This is a story about a girl. This is a story about doors. This is a very long story.
It's Friday morning. I have an appointment with my campus therapist Kate. This is terrifying in ways that I can't articulate. I've never been to therapy. I've thought about it, I've talked about it, I've advocated for other people I know to seek professional help for their problems. But every time I get to my therapist's door - and I have been there before, roaming the halls - I stop. I see the plate glass double-doors with their clean lines of decorative frosting, the row of outdated orange chairs that make up the makeshift waiting area, the tasteful potted plants that brighten up the beige walls.
Every time, I get so far as the door. Every time, I turned around. Every time, I can't bring myself to walk inside. Every time, a voice swells inside me.
You don't deserve to be here.
On Friday morning, I drive to school. I make my way to Ransom Hall with its three floors of compact hallways and hard angles. The campus is quiet; people are shuttered away indoors for regular class hours. A warm breeze makes it feel more like August than September. I make it to the canopy of trees outside the Life Sciences building and I start to cry. I can't stop. The girl reading her physics textbook on a nearby bench looks at me. Her face is pained, but she tries to hide her gaze in her book. I'm grateful for that.
I make it to Ransom Hall. I ride the elevator up and down the three floors. I peer around the corners of the claustrophobic hallways and their rigid geometry. The walls are the obnoxious orange and blue of our logo, our mascot, our basketball team. It's silent; the dingy fluorescent light fixtures cast jagged shadows in the margins of the splintering auxiliary corridors. It makes me think of a horror film, or a video game.
Press the right shoulder button to crouch. Hold your breath. Get ready for a Quick Time Event. There be monsters here.
I make it to the frosted double-doors. I take a deep breath. I turn around. I go to the women's room; I leave the lights off and hide in a stall. I imagine a laundry list of faceless people who deserve this appointment more than I do. People with real problems, like eating disorders or PTSD. When someone comes in, I wait for the tell-tale scrape of the lock and the rattle of the adjacent stall. I scatter before anyone can see me leave. The voices that chase me out sound a lot like my parents.
It takes another five minutes of riding up and down the elevators before I make it to the frosted doors again. This time I walk inside. I think of chummed waters off a golden coastline. I think of jungles so dense you can't see the sun through the trees. I see the receptionist behind a sliding glass window. She has a soft voice and a warm eyes behind tiny red glasses. She smiles. I pitch my voice up a full octave and smile as pleasantly as I can, even though my knuckles are white around the handle of my purse.
I check in. I sit down in a soft orange chair I think I recognize from an episode of The Brady Bunch. I think of leaving. I think of shark teeth. Everything is so bright and orange and soft and unreal. I make up a girl in my mind. I see her face, her small shoulders, her long dark hair, her beautiful brown eyes. I imagine that she's a chemistry student, or maybe biology. I imagine her walking across the campus with bones too heavy for her delicate skin, her back fit to break. I imagine she has a story about a frat boy rapist, or a predatory father, or a boyfriend who couldn't take "no" for an answer. I imagine her here in my place. I imagine how much she needs this.
I imagine how much she needs someone to talk to. How much she deserves this. How much I don't.
My therapist Kate appears at the doorway in a blue sweater. I can hear the voice murmuring from the threshold behind her, telling me to run. Her smile is so fragile, like the lines of her hands and collarbone. She reminds me of Frances McDormand from Fargo. I immediately think of three movie quotes to spew out in a lame attempt to be funny. I stifle the dumb laugh that threatens to bubble up. I follow her to a tiny room in the back of the offices. I sit in a tiny chair. She smiles. I smile.
She asks why I'm here.
I tell her it's a long story.
She says to tell her whatever I can.
At some point, the voice whispering from the doorway fades into silence.