Hundreds of unfamiliar faces bustled around her space. Some made eye contact, some smiled, some even blessed her with a quick “Hello” and others seemed to take no notice of her presence. She had come to this public place in hopes to meet new people; and besides, she loved a nice cold double scoop of rocky road. Her heart pounded as she walked up to “Murray’s Gourmet Ice-cream”
A pale, round-faced man greeted her. “Hey there,” he bellowed with his southern kissed articulation, “what can I get for ya?”
She scanned the menu, mostly to avoid eye contact with him.
“Give her a double scoop of rocky road, oh and I want a double scoop of cookies n’ cream!” a voice spoke excitedly.
Startled, she turned to see a handsomely trimmed gentleman by her side. His bronze skin glowed almost like an angelic being. His brown eyes sparkled as if the sun had sprinkled bits of stars into each iris.
“I’m Brian by the way” he spoke as he extended his right hand, shocking her out of her trance.
He noticed that she seemed to be uncomfortable with his gesture so he retreated. After handing his cash to the vendor, he grabbed the ice creams and handed over the cup of chocolate and marshmallow sweetness to the nervous stranger before him.
“So what brings you out here all alone?” he asked as he grossly dumped a huge glob of ice cream onto his tongue.
She raised her cup: “ I came here for the rocky road and…to meet people I guess”
Her bashful nature amused him. His eyebrows raised with curiosity.
“I just moved here from Florida,” she explained.
“Well, I was born and raised here and I still have no friends,” he joked “welcome to Atlanta, the Black Hollywood!” They shared a light-hearted giggle.
“ I know it sounds cliché but, I would really like to show you around. I know of a few places you can go to meet cool, fun people.”
I think I’ve already met one she thought as her shoulders dropped down a few inches. She took a deep breath and gave a nod while fixating on the marshmallow that had escaped to surf down the side of her cup.
“So maybe we should start by navigating through this ice cream festival. I might need you to carry me out when it’s over” he patted his toned abdomen as he spoke.
“Ok,” she agreed.
They strolled past hyper children and frustrated parents in between desperate vendors yelling for them to stop and taste. Neither of them noticed the commotion. She had never felt so comfortable sharing her life stories with a stranger before. He listened intently in between making jokes and throwing in his own relevant experiences.
He is a strange man. How did he know I wanted rocky road, why did he even decide to talk to me? she began to think as he vented about his disappointment with the entire Falcons organization.
Suddenly, the sound of her pulse drowned his voice. She could feel her headed getting cool from the sweat. Her breaths became shorter and faster as the scenery seemed to be gliding further away from her.
I knew this was a mistake, why did you even come here? She mentally scolded herself.
Cold cream and milk splattered on her cheeks and flooded her toes as her cup hit the ground.
After a few minutes, she opened her eyes to find herself swinging on a bench facing the lake. Brian’s strong arms were firmly wrapped around her frail, trembling torso as her head lay gently on his shoulder. She jolted from him and wiped the tears away.
“I’m sorry, um…I have to go.” She jumped off the swing and attempted to walk away.
“Hey wait a minute!” Brian exclaimed. He blocked her path and gently held her arms by her side.
“It’s ok. Hey, look at me,” he demanded, “I get it, everything is fine.”
The two embraced one another in silence. Their heartbeats harmonized with the melody of the fountain that played behind the creaking of the swing.
Everything is fine.
It had been a few weeks since she embarrassed herself in front of the most handsome man she had ever met. Not one day went by that she did not scold herself for failing to control her anxiety.
“Hannah, when we last spoke I gave you the assignment to go out and socialize, try to make at least one new friend. How did that go for you?”
“Honestly Dr. Wiley, it was awful. I did try but, I had another anxiety attack right there in front of him, in the middle of the park in front of everyone. You knew I was not ready to do that without my meds. You should lose your license!” she pouted.
“Well,” Dr. Wiley leaned in closer with an assured smirk on her powdered face “I am proud of you for trying.”
Hannah unfolded her arms and locked eyes with her doctor.
“You’re proud of me, is that all you have to say? I made a fool of myself. I failed and you’re proud of me?” she could feel the tears welling in her eyes and that all too familiar tightness in her throat.
“You made the attempt Hannah. That is progress. You said you had an attack ‘in front of him’. Who exactly were you referring to?” Dr. Wiley resumed her note-taking position.
Hannah tried to maintain her defensive position and pout but just the thought of him forced a slight smile and relaxed her muscles.
“His name is Brian. I met him at the ice cream festival. He bought my double scoop of rocky road and..we talked for a while.”
“We had a great time until..”
“How did he respond to the attack, Hannah?”
“He sat me down on a bench and held me until I calmed down. Then he stopped me from trying to leave and just held me for as long as I needed him to.” She slipped back into the moment as she spoke.
“Have you had any contact with him since?” Dr. Wiley attempted to reclaim her attention.
“What, no! I can’t, I mean I can but..no.”
“Because. Oh wow, that time went by fast. I have to go now Dr. Wiley, I will join you again next week.” she escaped the conversation. She was very good at escaping uncomfortable situations. She locked her iPad and placed it into her shoulder bag. Her weekly facetime sessions with Dr. Wiley was about the only time she talked to anyone for more than five minutes. It wasn’t quite the same as sitting on a plush grey Issac Standard Loveseat in a 250 square feet room that had so many inspirational framed quotes on the walls that made it easier for her to avoid eye contact, but it was better than having to start over with a new, local psychologist.
Dr. Wiley had been there through the entire phase of experimental medications, changing doses and finally the point of deciding to refuse any more prescriptions from Dr. Lunceford, the psychiatrist who easily assigned Xanax and Risperdal after only two minutes of speaking to his patients.
Dr. Wiley was an undistinguished woman. Her greying hair was either trapped in a scrunchie or falling limp around her head. She wore earth tones and flat shoes. Her eyes were partially blocked by black frames, just enough so they could not be read. She wore no other make-up besides a light dusting of bronzer and she spoke with the calmness of a well trained therapists. She had no husband and only every mentioned a niece who decided to study Psychology at FAMU, that made her particularly proud. Hannah had a certain admiration for Dr. Wiley though. She seemed to have no concern for what people thought of her. She felt no pressure to be anything or anyone other than who she was and she saw the world as an open door leading to unrestricted possibilities.
Copyright ©️ Janietta Watts
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