Back on the sofa, like always and forever. Somehow, time and again, she found herself on various different sofas, all in the same kind of cozy, barely-lit room; an office, really. A therapist’s office. A new one every six months or so. She couldn’t stop fucking them, and that’s why she kept therapist hopping. What choice did she have?
And once again, here she is, sitting on a plush, red sofa—the kind of sofa meant to put the client at ease, but no one has a sofa with pillow arms like this in their home. And no one’s home is this dimly lit, except maybe at night, when you leave the bedside lamp on after watching a scary movie, and are afraid to sleep in the dark. The room—correction, office— is a lie.
You aren’t safe here. This isn’t a safe space, where you can spill your darkest secrets and the contents of your heart like a child dumping toys from a cardboard box. This is a place of rational logic and science, even if it’s meant to look like someone’s home with the faux plant on the end table at the other end of the couch. No one’s home is this neat, and forcibly sterile. Home is a familiar, chaotic mess; never orderly.
“You’ve been here fifteen minutes and haven’t said a word,” the therapist spoke, breaking the patient from her reverie.
She looked up into her new therapists face, and for a moment pined for the previous one. He’d been an older gentlemen with a defined, but caring face. That face was an easy read, as was his feelings towards her. He consistently had to hide them by crossing his legs. A small smile curved the corners of her mouth at this thought.
“What are you thinking about? Her new therapist asked.
The new therapist was a stern woman who looked to be in her mid-fifties. Her hair was pulled back into a tight bun, and she wore thick rimmed glasses that gave her eyes an insectile look.
“I was just musing about my previous therapist,” she said, leaning back against the comfy sofa. It was incredibly soft; a good napping couch. Not designed for sharing one’s inner most thoughts, she thought.
“Yes, I see you’ve had several of those,” the therapist said, consulting the page from the notepad before her. “Why is that?” She asked.
The patient shrugged.
“You don’t know?” The therapist asked.
“Oh, I do, I just don’t think it bears weight to this conversation,” she said, smiling.
“And why do you think that?” The therapist asked, peering at her from above the rims of her glasses.
“We’ve only just begun to get to know one another. We’ll get there, in time.” she said.
“I believe that’s supposed to be my line,” the therapist said.
“Like you said, I’ve been to many therapists. I’ve learned the lines.”
“Is that your goal here?” The therapist asked.
“You don’t like talking, do you?” The therapist asked, leaning back in her own chair, and putting her pen down; realizing this had become a battle of wills. “You know, therapy isn’t any use to you if you won’t talk,” she said after her question failed to illicit a response.
“I’ve been told that before,” she said.
“And still you keep visiting therapists. Why?”
She shrugged. “I think I like the company.”
“You can find someone to keep you company at any bar in town,” the therapist replied.
“Not the kind of company you get with a therapist,” she said, smiling. It was a devious little grin; the grin of an adolescent who knows she’s done wrong, but doesn’t mind the consequences.
“I’m not here to be your friend,” the therapist said. “My job is to help you gain insight to what brought you here, and help give you the tools to conquer that.”
“There’s nothing wrong with me,” she said, a haughty look of contempt upon her face.
“If that were true, you wouldn’t be here.” The therapist said, sitting rigidly in her chair.
To that, the patient did not reply. The therapist had had stubborn, difficult patients before. None like this, however. There was something different about this woman; something unsettling—perhaps it was the sheer number of different therapists she’d been to in just the last year alone—seven. Something about the patient had her on edge.
“Why are you here?” The therapist finally asked, after listening to the clock ticking away the seconds on the wall.
The patient appeared to be thinking over her answer as she stared at her hands. It was a difficult thing to learn, to be patient while waiting for an answer—sometimes you got one, and sometimes you didn’t. With most patients, she could usually gage whether they’d communicate or not, but this one didn’t fit the mold of most patients—or people, she thought.
Finally, the patient lifted her gaze, and folded her hands in her lap. “I’m here to prove that some people don’t have worth.”
That was not even in the ball park of what the therapist had expected. The patient could tell she’d been floored. It made her smile.
“Didn’t expect that, did you?” she asked.
“No, I did not.” The therapist admitted.
“What do you think?” she asked.
“I’m the one who’s supposed to ask the questions,” the therapist said, sternly. “I see what you’re trying to do.”
“What am I trying to do?” the patient said, feigning innocence.
“You think that you’re the first patient to try flipping the script on me; that if you ask the questions I’ll be dismantled, and you’ll have won. What you don’t understand is that this isn’t a battle—we’re not fighting, because we’re not foes. You may make me your enemy, because it’s my job to help you, but that’s you’re doing, not mine.” The therapist said.
“And why do you want to help me?” the patient asked.
The therapist sighed, “because I took an oath, and because I made it my life’s work to help people, whether you believe me or not—I do care.”
“That’s generous of you,” she said.
The therapist did not reply.
“So, I assume you believe people are inherently worthwhile?” The patient asked.
“I’m not going down this conversational path with you,” the therapist said.
“Why?” she challenged.
“Because it’s a waste of time. You want to argue semantics, and I’m here to help you, but you clearly don’t want help; I’m not sure what it is you really want, perhaps a chance to feel superior—look at me, I outsmarted the therapist! But that kind of behavior will only provide you with a temporary high. This is why you’ve been moving from therapist to therapist.”
“I’m not difficult to figure out,” the patient said smugly.
“No, you’re not, but you’re dangerous—to yourself and others—because you think you’re beyond your illness. You’re not.” The therapist said.
“That’s a bit presumptuous, don’t you think?” The patient asked, insincerity hiding the hurt.
“No, I don’t. I’ve seen several patients like you—patients who think they’re too smart for their illness. You can’t logic your way out of emotional distress; I’m sorry, but you just can’t.”
“Never hurts to try,” the patient said, laughing with her eyes.
“We’re done here,” the therapist said, getting to her feet.
“But the sessions only half begun,” the patient said, looking bewildered at this turn of events.
“I’m not going to waste my time on someone who doesn’t really want help; there are plenty of other therapists who will gladly take you on—I’m not one of them.” The therapist said, opening the door.
The patient looked out into the empty lobby, and loneliness overwhelmed her. She looked up at the therapist with tears in her eyes.
“You can’t just turn me away,” she said.
“I can, and I am.” The therapist replied with finality.
The patient scrambled for something to say, something smart, something witty—anything, any reason to keep the session going. She came up with nothing.
“Please leave my office,” the therapist said, feigning kindness.
“Would it change your mind if I said I wanted to die?” she asked.
“Only if you were serious,” the therapist replied after a moment’s hesitation.
Silence spiraled out between them while the therapist stood at the door, waiting to see if the patient would stay or go.
“I’m not,” the patient finally said, and with that she rose from the plush sofa, and left without a glance back. On to the next therapist, she supposed.