#what are you thinking?
So, how are you feeling today?
The counselor in the white blouse asks. I find it hard to concentrate on an appropriate answer as his cheap, toned-down blue T-shirt creates an immense border. The border between trusting him and trusting me. The border between being saved and wallowing in the same sort of routines until the routines can’t save me anymore.
I’m fine, I replies.
It seems like you are thinking of something else. So, what are you thinking?
Yeah, he’s right. At the moment the reply comes out of my lips, I was thinking of how ridiculously thin and long his fingers are. Like a spider’s leg. Each joint on his fingers was protruding out. I imagined those long fingers wrapping around his lover’s waist, holding it, embracing it, loving it.
I guess I’m fine, I say.
Has there been anything unusual lately with your mood swings?
No. I’m fine. Totally cruising it.
He sighs heavily with the weariness of too many emotional baggages that his patients pour on him. And on top of that is me – the most complicated case, the most stubborn villain, the worst of the worst.
Why are you always fine? He takes off his glasses and massages his temple with his thumb and forefinger. He shouldn’t put my appointment at the end of the day. The schedule puts a heavy toll on him and an uncomfortable awkwardness on me.
Why? What else can I be beside “fine?” Should I be in another state? A not-so-fine state?
You know that’s not what I meant.
Then what do you mean?
He sits there, staring intently at the blank paper in front of him. I guess like me, he is wondering whether he should just close my case for good or whether he should refer me to another counselor. After all, that always happens after – how many? – about 10 or so meetings.
This is the 11th meeting, and I’m still here. Of all the counselor I’ve met, he is the most stubborn one. Perhaps those long, spider-like fingers help him carry more baggages – more weight – than a normal person could.
I mean for you to be happy, he says as he lift his head up and stares at me. He has these large dark circle around his eyes, but those eyes are still shining. A bit too bright for me, perhaps. I keep thinking about the connection between those dark circles and his long list of patients. Do they just transfer their sleeplessness onto him like a sort of direct deposit or wire transfer?
I am happy as I am now.
But you won’t be happy if we take you off the pills, for the first time since the first meeting, his long fingers wrap around my shorter, thicker ones. The joints feel weird against my knuckles, And I want you to be happy without the pills.
He keeps his eyes fixed on mine. He looks more like a person without his glasses. My mind jumps down a dark abyss, where I am a cat who immediately curls up to a little bit of light and a little bit of warmth.
What are you thinking? He asks again.
Nothing. Just that how much nicer it would be if I am a cat.
Cats have their worries, too.
That’s too bad. I laugh, but he doesn’t.
We all have to suffer, he says, cats or human.
Then Doctor, why must we suffer? I stop laughing and look at him. What do I hope for, really? A be-all and end-all answer? A universal truth? What if there’s no universal truth?
There’s no universal truth, he says. Turns out I had spoken my mind out loud without knowing, There is only my version of the truth and your version of the truth. And though they do not collide – they don’t need to – sometimes, they mingle, and we should take some comfort in that.
He puts on his glasses and smiles. For a moment, I think I see my version of the truth flashes in his eyes, And being comfortable is nice enough.
Yes. So, what are you thinking?
We sit still in the small clinic for what seems like an eternity. It’s like time has stopped inside the clinic. I went in for my appointment in the morning. Now, if my watch is any trustworthy, it’s half-past one in the afternoon. And we maintain the same position: he sitting opposite me, staring at the blank notepad, me sitting in the hard plastic chair, staring at his fingers.
Let’s give it another try, he finally breaks the unbearable silence, When do you want your next appointment to be?
You mean you won’t refer me to another counselor? I ask, somewhat startled.
Why should I? He smiles, Would you prefer that?
I watch his face as his lips form a light upward curve. I think that curve is where my universal truth collides with his universal truth. Would I prefer what? And what does it matter?
I would prefer not to, I says.
I know, he leads me to the clinic’s door, Because cats or humans, they all want to be saved, you know.
I stop his hand on the doorknob, Then who will save you?
He pushes me through the clinic door with the gentlest force. Those long, spider-like fingers wrap around my wrist, You know, sometimes, I don’t mind being saved by a cat.
The door closes after me. And by that simple action, me and him – we go back to the start.
Want to see more of Nha and Hai’s journey, The Man and The Lover’s adventure, along with a plethora of poems, short prose, and awesome reviews? Subscribe below and you will have full access to the latest update!
If you think the content and stories on my blog worth praising, there’s no better praise than a small donation to my Patreon account! With the small fees of a cup of coffee, you can help me greatly in maintaining the blog and creating new stories. Thank you, always!