Art: Away From the Darkness by Lysa DuCharme
Story by Erika Lund
The waiting room had pale yellow walls with chipped paint where the door swung open and hit the drywall with a thud. This building had to have been constructed decades ago, with scratched, oak floors that groaned as I walked in. There was a partially cracked analog clock on the wall. Being the only one in the room, the ticking grew louder and louder with each passing second. I twiddled my thumbs. I was 20 minutes early to my appointment, I’m always early. I guess sometimes I worry a bit too much. I mean, that is why I’m here, after all. The same thoughts and worries still pacing through my brain. They never seem to stop and this never seems to help.
After what felt like ages, the large, creaky door to the office swung open. Out walked a stocky, balding, man. He looked about 45, and wore khakis and a polo every time I had seen him. “What could such an average Joe have to worry about?” I always wondered. He always walked out, right before I went in, every Wednesday at 3:00. And every time he passed through the waiting room, he gave me a smile. It was a forced smile, but a forced smile still counts for something in my book. I liked him, and thought of him as a friend, despite never knowing his name.
I stopped twiddling my thumbs, cracked my knuckles in a most satisfying way, and got to my feet. The floor creaked again as I walked into the office. I took a seat in the same red armchair that I always did in the office. Doctor Nussbaum told me on my first visit that the chair a patient picks says a lot about them. Apparently, because I picked the chair furthest from his, I was nervous, avoidant, and afraid to get close to people. I refused to let him know that he was spot on.
Doctor Elliot Nussbaum was a clinical psychiatrist. He had a kind face, with amber eyes tucked behind thick black glasses. It was clear from the certifications, awards, and fancy knick knacks on the shelf behind his desk that he had been quite successful in his field. He sat with his hands clasped together on top of a pile of manilla folders on his desk. His eyes flicked upward from under his heavy frames as I entered his office.
“Ah, Hello,” he said slowly. “I’m glad to see you again, I think we are really making progress here. How are you feeling today?” I sighed and said “Alright, I suppose, but it’s still happening. Every single night this week.” Doctor Nussbaum nodded understandingly. “And have you kept your dream journal like we talked about?” I had been. I pulled a green spiral notebook from the backpack I had slumped on the ground in front of me. “It’s more of a nightmare journal than a dream journal, Doc,” I scoffed “I don’t really see how this is going to make them stop.” I passed the notebook to Doctor Nussbaum as he perused the pages. “Well you see, writing down your dreams can help you process and understand them. There is usually a meaning behind your dreams, even if you don’t understand right away.” He explained, “For example, one of the most common nightmares is suddenly realizing you are naked in public. This type of dream usually comes from harboring feelings of guilt or inferiority, or may be triggered by feeling neglected or deprived of attention in the past.” My eyebrows pursed together. “Ok, well, my nightmares keep me from sleeping. I stay up as long as I can, until I’m just too tired and pass out. I’m tired every day!” I exclaimed.
The rest of the hour passed uneventfully. Honestly I zoned out. It wasn’t particularly Doctor Nussbaum’s fault, I was simply just too tired to really pay attention. “Oh well, I’ll try again next Wednesday” I thought.
I pulled into my driveway. I noticed the front door was slightly ajar, and the TV was left on. I couldn’t remember leaving the house like this, but these days honestly I was half asleep, tired, all of the time. I kept losing my keys, or forgetting my lunch, I was a bit of a space cadet.
The evening passed on. It was growing darker and darker outside the window. Soon, the only remaining light was the television flickering back at me. I felt my eyes droop and my head begin to fall. I didn’t want to sleep. I was afraid to go back there. I had only slept a few hours that week, so keeping awake was difficult. My breath slowed. I couldn’t fight it anymore, I was about to drift back to my worst fears…