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Words are hard— a story about trying to find the right ones


"Why don't you start with what brought you here today?" Across from me, Dr. Chyanne R. Brettmen uses her fleshy hand to scrawl something out in her leather bound notepad and I can't help but find it ridiculous first, that it's leather-bound given the sheer amount of notepads a psychiatrist must go through and second, that she's even writing anything when all we've done is the very basic introductions. Behind her tortoiseshell glasses, her hazel eyes are perfectly manufactured stable and inviting, the product of so many years in so many universities.

"That's a loaded question," I acknowledge while letting my eyes continue to roam across the entirety of the room multiple times. The beige carpet is pixelated with burgundy dots to make it maroon but falls short and instead looks like the work of someone weaving in the dark. The furniture, of a serious yet validating mahogany hue, forms a desk that is slightly too large for its occupant, several shelves with books, frames of degrees, a few tables with lamps, and two leather bound chairs facing each other. A stack of well-used board games and other colorful, meaningless things sit in a pile on a small table that is no doubt used for her younger clients. "I would say it was the prospect of lying on a couch and talking about myself for an hour, but alas—"I gesture to him and me in the opposing chairs—"it was not to be."

"Ha, well, I've found that the image of Freud's office has done as much ill will as the man's work has done well. Forgive my disappointing your expectations."

"So long as you forgive my tendency to avoid straights answer."

She nods and smiles warmly. "All answers are valid. No matter how jumbled."

"An interesting word. Jumbled. Why'd you choose it?" As she answers, I notice that beyond the window, the grass sways under the ministrations of a stray breeze. I shrug and nod as I tune back in at the end of her sentence. "That's a fair explanation. To answer your earlier question, I'm not quite sure what brought me here. I know that my head is incredibly fucked up—excuse my language—and I believe I've come to the point where I can manage it myself, but I still believe that I'm…" I look up and try to find the right word. How on earth do you explain that you've been traumatized your entire life to someone you've just met? "Disconnected," I settle.

Again, the pen captured in her fleshy hand scratches across the yellow paper. "Could you elaborate?"

On instinct, I snort and say, "Man, if I could elaborate, do you think I'd be here right now?"

Quieting, she dips her head and holds her hands up to the side. "Try."

"I don't feel connected to most things." I shrug, consider the statement, and then readjust it. "Well, I'm connected to some things, but anything connected to growing up is kind of at arm's length. Sometimes, I feel like I was born at eighteen, complete with all the memories and trauma already repressed. It's quite refreshing. I don't have to think about how embarrassing I was in middle school." She nods and continues to write. My middle finger begins to trace an idle shape across my kneecap, and I turn my attention to the glass's holder meant to imitate the good doctor, down to her dark and fading hair. "There are so many things that have happened that I'm not quite sure I could tell you all and if I did, you would probably burst into tears or laughter. Quite possibly both. That's what I tend to do." My eyes lock on a fly flitting near the corner of her office. As the black spot moves through its erratic movements, "Did you know that house flies have their taste buds in their legs?" falls from my mouth.

She follows my line of sight over her shoulder and locks onto it. "Oh," she says, getting up. "I didn't realize there was one in here." She walks over to the window and opens it halfway. "Hopefully it'll be able to find its way out. Where were we?" As she returns to her seat, a wave of faintly cooler air follows in her wake and I'm suddenly aware of the sweat collecting just beside my hairline. "Unless you wanted to talk more about houseflies?"

"Not particularly." I lift each leg, in turn, to separate my sticking skin from the leather. "I mean, their lifespan is only about a month or so, and even still, that's under high temperature and low activity. And I doubt there were spiders in the lab when they were testing that so." I shrug. "It's not entirely worth talking about them. In a moon's turn, it'll be gone. But even still, that's better than the mayfly's day, but at least they get to see a sunset before they die. I'd hate to be a mayfly and hatch on a cloudy day. Then it'll all be for naught, don't you think?"

"No, I don't think so." She shakes her head, causing a patch of light on her forehead to shift from one side to the other and back thrice. "A day of a less than optimal life is still better than no life at all."

I shrug. "To each their own. In any case, I'd say that my main problems come from how I treated myself growing up." She cocks her head and writes this down. "See, I assumed every answer would be no, so I never asked. It sounds very much like a privileged person trying to relate to people less fortunate than them, I know, but I felt that everything I wanted to do was too big, too much of something that would happen in a movie, so I shrank my dreams. I became content with being in the audience when I wanted to be on the stage. I let everyone walk all over me and I lost the very prominent voice I had growing up."

A memory flickers to life. Emerging from a burgundy corridor, a seven-year-old me comes into my kitchen. The strained and screaming voices boomed in my ears like the crack of thunder and the roar of the ocean and like that ocean, I felt the ground eroding under me until I was adrift and sinking down, down, down. The water seemed to fill my mouth and mute my words as my cries for peace, or at the very least quiet combat fell on deaf ears or, more likely, were ignored. That night, under the silvery and elusive light of the moon, I first contemplated running away until I considered how far I could realistically get and settled for suicide instead. But not just yet, I whispered more to the moon than to myself. All serious matters should be discussed during the day.


"Hmm?" I snap back into my body and look at Dr. Brettmen. "Sorry, I was..." One hand comes up and draws circles in the air around my ear. My eyebrows come together, and I try to choose the right word for what exactly I was doing. Drowning. "Trying to recall precisely when I first wanted to be a child actor. I think it was seven."

She nods and writes. "What inspired you to want to do that?"

"You know. Fame, fortune. The Parent Trap. Just the usual." And don't forget pulling on someone else's life and leaving yours behind. "I never did it, though, obviously. You probably would've recognized me if I had. I have a very distinctive face." I turn my head three-quarters of the way and tip my chin up slightly. "I've been told that my nose is the stuff of dreams. By my mom, at least."

"It's very nice." She says and smiles. "Jack, I—" she sighs and thinks for a moment. "You were out for a minute, back there. Do you want to talk about that?"

"Nope." My tone comes out cheerier than my face looks. "See, I've already gotten to the bottom of my issues, my family situation was less than ideal and I shrunk myself to fit a too-small suit that never existed and now I'm trying to grow back out, but I have no idea how to do so. And it's not drugs, alcohol, or parties, as it turns out."

"Have you tried many? Drugs, that is."

"No, I don't do that."

"But have you?"

I shake my head. "I'm quite sure my father would take my head off my shoulders if I so much as considered." I purse my lips for a moment and say "Maybe that's what I'll do tonight. Except I have no idea where to get drugs from, so probably not, sadly. I'm not a wannabe drug addict, mind you. I'd say that that's even more tragic than being an actual drug addict. At least then you have an actual problem and can follow through with it. A wannabe is just someone staring at something awful and wishing they could somehow be involved with it." I pause and consider what I just said. "That was much darker than I intended, I'm sorry."

"You don't have to apologize—this is your time. We talk about whatever you want to. Even if that is drug addicts versus wannabe drug addicts." She smiles full and bright in a disarmingly warm and toothy grin. "Do you think you would ever turn to drugs?"

"Oh, heavens no. I've watched far too many afterschool specials for that. Although I am curious about what causes many to turn to them."

She shrugs. "To feel something different and new. A lot of times its simply escapism that drives people. They don't want to deal with their situation and one thing leads to another and…"

"Oh." I nod. "Well, in that case, I suppose I could understand them. Not that I'm going to try drugs, now, it's rather tasteless and unbecoming. Presumably. In any case, I don't think I have the temperament for that, I believe that I have the temperament of someone who is curious about them but will never actually seek them out. Whatever comes below a wannabe drug addict—a drug peruser, if you will." My phone buzzes just as the timer goes off and I realize that we're at the end of the session. "Well, would you look at that, it seems we've run out of time." I get to my feet. "Thank you, Dr. Brettmen, you've been a wonderful sounding board."

"I don't have another client after you, we could continue for a bit—"

"It's quite alright, I fear I've already eaten up enough of your time on the senseless and meaningless." I look back to the corner and see nothing. "Looks as though that fly finally got out."

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