Lucas began his counselling on a Wednesday. As the second Wednesday of the month, the date could not have been more random, and, for that reason, Lucas was feeling disgruntled. His footsteps felt like lead as he ascended the staircase labelled ‘psychiatric’ and came to a halt beside the bronze desk. He blinked, almost frozen, alternately tapping crochet bars on his legs rapidly. This couldn’t be a clinic; the too-white walls stung his eyes, and the doctors already appeared as pompous ghosts in their sheets of white cloth. It was cold – but not physically. Lucas’ hands continued tapping.
“Can I help you, sir?” The prim receptionist interrupted Lucas’ reverie. She was inquiring at the space in the queue.
Lucas had to speak.
“Gorge to see Dr. Morrison, please.”
“Of course, sir. Room 2M, just down to the right. I’ll ring the doctor to let him know.”
“Thank you,” remarked Lucas, not at all placated. He stepped into the white sea of patients and protectors, pushing his way through the air and turning at the top of the T-junction corridor. There was a line of doors ahead, soullessness creeping out from under each of them.
It looked like a hospital, and that was Lucas’ issue. Door after assigned door pointed to the absence of care, abiding only by the rules of clinicians.
But Lucas was troubling himself for no reason. He held onto that last scrap of positivity, as if he were dealing with a particular stubborn child. Just keep thinking happy thoughts. What did it matter?
Through each step – and through each matter of begging himself to think of the lighter side his position, even when it looked like there was none – Lucas kept his eyes ahead. At one more corner of the ‘clinic’, he reached door ‘2M’ and, failing to take deep breaths, knocked. This better not be Redshire all over again.
A gravely, somewhat kind, voice commanded, “enter,” which Lucas did as his mind reeled off the typical ‘situation list’ of what objects were in the room. Why did his thoughts have to race so? They were giving him a headache.
Lucas’ eyes first caught upon the middle aged man sitting in one of those comfy blue chairs that only doctors were given. Beyond him were two bookcases stacked with worn medical books; against another wall was a wooden desk, probably oak, an old computer and a landline-phone. The final wall was decorated with the type of congratulatory certificate that only doctors dared display.
Andrea had been out of her mind suggesting he go here. Why hadn’t she simply asked around at Lansdale Clinic? Lucas almost shook his head, before he realised that Dr. Morrison was standing, smiling.
“Welcome to Swinford, Mr. Gorge. Do sit down. May I call you Lucas?”
“All right,” he grumbled.
The ceiling mimicked the walls in colour with that use of the mild blue that, he supposed, was meant to calm people. Lucas sat, but annoyance lingered in his mind; he could almost taste the impropriety of the disarrangement in the room. It usually took Lucas two or three weeks to get used to the nooks and crannies of every single place, but he didn’t expect to be in the room for that long. Therefore, it was only logical to him that every sight he took in filled him with disapproval.
Dr. Morrison must have seen the doubt in Lucas’ eyes. “Please,” he said, “help yourself to a drink.”
Those little plastic cups were stacked up on the table, alongside a wide water jug. Just like school. Dr. Morrison’s uptake of a clipboard only added to Lucas’ fear that he was going to be subjected to detention once more.
“Let’s start at the beginning, with the simple matter of labels. Lucas,” muttered Dr. Morrison, command in his simple tone. “I see you’ve previously been diagnosed as an Obsessive-Compulsive doubter with an arrangement complex, is that right?”
“It is.” The words caught slightly in Lucas’ throat, but he pressed himself not to change his stone expression.
“Now, what I am here for is not to offer another diagnosis, nor to tell you how to live your life. What I want to do is help you to come to terms with your illness, and to provide a way out of those obsessive patterns. What we’re going to work through is some Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy.”
Lucas went to shake his head, but decided to give Dr. Morrison the benefit of the doubt.
“I see from your file,” continued the doctor, “that you were prescribed benzodiazepines, but you did not stick with them.”
“Understandably.” The doctor tried a grimace to cheer Lucas up, but it wasn’t quite the necessary reflection of feelings. “Now, drug-treatment doesn’t work for everybody – and here we simply have to find a better way of dealing with the situation.
“Firstly, Lucas, I want you to know that it’s okay to feel that you need to sort yourself out. However, these...compulsions of yours are not aiding your life, and it is my job to make sure that you begin to go away from such unaiding acts.”
Lucas blinked at Dr. Morrison. He was an unfaltering man.
“Okay, I understand,” Lucas remarked. He felt dumb against this man who dictated all fact and methodology. Lucas shuffled on his chair; he folded and unfolded his arms, conscious that sharp eyes beyond glasses studied each and every movement.
“I would like to get to know your lifestyle a bit more. Are you in a relationship?”
“With my girlfriend, Andrea, yes.”
“Tell me about Andrea.”
“She’s my lucky charm,” Lucas said without thinking. He smiled at the thought of the woman, feeling the warmth from his heart.
“What about marriage?”
Lucas’ face burned. “We- we’re not at that stage yet. I need to make sure that she is definitely the perfect exemplum, the best permanent spouse with whom I will achieve eternal life. I need more time to check that Andrea will be able to adapt to my ideas.”
Still with a face afire, Lucas swallowed, realising exactly how his explanations would have appeared in the scientific mind of a psychiatric doctor. Those words sounded ridiculous when considered in retrospect.
“I see. So, you’re religious, are you not?”
Lucas was glad to get away from the discussion of Andrea. “I am,” he replied. “Have been since childhood.”
“Your parents were?”
Yet, Lucas felt himself blush once more at this question. “I don’t see what this has to do with anything.”
“It’s background, Lucas,” Dr. Morrison told him. “Tell me: you believe in a Catholic ethos surrounding forgiveness?”
“Yes,” Lucas said curtly.
“Forgiving into forgetting-”
“That’s not how it works.”
“It’s not? Enlighten me, a man of no religion.”
“Well, it’s complicated. The basics surround forgiveness – that doesn’t mean one has to forget everything.”
“Ah, but forgetfulness is the Psychologist’s best friend. Do you remember your childhood, Lucas? Did something happen to make you push your life into the over-meticulous? Childhood is a frequent cause in OCD sufferers.”
“Stop it! That’s ridiculous,” cried Lucas, springing from his chair. “My childhood was fine. I did better than those in poverty. I was clothed, I was fed...”
“Were you, really? Mr. Gorge, your reaction-”
“-Is because these questions are irrelevant! This is nonsense.”
Dr. Morrison, too, had stood. His shoulders squared a little as he edged closer to Lucas.
“I apologise. It was much to press you so in a first session. I’d invite you to sit once more, but we’ve come to time. You may leave.”
Lucas nodded and turned, striding towards that cold door set into the ridiculous blue-paste walls. He fumed.
“Please!” Lucas cried, throwing his hands into the air.
“I hope to see you again next week.”
It took the half an hour drive back to his house to calm Lucas. By the time he had slipped his key into the door and moved beyond the untidy outside world into his abode, complete with the smells of Andrea’s fine hotpot cooking, Lucas was able to close his eyes and visualise the peace. He’d need to go to confession soon for all of his hateful thoughts. They weren’t what worried Lucas exactly, but he didn’t like being infuriated so.
“Evening, darling,” Andrea greeted Lucas with her fairy smile. In her hand was a corkscrew.
“Hello. You bought wine?”
“As a treat.” Andrea lifted a finger to bop his nose. “I thought we’d do some celebrating of your first session.”
Lucas turned to the bookcase. “Humph,” he told it.
"I am not going back to that place again," he stubbornly concluded.
Lucas felt Andrea’s hands settle on his back like a pair of wings. He wanted to shrug them off, but instead traced the outlines of her added books with his own hands. Two sets, entwined together.
“And why not?” Andrea’s tone chastised.
"I know you worked hard to sort something for me, Andrea, but I’m not compatible with the psychiatrist. It's some Dr. Morrison who thinks he already knows the inner workings of my mind."
She grabbed at his elbow so he would have to turn around and face her. Andrea’s soft cheeks glowed in both the light from above and the irritation she was obviously trying to not let herself be consumed by. Those raised eyebrows told of the typical consternation where his illness was the main subject.
“Morrison...now why does that name ring a bell? Never mind. Come on, Lucas,” Andrea said, gripping his hand in her own. “You’ve at least got to give it a chance.”
“I am,” the older man retorted.
“Hardly, if you don’t go to even one more session.”
Lucas lifted a finger in agreeable protest. There would be no getting out of Miss Ford’s decisions. “One more. But if-”
“I know, Lucas.”
They were becoming a stuck record, Lucas noticed. Just for her benefit, he had to kick the habit of thinking like a loony. One more session. But if Dr. Morrison said anything more about his family, Lucas reserved the right to storm out.