To the closest surviving relative of Hannah Moss:
This message is a simple precaution. A member of staff has noticed Hannah has been exhibiting some worrying symptoms concerning her illness recently. We could like to ask you to keep Hannah company until further notice, to prevent her doing harm to herself or others.
The CleanMinds Team
I blink and blink again, rubbing my bleary sleep-eyes. The message isn’t meant for me. I’m not related to Hannah. That wouldn’t be ethically sound as a therapist… Even by my standards.
I need to alert work and tell them to send the message to her actual relatives. Someone needs to be looking out for this girl. This 38 year old girl…
It’s odd. I’m 27, and I feel oddly maternal towards her; it’s like watching a train wreck from behind a tv screen- you can feel the phantom pain, but the real pain is being experienced by others.
At least she has a boyfriend. I stroke my cat and take a thoughtful bite of the ice-cream. She may just be having harmful thoughts. Committing thinking errors. She’s a narcissist. She always has to be right.
Of course, thinking about work leads to a stressful chewing of the ice cream and a subsequent brainfreeze, which is good because at least it puts a stop to my thoughts. I let work know about the error, and know they won’t get back to me until office hours tomorrow. There’s nothing I can do for Hannah until then.
I try to go to bed to avoid it- instead my brain won’t let me sleep until about 5 AM. The alarm goes off at 5:30 and I skip breakfast. The drive is grey and foggy, the tall dark brick of my building sticking up from the white like an imposing shadow.
Though my appointment with Hannah isn’t until 9:30, I have two other patients to see to- Dan is a kleptomaniac and an alcoholic who sees me to avoid going to prison and losing his family. Claire is going through postpartum depression and an unsatisfying marriage. There’s nothing quite like living the lives of these people, fixing them and shaping them into something either tolerable or over. Preferably tolerable, of course. Dead clients don’t pay so well.
Opening the door, I’m not exactly prepared for the sight that greets me- a note written in bright red ink on my otherwise cleared-out desk. The bookshelves behind it are barren, and the tan-lines on the wall where my certificates and PhD once were displayed is also bare.
I know it’s serious when I see the official CleanMinds water mark over the paper and the crisp cuts of executive signatures at the bottom of the note.
Dear Dr Nossbaum,
You have our condolences for the unfortunate happenings of last night. However, we understand your need to take some time for yourself in the light of such an unfortunate circumstance. We have sent a dispatch package to your living area, and your severance package should be transferred to your account within the next fortnight or so.
If there are any problems with this, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
It has been our pleasure to employ you.
Frank Crickett, CEO of CleanMinds
…Clearly, there’s some type of mistake that’s gone on here. Maybe one of my co-workers got jealous of my access to Hannah and decided to pull a prank. More of a hiccup in my research than anything else. Inconvenient.
I go downstairs to the front desk and ring the bell. Lauren comes forward with her typical smile. ‘How can I help you?’
‘Hey Lauren. I think there’s been a mistake upstairs- my office has been cleared out and there’s this letter…’ I had said paper to her and she takes it, sitting at her computer with a frown.
‘Give me a minute.’
Her fingers are like lightning on the keyboard for five minutes straight. That’s all it takes sometimes, a little search and a tiny bit of work and-
‘I’m sorry, we have no record of anyone by that name working here.’
Lauren hands me the letter back. ‘We have no record of anyone with your name working here.’
‘That’s impossible. You know me! Remember, I drove your kids to daycare when your husband was sick?’
Lauren looks at me as if she’s never seen me before, and as if I’ve grown five heads. ‘How do you know about my husband?’
‘Don’t you remember? It was when I first started working here-‘
‘Look, I think you should take a seat. I’ll call someone to sort this out with you shortly, okay?’
The hummingbird of a heartbeat in my throat calms a little bit. ‘Thanks, Lauren.’ She gives me a different type of smile and gestures to the seats.
Waiting areas drive me mad. Ours is grey and blue- maybe it’s meant to be calming, but I personally think it’s more depressing than most of the people who come to us for help. When you’re depressed, the world is already blue and grey and black; you don’t need your therapist’s decor to confirm your worst suspicions about yourself.
A heavy hand on my shoulder shakes me. I look up and see someone I don’t remember ever seeing before, with a badge that reads ‘SECURITY OFFICER: DAVID’
‘Hi, David.’ I try to crack a friendly smile.
I’m out of the door before he even learns my name. Lauren pretends not to hear my protests as I am forcibly removed from the building.
I should tell you, at this point the amount of confusion has peaked within me, and is now a safe plateau building to fast breathing and thoughts with clipped wings. I decide to do the safe thing, the British thing-
I’m going back to my flat for a cup of tea.