“You make your childhood sound gothic,” he’d said the week before.
“Well, that explains the dress code,” I’d retorted.
Deep down, I doubted that his detached observations, paired with my dry humour, would prove beneficial. Still, I was back. I was there because I’d reached out for help. Because I couldn’t sleep or work. Because waiting for an NHS appointment was like being a numberless ball in a giant lottery machine.
It was seven-thirty, almost dark. A cold front descending from the North matched the Stalinist office atmosphere from which I had just escaped.
I descended damp stone steps to a basement door.
He admitted me into his home. Casual clothes hung from his slight frame. His skin was wrinkled and dry.
I took my seat in a capacious, well-worn armchair, surrounded by bookshelves from floor to ceiling. A table bore plastic trays full of papers and journals.
Perched on an armchair, he prepared for our sixth session.
He’d scribbled notes. I’d observed his occasional smiles at my revelations. I hadn’t noticed the slightest sign of improvement to my state of mind, so I tried a different tack.
“Last weekend, I had another bad date,” I began.
“Eh, what?” he said.
I repeated my words loudly.
“Oh, I know. I’ve been messaging a twenty-two-year-old girl in the Philippines. She’s just my type,” he confessed.
I longed to comment, to tell him he was deluded, heading for heartbreak and disaster. But he wasn’t a friend, or even an acquaintance. I didn’t know him at all. “You must learn not to self-censor,” he’d once said, but I judged this to be the wrong moment to put that advice into practice.
I’d found him through a website for depression sufferers. A little risky, but on paper he looked well-qualified. Once he’d bragged about speaking at conferences. I wondered in which decade they’d taken place. Books, certificates and citations abounded, but I concluded he knew little about human nature or the LGBTQ experience.
As the session ended, I handed him a cheque and told him this was goodbye.
As he ushered me out, I saw a small device nestling behind his right ear. Was it new, or had it always been there?
“Only you could find a deaf therapist,” chuckled an old friend when I told her about him later. For the first time, I wondered if I needed better friends.