Bobby stood outside the door to the therapist’s office. It was an ugly faux-wood with a thin window in the center. A navy blue blind was pulled down so that passerbys wouldn’t be able to peer in during office hours. The building, pale and beige, smelled like Fabreeze and had a veneer of cheer and happiness, as every wall had some inspirational poster and the receptionist’s desk was decorated with colorful stickers, fake flowers, and office supplies. The place was without a doubt meant for kids, which made it about ten times more embarrassing than normal that Bobby, well into his twenties, was still meeting with his therapist there every week.
The ugly door swung open and revealed Mrs. Campbell, or Linda, as she insisted he call her, his fifty-something therapist with greying hair and an inclination to patronize him. She looked up at Bobby, who was barely taller than her, and startled, nearly dropping her notepad she kept with her to write whatever therapists write.
“Oh, Robert! I’m sorry, I didn’t expect to see you so soon.” Mrs. Campbell stepped aside to let him walk in.
“Thought I’d come on time for once.” Bobby said. He sat down at the table they had their sessions at. When he was younger, he always thought therapists were supposed to make you lay down on those weird red leather couches and close your eyes. Maybe those were just for people who actually paid for their therapists, and not people who got theirs for free from the state.
Mrs. Campbell didn’t seem to get that he was joking, and instead cleared her throat awkwardly as she sat to the side of Bobby, taking out her notepad and some pens. “So, Robert. Bobby. How are you doing?”
“I’m fine.” He said. She jotted down a note. Great. Now it was recorded in history that on that morning, Roberto Romero was ‘fine’.
“How is your grandmother?” She said, adjusting her reading glasses that had a habit of sliding down her nose as she buried it in her notes.
Bobby shrugged. “She’s fine.” The start was always like that. I’m fine, she’s fine, nothing’s wrong, same old, same old. He wished that she would skip straight to the hard questions instead of wasting both of their time.
“Last time we spoke, you told me you were looking for a job. Have you had any luck yet?”
“If you consider getting offered the golden opportunity to bag groceries at the Big Y ‘luck’, then yes.” Bobby said. That wasn’t even true. Apparently, to get that job, you needed two years of experience in ‘customer service’.
Mrs. Campbell frowned. “I’m sorry to hear that. Have you thought about applying for any of the internships that I told you about?”
“I need money, not experience.” He looked down at his hands, nails bit down and ridden with white spots. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude. It’s just that I’d rather have a paying job than an opportunity, or whatever they call it.”
“I see.” She didn’t jot anything down that time. Was that good? Bad? Bobby had no clue. “What have you been doing to occupy your time? Your grandmother tells me she hardly sees you during the day. Are you getting outside?”
Bobby smiled to himself. His grandmother was alway nice like that, thinking the best of him when in reality he was simply sleeping in or locked away in the basement most days. “Yeah.” He said. It may have been a lie, but sometimes lies were ways of making sure people didn’t worry. Maybe that was why he had all those little white spots on his nails, he thought to himself.
Mrs. Campbell looked up from her notepad to study his face. He thought for a moment that perhaps she could see through his lie. If she could, she didn’t let him know. “That’s wonderful. Are you going to the woods? The trees are beautiful this time of year, you know.”
“Uh-huh, yeah. I started going on walks in the woods. There’s a path that goes from my backyard to a nearby river, so I usually walk there and stay for a while before coming back.” Lying was easy. It was like telling a story. Telling the truth was hard. Telling the truth meant that Bobby had to talk about his actual life, which wasn’t a story. It was the same few dull lines over and over again, repeating endlessly without variation. The truth was that he was bored and miserable, and the few sparks of joy in his life came from something he had learned at a young age to keep from others at the risk of seeming ‘weird’.
She smiled at him, her pink lipstick shining in the harsh fluorescent lights. It was probably the most enthused she had ever been at any of their meetings. “Bobby, that’s great. You, getting back outside, going for walks. That’s a big step.”
“Yep.” Bobby glanced at the clock, which had been loudly ticking since he got there. He still had forty minutes left before he was freed from the beige prison and could return to the safety of the cold house where he didn’t have to put on a show for any middle aged women. There, he was allowed to be as miserable as he wanted.
The meeting continued on the same as always. He was asked a series of questions and answered them with as little detail as he could manage. The smaller the lies, the easier they were to control. He liked to keep his therapy as far away from his actual emotions as possible. Opening up to someone, even if it was their job to be a person to open up to, wasn’t Bobby’s idea of a pleasant Thursday afternoon.