Confession from the Straight Strait
I work at a small local office with a handful of coworkers: fellow shrinks and two other ladies who help handle our schedules. The day Mr. Clyde was added to my schedule, my coworkers all stared at me with faces full of terror, as if I walked among them with rotten flesh. I can only assume it was due to the arrival of Mr. Clyde as nothing else had changed over the weekend we were apart. Mr. Clyde was supposed to see me on Thursday, and for the next four days, my coworkers looked upon me as if I were some pre-damned omen. Of course, this made me immeasurably nervous for my first meeting with Johnathan Clyde.
However, when he arrived that Thursday afternoon, I was perplexed by his normality. A clean man with an ironed tucked-in outfit. We greeted each other with a handshake; his grip was rather tight, but nothing was immediately off putting. After sitting him in my room, I immediately noticed he would inch away from the round table lamp next to the couch he sat on and avert his eyes every time my pen became visible. I believe he spent more than half of his time staring at the tiled ceiling. He seemed very normal during the conversation, just a little stressed and some hints he felt alone or out of place - a common modern-day tragedy. That was, until the end of the meeting.
“I am made uncomfortable by the circles in your room,” Johnathan told me - he allowed me to just call him John or Johnathan. He paused before the word circle as if futilely searching for a better term. "Nothing against you or your design. Just something wrong with me that I thought I should share."With four minutes remaining, I reassured him that nothing was wrong with him and decided to see him again next Thursday.
I was satisfied with my first meeting with Johnathan: he was very talkative, which made conversation easy. Yet, also disappointed, as nothing came up that would explain the strange looks my coworkers gave me. The ladies in the lobby shared my disappointment when I escorted Johnathan out of the building with no bewilderment on my own face. They had not asked for any details as they all were very familiar with the non-disclosure agreement, but they could tell that if I did blab, there would be no tasty information to feast upon.
I’ve made a habit of trying to make my office as comforting as it can be for my clients. Before meeting with Johnathan Clyde again, the lampshade was replaced with one more squarely. I switched to hexagonal pencils and made sure not to wear any buttoned attire. Similarly, we greeted each other with a handshake before he sat on the same cushion on the same sofa as last time. Before I could introduce the small talk, Johnathan opened, as if eager to share, “Last time I told you I was made uncomfortable by the circles in the room, but maybe I should explain why that is as it is very peculiar. This was the reason I even signed up for therapy: I believed you, who must deal with so much, would be the only person to hear my tale out.
“So about three months ago, I had this dream or was in this coma, or something. It isn't very clear, but I was lucid in a different world. I felt like a different species, living on a different planet, in a different universe. And I was boating up a river, why: I do not know. The whole adventure was very calming, the occasional breeze, the watching of songbirds, and the ease in repetitively paddling through the green water below. One breeze blew some leaves from the trees near my route, they invaded my boat for me to study them. I was never the type to indulge in nature but, it is amazing how much you come to appreciate the natural world when you have nothing to do but traverse it. The leaves were very similar to Earth leaves: very green with very straight sides. Before the night, I tied off my skiff to the side of the river, that's when I started noticing the oddities of this new world. The shore was amazingly straight, like the border of a man-made canal, but there were no men in this world, the blades of grass did not sway in the wind, but rather bent, and the tree to which I tied the boat had a trunk shape of an irregular pentagon. The world I inhabited that day was very angular, very sharp.
“I slept on the boat, having no dreams. The next day was more of the same, until I reached this very tall seafoam green waterfall. An immense satisfaction fell over me. As if I was on this journey for a century to find this one particular waterfall, and at last, it was over, despite being there for only two days. I slowed my paddling and approached the waterfall with caution. It felt like I had a purpose to discover it instilled into me but I was ignorant of what to do with it. Around the end of the river, where the cascading water churned itself into bubbles, it extended into a wider pond.
“I am hesitant to say rounded out as I realized, ever since my study of the leaves, nothing was truly round. Even the bends in the strait and the edges of the pond were not round but I saw them as what they were: just a large amount of straight borders turning at so many tiny sharp angles. I fisted my hand and realized that no point of it was round, just flat skin bent at invisibly small points. My brief time in this world transformed my perception to see pixels and squares everywhere instead of rounded edges. My revelations terrified me. I had no idea if this vision change made my reality more or less realistic. I was correct that all I saw was constructed of infinite sharp lines but am I more correct to say that it was all flat or that it was rounded? Turns become rounded if you squint but scientifically is anything rounded? Calculus only works because curves can be measured by infinitely small squares and rectangles.
“Anyway, as I approached the waterfall, I noticed this red anomaly to the right of my vision, hidden previously by the angle of the trees. I instead turned to it, realizing I had seen no red in the past two days in this strange land. It was a statue, and it broke me. The statue stood upon a black base with falsely round corners and depicted some red man. I thought its form strange and otherworldly despite myself being an alien and the statue resembling a human man.
“However, what disturbed me much more was the shape behind the red figure: a circle. And I don't mean one of the imposter curves that crafted the rest of the universe but a true circle. With my newly gifted attention to detail, I tried to critique the shape, but it was perfect. I embraced my revelations and new body’s philosophy to have it shattered by this random statue on the riverbed. I began reeling and was stuck with great pain in my brain, not like a headache, but an instant striking of suffering and torment. I collapsed and rolled around the boat’s belly with my hands holding my mind. I do not know if appropriate words exist to describe the mind-shattering experience I had at the bottom of that waterfall.
“And then I woke up. I believe I died, not me but the poor soul I inhabited in my two day dream. I grabbed hold of my phone to figure out what hellish hour of the day I awoke in, only to see an immense amount of missed calls and text, and that the date had moved forward ninety days. I believe I fought through a minor panic attack before signing myself up for therapy here.”
We sat in silence for a minute, mine from the dumbfounded awe Johnathan’s story had struck me with. I had no idea how to respond. During this time, Johnathan looked to the floor, resting his head against his forearms. He looked depleted of any energy or will. I have heard many delusions and dreams, but none so queer. I had made it a habit to always believe my clients unless there was some concern for them lying to me. There were only about ten minutes before the end of our session, and for that time, I pressed Johnathan for more details. He explained to me the strange circumstance of his existence in the other world: how he felt unlike a human but also totally normal in a body alien to him. I accidentally kept him for ten minutes more than he was scheduled to hear all he would share with me.
When reentering the building, after escorting Mr. Clyde out, I tried uselessly to keep a neutral face in front of my coworkers. I did not want whatever strange assumptions my coworkers had of the poor and troubled man to be confirmed. I feel terrible for all my patients after Johnathan. Rather than fully listening to them, I was busy retelling the story to myself. I left the office early. I usually said bye to the crew through the lobby window. However, before waving, I fixated on this bell on the shelf. Was this bell, any part of it, round? I fingered its supposedly curved surface to see if I could figure out if it was truthfully round or an unfathomable amount of flat surfaces at sharp angles. My drive home was uneasy. I did not feel completely comfortable on my tires, for I am ignorant of their true nature: if they are circular or just an infinite amount of rubber lines, all cutting each other at infinitely small angles. Admittedly, these worries are silly and do not affect the effectiveness of the bell or tires I use every day, but there is still something distressing about never having that certainty. I use these tires, my eyes, the tips of my fingers, and surrounding atoms every day to not be sure if I may even call them round.
When I arrived home, I wasted no time searching for anything I could find about Johnathan Clyde. I searched for anything that might explain why my coworkers stressed about this man before I. In no time, I found it: three-month-old articles posted by every local news station detailing the strange disappearance of Johnathan Clyde. The most recent photo they used looked exactly like the man I spoke with earlier as if no time had passed between their timings. The confusion my coworkers felt two weeks earlier had found me. I did not want to believe his supernatural story any longer. How in the sensible world had Mr. Clyde disappeared three months prior, lived two days in some other universe, then reappeared in the present day? Every explanation I concocted was shattered by the facts in those articles. Then, at the bottom of my spiral into insanity and theories, I remembered the most poignant line from any of my clients. Earlier, Johnathan explained, “I wish I could say the experience was some dream, but the mental anguish I felt in the moment and its impact upon my psyche is too profound to dismiss so casually.” Perhaps there was no reasonable truth, that the man I spoke to that day had actually spent the entirety of three months learning the ultimate lies of the universe.
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