Motivational Posters & Post-It Notes
The pendulum swing of Dr. McCoy’s father clock brought some ease as Etan waited, although, the ominous tick that crept every second was less appealing. He was situated in a comfortable loveseat, thick, dark brown with fake leather. Surrounding him was an assortment of textile patterns covering the wallpaper, photo frames, and posters reminding him of what he was capable of. Etan often did not believe in those motivations, the brief phrases, and overtly photoshopped photos of people and animals exclaiming “Hang in there!”
Etan was dazed as he searched for validation of presence upon these walls when he realized someone had been speaking to him. He turned toward the assistant, who usually set up every appointment for Dr. McCoy and several other patients.
“Mr. Cohen? Hello?” his eyes were still glossy from his daze, but he nodded to affirm he was listening, forthwith.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you come in,” Etan replied, meekly.
“It’s quite alright Mr. Cohen, I’m sorry for the intrusion but your appointment with Dr. McCoy had to be rescheduled to next week... did you not get my message?” she asked. Typically, Maria was as firm and attentive to her job as any other dedicated to their work, but she seemed out of sorts even to Etan. He would notice since he had been coming to physical sessions of Dr. McCoy's therapy for a little over three years.
“Oh. I guess I didn’t. I’m sorry-” Etan began to rise to leave when another pair of feet stepped through the door. The woman in contrast to Maria was petite, younger, but somewhat older than Etan by a few years. Her hair was long, brunette, curled out unnaturally by an expensive curling iron or some sort of professional hair serum mixture that kept her curls so clean. He could read women like this through his experience as an ex-professional home designer, their pricy presence speaking volumes of their character and what fine tastes they may have. men were much the same. He bet her closet was filled with more than business skirts and low-cut, shoulder-padded, tops.
“Mrs. McCoy!” Maria was not expecting Dr. McCoy’s wife to arrive, either, leaving the two a bit of a loss.
“Oh, Maria, Mr. Cohen... wasn’t this pushed to next week?” she asked shyly, but closed the door behind her, nonetheless.
“Yes, he said he didn’t get my message,” she explained, not with annoyance, but with care.
“I was just leaving,” Etan reassured the women, before fully strolling around the couch.
“No need Etan, I can cover for my husband this week.” Mrs. McCoy was also a licensed professional in the therapy community. It was, despite this, still unusual. So much so, that even Maria looked confused. Mrs. McCoy waved both concerned faces away, “I have read Etan’s file, and been introduced to him several times--besides, I know that we can’t afford for my husband to miss his long-time client’s sessions, and Etan has to remain under our care. It’s both bad for Etan and our personal feelings about how we handle our patients and frazzle their schedules. Don’t you live across the city, anyhow?”
Etan’s lips tightened. He’d only confided in Mr. McCoy, and told him his perverted feelings, desires of death, and suicidal tendencies, while feeling comfortable enough not to be sent away to a mental ward. Could Etan trust Mrs. McCoy to treat him with the same, easy, respect?
“I do--” he responded in almost a whisper. Maria, who did not like to be late, rolled one shoulder and began to pass the pair of them. Mrs. McCoy made her way to her husband’s desk as Maria closed the door behind her, a click sounding, off behind Etan. Etan had become ascetic from his nightmares; comatose, when it came to odd misdirection like this. Even if he was uneasy about sharing with someone new, he was familiar with his therapist’s wife. It couldn’t be all that different. Especially if they were both licensed, shared the same bed, and had their visits primarily compensated by his insurance. Still, something in Etan made him stand so inherently still. Mrs. McCoy couldn’t help but break the discomforting silence.
“Mr. Cohen? Are you alright?”
“Yes. I’m alright.” plainly, he responded.
“Why don’t you have a seat, then?” she asked, her tone indicating it wasn’t merely a question, but a soft demand. Etan took his seat.
The ticking from the clock had never once missed a beat, he was sure it was ticking in his head from how deadset the mechanical winding made him feel. Her lips were painted with matte lipstick, dark red, which suited her skin tone. Her teeth were straight and white, showing in every smile she offered to comfort Etan. Her husband was just as kempt but older, by what Etan guessed as at least ten to fifteen years. Having someone as young as her to speak to would have made his problems nearly relatable had her lifestyle been closer to his own, but at least he did not attend therapy to be related to. He wanted everything to be unfamiliar territory.
It was far more difficult to express his true feelings be it that she was a woman, and if she continued to be his therapist, perhaps he’d go awry, but what harm could one session be?
“Etan, I know this is unusual, but my husband and I care about your well-being. Equally. We discuss your case solely as colleagues, especially since you have a history of harm against yourself, and in lighter cases, others.” her hands were connected together, holding each other on top of his desk. Etan winced when brutality was mentioned. She did not log the time into the computer like Mr. McCoy would at the moment, which again, made this feel too personal to Etan. “That is the only reason that we discuss it. It’s perfectly legal, I assure you. We would never cross your trust, or let you feel left out of the loop. Currently, David is on a trip to London to rewire some... mishaps, he’s caused. Unrelated to work.” her tone adjusted to something of a nuisance. Etan caught her eyes. They were blue, like the sea, but not seafoam, which is something he sought in every glimpse a person gave him.
“I almost forgot,” she twisted in her chair, looming near the wall next to a fake plant, and switched a button on an air freshener, which soon filled the air with pine. He gazed forward, expressionless up until it reached his pectorals. Pine. It was one of the few ways to get him to speak in the office when he was uncomfortable. “So, the last session... you were talking about stars.” she soon began to log into her husband’s computer, pulling up his file, he was sure, to access the routes taken for Etan’s psyche. “Green stars, that you paste on ceilings. Now, why don’t you start off where you’re comfortable? How is your job search going?”
“I... was... offered a job as a bartender at my favorite bar. 9th.” he answered again, plainly.
“Are you going to follow up?” she inquired.
“No. I drink there.” his tone was lackluster.
“That’s a good point, you’re making the right decision. If you decided you didn’t like it, then I’m sure you would feel awkward going back, after.”
“I see...” she trailed off. He was holding up walls still, which made her job even harder. “What about pets? Have you... thought of getting a new cat?” Etan’s hands clenched then, reactive to the idea that he would have to care for another creature, only for it to pass unexpectedly. His skin wasn’t dark, nor pale, but only when he clenched his hands like this did the color drain away.
“No. I don’t want another pet,” he said, in a shaky tone. Mrs. McCoy clicked her pen, fetching a notepad to write out on.
“Why don’t you want another pet, Etan?“she prodded.
“Because I don’t want one.” he hissed back, sitting upright, and casting his gaze to the far wall for his eyes to settle elsewhere.
Hang in there.
“Mn, I see. Of course.” she wrote something out on her pad, again. He clenched his jaw in retort. “You’re on Lexapro now, correct? For your depression, and for your schizoaffective disorder, you remain on Invega? Has that helped any since you were fired from your interior designer job?”
“Decorator," he corrected, "And, it... has. Sometimes,” he admitted, lessening his malcontent toward Mrs. McCoy. He had to remind himself she was only trying to help him, but these questions were so inherently different from her husband’s method.
“Sometimes?” her tone softened, curious, of what he meant.
“Sometimes... I... still feel her. Near me. With me." he hesitates, "Breathing in my ear, or touching my face. My medication makes me dream about it vividly, but during the day I only feel like I see her.. sometimes,” his tone littered with depressive waves, ones that Mrs. McCoy had to stop and evaluate. She’d never seen him talk about these things, only reading it in files. Her spirit felt reserved for him. She gestured as if to tell him to continue.
“What happens in these dreams?”
“Well,” he twiddled his thumbs, casting away his face, once more. His jawline was refined, face handsome, body skinnier than it used to be but not malnourished. If he didn’t have this psychological break, a man his age would be teeming with successful dates, job opportunities, and adventure. Mrs. McCoy saw all that in him before, but in this vulnerable hour, she most importantly saw his humanity. “We are at home, in Montana. The pine trees are flowing and battling against an ocean of rain. There’s lightning, thunder, and green stars all around the room.”
“The same you painted all over your last client’s home?”
“... Yes..." he affirmed with a nod. In his last decor gig, he had a psychotic break and painted every inch of the house with green stars. When the couple came home, they sued the company, it wasn't much help that he was holding a knife to his neck in their bedroom. He was let go to pay for the losses, without penalty, for his medical conditions that invoke that behavior. Everything he worked for when he was younger was useless to him now, and to start over with nothing meant he had to face the reality of disappointment in oneself. “We are laying in the room, side by side, on a bed larger than a king, the sheets are endless, our cat curls up into her, we.. talk.”
“Is it the same conversation, every time?” she pressed the pen to her lips.
“It depends on when I fall asleep.”
“Do you mind explaining that to me, Etan?”
He sighs. “If I sleep in, she tells me I sleep past my alarms. It’s something she complained about before she--” he stopped, then looked back down. His teeth ground from the tension of his jaw.
“It’s alright Etan. Please, continue with whatever you’re comfortable saying.” Mrs. McCoy felt like she was cutting a break with him, some progress, even if he felt rage, it was something. Her husband often made Etan out to be a lost boy in need of guidance, but in her eyes, she tried to look beyond that from a professional view.
“She says I... can’t be where she is? I guess." he held his fingers up in quotation marks. "That I don’t belong there, whenever I go to sleep. Her skin is cold, her neck is bruised. That’s it. Then I wake up.” he scratched the back of his head, before meeting Mrs. McCoy’s gaze.
“And different dreams?”
“Same room.. different.. words. I guess,” he was unwilling to share those dreams with her. They were both quiet for some time, while Mrs. McCoy scribbled down words on her pad. After she was done, she pasted some post-it notes on her husband’s desk, the sound still lost to the relentless ticking. According to the time, forty-five minutes have long passed, and yet, she didn’t tell him his time was up.
“Do you think it means anything in particular? Like she is telling you to let her go, or comforting you, Etan?" Mrs. McCoy asked, gingerly. The amount of reassurance and willingness to listen in her eyes felt unfamiliar and kind to him. So considerably so, that his honest reply was all he had to exchange.
“I do feel that way.” hoarse, from the emotion lodged in his throat, he confessed. “But I can’t. I just can’t let her go.” their eyes shared the moment, and the depth in which he bleed for her seemed to move Mrs. McCoy into losing that once-arrogant spark she had on arrival.