THERAPY

LAUREN HOOKER

The woman who goes before me is an alcoholic but she’s in deep denial about it. Sometimes, when the white noise machine isn’t working, I can hear them yelling at each other on the other side of the door. DO YOU THINK IT’S NORMAL TO DRINK A BOTTLE OF WINE A NIGHT? my therapist yells, and the woman yells back, YES I DO. But at other times I can hear them laughing away like old friends, and I think to myself, a little bitterly, that my therapist never laughs that way with me.  

The first time I met my therapist, I told her that I didn’t want to live anymore. She shrugged. Why live? she said. Not that I’m saying you should kill yourself, she added. But you know what I mean.

I did. I mean, I did and I didn’t.

I’m lonely, I said another time. Kafka was probably lonely too, she said, and this made me feel better. But when I got home I googled “was Kafka lonely,” just to make sure, and it turns out the guy who wrote about cockroaches was a hit at parties. Like, he actually complained about how many parties he was invited to. I mentioned this to my therapist the next time I saw her, that she was wrong about Kafka being lonely. 

Besides, Kafka was a genius, and I’m not, I said. 

True, she said. 

Sometimes my therapist and I talk about current events. The children dying at the border, climate change, nuclear war. My therapist says it’s a well-known fact that the most oppressive countries have the most beautiful national anthems. Have you heard Russia’s? she asked me last week. It will break your heart, she said.

No thanks, I said. 

I think I’m having an existential crisis, I said. 

People are always saying that, my therapist said, sounding annoyed. But they don’t really understand what existentialism is. Sartre said you create your own meaning, not that life is meaningless.

I meant Kierkegaard-existential, I said, not Sartre-existential. The leap of faith, I can’t make it, you know? I am stuck squarely in the aesthetic phase, only I’m not having any fun. 

I’m kidding, I didn’t actually say that. Can you imagine? 

A month ago my home was invaded by ladybugs. I hired an exterminator but they reappeared overnight, on windowsills, in my bed, in my hair. There are worse things, I suppose. Worse infestations. I am learning how to live with them.

When they die, it’s always upside-down. Sometimes they’ll lie there on their backs for hours, for days, moving their little legs in the air like they’re groping for the floor. Like they’re waiting for the world to magically invert itself.

Sometimes I pick them up and put them back on their feet, right side up. My good deed of the day. My way of reassuring myself that dumb optimism is sometimes rewarded.

 

 Lauren Hooker is a writer and editor living in New York City.