It was time for Cynthia’s session and despite a throbbing hangover courtesy of last night’s drinking I was feeling pretty good. No more than pretty good I was damned excited. I let my eyes wander over the desk doing a final check that everything was just where it was supposed to be. The blue ball point was exactly where it had been yesterday and a new piece of lined paper beckoned for words to decorate its surface. Al was in the doorway with Cynthia in front of him. In her hospital gown she looked other worldly, almost like if you looked hard enough you’d be able to see right through her.
“Take a seat, make yourself comfortable” I said trying my best to hide the excitement and anticipation in my voice, it was a poor effort. I started talking a little about myself, a few questions, a little more about myself but my eyes were on her hand and the pen, that magical writing device. Such a small object now seemed so overwhelmingly important as I watched for the slightest movement towards the pen. I kept talking and the minutes dragged out with painful slowness and my heart lifted up by hearts not so long ago began to sink in my chest. It was hopeless, who was I to think after all this time and treatment, a breakthrough would be as easy as putting paper and pen in front of her. Oh how arrogant of me!
A slight movement out of the corner of my eye. Her hand had moved! Was moving! My hopes had not been misplaced and my heart rose on silvery wings as her hand flew elegantly over the polished wood of the desk and with two slender fingers grasped that blue ball-point and rushed it back to the paper. I realized I had stopped talking and she looked at me hesitantly her hand drooped no longer worthy of attention. I hurriedly began to talk again, stumbling over the first couple of words in my haste but disaster had been averted her eyes previously dull and unfocused turned down with sharp intensity to the paper in front of her.
Her hand trembled slightly as she adjusted her grip on the pen and brought it to bear on the page. This time there was no trembling, A stylish dash, the letter “A” and jumbled words written in flowery handwriting grew across the page as I talked. “Myself” became “Cynthia”, “Home” became “Empty” and “Treatment” just became a wild angry scribble. The page was almost full and there was just a small empty space at the bottom, barely room for a sentence but it would be enough, it had to be enough. It was time to go for it.
“How would you describe your life?” I asked carefully.
“Ocean” she wrote immediately.
I continued, “How is your life like the ocean?”
Her hand went into a frenzy of movement “My life is the deepest depths of the ocean.”
“What’s it like there Cynthia?”
“Dark” a moment’s hesitation “and full of monsters.”
The silence continued on and on for what seemed like eternity but it wasn’t really silence because enfolded within the stillness the sound of Al’s feet approaching with a slow and measured pace. Recognizing the sound Cynthia moved to the pen down. I reached out and put my hand over hers folding her fingers over the pen in her palm. “You keep it Cynthia and have some paper too.” I picked up a thick sheaf of paper and slid it her into her other hand. Al’s steady pace eventually brought him into the doorway and he moved forward to take her back to her cell. He noticed the pen and paper and reached forward to take them away.
“Al, I gave her those let her keep them.”
“Hey Mike you know what patients can do to themselves and you know the rules, we can’t let her take those back to her room” Al assured me reaching out again.
“Al just trust me on this” I pleaded and after a long moment of searching eye contact he consented.
“Alright but it’s your ass on the line if something goes wrong.” He placed his firm yet light grip on Cynthia’s shoulder and led her out of the office.