“My grandad once told me that our concept of tragedy is wrong. My neighbor’s entire family died in a car accident. Drunk driver, rainy road, it was awful. And, when I said it was a tragedy, he told me I was wrong.
‘That’s the problem with people today,’ he slid his glasses from his puffy face and started wiping them, ‘they have a deep misunderstanding of what real tragedy is.’ It was lazy, almost uninterested, the way he said this. It was like Grandad didn’t even care that four people just died.
‘Real tragedy’, he sighed, ‘is when we lose great people in horrible ways. There’s a sense of glorious waste when a tragedy happens. It’s not just some Tom, Dick, or Harry of the street getting stabbed,’ he paused to fit his glasses back to his face, ‘or a family of inconsequentials getting hit head on by a loaded bar fly.’
I didn’t know how to respond, so I just stood there paralyzed by the sting of his words. He looked me up and down, snickered to himself, and clamped a calloused hand around my shoulder.
‘Susan, honey, you got a lot to learn about the world. Things only gonna’ get worse from here.’ He turned and sauntered his way down the path, back to his two-story cabin at the bottom of the hill. If he had known how things would turn out, I wonder if he’d think differently about tragedies. Or maybe he saw himself as inconsequential. Probably. Maybe that’s what he thought of us also. I’m not even sure what I’m trying to say, but I…” Susan’s voice waned and she slumped down further into the plush ottoman. Dr. Wilson who had been listening in silence reached forward and cupped Susan’s knee in a delicate grip.
“I think that’s enough for today. We’ve made great progress, I’m extremely proud of how far you’ve come since you started here.” Dr.Wilson had a gentle voice. The kind of voice that can get a person to open up and spout their entire life story. Perfect for a therapist.
Susan’s meetings with her had been a weekly occurrence for the past three years. In that time she’d revealed enough to give Dr.Wilson the impression that she was getting somewhere with here, but not enough to actually make her understand the whole truth. That’s not to say that Susan didn’t like her therapist. She might be the only adult she can talk to without wanting to scuttle away; she might even trust her. But, that doesn’t mean that Dr.Wilson needs to know everything about her past. It would be too hard and Susan didn’t want to burden another person with her malignant psychological baggage.
Susan rose from the hole she had burrowed into the ottoman and offered a limp hand to Dr.Wilson. She accepted and took it in both of her own hands. “ Please, remember to call me if anything comes up, okay? My line is always open.” Dr.Wilson gave Susan’s hand a reassuring squeeze before releasing it.
“Right, of course, anything. I’ll be sure to call Doc,” Susan chirped. She slunk her way out of the room and let the door shut behind her. The lobby was deserted if you didn’t count the receptionist, which she didn’t. If you get paid to be there it doesn’t count, Susan thought as she crossed the drab waiting area. The carpet was a dusty brown and the walls a sickeningly plain white. Really made you feel at home.
Susan was about to turn the corner that leads to the entrance’s automatic doors. Before she made it, however, the door to Dr.Wilson’s office squeaked open behind her.
“Remember Susan, just a phone call away,” She placed a hand over her chest as if she needed more ways to emphasize that she cared, “ Be safe out there, okay?”
“Got it Dr.Wilson. Anything happens you’ll be the first to know,” Susan traced an x across her chest, “Cross my heart.”
Dr.Wilson nodded her approval and ducked back into her office. Susan hesitated. She wanted to make sure that there weren’t going to be any more offers of support. After a minute she decided that there would be no more appearances from Dr.Wilson and shuffled back towards the entrance. Susan appreciated how much she cared, but she knew that was the wrong road to go down. When Dr.Wilson said “anything”, she didn’t really mean anything. That was an offer made with the understanding that Susan might call once or twice outside of their meetings, but that’s not how it would play out. If Susan called her every time she felt overwhelmed or every time she felt like it wasn’t worth getting up, Dr.Wilson would never be able to put her phone down again.
On her way out Susan gave a shy wave to the receptionist, who responded with a lively “See you again next week!” How people could be so happy, even if they were faking it, eluded her. Susan stepped from the air-conditioned building that housed a host of offices besides Dr. Wilson’s, and into a blistering Oregon afternoon. October third and it’s 76 degrees out, how is a girl supposed to deal with that?
“God, I wish global warming wasn’t actually a thing like that orange mess keeps trying to say.” She muttered this into her chest as she tried to unzip her jacket. The zipper was stuck and she tried in vain to pull it free. After a few rounds of furious tugs, Susan conceited.
“Fine, have it your way.” Susan gripped the ragged bottom of her jacket, “ we’ll just have to do this the hard way.” She swung the jacket overhead and tore it from her body. Susan’s hair was frazzled and in the flurry of movement her phone was flung from her pocket.
“Aw, crap,” Susan reached down and plucked the phone from off the cement, “at least you were already cracked I guess.” She gave the phone a quick once-over and didn’t find any new damage. She moved to slide it into her back pocket when it erupted in a quick succession of buzzes.
“I swear if this is Dr.Wilson sending me a message about ‘calling her anytime.” Susan punched in her security code and scrolled to her messages. It wasn’t Dr.Wilson, but a name she hadn’t seen in her inbox for over a month. It was from Tabitha. And it said she was coming home. Today.