I know you’re just doing your job, I said to him every time I felt myself open to him like a well-read book. When he probed into my past, studying my history with eager eyes and pricked ears, I told him whatever he wanted to know.
The first tales I shared were not new ones; I had told them a million times before. But when I shared them with him, a piece of me was stamped onto them, and they were not just stories anymore. I was sharing my life with him. When he left to return home and to his life, he was taking a part of me with him. It made me feel bare and vulnerable. I didn’t know how to cover myself after that for I could not untell my story.
He watched me with open interest and drew from me secrets I had never told anyone. He made me disclose thoughts I only entertained in the dark. His power over me was frightening. Plus, he carried with him a bag that was quickly filling with all I held close. I didn’t know what he intended to do with what he possessed in that bag, but I suspected he would write a very generalized account of his impression of me. The real story he would keep for himself to do with whatever he pleased.
I became possessive of him, jealous even. I couldn’t bear the thought of him spending time listening to his other patients the way he listened to me, watching them with the same awe. I wondered if he piled their tales atop mine in the bag he carried or did he have one for each of us. Did he keep us all in a secret file where he could go home, recline in his favorite chair beside lazy light and read our chapters while sipping on hot, creamed coffee?
He was reluctant to divulge anything about himself, but I fished anyway. I learned we were the same age and he was from the mountains of Vermont. He was divorced and had a young son and was currently dating a woman he was not ready to marry. His birthday was in March and his favorite color was yellow. He liked ice cream after it had melted to almost milk, and he liked to listen to soft music and take long walks. Learning these things about him evened the playing field some and made me feel better about disclosing all my secrets.
I was drawn to him though he was not a remarkable man. He stood eye level to me, making him around 5’4” and was slim, but not scrawny. His eyes were acute and blue, hair brown and boring, smile, gentle, but forgettable. He wore trousers with shirts that looked like they came from his son’s closet. If he and I passed each other in the mall prior to these appointments, it would’ve been without incident.
But he now held within him something precious, and for the first time I recognized its value. So I said often, I know you’re just doing your job. He never claimed otherwise, though I now realize I’d hoped he would. I wanted him to tell me he cared about me and wasn’t just collecting my stories the way the tooth fairy collected teeth.
I don’t see him anymore; it’s just as well. I am more guarded with my stories. I believe I gave him way more than I should’ve, but nothing can be done of that now. Somehow I got a greater appreciation of myself. If he thinks little of me, it is well. I regard myself more.
I am a well-penned book, clutched lovingly to my bosom, every word meaningful and alive. My stories are not just tales spun out at camp fires or spewed when inebriated. They are stitches on quilts, flowers on tapestries. They are rustling fall leaves and whispers on east winds. They are pictures in the clouds and the pattering of rain.
My life comprises many tales gradually reshaping the world with rhythmic subtlety like ocean water cleansing stones or lapping the beach. I may never know of it, but perhaps my stories reshaped his world a little too.
© D.L. Lunsford