I examined the couch. It wasn't very interesting. It was a color that's probably called "sandpiper", and made of that knobby fabric that's not very comfortable. I remembered that we used to have a couch when I was younger; it was green with swirls sewn onto it. It sounds ugly when I try to describe it, but it was actually quite nice.
"Emily," The woman who sits across from me says, in a voice I'm sure she considers soothing. "Let's talk."
Everyone is interested in talking to me now.
"Emily," She tries again. I think her name might be Lisa. "Emily."
There's my name again. It would be a nice name, if there weren't so many people that also have the name Emily. I got sick of that pretty quickly. A name is supposed to be something that defines us as separate from each other. Its supposed to carry the essence of who we are. Its pretty hard to do that when there are five other people in your grade also called Emily. Its one of the things that wear at you. One of the small things, which are really the most unbearable, because they press down on you every day, wearing away at you like water erodes rock.
"All right." Lisa says. "We don't have to talk. Let me know if you feel like you want to."
Its not that I don't want to talk; I wouldn't mind talking to Lisa. She seems nice. I just can't talk right now or it will all come spilling out. It would sound convoluted, and stupid and inarticulate and hopelessly inadequate. Then Lisa will quietly judge me just like everyone else. Right now, Lisa just thinks I'm crazy. Or introverted. And both of those options are better than what I'm afraid I might be.
I glance at Lisa, who is checking the clock. I don't blame her. She wants to know how much time she has before she can leave. I wish I knew when I could leave. I feel a bit bad for Lisa, who probably has better things to do. She's young, probably 24 or 25, with dark hair and red lipstick. She doesn't look at all like a therapist; she actually looks sort of... hip.
I examined the room. It's a bit conventional, but nice. Its painted a light green, has a couch and a chair. There's a table next to the couch that has a plant, and a small ceramic bird that I can't decide if I like or not. It's a nice blue color, but its eyes make it look slightly insane. There's also a desk with a computer and an assortment of pencils. On the walls, Lisa has put a print by Degas; the one of the ballerina reading the newspaper. I've always liked that one.
I feel tired, like all the energy has been sapped from my limbs. I feel almost like it takes energy just to lie here and stare listlessly at the ceiling. The fan on Lisa's desk murmurs softly, oscillating back and forth like a pendulum. I stare at the fan, quietly waiting for it to swing back to me and provide me with a burst of cool air. Finally, I can't stand the silence anymore.
"Lisa," I mumbled. "I guess we can talk."
"Lissa, actually." She says this in a way that makes it sound like she doesn't really care, she just doesn't want me to look stupid.
"Sorry." I feel disillusioned, like I've found out something surprising about someone that I've known for a very long time. Of course, I've only known Lisa- Lissa- for about 25 minutes. I suddenly feel as though Lisa is a much better name than Lissa, but I really have no reason to think that.
"No problem. So Emily, what do you want to talk about?" Her air of patience seems forced, and I wonder why she wanted to be a therapist. She doesn't really seem like the type.
I cannot think of anything that I want to talk about. "Just ask me a question. Preferably an easy one."
Lissa takes this in her stride. "How do you feel right now?"
I consider this for a moment. It's not really an easy question if you think about it. "A bit lackluster." This doesn't seem like enough, so I add. "A bit thirsty, too.
Lissa looks disappointed when I say this. I think she was hoping for a breakthrough. "Look, Emily, I don't want to make things difficult for you, but I can't help you if you don't tell me anything. I mean, lackluster isn't an emotion."
I stare at the little ceramic bird on the end table. It's quite adorable, but also very kitschy. Its a blue jay. "I don't really think I need help, Lissa."
I sound a little more resentful that I meant to.
"Well, then, why are you here?" Lissa is exasperated, and I don't blame her. I'm being very difficult. Still, a licensed therapist should know how to deal with a sulky teenager.
"My parents think I need help." I pause, because I know this sounds like the typical teenager excuse, to blame everything on the parents. "Well, let me explain. I know that what I did was stupid. But I did it so that I'd have one stupid thing that I've done. I'm not going to become a kleptomaniac. I just stole the necklace, and the store didn't catch me, and now I've done the requisite stupid thing that all teenagers have to do."
There's a silence for a few moments as Lissa tries to process the information.
"I don't drink, I don't smoke, I don't do drugs," I continue to ramble on with only the vaguest idea of what I'm saying. "I don't cut class, I do my homework, I don't have a boyfriend that my parents hate- or one that my parents like- I don't have any sort of boyfriend. Anyway, my point is that if I spend all my teenage years being responsible and mature, then what will I do when I'm an adult?"
I didn't mean to say this much. I didn't mean to say anything. I was just going to be quiet and surly, maybe through in a witty and biting comment. "If I don't do stupid things, how will I know not to do them?"
I sigh, resolving not to prattle on any more, not to flaunt my flawed logic as if its some great revelation.
Lissa takes out a cigarette, and lights it. Its a bit surprising, and I'm beginning to suspect that Lissa isn't really a licensed therapist.
"Emily, I could tell you that you don't need to do all that stuff to be cool, but for god's sake, you're a teenager. I remember that age, and you just have to get through it. If you need to get drunk, fine. If you need to shoplift, okay. Do stupid things if it helps you. Just don't screw up so bad you can't fix it."
I stand up. "I'm going to go."
Lissa shrugs, and take a long drag on her cigarette.
I walk out of the office, the cigarette smoke still burning my throat. I wonder what Lissa's story is. My phone rings; my mom is calling.
"Hi, sweetie. How did the session with Lissa go?"
"Great. I think we made a lot of progress." I'm half serious, but my mom only picks up on the serious half. Lissa wasn't a very good therapist- she gave me two sentences of unhelpful advice, as well as aggravating my asthma. But I'm not callous enough to willfully disappoint my parents twice in a week. Or maybe I can't stand to hear the despondency in their voices when I tell them that they have a delinquent for a daughter.
"Yeah, I was being stupid. I realize that now." I'm not exactly sorry I did it. I mean, I got away with stealing a necklace. Not a nice one, but still. It was pretty impressive. I didn't even get caught until my Mom found it in my room.
My mom sighs. "You're a good kid. You're smart. I know you'll make the right choices."
My mother's unwavering faith in me makes me feel sad and grateful at the same time. "Love you, Mom."
"You too. Bye."
I slip my phone in my pocket, and walk down to the bus stop.
As I sit on the uncomfortable bench, I take out the stupid ceramic blue jay I stole from her office. I get a good dose of satisfaction from imagining the look on Lissa's face when she realizes I took it.I turn the blue jay over in my hands, then smash it as hard as I can on the sidewalk, stomping on it until the bird's unsettling face is in small shards. That's the last thing I'm ever going to steal.