The waiting room has no natural light, the moments after arrival occupied by filling in forms – noting the rules on personal data, completing a checklist. As I read each word there is a shadow behind it. And when I fill in the form my hand shakes, my writing – generally illegible – looking like the scrawl of an old man.
The receptionist takes back the clipboard and the forms, invites me to sit.
I’d been early. Fifteen minutes early. There for a couple of minutes when I’d caught sight of another person with an appointment. She seemed startled, eyes darted left, right, avoiding any acknowledgement – rushing through when the man in the rumpled suit appeared at the door, nodding hello. I guess the appointments were scheduled to avoid those awkward interactions. But I’m sitting here for fifteen minutes and my breathing is speeding up, and I feel the tightness in my stomach, and grasp my right wrist with my left hand, and I count.
In. Two. Three. Four.
And out. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight.
In. And concentrating on my wrist in my hand.
And out. And on my breathing and counting to ensure I am breathing out for twice as long as I breathe
And she appears, grey haired, glasses. She is short, slight. She quietly says my name, and I stand, and I’m much taller than her and feel a little uncomfortable and stoop to say,
Yes. That’s me. Yes.
And she takes me to a door at the end of a corridor, and she opens it indicating I should enter and
The room is light. Light walls. A desk made from light wood to my left. Large windows, with pale blinds, to my right, a coat-stand in front of them.
It is light. So light.
On the wall farthest from the door is a small two shelf bookcase, next to a semi circular coffee table pushed tight against the wall. The chairs on either side of the table are cushioned with wooden arm rests, the cushions the same colour as the box of tissues on the coffee table.
I am ushered in, walk in to the light, and I am invited to hang up my coat and scarf. I take them off slowly, hang them up deliberately.
I’d phoned the day before, a call long delayed. The number had been scrawled on various pieces of paper around the house – in notebooks, on newspapers, on train tickets. But there was always a reason not to phone. Too busy. Too much on. But some days when I’ve nearly phoned I’ve thought I was too well. But I’d phoned the day before and was told there’d been a cancellation and so I could be seen tomorrow. Would I be here if there’d been a delay? If it had been a week? I’ve bounced myself into it.
The tissues. The box of tissues. She moves them towards me.
The preliminaries are sensible. Obligations of confidentiality are summarised. Provisos detailed. The catch all note that information from the file may be shared within the practice to focus on how to help, to cover those unforeseen circumstances where someone is ill. It’s familiar from legal work. Similar concerns. I switch off. Nod along. Remembering lectures on professional ethics where
And she is looking at me expectantly.
I tilt my head. I clutch my wrist.
– So, let’s begin. What brings you here?
And I talk: