“Each day I stress out” I said as I pulled my jacket off my right arm and hung it on the rack.
“About what?” said the glassy-eyed, older-age psychologist, pushing a bit of hair up above the rim of her glasses, using her middle finger as the index was wrapped around an expensive pen.
I told some stories about growing up, about hiding in the cornfields, about my mum’s apron that was never completely white despite the sun bleaching it regularly received. As I grew up the barn became smaller, and more empty, fewer chickens, and the ladder’s rungs less trustworthy and the city moving closer with frequent trips to specialists, for her.
There was one day, before an appointment, I was twelve, I was lost, I was complete in my worry about her, that I felt a wave of a chemical spread across my lobes. A man, hatted and suited, dry-cleaned once a month and so was his suit, bought the contents of a gray-black houseboat for his newlywed second wife. Down by the docks, far from the hospital, I watched them bring some crates and kegs out across a plank that shifted with the ship. One crate was dropped, the edge cracked and I saw a flash of a Fabergé egg amongst some straw for packing.
I could never afford this, I could never afford the affections of a woman in or out of a big city like this. The world suddenly closed around me, I became smaller than even my worries about her illness, I forgot my moments in the corn and throwing rotten eggs and out of my mother’s arms. The sun seemed to beat down on me that day, keeping me down.
“Everyone has some kind of realisation about the world at that age… You think that’s what’s causing you stress?” she said.
“No, no, I don’t stress every day…” I said, considering more carefully my words.
I would be tired and feel old and in pain, I would feel like I couldn’t understand new ideas or that I didn’t owe anyone anything to try and understand them, that I had done enough to relax and be a hedonist, not just in act but in thought. But every day far away from those docks was like this. Far away from eggs labelled “fresh” and towards eggs unlabelled, away from scratched metal and to bowing elms, with my Mom and my sister, who would drive from the other direction. We’d often be silent walking into the house, creaking floorboards on tiptoes.
Each Sunday night, as I drove with my back to the sun, I would think back to the parts of my car that weren’t satisfactory. A new clutch, new old parts, a clean of the white-pearl hubcaps and a wax-running hand smoothly moving over any small angles and curves. New immigrants, Irish and Italians, conspiring against me to offer their highest price, me yelling at them and eventually taking a swig of courage before heading home to my wife.
“It sounds like, if you’ll pardon my forwardness, this place is causing you stress…” she said.
“Maybe. Maybe the hay fever, maybe the lighter air…” I mumbled.
I lit up a cigarette, making sure there were no “no smoking” signs in the room. My stomach grumbled, either hungry or pensive, thinking about the coffee and sugar-coated egg bread I had eaten at the café downstairs. I’d need a steak and something fermented with yeast to get me through the rest of the day. This was a waste of my time, really, my girlfriend is better at this, I just need to harden up at work and spend either more or less money on fine wines and fancy clothes and my mortgage.
“Do you know your wife knows about your girlfriend?” she asked.