A blue jay flew by the window. A Cyanocitta cristata as my avid bird-watching father would have said. On my tenth birthday, he gifted me my first pair of binoculars and together we went on a retreat entirely dedicated to the birds. Dad had a sketch pad full of every bird his eyes ever set on, and although he wasn’t much of an artist, I deeply enjoyed flipping through them. He had a certain style that was uniquely him. I wonder if he’d ever seen this one before. A blue jay isn’t entirely rare, but the thought still came to my mind. I would sketch it down right away for him if I knew for certain.
I scrambled inside my “vintage” leather bag for my fountain pen (also a gift from my father) and a scrap of paper which actually turned out to be the back of a takeout receipt. I had to draw a rough outline. The breasts were puffy white, and the wings were the color of ripe blueberries during the summer months. It’s hair cropped in the back as if it had just awoken from a deep slumber and the pattern on its––
“…Emma…Emma…Are you listening?”
My fantastic not-life-draining daydream came to a halt.
“Emma, will you answer my question? Have you thought about suicide?”
How dare she interrupt me? If I lose my train of thought, it will all be her fault. I need to sketch this bird. I need to, my father wouldn’t want me to miss it, but she was persistent. Her question distracted me. Yes, I had thought about suicide, frequently, but I didn’t want to tell her that. It wasn’t any of her business. So, I lied in a way that felt right.
“No, not particularly— it’s not my way of things,” my eyes drifted back onto the skyscrapers that could be seen beyond the windows of this office searching for the blue jay.
“That’s all part of the grieving process if you have,” said my therapist. “Death makes us question whether the world we live in is truly worth it. It strips the very happiness from us and fills us with terrible thoughts. Just remember that you cannot act upon them. It’s normal to have bad thoughts but it’s not normal to act on them. Does that make sense?”
“I’m not an idiot,” I blurted out. The words left my mouth faster than my filter could stop them.
Her pen wrote vigorously beneath her face. What was she writing? The client becomes rude when asked about suicide. Possible suicide watch required or perhaps a recommendation for medication.
“Emma, remember, I am here to help you,” she tried to reassure me that the object of these meetings but somehow it felt like a reminder of what she wasn’t doing; helping me. We’d made no progress since my first session and I was becoming bored with attending.
“Suicide will not bring back your father and it will cause more harm to the people around you. Just think of your family and watching them grieve for your loss. Think of your mother losing first her husband, and now her daughter. Would you want her to live with the suffering of losing you both?”
No answer came to mind. My mother hasn’t been the same since dad’s passing. She stares into white spaces a lot and her siblings take shifts staying with her. They’re afraid to leave her alone at night. It was hard to imagine her grieving sometimes. I’ve only seen my mom cry once before dad’s death and that was after his initial diagnoses and it’s usually in private.
“No,” I said still trying to pass off the impression like I wasn’t suicidal in the first place. It was as if she could read through the lines of my face because every question she asked, I felt as if she didn’t believe the response I gave. We always circled back to the same question, just a bit reworded the next time so that she could determine if my first response was actually the truth. Unfortunately for her, I had a great memory. I could establish precisely when she tried to use that trick on me.
“If the feeling ever feels real, would you tell someone before you acted?” she asked. This time I ignored the question. I’d had my limit with these sorts. How many times would we circle the same question over and over again until she became satisfied with my answer? I knew that unless I said exactly what she wanted, she would never dismiss it. I was starting to feel like a helpless insect stuck in a spider’s web. Luckily odds were in my favor, this session was just nearly over, which made me happy. I could hardly stand it anymore. If it wasn’t for my family doctor, I wouldn’t be here in the first place. Not to mention the recommendation at work, and the one from friends and family. Actually, every person in my life thought I should be here, with the exception of me. I loathed it. Father would have never made me go through this torture. He was compassionate and he would have recognized how detrimental this therapist was to my mental health.
“Will it ever get easier?” I asked to steer the flow elsewhere.
She took a moment to search her file cabinet brain for a suitable answer, with the amount of time she spent schooling and earning her degrees, I expected her answer to be a bit more sensitive.
“Easier isn’t the right word. I believe you’ll be able to manage the feelings if you want to, but if you decide to dwell on it, well you’ll never move on. Clinically, these sessions help you break down what is real and process them effectively.”
“Have you ever lost a parent?” I asked.
She pushed the glasses on her nose preparing himself for some educated response.
“Asking me questions isn’t how this sort of thing works. We’re here for you,” she said with a quick smile behind her pen.
That smile bugged me. I grew this feeling like I wanted to knock out her front teeth whenever I saw it, and it wasn’t because I was a super aggressive person, her smile just got under my skin. There’s no way to explain the feeling unless you saw it for yourself. It gave me the impression that even in all of the education, she couldn’t have learned what I was going through because she’d never ever lost someone special.
“A parent or even a friend?” I prodded.
“Have you or have you not?”
“No—I haven’t. I’ve been fortunate,” she said after a deep breath was released.
“Then how, of all people are you giving me advice? You don’t even understand what it’s like,” The rage in me was unleashed. “I lost my father, who was the kindest man alive. We did everything together and now I don’t even leave my house. I don’t talk to my family because it pains me to remember all the memories of him that they’re avoiding. Do you know what that’s like?”
“Why don’t you tell me?”
“Like hell—it feels like I’m in hell. I would give anything to see him one more time; to see the lights shine in his eyes one more time. Do you get that?”
Her pen fluttered under her nose again. Why did I even bother? None of this gets me anywhere. None of it.
“And how does it feel when you try moving forward in a positive direction?”
My blood boiled. How will I move on without it feeling like I’m forgetting him? It’s not like my brain wants to put myself into this state of sickness. I don’t welcome the hurt, I want it gone, but it won’t leave. My eyes glazed over and I stopped listening. She wasn’t even respecting my thoughts.
The timer on her phone when off.
“––think that we should continue our sessions until this suicidal feeling goes away. We’re really making progress I can feel it. Why don’t we say this time next week?” she said while scribbling away in her leather-bound calendar.
The bird on the window returned. It was tapping at the windowpane. This time I had to check it out. I felt a magnetic pull towards the window. A beautiful blue jay. I reminded myself that you don’t see birds like that around here. That usually falcons pick them off for Sunday bunch. Its small little beak was pressing against the glass as if it was requesting to be let inside. I pressed my stubby finger against the glass and the bird stopped to stare at me. Its little eyes were looking right through me. I could feel a sense of warming over my heart like I was connecting with the little one.
I tilted the glass pane to coax the bird on the bridge of my finger. The glass squeaked as it slid open and the bird hopped to my index finger. It stared into my gaze, a wink followed. This bird was the calmest I’d ever met. It remanded fixed on my finger for some time as we stared deep into the eyes of each other; waiting for something to follow but my overpaid therapist stood up and scared it off. I felt the rage come back.
“Birds are always tapping at those windows. You shouldn’t let them land on your finger, they carry diseases,” she said pushing the glass pane closed.
“Why’d you do that!” I yelled. It was a moment ruined because of an inadequate reason. I wanted to strangle her for doing it and I almost did.
She took no notice of my infuriated question and proceeded to re-ask her original question about scheduling a session for next week. I had no desire to come back to this money-hungry bad advice giver. My money could be spent better elsewhere.
“That won’t be necessary. This will be our last session,” I said confidently in the decision. She hadn’t helped at all in the last three sessions, what more could she do going forward? My dad was still dead, I still wanted to kill myself, and her help was terrible if you ask me. It would be a waste to give her even a one-star review.
“But your doctor has––”
“That will be all,” I said once again establishing that I wouldn’t be returning, regardless if my doctor wanted me to or not. “You can call the doctor and tell him that I’m better if you please.”
“I will most certainly not do that,” she said with a pound of her fist on the inside of her white pad like a three-year-old throwing a tantrum.
“Whatever suits you,” I said collecting my coat from the coat rack in the corner. “This was entirely a waste of my time. You haven’t helped at all. A drink would have been much more beneficial.”
I slammed the door to her study and met the eyes of every other victim in her lobby. Maybe they had thought about doing the exact same thing that I had done. The lobby receptionist in one last attempt tried to persuade me for another session but she rather quickly met the bird on my hand. She twitched at the sight of it. It was like she had never seen it before.
I emerged from Ms. Janet Wilken’s office with a lighter weight on my shoulders. Finally, I didn’t have to force myself to talk about my feelings in a roundabout sort of way. I could be honest with myself. I was broken on the inside and nothing could repair me. Not the works of a doctor, no matter their credentials, and I was okay with that.
I decided that for once in my life I would feel out my emotions and let them control me until they thought things were okay. I was tired of being persecuted for them. There was no way I’d listen to anyone else when it came to offering advice.
As an avid writer myself, I’ve worked on short stories, poetry, and written a book. I’ve taken various college courses revolving around the ideology behind fictional writing and English proficiency. In my spare time, I enjoy reading just as much as I do writing with fantasy being my biggest genre consumed. I’ve assisted in my day job working for the State of Washington with many content writing projects that were targeted towards leaning the number of words into a much more manageable communication style. I look forward to tackling any project that meets my desk.