“I had coffee with Michel this morning,” I tell my therapist Dr. York as I sit down in the brown leather recliner I’ve spent so many hours in by now. I planned my coffee date with Michel a few hours before my therapy session on purpose, because I wasn’t sure how I’d feel after, but I am surprisingly… light. Yeah, that’s the right word, I feel light.
“Hallo, Tracy, good afternoon to you too,” Dr. York replies with a small smile.
I laugh. “Sorry, I’m diving right in, I guess.” The weird thing about seeing a therapist is that she knows every single thing there is to know about me, whereas I only know her name, and the little snippets of information she sometimes shares about her own life, which isn’t much. I know she’s single, and that she’s got two cats, but that’s all. She knows more about me than even Delilah or Michel, and yet she’s not someone I ever see outside of this office. It’s weird and comforting at the same time.
“How was coffee with Michel?” Dr. York asks, pulling a hand through her long gray hair. She’s in her fifties, with black reading classes and a sweet smile that makes the corners of her eyes crinkle.
“Good.” I exhale deeply and settle in a little more. “We talked about everything that happened between us, and I shared some of past with him, things he didn’t know, like the nightmares and my fears about letting my dad down, and I feel like that helped him understand me a little more. I don’t want him to think that he’s to blame for the way things went down. He was just trying to do what he thought he should to make me happy. To keep me with him.”
She nods and cocks her head to the side. “Was it all about Michel, or did you get something out of seeing him too?”
“He apologizes for all his mistakes.” Michel really meant it too. We hugged and he cried – not me, I still haven’t cried at all, not even in therapy – and we held hands. It wasn’t romantic or sexual, but it was nice. He’s someone who has known me for a long time, and I still care about him. “I think I got some closure, and I already knew from seeing him at Aston’s wedding last month that I don’t feel bitter anymore. He’s a great guy, but we were all wrong for each other, and that’s okay.”
Dr. York writes something down. “How did you leave things with him? Are you seeing him again?”
I shake my head resolutely. “He asked if we could be friends, but I don’t want that. I’m much happier without him in my life, and I think it would be too confusing to start seeing him again, for both of us, even if it would be merely friendly. It’s been six years of break-ups and hot sex and crazy fights. Too much has happened to be his friend without it hurting me.”
“I’m really glad to hear that.” She looks at me with pride in her eyes. “You’re so hard on yourself sometimes, Tracy. I’m glad you chose yourself today. You got closure, and you’re leaving Michel in the past, moving on in a way that’s good for you, even though it’s not what he wants. You’ve come a long way in the past two months.”
I sigh and cross my legs. She’s right about that when it comes to Michel, but not when I look at the rest of my life.
“Tell me what’s got you sighing like that,” Dr. York orders, picking up her cup of tea and sipping it while she looks at me.
I pour myself a cup as well – she’s always got a pot on the table between us, no matter if I’ve got a morning, afternoon or evening appointment with her. I take a moment to blow on the tea so it will cool down, stalling.
“Tracy?” Dr. York asks, giving me a knowing look. “Thomas again?”
She knows me too fucking well. “Yeah,” I grunt. “He asked me out. One of his best friends, Francesca, is getting married tomorrow, and he asked me to be his date.”
“And you said no,” she says, not even asking. She knows I did.
“Why?” She cocks her head to the side and searches my expression. “You obviously wanted to say yes.”
“No, I didn’t.” When she gives me a stern look over the top of her reading glasses, I grunt. “Okay, fine, I did. I really, really did. But I don’t want to get into another relationship that will be bad for me and turn me into a fucking zombie.”
“Saying yes to a date doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re saying yes to a relationship with him,” Dr. York reasons. “You could ask him to take things slow. From what you’ve told me about him so far, he sounds like he would be willing to do that for you.”
“Yeah, but… let’s just say there are many reasons why I don’t think I should go there.”
“Many reasons?” she repeats, sipping her tea with a thoughtful look. “So far, all I’ve heard is you being scared of a new relationship. That’s fine, and I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad idea for you to stay single, since you’re still working through a lot of trauma from your past, but that’s just one reason. What are the others?”
Okay, here we go. I tell her about Aston’s wedding and what I overheard. Listening to Debby and Thomas hurt like a motherfucker, and I hadn’t told Dr. York about it yet, wanting to figure out for myself what I wanted first.
“Tracy…” Dr. York looks disapproving. “We talked about this. If you want me to help you, you need to tell me when things like this happen. You’re doing great, and you’re working really hard on yourself, but if you start keeping things to yourself and not talking them over with me, you’ll be right back where you started. Did you at least talk to Thomas about this? Or talk this over with a friend? Delilah maybe?”
“No,” I confess, looking down at the floor. “I feel so silly for being upset over this. I have absolutely no right to blame him for what happened. He told me he’d wait for me, I told him that I would never ask that of him, and then I expected him to anyway. That’s just plain stupid.”
“Why don’t you tell him what you overheard and allow him to explain what happened?” Dr. York asks. “You’ve been spending a lot of time with him lately, both inside and outside of the gym, so apparently you want him in your life. Even if it won’t be anything besides a friendship, that means you have to be okay with being open and vulnerable with him.”
Fuck. This is exactly why I didn’t tell her what happened. I knew she’d say this, and I don’t want to talk to Thomas. I really, really don’t. We’re spending time together, going out for dinner, taking walks with Pumpkin, and working out together, but I make sure to never truly be alone with him, and we never hang out at either of our apartments. All my other male friends do spend time at my apartment, but not Thomas. Not even when I invite others over to have dinner or watch a movie. I know he’s upset about that, but I don’t know what else to do. I need to protect myself.
“I’m scared to let him in even more than I already have,” I whisper more to myself than to Dr. York. “I really like him, and if I let him come close… I will fall for him and I will be weak again, just like I was with Michel. I’ll end up in bed with him, and then there will be no going back.”
“Tracy,” Dr. York says, smiling to herself and shaking her head. “Sorry to be blunt, but you’re obviously already in love with him. I knew that the first time you sat down in that chair two months ago and started telling me about your life.”
“I’m not in love with Thomas!” I protest, crossing my arms over my chest.
She gives me a pointed look. “Being in love isn’t a bad thing, Tracy. It doesn’t make you weak. If you don’t want to be with Thomas, that’s fine, but don’t run away just because you’re scared. Talk to him. Tell him about your worries. And at the very least tell me about things that happen, or you coming here won’t change a thing.”
I grunt and pull a hand over my face, trying to pull myself back together. I know she’s right. I’m here because I’m plagued by insecurities and ghosts of my past, making it hard for me to open up to people. I still haven’t told Delilah and Peter that I’m in therapy, even though I know they’ve been worrying about me for a long time now, and it would make them feel better to know I’m getting the help I’ve been needing to get for years now. Only James, Thomas and Dylan know that I’m seeing a therapist, and I refuse to talk to any of them about it.
“I will try to talk to Thomas,” I promise Dr. York, knowing she will keep bringing this up until I comply.
She smiles. “Good. I’ve got another homework assignment for you. I want you to pick one person, it can be anyone you want, and tell them something you’re scared to talk about. It can be something about your parents, or about your own insecurities, or about your relationship with Michel, or Thomas, I don’t care. Just tell one person you trust one thing about yourself that you’d normally not talk about.”
“Why?” I ask, frowning.
“Because I’m telling you to,” she says with a smile. “Now let’s dive back what we were talking about in our last session. Next month will be the anniversary or your parents’ death, and your birth. How do you usually spend that week?”
We talk about it until I’m worn out from all the emotions going through me, and she doesn’t push me anymore. She allows me to fall silent a couple of times, sipping my tea to have something to do. At the end of our session, she repeats my homework assignments. Talk to someone I trust about something that scares me, and have an open and honest conversation with Thomas. I’m not sure which one of those frightens me most, to be honest.
Okay, yeah, I do.
I know Dr. York is right. I love him. I think I’ve been in love with him for a long time now, maybe even before I got back together with Michel that last disastrous time. I was just afraid to admit it to myself. It still scares the shit out of me now.