-seat in the same spot I almost always pick; although sometimes I like to toy with him by opting for a different chair, just to keep him alert, and me in control.

He’s quiet now, having delivered his sage advice. Being comfortable in silence — that’s what we’re doing. I look down at my feet, tapping lightly on the Mexican throw rug. He really needs to put a pad under that thing. I reach for my water bottle to keep myself in check. My heartbeat pulses in my ears and my forehead is clammy — any minute I might unravel. Those diplomas, framed and mounted over his desk don’t mean shit to me, because I’ll bet he’s never had to prepare for his child’s death, like I have — bury or cremate? He hasn’t watched his child get handcuffed, OD or be Narcaned back to life, (a verb you’re going to see in Webster’s pretty soon). I’m sure he hasn’t spent the past seven years, completely powerless, as addiction sweeps his child up in a riptide of toxins, dragging him ever closer to bottomless Hell.

Out of the corner of my eye, I check the clock, placed just-so, to keep engaged, talkative patients on the fifty-minute track. Thirty-seven minutes in, thirteen left to kill, and neither one of us has anything useful to say. I’m thinking I might swing by the liquor store on the way home, except it’s Monday and that’s not the best way to start the week. He’s trying to remember when he last had an oil change on his responsible Prius.

At the end of our session, he suggests I remain open to spirituality and mindfulness — all great ideas if they actually changed the inevitable outcome of things. And, of course, he tells me that I have to take care of myself — have I tried yoga or meditation? I look like I’m listening, but I’m already writing out the co-pay check, reflexively nodding my head, believing in nothing and hoping for anything.

When the door clicks shut behind me, he’ll go to his desk to write up clinical case notes. He’ll list a few bullets all about my reactive anger issues, transference, and maybe some worn and tired catch phrases about enabling, denial and hitting bottom. He’ll tear the page of notes from the legal pad, and place it in my manila folder, neatly filed away in alphabetical order until next week, as if anyone can stop time, or put their life away for later. He’s not going to write that he has no idea how to help me live in this world without my son. I’m guessing there’s no training for that.