I arrive early at the hospital unit, half an hour early. I’d taken the train, walked to the offices, worrying I’d be late. The building was nondescript, a bungalow amidst other bungalows. There’s a security intercom. I buzz, give my name, and the door clicks open.
There is no one about when I get inside. Three empty plastic chairs, the sort of chairs you get in secondary school classrooms, are in the hall. I sit nearest the door, take out a book, wait to be seen, conscious of the clock on the wall opposite. I hear every movement of the second hand.
After a few minutes people walk past, carrying bags or files. There are nods, murmurs. I read the same sentence three times. Awkward. Not going in. Names merging one into another. I turn back to the start of the chapter.
And I hear every movement of the second hand.
Someone else comes in, a woman, younger than me, brown haired. She smiles. I mouth a hello. She is seen within minutes, leaves about ten minutes later.
Every movement of the second hand.
Then my name.
– Hi, would you like to come through now?
Her office is large, computer on her desk, next to the keyboard an A4 notepad, narrow feint. Her chair is set at a height that looks uncomfortable. She perches. Fidgets in between writing notes.
I sit in a chair with is back to the window. I cross my legs, tuck my foot behind my calf, and fold arms.
She looks. Makes a note
– I have the referral from your GP here. It was
She looks at the letter clipped in the file.
– ah. Ten months. Oh. I’m sorry there’s been such a delay. We’ve had, mmm, staffing issues. Some retirements. Lack of legacy planning. You know?
I nod. I know. It’s familiar. Such things happen across offices, across sectors.
– Are you off at the moment?
– Three weeks past. I’d kept going and kept going but I was struggling. Things that had been fine became difficult.
She makes a note.
She looks at me. I glance to the door, edge down in the chair, arms folded tighter.
– We can go through the things your doctor, Doctor
She looks at the letter clipped in the file, reads the name aloud.
– We can go through the things he identified. Of course with the time some things might have. Anyway, I can ask you questions or you can talk, tell me in your own words how things are, how you got to here. We’ll cover everything either way, so it’s for you really. Which do you?
Which do I?
– I’ve been in counselling for around twelve sessions. Could I?
She writes a note, gestures.
– It started last year. I was on a train. The GP described it. Well, it seemed too dramatic. I thought it was too dramatic. Too strong. But as it’s gone on, I think he was maybe right. Maybe it was. But the word suggested something explosive, a bang.