Here I am again—sitting in this stupid office. Everything about it is just about as dull as the woman sitting in its largest chair, Dr. Nicole Shields. Seriously, if you could dream up the most impersonal, nonthreatening, basic psychiatrist’s office imaginable, you wouldn’t be far off. The walls are a dull earthy tan, two of which are concealed behind big old bookshelves—the kind, I guess, that women in their thirties shell out for because they’re “antique”. The furniture is a deliberate assortment of postmodern hipster-type stuff— tasteless and void of personality—complete with the classic “Psychiatry” couch, in which I was lying, trying to soak in the irony.
I let out a deep sigh, and of course, she scribbled something in her notebook. I can’t really tell if she’s actually paying attention to me or if she’s just trying to make me uncomfortable enough to talk.
Probably both. Turning to look at her, it’s easy to remember why I hate this place. She’s got her black(ish) hair up in a tight bun, which looks wet for some reason, probably a product, and her glasses have finally fallen down to the tip of her nose. It usually takes a few minutes to push them back up again—she gets pretty lost in thought. About what, I can’t imagine.
It’s easy to see why she’s single. I don’t really mean that as an insult—she’s just that type of person. She’s pretty cute I guess, for a thirty-something year old psychiatrist. She’s just way too analytical. I bet she spends dates getting lost in thought about what the guy’s childhood must’ve been like, or why he dresses like he does. It sounds ridiculous, but if you met this woman, you’d see it too.
…Here it comes.
As she woke up from her thoughts, she pushed her hard-rimmed glasses up her nose. She’s looking at me with those deep eyes, now… Maybe I shouldn’t hate her so much. She does actually care, in her own way.
“What?” I prod.
“This is the third day that you’ve kept quiet, Luke. Believe it or not, I want to help you.”
Whatever comfort I just had with her vanished with those words.
“Bull.” The word dripped like venom from my mouth. “If you wanted to help me, you’d let me go. You’d let me go back to the woods, right now, and find Emily. You’d call the cops and tell them to follow me there, and bring the wrath of god down on that….that…” My eyes started tearing up and I choked on the words.
She took her glasses off and put down her notebook. “Luke… Those tears are real. I don’t need to believe you to want to help you. I believe that you believe what you saw. That’s good enough for me.”
Great. Now I feel bad. At least she’s honest. Most people give me blank nods and push me along. Most people give that blank “Uh-huh” while glancing over to their coworkers nervously.
“Sorry. I guess… you don’t have any reason to believe me. If I was in your shoes, I wouldn’t either. But that doesn’t change what happened.”
She digested this for a minute, then spoke, calmly.
“Luke, you’re not stupid. You know what the police think. You know how things look. If you don’t give me something, I’m not sure I’ll be able to help you.”
There was weight behind those words. She meant it.
“You sound like you almost believe me. Like you don’t think I did it.”
“What I think doesn’t matter. What I know is that Emily’s family is terrified, and dragging this investigation out is just making it worse.”
That stung. Tears started to run down my cheeks and my chest tightened. My voice almost broke with my words.
“I don’t know how to help when no one is listening to me.”
“You need to listen to yourself. I know you’re not lying. I’ve had liars in here before, you know. Lots. What you told the police was the truth, and I believe that—but they found you bruised and bloody off of the highway in the middle of the night….
They still haven’t found her, Luke.”
I couldn’t take it anymore. I jumped up and yelled at her, eyes blazing. “Where do you get off!? I didn’t kill her! Why does everyone think I fucking killed her?! I love her, and I will get her back!”
She tensed, and her hand moved to the underside of the table next to her.
“Sit down, Luke. I’m not your enemy. We’ll work together, and we’ll figure this out, okay? Sit down.”
My knees hit the floor. God, what am I doing? I’m not like this…
I rubbed my forehead and then my eyes as I dropped down and sat there on the floor.
“I’m sorry… If… If you had seen… If you had heard her scream…”
She got out of her chair and knelt down in front of me, and I looked up to caring eyes. She doesn’t deserve how I’m treating her.
She broke the silence.
“But I didn’t. You need to tell me. I know it’s hard, but you need to tell me everything. Absolutely everything. You need to start from the beginning.”
We both got up, slowly, and I pulled myself back up to the stupid couch and she didn’t press me further.
“I think that’s enough for the day, Luke. We’ll start fresh tomorrow, okay? You need to try to rest.”
The silence hung in the air.
“…When I go to sleep, I see him again.”
“…The Green Man?”
My silence was answer enough.
“I can prescribe you something to help you sleep.” She took out the script pad and scribbled something on it.
“I… Thanks.” It was genuine.
“No problem at all. I’m not as evil as you’d like to think. Let’s go see if your mom’s here.”
We got up and she walked me out of her office and down the hall to the waiting room. My mom was there, sitting in the same chair she always sat in, reading her book. She caught motion and looked up to see us, her eyes smiling at me, a mix of sympathy and hope, but the lines on her face told the real truth. I doubt she’s getting much sleep either.
“Hey! How’d it go?”
I don’t really think my mom thought that question through. Luckily, Nicole took over “It went well! Lots of progress. Luke tells me he isn’t getting much sleep lately, though, so I’m just prescribing him something that’ll help with that.”
Nicole followed it up with “Don’t worry, it’s nothing too strong. Just a light sleep aid.” and smiled that smile of hers… She’s perfected it. It’s lifeless, but reassuring. “Jen at the desk can give you some samples for tonight, and you can pick up the rest tomorrow. I’ll call it in. The same CVS, right?”
My mom relaxed a bit. “Oh, okay. Yeah. Same one.” Nicole handed the script to my mother, and turned to me. “I’ll see you tomorrow, then.”
My mom got the sample pack from the receptionist and we walked out of the building to her car.
It was going to be a long drive home.
The silence was excruciating.