Betty had a very busy day ahead of her . She had many clients and they were all demanding her attention. Some of them just wanted to chat, she thought they were probably lonely, and some had more serious issues that needed dealing with. She liked her job, most of the time at least, but it wasn’t always easy juggling so much demand for her time and attention. Sometimes she felt they didn’t even regard her as a person but merely a focal point at which to express their fears and desires. She wished she could have a little more time for herself, that was the crux of the matter. It’s not that she didn’t want to help everyone who was requiring her attention but she didn’t know how long she could give it without replenishing her own self
She ate her cereal whilst watching the news on TV. More about the virus, of course. Occasionally there was other news these days but not often. The virus monopolised the news the same way it monopolised the conversations she had with her clients. Everyone was shaken by the impact it had taken on their lives. No one had been prepared for it, of course, and the psychological fallout had been severe. Some were questioning their entire lives as a result of the isolation and inactivity they had endured. Others were suffering from the loss of a loved one or the difficulty in recovering from an encounter with the illness. It had changed the landscape of her occupation, the focus narrowing. The old diversity had shrunk, the multitude of problems she had investigated now reduced to the bare minimum and at the heart of them all lay the virus and it’s implications for the future. How will I cope? asked one. Will it ever go back to normal? asked another. Betty didn’t have the answers to these questions. All she could do was reassure and calm and soothe and hope that was enough for now
Her first client was a phone session scheduled for nine am. Thirty minutes from now. She had time for a quick shower and then she would retrieve her notes that she had stored on her computer. Sometimes she used handwritten notes and sometimes she typed them. She had started her practise using pen and paper and she still liked using this method because it brought her back to how things used to be. Sure, typing was more efficient and you could go back and change and rework everything easily, but there was something satisfying about looking at a page of well thought out notes you had written by hand. These days though, everyone expected you to use computers all the time, so that’s what she found herself doing for the most part.
This particular client was an interesting case. She had lost an arm recently in an industrial accident at work. Terrible thing, she had caught her arm in some machinery and before they could hit the emergency stop button it had been too late, her arm mangled and useless. It had taken months of hospitalisation and physiotherapy before the doctors had given up on her ever being able to use the arm again. Now it hung by her side, limp and lifeless. Strangely, though, the woman didn’t want to talk about this at all . Maybe it was denial or maybe she was blocking out the pain by focusing her anxiety on something else but all she wanted to talk about was her lost cat.
“He was such a lovely cat” she moaned “He had sweet white fluffy fur and he was so intelligent. Sometimes I even felt he could talk to me, you know, really talk. I know it sounds crazy but I felt like he could read my thoughts and converse with me”
Betty did think it sounded crazy but she didn’t say so. If this lady wanted to believe that her cat could speak to her telepathically then who was she to argue? She was paid to listen and help, that’s all. She couldn’t help feeling the cat was a metaphor for something else in the lady’s life.
“He used to love watching TV with me” continued the lady sadly “We’d watch documentaries together. Those one’s about Syria or Iran , interesting programmes about the world and people and how they are changing and adapting. He used to really enjoy those. I’m so sad he’s gone” .
Betty reached for an apple . She felt sorry for the lady but what could she really do? If her cat had ran off then it had wanted to, she supposed . She looked over to the sofa where her own cat was sitting, purring, whilst reading the newspaper.
“I just wish he’d come back, that’s all. I miss him”
Betty looked at her own cat again. The cat was looking back at her and smiling. Almost imperceptibly, he shook his head slightly.
“Have you tried looking for him?” asked Betty, instantly regretting the question
“OF COURSE!” exclaimed the woman angrily “I’ve put up posters everywhere! I’ve even contacted the police, not that they did much. Everyone round here knows he is my cat and no one has seen him. It’s like he has vanished off the face of the earth!” the lady started crying once more
Betty looked back at her cat. Her white fluffy cat. He was looking at her slyly, knowingly. When had she gotten him exactly? She couldn’t quite remember . Had he been a rescue cat? It was strange but when Betty tried to recall how she had acquired this cat she found her mind became confused and blurry, her memory faded and distorted. She remembered a time when he wasn’t there and she certainly could remember the times when he had been there. It was the part in the middle that she couldn’t quite focus on properly. He seemed to whisper to her, it wasn’t verbal but it wasn’t something she imagined either. It was somewhere in between words and thoughts.She shook her head in an attempt to clear it and went back to listening to the lady’s snivelling.
“I think you need to move on” said Betty decisively. “The cat is gone, I’m afraid, and the sooner you accept that the sooner you will be able to move on with your life. Who knows, after some time has passed you might even want to get a new cat”
“I could never replace Mr.Tickles” cried the lady “He was the most special cat on earth”
The call went on like this for another ten minutes until thankfully the session ended. Betty ended the call and promised to speak again next week. She had five minutes before her next session was due to begin . “Cup of coffee , Betty?” asked her cat , pouring himself one “I can see you’ve got a busy day ahead of you”
“Yes, thank you” she replied. The cat handed her the coffee and sat staring at her, drinking his own
“So why did you leave?” she asked eventually “it sounds like she loved you”
“She did love me in her way, I suppose.” answered Mr.Tickles “but is that enough? To be loved is one thing but to truly live is another. I guess I was bored, that’s pretty much all there is to it”
“I feel bad. She misses you”
“Send me back then” said Mr.Tickles, knowing she wouldn’t
“I couldn’t do that” admitted Betty “No one makes coffee like you”
“That’s why I like it here better” agreed Mr.Tickles ” She never bought any cream. Imagine a cat drinking coffee without cream” and he jumped back onto the sofa to catch up with the latest world news