“A moment of hesitation may cause you a lifetime of regrets” – unknown
“Why am I here? I don’t have a problem,” I said, lying on the couch as instructed.
She didn’t respond. She didn’t have to. Everyone thought I was nuts ever since I had rejoined. Her office was just like any other doctor’s, without the dangerous instruments and smells that made me nauseous. I liked the blue and white room. Not that I had any business noticing it – I felt like punching whoever had referred me here… Violent tendencies. Maybe that was it.
“I’ve always been afraid of clowns. They pretend to be funny but they’re actually evil. And who dresses up as Santa at a corporate firm anyway?” I said again. She was clearly trying to suppress her laughter. I had gotten out of control when a colleague dressed as Santa Claus was trying to lighten us up – because Santa Claus meant Christmas and Christmas meant her. The best Christmas I’d ever had was with her. I don’t remember what I did – just that I’d landed up here after that. Dr. Hall leaned forward and said, “Ajay, you can beat around the bush all you like. I charge $40 an hour. So if you’re willing to pay up, by all means, continue.”
I was definitely going to punch whoever had referred me here, whether or not she helped. Because, I didn’t need help. I was over Yasmin. Damn. Why had I taken her name now? Dr. Hall seemed to notice a change in my posture. She tried a different tactic, “So what were you up to during the break you had taken?”
I hesitated then spoke, “A friend had been in an accident. I was trying to be there for her. Her parents were away for a while and there was nobody else so I needed to do it all on my own..”
“That’s very nice of you,” she interrupted and gave a nod.
I snorted. “It isn’t. The accident was my fault,” I said. She gave me a long, assessing look and asked, “How long have you known her?”
“A few years,” I replied vaguely. Dr. Hall started scribbling something in a notepad. “How do you know her? Are you close?” she asked.
I wondered if she’d take partial payment and let me go. I had to hesitate before saying anything. I didn’t want to give too much away.. but I needed to talk. So I decided to start talking and get my money’s worth, “We met at a Christmas dinner hosted by a mutual friend. And yes, we’re close. Otherwise, I wouldn’t take a break from work. We were engaged – ” I clammed up immediately. Why? Why couldn’t I just waste some more time and leave? By the expression on Dr. Hall’s face, I could tell it was going to be the longest hour of my life.
“Why do you blame yourself for the accident, Ajay?” she asked again. The woman wasn’t going to let me off the hook. So I told her. Everything. We were driving that evening and I told her that I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t commit. I was really stressed out. She was very understanding. She kept asking me if it was about her, and that just pushed me over the edge. It was my fault. I was about to get into an accident – I was getting mad at myself – but managed to swerve past just in time. We both hit our heads but she turned to me ask me if I was fine. What was that? I had gotten her into an accident, and she wanted to know if I was fine? So it was decided. I wasn’t good enough. So I told her to leave. Right then. I hated what I sounded like but she deserved better. She was quiet. Then she got out. I rested my head on the steering wheel and a moment later, I heard a loud horn. Some idiot hadn’t seen her – just drove right through.
I might have started tearing up because Dr. Hall handed me a tissue and waited till I composed myself. I wanted Yasmin back, I told her. She’d been the only good thing in my life. Dr. Hall sat up and said, “You’re dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. You should have sought for help sooner… The best advice I can give you is to follow your heart. Your mind may get lost, but your heart knows the right direction. Eventually, they’ll both find their way. And from everything you’ve told me, you haven’t even spoken to Yasmin since the accident? You need to start there and see where it goes. So you can either leave, right now, like you told her to and fix this or I can sit back and watch what I predicted to start happening. And let me tell you, it involves more tears and problems. We have twenty-five minutes of this session left. So I need you to finish the task I assigned to you and call me back before time is up. Okay? Ajay? Move!”
That was the most she’d spoken in our session. I got up and put on my shoes. I couldn’t help feeling a little annoyed. I could have done this on my own, couldn’t I? I sensed she saw me hesitate with my hand on the door so I ran. Then I came back halfway and opened the door. I saw her writing. She was making a report on me, no doubt. I knocked, “Uh? Dr. Hall? Thank you for helping me.”
She didn’t even look up as she mumbled, “.. always thought coulrophobia was ridiculous. Thank me after you’re done.”
“It’s the fear of clowns”