The Patient

Dr. Harris sat in his office, trying to look calm. He was skimming the notes he had on Karen, trying to convince himself that she was just another patient to be treated. Five minutes later, Karen entered his office for her appointment. She had short, blond hair and greenish eyes; she was also a little overweight and wasn’t the most beautiful thing ever, but there was an ineffable quality that hovered about her presence, obviating any mere imperfection. “How are you,” Dr. Harris quietly asked.

Karen took a moment before answering, crossing her legs (she was wearing a skirt) and prepared a smile. “Fine.”

“Fine?” Harris nodded, “That’s good. How’s the new job, you mentioned your manager…”

“Yeah. No. Work’s been fine.”

“That’s good.” Her eyes faced him, but Harris felt as though they weren’t looking at him; this was something that frustrated him, as though he didn’t exist and was merely a springboard for her to talk about her issues. But this didn’t stop Harris from looking at her eyes.

Suddenly, her head jerked to the left, toward the window and she said, “I don’t want to talk about it, but I guess that means we should…”

“You mean…”

“Yes. That. It’s been almost a year since he’s died. And I’ve been thinking about him.” She turned herself back to Harris. Harris noticed that she, unlike his other patients, always guided the sessions. He considered this a part of her arrogant personality, but this was just another thing that both excited and agitated him.

“In what ways have you been thinking about him?”

She sighed. She looked so pale. “I guess…I shouldn’t say I’ve been thinking about him. But things surrounding him. How…he wasn’t a bad person; he was more human than most people who just walk around dough-eyed; he could have been a great artist, but things prevented that.”

“His drug addiction.”

“Yes,” she said sharply, “His drug addiction. But that’s not what I mean. The things pushed him onto that route…” She trailed off; her eyes started to turn red. Suddenly, Harris felt so small behind his desk. Her voice returned. “I was just thinking about how little control he had. He could have been great, could have been larger than his past.”

“But, he made his own choices. No one was forcing him…” before he finished that thought Harris stopped himself. Karen didn’t respond to this; she seemed to be in her own world, a place that he couldn’t access.

“All men are tethered to circumstance,” she suddenly said, “Even great men had little control of what they became.” She waved her hand. “I don’t know, it’s a silly thought, but it’s something I keep having. Maybe I like having this thought.” Harris didn’t know what she meant by her last statement. He just nodded and let her continue.

An hour quickly passed and Karen was gone. Harris went to lunch and came back to talk with another patient. He tried to stop thinking about the enigmatic Karen, but he couldn’t quell the image that floated within his mind. There was that thing about her that he couldn’t analyze, that he couldn’t reach or even touch upon—it was beyond things and beyond him. He knew he shouldn’t be treating her considering his feelings toward her—he also couldn’t help her—yet she was there, every Wednesday at 11:30.

The patient Harris was with was another dull, middle-aged, middle class guy, just like him. The patient babbled on and on about his wife; Dr. Harris nodded and moved his pen.

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