A Craving For Vitality

April 15, 2010

by Lilly Veritá

Waiting rooms are, by all accounts, designed for comfort.  This particular one was no different with its solid blonde and purple chairs, lined up for battle across from a youthful receptionist. Her inattentive nature put me on edge, the first indication that I shouldn’t have been there.  Sheepishly ducking into Roger J. Matlock’s psychotherapy office, I was hit with a sudden wave of anxiety.  The past three years of my life rushed over me, causing my forehead to tense with concern. Every anticipated withdrew from my mind.  The patronage I expected was gone, replaced with a feeling that I was making the wrong decision.  Thoughts whirled in my head, getting tangled in the already wryly mess of emotion: “What can this stranger do to help me?  How can my sleepless nights possibly be terminated by this ordinary man in this orthodox office?”

The pounding vibrations resonating in my head were suddenly interrupted by the sight of a man crossing the threshold of a door. Crumpling an empty coffee cup in his fist, he tossed it at a nearby trashcan, failing to notice it landed a good distance past his target. He strode over to where I was standing, taking large eager strides with one hand reaching in my direction.  “Hi Lilly, I’m Roger.” He smiled, more enthusiastic than I had expected a therapist to be. My attention was drawn to a clip-on tie barely hanging onto the front of his starched white dress shirt. It wasn’t supposed to be this way, so happy and easygoing. He gathered secrets of broken lives, was supposed to mend shattered spirits, things that were not displayed in his cheerful smile. Built up in my head was the image of a savior, here to fix my wrecked and suicidal mind. Contrary to my delusion, in front of me stood a lanky man with a seemingly optimistic outlook on life. Holding out my hand, I realized I was shaking uncontrollably.  He either didn’t notice or ignored my unease, shaking my hand with his, moist and hot, leading me back through the door from which he entered.

To say Roger’s office was normal would be an absolute lie.  My apprehension of a ruby red chez lounge waiting in an insipid room was nowhere to be seen.  Instead, a shameful excuse for an office loomed at hand, making me stop in my tracks.  To the left was Roger’s desk, a wooden, box-like pathetic work station. Directly above it hung a mass produced poster; a tacky southwestern scene composed of pastel blues and pinks. A cracked leather tan sofa sat resting adjacent from a single recliner, used for so long the wood veneer had begun to peel off of its handle.  The only object disturbing communication between these two seats was a dreadful coffee table, new and cheap, resembling the wretched desk.  All of these furniture pieces would have seemed haphazardly thrown in the room if they hadn’t been tied together with a common theme: Vines entangling each one of them.  Plants were set on every available surface, plastic leaves flowing out of their multicolored pots onto the retreating furniture below.  I felt trapped, unable to move in this jungle of an office.

Dodging around me, Mr. Matlock threw himself into the recliner, his momentum sending it creaking back and forth. Transfixed on the scene in front of me, he had to motion for me to take a seat before I could bring myself to move.  Fully entering the room would be my way of submitting as a casualty to his job of “professional psyche fixer.” Afraid, threatened, and desperate, I shuffled to the couch, stiffening and growing apprehensive while taking my seat.  My body remained stiff and ridged, rapidly answering his basic questions about age, school, and other extraneous inquires.  Glancing over his glasses, ensuring himself that I was listening, he murmured “What do you like to do, Lilly?”

Anxiety transformed into tears, a wave of bottled up emotions tearing open my hard, well-built facade. The brick wall I had constructed to protect myself from more emotional agony crumbled. Tears streamed down my face, landing in my lap. I gazed up at the man I was about to completely confide in. I was sure he could read my mind by the way my eyes pierced his shallow pretense.  “I enjoy not being in pain, Mr. Matlock.” I sharply whispered.

The barrier between professionalism and human emotion was broken by that question, and the look of curiosity on his face encouraged me to continue.  I kept talking, ranting, about everything that had made the past three years of my life a living Hell. He sat, motionless, just another object awkwardly seizing my thoughts. Flowing out of my subconscious came the story of my shattered family, my repetitive and maddening transition from one home to the other and back. The guilt for plaguing my family with my inevitable misery bubbled over my lips. Words justifying my resentment for living unfolded before us. I tried to illustrate to Roger what living in a home cursed with cancer, death, and disease felt like. I blabbered through my tears and sobs about sleepless nights and foodless days, loosing weight without intention. Spilling my contents across the coffee table to this stranger only made my anxiety amplify tenfold.

Gasping for breath, I suddenly noticed that the feeling of sympathy I expected in Roger’s eyes was absent. Instead, a canopy of confusion covered his face.  I stopped mid-sentence, searching for a sign of understanding in the grey eyes of my one and only hope for a painless life.  I anticipated his response, his prescription in a simple slight bottle, and his words of advice, fixing this crippled and humiliated teenage girl.  Instead, Mr. Madock retreated, leaning back in his chair. A shallow man’s voice rang in my ears, coldly uttering “I’m sorry Lilly.  That must be terrible for you.”, words wrapped in rehearsed fluidity.

A lack of interest, care, and concern threw me back into the yielding sofa.  “You seem to be a very insightful person Lilly, and it was extremely nice to meet you.” Roger explained, his eyes burning a path in the floor from me to the door.  Only then I noted the large, gaping clock clinging to the wall behind me. I was cutting nearly eleven minutes into what must have been his precious lunch hour.  Still tear stained and shocked, I stood, numb from head to toe with disrespect from this stranger.  Like a soulless zombie, I shuffled my pathetic self out his door, through his waiting room, past his oblivious secretary, and into the virtually empty and vast parking lot.  It wasn’t supposed to be this way: so immoral, heartless, and inhuman.  Inhaling for what seemed like the first time, my lungs stung with the crisp evening air.  My daze was broken by the wheezing start of my mother’s car nearby.

Staring out the window into the cloudy, ominous sky, I could see my breath fogging up the frosty glass of the passenger window: the only indication that there was still a soul in my comatose body.  All of my hopes for a content life had flown away with Roger’s last few meaningless words.  Exposing myself to the judgment of one man had caused me nothing but disappointment. A sense of deep numbness engulfed me, bringing me to begin planning my early escape from this painful life. The awkward bout of silence strung between my mother and I was broken by her hollow attempt at communication.  “How do you feel?” she inquired, a displaced tone of nonchalance ringing in her voice.   “Better,” I claimed, not quite sure of whom I was trying to convince.

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