All I can hear is the fan. As it’s spiraling round and round, I can hear the creaking of the frame going back and forth. I can hear the clinking of the chains hitting the light fixtures. It’s driving me crazy. At the same time however, it’s the only thing that is really holding on to my attention. Almost as if it’s keeping me still or calm. Or keeping me from lashing out.
I don’t know exactly how long I’ve been sitting here by myself, lost in thought. I’ve been hearing every word he’s been saying, but the mind has a way of filtering it out. Right now, the fan is more compelling. Maybe I should be having a conversation with it instead. It seems just as reasonable, I suppose.
“Mr. Rigdon, I’ve done this long enough to know that just talking everything out will help you,” the shrink says.
He’s still talking to me, I think to myself. He doesn’t know me. I may be stubborn, but I don’t need to be here. I’m fine. I wonder what it is that makes all these shrinks think they are better than everyone else. As if they have the right to judge us. They go off, get their degree and all of the sudden they think they can read my mind and tell me there’s something wrong with me.
“Your son is–”
“Don’t talk about my son,” I interject.
“Mr. Rigdon, you’ve been sitting in my office for fifteen minutes and you haven’t said a word. You can talk about anything you’d like, but you’ll never get better if you don’t say anything at all,” the shrink replies.
I can’t believe him. A mere snake oil salesman is all he is. He’s not here to help me. And certainly not by bringing up my little Luke. I just want to go home. Not to my wife. My real home. I want to go to my parents’ house. The little old cabin right out by the river. Just thinking about it makes a tear come to my eye and puts a slight smile on my face. I remember when I was just around five, Luke’s age, my father would take me out on the boat. I can still hear the soft hum of the motor as we would start our journey. We’d often end up under the shade of old sycamore trees. I remember how we used to have competitions with each other to see who could catch the bigger fish. My childish muscles and small fishing rod never stood a chance.
“It’s certainly a wonderful day outside,” the shrink says.
“No, it’s not.”
I’m almost inclined to agree with him for once. These days are my favorite. It’s about eighty-five outside, with a cool breeze. These are the days where Mother Nature will make you sweat, but also cool you off. These were the perfect days to go out on the boat and just listen to the birds and splashes in the water caused by the fish coming up to get their meals. I can’t do that today though. I’m stuck here. And even if I wasn’t it would just be too soon.
“Why not?” he questions.
“I don’t know, it just isn’t, it’s too hot, it’s muggy, I don’t know,” I say.
Maybe it isn’t too hot or muggy, but I can certainly feel the sweat roll down my back. You’d think that running this little business of his, he’d be able to put in a decent air conditioner.
“Mr. Rigdon, we both know that that isn’t exactly the truth, but at least now I’ve got you talking,” he says.
He’s full of it, he’s smug. He isn’t winning this, I am.
“Mr. Rigdon, your wife is paying for these sessions. I figure you’d at least cooperate with me just a little bit as not to waste her money. The quicker we start having real conversations with each other, the quicker we can solve the problems and then you can go,” he says.
I look around for a clock, and just like the last session there isn’t one. I feel for my phone but remember that my wife had told me to leave it behind. So, I stare at the fan, and listen to the continuous creaking.
“You’ve still got forty minutes left of this session Mr. Rigdon. We still have time to make some really good progress,” he says.
“What do you consider progress exactly?” I ask.
“At this rate, I’d consider this progress,” he says, “every little bit of engagement I can get out of you is progress to me.”
“Of course, you do,” I scoffed.
“See right here, this is progress.”
It may feel like progress to him, but I don’t feel a thing. He thinks he’s going to beat me at this but I will win. All I have to do is wait it out. It’s tedious but it works.
“How’s your wife doing, Mr. Rigdon?”
“She’s fine, she’s a strong woman, she’ll be fine,” I say.
“Really, she’s just fine?” he asks.
“Yes, she is,” I say.
She’s not though, I think to myself. Every day after we lost our little man she’s blamed me. It’s been a daily argument. At least on her end. I try not to add fuel to the fire, and go about my daily life, but I can’t stand when she looks at me. Even when she’s not yelling at me, she looks at me with accusing eyes. It seems like no matter what I do, she’s mad.
“Sounds to me like you’re a pretty tough family. Why did she send you here then if you both are so tough?” he asks.
“She thinks I’m quiet.”
“I think so too, but I wouldn’t schedule another appointment if I thought that was the problem,” he says.
“Maybe we shouldn’t then.”
All of the sudden I felt a cool draft take over my body. I shivered for a second. I sat there cursing at the fan, the only thing in this room that I thought was on my side had now stabbed me in the back. That cold feeling had sent me back to the day it happened. I could feel the winds hitting my body as I drove the boat up the river. Earlier that day, I was teaching Luke how to bait a hook, or at least as well as anyone could teach their five-year old how to handle sharp objects. We spent a few hours out on the river fishing. I remember how he’d hesitate and recoil every time I tried to get him to throw the fish back into the water. He’d always jump back and away when they’d flop around.
Later, I remember having a nice little picnic with him out on the boat. Ham sandwiches with slices of American cheese. That was his favorite meal and seeing the big smile on his face brought me more joy than has ever been felt in the world. After our lunch, I wanted to take him on a joyride. It was quiet, all except for the motor. I remembered looking back with an eye-wide smile across my face, only to have it turn sour when I didn’t see Luke.
“What are you thinking about Mr. Rigdon?” the shrink asks.
“Nothing at all,” I reply.
That’s what I saw at least when I turned around. I didn’t see Luke in any of the seats. My head jolted back and forth across the water until I saw his bright orange life jacket floating on the surface about a hundred feet behind the boat. I didn’t ever hear him fall out, I couldn’t hear anything over the roaring of the motor.
Now everything was silent, except for the fan. I can hear it screaming in my ears. I can feel the tears slowly rolling down my face. The shrink seems to notice too. I put on a stone-faced expression and stare him in the eyes. Slowly I start to realize that he is going to win.
“Mr. Rigdon, I’m not here to upset you. Rather the opposite. I believe that if you just let me help you, you’ll find that we are more similar than you think” he says as he motions towards the box of tissues with his hand.
“You don’t know shit about me!” I yell.
“Mr. Rigdon, just relax and let me tell you about myself,” he says.
I sit back as the shrink begins to ramble. Now feeling the chilling ocean of sweat upon my back.
“I grew up with my father. My mother wasn’t ever around for me. I did what guys do, I played sports in school, I went to the gym, and I fought anybody who had a problem with me. If I ever got hurt, I walked it off. I didn’t ever show pain or anguish. To me, emotions were for the weak people. After high school, I wasn’t gonna go to college. I got a job with my dad in a butcher shop. One day though, I went to work and found my father dead with a knife in his hand. The next couple of weeks I lived with my aunt. She helped me get through that part of my life. She encouraged me to keep talking about how I was feeling. She told me that if I didn’t ever show emotion I’d end up just like my father. It was after my stay with her that I had the revelation that I wanted to help people. I didn’t want anyone to suffer like my father did. Mr. Rigdon, we were both denied an emotional release growing up, and we both suffered gravely when we lost someone we loved. But I got through it, and I know you can too. I know you can get past this and end up stronger than ever. But you’ve got to trust me.” He continues, “so are you going to talk now?”
I feel choked up. I’m struggling to breathe. Tears stream down my face as I imagined that this must have been how Luke felt as he was dragged under the water. I hate this feeling. I feel guilty knowing that I have someone to pull me out, but I couldn’t help my own son when he needed it most. I wanted to be a good father. I did what my father did for me. I tried to protect him, but in the end I couldn’t even do that.
“Mr. Rigdon?” he repeats.
“Yes, yes, I’ll talk,” I reply. “I just want help.”
“Very good, Mr. Rigdon, we’ve still got ten minutes left, go ahead when you’re ready,” Dr. Grayson says.
“Where exactly do I start?” I ask.
“Wherever you think you need to,” Dr. Grayson says.