“I’ll never forget that September day. The sun was out, but it was still cold. I was five years old in the park with my mum, eating ice cream. I begged and pleaded her for that chocolate cone even though I was so cold, I don’t know why” Paul said. He shifted his gaze from the ceiling to the window and stared through it blankly. Dr. Hollis continued writing furiously on his clipboard, without looking up.
“My mum loved me,” he said while raising his left hand to his cheek. “I had a bit of cream on my face, and she wiped it away with a tissue from her pocket. She licked it first of course, which I always hated,” he quietly smiled. “That woman was a class act, with the most beautiful heart, I’ve never met anyone who could compare to her,” he said while gradually beginning to sit upright on the couch. Dr. Hollis looked up from his clipboard.
“Are you okay Paul?”
“Yes, I just remember that being one of the last times I was happy.” Dr. Hollis looked back down at the clipboard and commenced writing, as Paul laid back down in the seat.
“I asked my mother where my father was that day, why he never came round anymore. She told me that he had fallen in love with a barmaid, dancer, air hostess, pilot, it was always a different story every time I brought it up. But however she told it, the ending remained the same.”
“And how does that make you feel Paul?” Dr. Hollis questioned while looking up from the clipboard.
Paul paused for a moment before replying “It hurt.”
“Because your father abandoned you?”
“No, because that bastard abandoned my mum. That day when I asked her about my father, for the first time, it wasn’t a joke. I could physically see the joy ripped from her eyes, as she recollected whatever truly happened. All the years leading up to that moment I realized how unhappy she actually was.” Paul closed his eyes without saying a word, and began breathing deeply.
“Would you like some water?” Dr. Hollis asked while extending a glass in his direction.
“No I’m fine,” Paul replied opening his eyes. “It was so long ago, but I can still feel that day so vividly. I remember I vowed to never fall in love.”
“Because you never wanted to feel that kind of loss?”
“Indeed, to be completely honest, I was quite relieved. I suppose in elementary school I had no need for women, and as I grew up, I focused on my studies and my mates.”
“So you actively avoided creating relationships with women during your adolescence?”
“Not exactly, my mates and my hormones got the best of me, but I would always make it a point to not get attached.”
“And now I’m a thirty-four year old man with no kids and no family, and desire for either. I’m where I want to be in my career, I would say I’m content. All my friends have grown up, they have wives and families to look after, and I have myself. A man my age should want a family? But I feel…”
“Detached from those emotions,” Dr. Hollis said while placing the clipboard on down. “When you’re alone for so long, loneliness no longer seems like the enemy. You’ve adapted Paul.”
“What should I do?”
The room was silent for a few moments, and all that could be heard was the whoosh of the ceiling fan. Dr. Hollis began writing on the clipboard again as Paul looked over.
“Have you ever been in love Paul?”
“Love?” Paul questioned.
“Yes,” Dr. Hollis sternly replied.
“I told you, I isolated myself from every relationship I’ve ever had”
Dr. Hollis put his clip board down and scooted his chair closer to Paul. Paul sat up, with a confused stare.
“Have you really Paul?” Dr. Hollis firmly asked.
Paul began to breathe heavily, as Dr. Hollis kept his gaze unbroken. He began to feel nauseous, and held his stomach as his brow furrowed then relaxed. He leaned all the way back on the couch and looked up at the rotating ceiling fan.The pale yellowish fan above him turned in an unceasing motion, creating a whooshing sound with each cycle. He looked up and fixed his gaze on one blade. He could see the remnants of its former white nature spotted around its withered body. In the middle, there was a woven brownish net pattern made from some sort of straw fiber. He looked at how the stich work of one fiber went above, then below the other in a succinct way. The edges of the blade were triangular but rounded and frayed at the top. He took another deep breath, before staring out the window.
“There was a girl in college I knew, her name was Samantha Etherly”. Dr. Hollis began writing on his clipboard again.
“So you loved her?”
“If I was to ever have loved once, I believed Samantha to be the one who gained all my affection. She was everything in a woman that I wasn’t in a man, and left me terrified with vulnerable stammers in her presence. She was like a shooting star, and I merely in her orbit for a few minutes that felt like seconds. She was the queen of hearts and I was no more than a joker. When she would look at me, the momentary intimacy was beyond words.”
“How did you feel the first time she talked to you?”
“Sick, she was asking a question about the chemistry lecture we were just in. As she spoke, I zoned in on her lips, her eyes, her breasts. The palpitations of my heart beat quickened, and my hands grew clammy. At the time I believed I was undergoing a heart attack. I didn’t want to alarm her so I planned on going to the clinic after she walked away. When she did finally leave, the symptoms reduced and I realized they were woman induced.”
Dr. Hollis looked up from the clipboard and gave a slight chuckle.
“Was that your last meeting with her?”
“Not exactly, I saw her in lecture every week, and she was sometimes sit by me or ask questions.”
“Did you have any meaningful encounters?”
“There was this one time I saw her at a coffee shop downtown,” he reflectively said while slowly rubbing his mouth.
“When I walked inside I saw her sitting alone. Her eyes were red and misty like she’d been crying. I quickly averted my gaze and made my drink order. When it was ready I planned on leaving, but she called out to me, she said my name,” he said trying to fight back a smile.
“You were happy she knew who you were, don’t be afraid to smile at that, its okay.”
Paul rubbed his mouth again, as if to clear it from any remaining remnants of a smile.
“Well, I was shocked, I mean, she had occupied the entirety of my mind since we last spoke. She asked me to sit down and stay a while.”
“And did you?”
“Yes, I didn’t know what to say, so I stupidly asked her why she had been crying. Thankfully it was nothing serious, she just pulled the book from her lap onto the table. She said she had been crying from what she had just read,” he smiled while shaking his head.
You want to know what she read, it’s a real piece of work,” Paul laughed. “I can’t even say it.”
Dr. Hollis looked up from his writing in anticipation.
“Paul you can’t stop now, please go on”
“You really want to know?”
“Yes,” Dr. Hollis enthusiastically replied.
“She picked up the book and read: It wasn’t just him, or me, or the situation. It was everything all at once, the kaleidoscope of fear and doubt that had always haunted me. He stared at me, waiting for my reply. What was I to say to love? I said nothing, and watched those words hang in the air until they faded into the surrounding nothing of the room, as if to never have been there in the first place. To never have been said, to never have been felt.”
Dr. Hollis placed his clipboard on his lap, and looked at Paul melancholy.
“And what happened?”
“I told her it was okay, that maybe somethings are better left unsaid. She stared at me calmly, and leaned in close to me over our table. I knew what she wanted,” Paul quietly stammered while running his hand through his hair painfully.
“Can I have smoke?” Paul asked while sitting up.
“Go ahead, need a light?”
“No I’m okay, thank you.”
Paul walked over to the coat rack, where he dug into his left pocket and pull out a packet of cigarettes. He slowly took one out of the box, and aloofly observed it, before placing it in his mouth.
“We need to continue with the story Paul, what happened after she leaned in toward you?” Dr. Hollis insisted.
Paul grabbed a lighter out of his back pocket, aggressively turned the dial, before a flame appeared. He cupped his hand around it, while bringing it toward the cigarette. He took a few puffs, and sat back down. He watched the cigarette burn in his hand for a few moments, before bringing it to his lips once more, and taking in a long breath, and releasing a cloud of smoke.
“I gave her what she wanted”
“When I pulled away from the kiss, she kept her eyes closed while smiling. She gradually opened them back up, and when she did I could see…this longing in her eyes. We sat there silently for a few moments, before I gathered my things and left”
“You what!” Dr. Hollis queried in frustration.
“I couldn’t bear it, she read exactly what I would do to her. I couldn’t love her, I had to save her from what I would have done.”
“Did you ever consider pursuing her, even after seeing her again in lecture?”
“No, I told you love is something I didn’t want and couldn’t give. She would stare at me at times during lecture, but once the semester was finished, I never saw her again”.
“You’re a coward”.
Paul looked up at Dr. Hollis with an offended stare.
“I wasn’t afraid of her, I was trying to do the right thing”
“No, you were afraid of what she could mean to you”
Paul felt hot with annoyance and embarrassment and he rose to his two feet.
“I wasn’t afraid”
Dr. Hollis leaned back in his chair and without looking up from the clipboard and kept scribbling down notes.
“You’re afraid to trust anyone with your emotions, and when you found the one person who could make you feel anything you retreated. That’s pretty cowardice.”
“Listen here Dr. Hollis,” Paul yelled.
Dr. Hollis looked up from the clipboard. Paul clenched his hand, and gradually released it, and sat back down in his chair. Dr. Hollis stood up and put the clipboard on the seat. Paul watched quietly as Dr. Hollis walked towards the bookshelf scanning for a book. After he chose one from the shelf, he walked over, and dropped it on Paul’s lap.
“What am I supposed to do with a phone book?”
Without looking back at Paul, Dr. Hollis sat back down and wrote down more notes.
“I’d advise you to find your girl.”