The therapist, Dr. Blankenship, continued to stare down at the writing pad in his lap when she told him she had grown weary, and not only weary but bored with life.

“Yes, that’s it, I’m bored,” Elise said.

“And you think that by ending your life you will end your boredom?” Dr. Blankenship asked her.

“I think it will at least do that,” she said. “Don’t you?”

“It depends on what you think happens after life,” he said.

“But that’s precisely the point, isn’t it?” she said.

“Precisely what point?”

“If I knew what happened afterward, it’d take the thrill out of it,” she said.

“But I don’t see it this way at all,” the doctor told her. “The point is to find ways in which you can once again embrace the life you have now. There is still something to be had here.”

“Something to be had?” she asked. She uncrossed her legs and slid forward in her chair. She felt like standing up but remained in the chair. She looked at Dr. Blankenship, wondering why she was here. Dr. Blankenship stared down at his writing pad, not writing, not stirring, just staring blankly at his writing pad.

“I think it is the curse of intuitive people,” she said. She stood up and walked to the window.

“Boredom?” Dr. Blankenship asked.

“Yes, boredom,” she said. “It’s a curse. Nothing inspires me anymore. And it just didn’t come after Keiky’s death.”

Dr. Blankenship looked up from his pad, stood up, and walked to the window and opened the curtains. Bright sunlight streaked through the window. Elise looked down at the parking lot below. Farther off she could see the trees of a park. She turned her gaze back to the office. An oak desk, two chairs, one couch, a bookcase, a lamp, all neat and tidy. Dr. Blankenship was an organized man. She thought how he must give the impression of being in control since his profession dealt so often with people who weren’t. She smiled to herself, hoping that at home he had at least one disordered room. She wondered what he’d written in his pad if anything at all. She said one thing, but maybe he wrote down something else. It wouldn’t do her any good to have her own words repeated back to her. They were just words, random flings, brief affairs with her own thoughts. God knew she’d had enough sexual flings after Keiky’s death, none of which had sustained her. She always felt dirty and exhausted afterward. Afterward. Everything had now become afterward. This is what brought her the greatest sadness. There was no more before. Just afterward.

“What are you thinking?” Dr. Blankenship asked her.

“Thinking?” she said. “Thoughts race in and out of my mind so meaninglessly that it doesn’t matter. They come, they go. None of them stay for long.”

“This is natural,” Dr. Blankenship said. “It’s your mind’s way of dealing with the trauma.”

“Natural?” she said. “I can’t even get to the store and back without breaking down. How is this natural?”

“It takes time,” he said.

“Time?” she said. “For God’s sake, it’s been five years. How much time does it take?”

“These things can’t be measured in intervals of time,” he said. “One person’s trauma isn’t like anyone else’s.”

“What in the hell is that supposed to mean?” she asked him. Dr. Blankenship moved away from the window and sat down at his desk, laying the pad on the desktop. He pondered before he answered. She was obviously riled. He didn’t want to lose control of the situation.

“Time is the unknown,” he said. “You can’t measure it any more than you can measure your grief.”

“My grief is measured in bucket fulls,” she said. “Splattered all over my walls like angry paint. Fuck time! I’ve had enough of it. And my grief splattered walls. Nothing makes sense. I just want to be done with it all.”

“I know this is all rather difficult for you to process right now,” he said. “And it is natural to see the world in a state of disarray. Even panic. We need to find the tools to help you deal with your grief. With these tools, you’ll begin to see the patterns of a normal life return. We can find ways to help you repaint your walls.”

Elise stared at him. Smug bastard, she thought. Sitting there behind his comfortable, perfectly arranged desk. Hell, there wasn’t one thing out of place. She felt like going over and swiping everything onto the floor. But he’d just sit there, not even a flutter. He’d put everything back in its place. His life would be disrupted for a moment. Hers had been disrupted forever. This is what he didn’t understand. There was no putting her life back together.

“No, you can’t,” she said. “You can’t find tools for me. There’s nothing in that desk drawer for me. There’s nothing in your closet. There’s nothing hidden in the pages of your mysterious little writing pad. There’s nothing in those diplomas hanging on the wall. You aren’t God. You have no concept of what I’m trying to deal with. None. You’re as worthless as whitewash. Sure, I can paint over the chaos, but it’ll be back the next day. Fiercer than before. You see, everything comes afterward now. I don’t see any before. And this is what you can’t understand. Could you live in a life of afterward?”

“I know that what you are trying to deal with is overwhelming, but we will find ways to work through it. I promise you that you will once again be able to look to the future. It will once again hold promise for you.”

“Bullshit,” she said. She walked toward the door. She turned to look at him one last time. He didn’t move, didn’t even pick up his pad. Nothing he wrote would do her any good. She wanted to say something, but nothing came to her. No, like her life now, it would come to her later, after she left. Her whole life now was afterward.




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