Jane, or more frequently known as Dr. Swanson, was seated at her desk in an office explicitly laden by books (many of their titles bearing the words ‘Human Psychology’), reading a Spider-man comic she’d just gotten the previous day. She was pondering about what to have for breakfast when there was a loud knock at the door. She made no effort to conceal her comic but lazily flicked it on the desk whilst commanding in her deep, assertive voice, “Come in”
In walked a middle-aged lady, looking shabby in a classy way, as if she hadn’t dressed as carefully as she usually did.
“Have a seat, please”, said the doctor, flashing her professional smile.
The lady sat down asking, “Dr. Swanson?”
“Yep, but you can call me Jane.”
“It’s about my son. I found him lying outside my house this morning, pale and cold as ice. I jerked him awake. He walked somewhat sub-consciously with me to the house, where I warmed him up and put him on a bed. He’s been cut off from me for many months and now I don’t know what to make of it. He has been murmuring strange things in his sleep. I am really scared, Doctor.”, she ranted out and was almost in tears by the end of her statement.
“You’re sure he’s alright at present, right?”
The woman nodded, wiping her eyes.
It seemed pretty interesting to Jane and she wanted to ask more. But she overpowered her curiosity by telling herself that she should behave as an experienced therapist should. So, putting on a solicitous look, she said, “So, bring him to me as soon as he’s well enough. Don’t try to interrogate him, but listen carefully to all he has to say for himself. I’ll put you down right now, Ms…..?”
“Sandler”, she said.
As she got up and was about to leave, she held forward what looked like a diary and said, “He had this with him.”
“Didn’t you read it?”
Biting her lip suddenly, Ms. Sandler almost whispered, “No”.
She looked as if she had something more to say but didn’t want to, and neither did the doctor push it. She guessed from her tone that the reason for not reading it was probably to respect her child’s privacy, or maybe she lacked the courage to read something that her son was that close to.
After Mr. Sandler left, Jane examined the diary. It was tattered in places and was obviously not very well maintained. It was quite old and the first few pages mentioned something about a football game and hot chocolate in childish handwriting. The writer didn’t have stuff to write about everyday so he’d just entered in random dates and written what he wanted. Some of the entries were only a couple of lines while others were longer.
She flipped over a few pages and started reading, convincing herself that she, as a therapist had the right to invade her client’s privacy.
Eric Sandler’s Diary
27th April, 2005
It’s not going good at all. High School is as busy as ever. I am writing only at the expense of sacrificing my lunch(Anyways, you know Wednesday’s lunch sucks ass). So, I just asked Janice to fetch me some coffee on her way from the cafeteria. She’s most probable to forget, but most probably, I’ll get to grab a bite during History. Mr. Phelps has been droning on with the same stuff for eternity. Does the old man even realise that no one really gives a damn about his class. Well, except for the geeks and the guys who are going to opt for History as their major for Freshman year(Those are quite few).
Yeah, Freshman Year! Can’t believe that in only a few months, I’ll be leaving Wisconsin High and heading to college. Seems like yesterday that I was fifteen and came here for the first time. But, two years have flown by and now I am a senior. I think about when I was new and used to envy the senior guys strutting about with their pals flaunting their football jerseys, winking at the mesmerised junior girls and hifi-ing the guys. Oh! What would I’ve not given to be like them then.
But apparently, being a senior is not actually as great as it had seemed then. First of all, there’s a lot to learn. And the added stress of sending out applications to universities. On that note, I really hope I get into Boston. And another news, I have finally decided that I am gonna go for literature. Dad reckons I should study business and make good use of my share of his small fortune. But, the important part is that he doesn’t object to what he thinks is a preposterous decision on my part. I’ve not yet visited mom but I’ll break it to her whenever I’m free.
Oh! Janice is here with my coffee. It’s a blessing she remembered. She is gonna go to college with me, that is if she does get in. I am kinda more concerned about her than me. Not that I care so much, but I’d have to find another girlfriend if she doesn’t get in. Well, I really gotta stop writing now because she’s peeking on the pretext of checking out my wristwatch(She really does need to learn to lie better). Well, bye.
That entry seemed to be pretty normal to Jane, something an ordinary, happy kid would write. But, something about the way it was written caught her attention and she flipped on to the next one.
14th July, 2005
I feel so low today. It’s turned out that I didn’t get into Boston. They sent me a letter to express their condolenscences and apparently claim that even though my SAT scores are above par, I don’t have the required profile.
“It’s all politics if you ask me.”, is what Dad has to say about it.(Seriously?)
He’s been hinting me to join Business school here in Albuquerque, but I am still waiting for the reply from Princeton. It’s a great university, but I still am bewildered that Boston blew me off and took in crap like Janice.(Sorry, my ex-girlfriend Janice)
Yeah, we broke up. She was beginning to become extremely annoying and possesive. Last year, she’d been fun to hang out with. We usually cracked jokes and laughed at stuff most of the time we spent together. But lately, she’d been starting conversations with ‘You seem to be different lately’ or ‘Are you thinking about someone else?’ or the ever time favourite ‘Where do you think is this relationship going?’. That question used to piss me up so much that I was tempted to bang my own head hard on the table hard whenever she said this. I mean, where the fuck is it supposed to go? New Jersey?
So, yesterday, I mustered up enough courage to call her to her favourite coffee house(Big mistake on my part) and tell her that I was going to call it quits(Should have phrased it better). Of course, she got all frantic and teary, and finally walked out cursing me and calling me a loser(The usual story).
What surprises me is that I didn’t feel that bad about ending it with her. Actually, I am kind of relieved now that there’s no one to clutter my mail with messages like ‘L u, babe. Hv a cuddly nyt. XOXOXOXOX’. I mean, what the hell is this? I would like to meet the person who started the tradition of putting these O’s and X’s and give him a piece of my mind.
On another note, I went to meet Mom this morning. She’s doing great and I loved talking to her. She was supportive about Janice(Yep, I rephrased it a bit. Don’t say you don’t like attention from your Mum), and asked me go become whatever I want, but to always be a good person. That sounded quite good to me and I want to remember that.
Alright, I guess that’s all. Oh wait, I finally quit smoking cigarettes. It’s been two weeks without nicotine now and to tell you the truth, I feel awesome.
Well, I am kinda tired and all dried up of events to write. So, adios amigo.
P.S.- I’m sorry I forgot you don’t have a mother. Please, I am only human.
Jane actually smiled reading that excerpt, even though she shouldn’t have. This guy seemed like a cool, positive teenager with a tiny bit of sarcasm. This further interested her as to how he ended up up all depressed. So, she began the next entry.
31st July, 2005
I am a little sad and tired. Yesterday was the prom and I remembered the day before that I had no date as I no longer had Janice around. Usually, I wouldn’t care but after what happened with her, I had to get a date. So naturally, I called up Bob. He told me to come by his place in the evening. It turned out that almost all the pretty ones were taken and the ones left either didn’t know me or didn’t like me or both.
By the evening, I was desperate for a date. Bob encouraged me by saying that I could still get someone as I had a whole day left.
Out of sheer curiosity, I asked him, “Who’re you taking, bro?”
“Sally, Wendy and Sarah”
“What the fuk? You’re taking three chicks when I’ve got none.”
“Well, what can I do? All of them kinda happened together. They don’t mind each other.”(You know how popular he is, and quite the ladies man)
“Give me one, bich.”(Yes, I’m a miserable loser)
“I will if you run around and get a six-pack.”
“Alright, but I’ll need your car.”
“Here are the keys.”
As I was leaving, he murmured, “I love you, man”.
I drove to the supermarket down the alley near my house. The guy at the counter, Fred was an old acquaintance and had been helping me score beer ever since I was 15. So, you could say that I was confident about getting Bob his six-pack. But, my luck deserted me once again. Fred had taken ill and was at his parents’ in the country. In his place was a young girl with dark hair and a piercing on her nose. I tried to look as old and confident as possible as I placed the stuff on the counter and asked her in my deepest possible voice, “How much for this, missy?”
Of course, her next words were, “Can I see your ID, sir?”
I reverted to my usual tone, “It’s prom night tomorrow….”
“And your date wants beer?”, she asked smiling.
“Actually no, a guy who can get me a date wants beer. But, I know Fred and he usually gives me beer.”
“Sorry, but he didn’t leave a message. But why does a decent looking guy like you want to be set up, that too for school prom? Bit pathetic, isn’t it?”
“That is none of your business. There’s only one way for you to help me, that is to let me take the beer. Could you do that?”
“You’re wrong, there’s another way I can help you.”, she said in a mystical fashion, deliberately lowering her voice.
At first, I was a little confused, but then it hit me.
“You’ll be my date?”
“Got there, haven’t you smart boy? But no, I have a friend I can set you up with. Just come to this address in about an hour and ask for Kathy.”, she handed me a small piece of paper.
I came out of the store debating whether to go or not. At last, I decided that it was worth a try and decided to spend the hour taking Bob’s lowrider for a spin.
I knocked at the door which I thought was the address. To my bewilderment, it was the same girl at the supermarket.
“Yes, who’re you looking for?”, she asked.
“Kathy……what are you doing here?”
“Yeah, I am Kathy. What business do you have with me?”
I was flabbergasted and was ready to make a run for it when she started laughing.
“Scared you a little there? Didn’t I? Just pick me up tomorrow.”
“Where’s the beer, dude?”, Bob asked me when I got back.
“Fuck your beer, sonny. I got an awesome date.”, was my reaction.
The prom was crazy and I was pleased to see that Janice hadn’t managed to get a date. Kathy is so sick that even Bob was a little envious. Well, it’s 4 in the morning and she’s started to stir beside me. I still find it difficult to sleep at other peoples’ homes. I kinda miss Janice now, no idea why.
P.S.- I feel like Kathy is my type, but I am a little intimidated by her. No idea, why.
Yeah, a usual high school prom story. Jane found that a little un-entertaining, but coaxed herself to move on.
4th February, 2006
I’m sorry I haven’t written in ages. I am distressed to the core. I am so frustrated that I can’t figure out what to do. Studying literature should have been fun, but I no longer stay alert in classes. My grades in the last minor were just average, but I don’t feel like studying anymore. I am always on the verge of breaking down into tears.
I have seen three girls in the last two months and I care about none. Life has become incredibly boring and I can’t believe how I used to spend my time before. All my energy is invested in pacing my room, which I do to the point of fatigue. I have many friends here but I am close to none of them.
Larry said he’s gonna visit. Yeah, you don’t know him. He’s a guy from Manhattan I recently started to hang out with. He introduced me to pot. That thing makes it all better. Or does it?
Yes, I used to smoke cigarettes, but weed sure is different. Well, I am tired of writing and there’s nothing more to write about.
3rd March, 2006
I am so tired that I don’t feel like living anymore. Everything is racing about me. My senses have gone numb, and my brain has lost the ability to think about anything except my misery. Since the last few days, everything has been going horribly wrong. My arms are full of needle marks from the heroin.
Last morning, I woke up at a lousy motel with two women I have never seen before. I constantly suffer from headaches and I am finding it difficult to go to sleep. I am just tired of everything. I hate what’s going on around me and I’ve begun to hate myself. And by the way, I just received a letter from Princeton stating that I am gonna lose my scholarship if I don’t start attending classes.
I don’t know why but I can’t bring myself to commit suicide . I took the subway this afternoon to Albuquerque and am right now sitting on the footpath outside Mom’s house. I can’t bring myself to go in a let her see her failure of a son. It is bound to shatter her. First, a bad marriage, and now a bad son. How much can the poor thing bear?
My agnostic heart calls out to God to just blot out my existence. Make it so that I never lived. I hate my life that bad. How did I turn out like this? Answer me.
That was the last entry. There were many more before, but Jane had read enough. And she knew exactly what to do.
Dr. Swanson’s Office
“I think you should lie down.”
“I don’t wanna lie down on your lousy couch. I’m telling you there’s nothing wrong with me.”, Eric angrily retorted. He was pissed off at being brought to the Doctor’s office, when all he wanted to do was lie on his bed and stare at the ceiling. His body had been craving for a bit of heroin since morning.
“You should try to understand, Eric that you’re not here because there is anything wrong with you. Sometimes, all of us need someone to talk to, and I am here to just do that.”
“But, I am completely alright……”, Eric started to say but was quickly interrupted.
“I completely agree, but my question is”, said Jane, “Are you happy?”
After a moment’s pause, Eric replied, “Maybe”
“What do you feel like doing right now?”
Eric thought for a while and gave the cleverst answer that came to his mind.
Jane leaned back on her chair. She seemed to be enjoying this.
“So, tell me something. What do you want to become in life?”
Eric gave her the answer he’d often given himself to slight variations of the same question, “I like literature. I wanna go ahead in that and probably become a writer one day.”
“What have you written recently? Tell me something.”, the Doctor urged.
Eric was slightly embaressed as he didn’t have much to tell. He was about to make something up when the therapist interrupted.
“You have been suffering from depression for quite a while now. There’s no particular reason for it. You are totally indolent about everything. You seek comfort in drugs or women, but neither one helps. You think about suicide but cannot push yourself into it, and often dream about dying in your sleep. Am I right?”
Eric was astounded by her accuracy and was left gasping like a goldfish.
“Yes, I know you’re wondering how I knew all that. That’s because I’ve already been where you are now and know what it feels like. And your little diary helped me out a bit.”, she said, tossing it to him.
“What do mean when you say you’ve been there?”, asked Eric.
“Well, that’s a really long story, and I think we should save it for later. My only advice for you today will be to fight against yourself to the point that you’re fighting for yourself. You have a very limited time to live. So, embrace it. The faster you realise that, the better.”
Eric nodded, a twinge of inspiration rising in him.
“You should realise that there are a lot many people who are worse off than you.”, Jane continued. “So, make it a policy to be happy and do good to the world. You’re here to make the world a better place and the first step is to make yourself a better person. You are not meant to crawl, Eric. You are meant to fly. So, until next time then.”, she finished as abruptly as she had started.
Eric stood up, his head swimming with thoughts and plodded to the door.
He turned and asked her suddenly, “When’s the next appointment?”
“You know when.”, she said, winking at him.
“Is it already over?”, his mom asked him from the lobby.
“Yeah, it was pretty quick.”, Eric said distractedly. He was not seeing her, he was not seeing the hustle-bustle around him. His brain was immersed deep in thought. He didn’t realize it but he was thinking, really thinking after a very long time.
15th March, 2006
I feel great after a very long time. Almost like a zillion years. Never thought my problems would be this easy to sort out. Me and Mom talked for like, an eternity. She called Dad to talk about me, and they talked for like a good half an hour. Atleast, they’ve started talking about something. I can definitely work to try and get them back together.
I read the New York Times in the afternoon. Can you believe it? Me reading a newspaper. I never thought the Doctor’s intervention was enough to make me feel better. And do I feel better? I feel like Columbus just after he discovered America.
I am going back to college next week. They agreed to let me off if I do well the rest of the year. And most definitely, I feel like doing well. I feel so excited right now that I don’t know what to do. There are so many things. Well, it’s past 2 now and I really need to get some sleep. Wanna wake up tomorrow and do a lot of stuff.
Jane was out for her morning walk. She loved the cool morning breeze and the deserted streets. It always gave her a positive air and made her want to think about usual things in seemingly different ways. As, she was about to break into her usual 30 second run, she heard someone call out her name.
It was Mrs. Williams, whose husband had been a client of hers.
“Hi, Barbara.”, Jane greeted her with her usual gusto.”How’s Christian doing?”
“Yeah, he’s really become happier, and seems to enjoy his work and time at home.”
They were so chit-chatting when a hyundai raced past, almost brushing Jane.
“Who’s in such a hurry?”, she wondered aloud.
“Well, that’s Mrs. Sandler from the nearby block. You know her?”
“Yeah, wonder where she’s off to?”
Suddenly, Mrs. Williams’ face turned pensieve. “Oh, you don’t know. She’s leaving here. Her son passed away two days back. Died in his sleep, poor thing. They say he had some problems recently. You know what I mean. And…..”, she blabbered on but Jane wasn’t listening. She was still wondering about the young boy she had so easily rectified, and who’d gone from angry to happy so fast. Yeah, so very fast.