"Jonathan." The voice is prude and stringy, hanging from the dull bookcases and brushing over the plump brown loveseats like sickly incense. "These things take time. You will resume your life, but it will take a lot of work and patience. I am here to support you in that endeavor."
Jonathan cannot let his eyes go near the speaker, and he feels his breath shallow as his heart swells with agitation. "…I can’t resume my old life."
"It may appear that way at the moment. But things change. Just give it time. You will regain your strength. And your position and status in the company will be waiting for you whenever you are ready."
Jonathan feels sick, and he tries to protest. "No," he says. But it is the only word he can trust.
"Jonathan. Right now, a positive mind should be your goal. You have to trust the healing process."
"This isn’t about healing!" His hands shake the air on either side of his head before pressing against his temples. "You don’t understand."
The other lets slip a short silence before answering softly, "Perhaps you could help me to understand."
"This isn’t about healing," he repeats. "I am not sick. I just need to figure some things out…"
"Jonathan. Perhaps think of it as a form of recovery. You have been traumatized by this tragedy. By recovering mentally, emotionally, spiritually, you can return to your life."
Jonathan is startled and his eyes flash. "Return?" he asks. "There is no return! It has happened and we can't go back!"
The other pauses as if to wipe the air clean of any words before speaking. "Yes, and that is why you must not back down from your life. You must go onwards. Your life is valuable. You cannot throw it away."
"But what if I cannot resume where I left off?"
"Jonathan. Your skills haven’t gone anywhere. Your company values you above all other employees. Your work is worth more than you give it credit for."
"Credit," Jonathan says. He goes silent.
"Yes. You are a valuable person. You are a hard-worker. You are what this company values. The sooner you heal, the sooner you can get back to your passion."
Shiny elevator doors slide smoothly to the sides and a long carpeted corridor stretches into the distance. Jonathan takes a step. He has walked this corridor countless times, but today, he is lost.
Today, he has a new voice in his head, one that asks too many questions. It is a persistent voice, one that joined him recently and insists on being brought up to date. But it doesn’t understand the routines, the policies, or the goals. It asks him why he is here.
"This is where I belong," Jonathan whispers as he enters a spacious office. Belongings cover the large oak desk; his belongings.
The walls are adorned with certificates, photos, ticket stubs to the hockey game, and a calendar displaying the pristine beaches of Hawaii, somehow lifeless and superficial. And though his eyes land upon these walls as usual, his mind can no longer be held within their constraints. His legs shake as he perches himself on the office chair. The desk is flawlessly organized, preserved from another life and on display in a museum. And now Jonathan is the actor who is to demonstrate how these ancient tools were once used.
He lifts the pen. He writes a heading on a piece of paper. Projects to Catch-Up On. He taps the pen against the paper as if in thought. Why does it feel like the walls are watching him? He looks up to remove this sensation, but to his horror, his eyes meet those of an intelligent young man staring back at him from a photograph.
Jonathan’s face is pale as he drops the pen and stands up, pushing the chair hard against the wall. His expression is strained as he tries to keep it from breaking. He then becomes aware of the other pictures on the wall, and one sitting in a frame on his desk. He directs a desperate question at their smiling faces. "What should I do? Tell me what to do."
After they do not respond, he sits down and idly plays with the pen. He feels what he thinks is their judgment, and he objects to being put in such a position. "What do you want from me?" he cries. But he feels ashamed at this outburst, and he throws the pen across the room.
After a tense silence, he says, "I cannot pretend."