I stand in the entrance of a sleek and spacious study designed with a modern, dark aesthetic. Every time I’m here, this place changes, minus the gloom. That seems to follow me wherever I go.
“If you allow it.”
I hear a familiar voice. My therapist, prowling around somewhere. He knows my thoughts and probably listening now. I ignore him and proceed. I step onto a smooth, arctic white carpet. Floor to ceiling windows on midnight painted walls shed gray light from a weeping afternoon sky. There’s no end in sight as I glance down. Can anyone see inside?
In the center of the room, two gigantic black sofas sit opposite one another. My therapist sits on one with his back to me, waiting. He’s male. We don’t do names. I’ve never seen his face.
“Yes, I’m here, hi.” I wave and pace the cloud-like floor, already annoyed. Why anyone would want white carpet is beyond me. Stupid. It doesn’t take much to irritate me lately, but he’s here to listen and help, so I shouldn’t be on edge like this. “I’m not mad at you. Just ignore me today, I’m out of sorts.” I fall on the couch face first. It’s icy and leathery — like a dead walrus. Wait, where does leather come from?
“You’re dreaming about me again. Our next session isn’t for a few more days… I’m happy to see you, regardless. Are you okay?”
“Mm hmm. Yeah. I guess.” I sit back down. The lower half of my body hangs off the sofa like a lethargic, unladylike slug while I count the wood beams on the ceiling. “It’s just the holidays taking its toll on me.” I slide off the couch like melting wax. A quiet heap of drained, perfumed flesh.
“… And how are the holidays?”
I ignore that and scan my playlist, lying face up on the floor.
Black Hole Sun – Soundgarden
“Turn that off,” he commands.
I need something louder to block him out.
I watch his calm body sit across from me. He’s in fitted gray slacks and a crisp black dress shirt—the top two buttons undone. His arm lies across the top of the sofa while the other sits on his thigh, spinning a chunky black pen in between his fingers. He crossed one leg over the other, displaying expensive black oxfords. The temperature skyrockets between us. He sets the pen down on the end table to his left and walks over. I should consider myself lucky. I could’ve landed a female doctor and wouldn’t have shown up. Maybe. Depends on the woman, and I’m picky.
His legs are inches from my face, standing over me. He’s tall and muscular. Shadows swim around his face—and I love it. It feels…
Closer–Nine Inch Nails
I prop my body up against the couch.
I’m not weaving that kind of dream right now. I turn my music off. We reclaim our seats. Deep regret will haunt me later.
“Thank you. So, what’s going on? You mentioned the holidays,” his voice darkens. “Tell me.”
“Well, is it okay to admit I’m just not… into it this year?”
“What does into it look like to you?”
“Everyone is wearing Christmas sweaters, hanging up lights and being joyful. You know how shy I can be. I’m forcing smiles more than usual. There’s so much conversation to keep up with, gift expectations. I’m self-conscious, blushing every second and over thinking everything I say.”
“How does that make you feel?”
“My face and brain hurts! Can we do virtual holidays? I can text.”
“You know you don’t want that.” He chuckles. “Emotionally, how do you feel after these festive gatherings?”
“Well… I feel okay inside. And tired.” I remember… Nah.
“I don’t want to.”
“You heard me.”
I groan. “I was thinking about the gingerbread house I made with my family…” I leap off the sofa. “Can I go now?”
They’re on my mind, family and friends I love so much. I even enjoy wrapping presents for them, aware they’ll rip my masterpieces to shreds. Then I’ll pace the living room in circles for an hour, dragging a garbage bag collecting it all. And I do it every year with a peculiar smile on my face. Why? It seems so illogical.
“Why can’t you share your feelings with me? You opened and closed again.”
“You figure it out, you’re the therapist.” I sit back down in my same spot; anywhere else and the leather is too cold. Why’s it always so cold here?
“You made this place, you know why it’s cold,” I’m certain he locked his gaze on my heart. “And I don’t like to listen to your thoughts, but sometimes I must in order to understand you. I’d rather hear your voice.”
“Here we go.” I groan and close my eyes.
I open one eye. “I’m quite attached.”
“You’re always like this during the holidays. You detach and grow this…” He slowly waves his hand around his broad chest. “… Shield, protecting yourself from connections, even though you yearn for them. Throw in an important occasion, like Christmas, for example, the harder your shield becomes. Then you make everything negative to rationalize your feeling of joylessness.” His beautiful hands extend out, large palms face up. “Stop hiding your heart, it’s big and warm enough to share.”
“See? You give up before you start. You’ll drown yourself in hypotheticals. Put on your Christmas sweater.”
The Shape Lurks–John Carpenter
“It’s the cream colored one on the right-hand side of your closet.” He shouts over my music. “The one with the decorated evergreen on it!”
“WHAT?” I shake my head. I turn the murder music up and shut my eyes. Why would that be in my closet? I don’t do Christmas sweaters. Nope. Bzzt. Why can’t every day be Halloween? I’d rather hang a Christmas tree upside down and decorate it with long red tinsel and jagged peppermint hooks. My beautiful, violent blood tree.
For some time, maybe minutes, I sit there stubbornly. He doesn’t stop me. His eyes are hot lasers assessing and drawing conclusions. I’m here for a reason. I want to be here. Maybe I should listen… Turn it off.
“Are you done?”
I nod, pulling my earbuds out. “It’s off.”
“Get the sweater and be in the moment. Those close to you love you, even that resting bitch face you have when sticking gumdrops on the roof of your gingerbread house.”
“I was concentrating. And what about my shield? It’ll be there under that dopey sweater.”
“This isn’t a deep issue. I’ll pierce your—” he pauses as I grin. “… Shield the next time we meet. In the meantime, just relax and flow. Embrace the season. After all, it doesn’t last.”