My hand hurts. Throbs a little.

What? Oh. No. I’m fine. It’s no big deal, really. I just ducked into the washroom, you know, and then my palm was slamming against the tiled wall. (Nice bathroom walls, by the way. Very smooth.) I guess I was just frustrated all of a sudden. Like—I don’t know, really bad.

Describe? Describe it? Describe. It’s like this heavy leaden feeling deep in your chest, like, like a pit jammed there in your chest, weighing you down and dulling the edges of your thoughts and cutting your laughs short. There’s this relentless screaming in your head, roaring, suffocating. Then you’re in the washroom and alone and—well, God, you’re in the washroom outside a waiting room again and it’s not so different from the washroom at home, y’know—and all that stuff in your chest is just bubbling up and crawling up your throat and the pit in your chest drops into your stomach and—

And. Fear, I guess. Maybe I just felt trapped or something. So I slapped the wall. Six times. That’s why my hand’s all red now, see? Don’t worry, though. It just stings a bit. The last shrink told me it’s better to let it out and not keep it all trapped inside, you know? “It.” I think she meant the pit. The feeling. Or something.

Walls. I only slap walls. I mean, I’ve never hit another person in my life. Well, unless you count the fights I’d get into with my siblings and stuff when we were little kids. But they were just spats, you know? Kid spats. Some strangling was involved. A lot of tears. And yelling.

I wasn’t a very diplomatic problem solver.

Am I now, though? Maybe. I feel—I don’t know, I feel like I’ve matured marvellously, all things considered. I understand stuff now, like why people might not have time for things (and consequently why I shouldn’t bother them), why pitching a fit is just about the worst thing to do in any situation, and why usually the best course of action when someone’s angry is to stay quiet. And maybe hit a bathroom wall later, once everyone’s gone or no longer paying attention.

One, two, three. Counting helps. Two, six, twenty-four… forty thousand three hundred and twenty. So, I used to do this thing, right? I’d just start counting right in the middle of a session with my last shrink. It was kind of funny. I mean, all she ever did was repeat everything I said back to me. Some paraphrasing and a lot of “I see”-ing were involved. There’s a name for that strategy, if you can believe it. Active listening? Right, yeah. Yeah. It’s, like, part of therapy from the “humanistic” school of thought or something. God. I’d even prefer Freud’s psycho couch to some human parrot, you know? No offense or anything.

So anyway, I’d just go, “One, two, three.” And then she’d be like, “One, two, three, hmm, right.”

“Two, four, eight, sixteen.”

“Two, four, eight, sixteen, yes, yes, I see.”

Yeah, what a laugh. I fired her. Well, I mean, I switched doctors. Oh. Switched to you, right. Hi. Did I mention you have a nice bathroom? Or nice walls, or something, at least?

Whatever. It doesn’t matter anyway, I guess, in the end. It’s not like you have to use the washroom outside the waiting room. You don’t have to wait at all. You probably have a washroom inside your office. That door over there, maybe? No? All right. All right.

Oh. Hey. Look at my hand now. See? It’s all gone. “It.” The redness, I mean. The throbbing, too. And the hurt. Everything. So, you see? I’m fine. I counted, we talked, you did some active listening. Everything’s okay. See? Touch it. Smoother than your bathroom walls, even.

But—wait. Um, could you, maybe, hold it for a bit longer? My hand, I mean. I don’t know—I don’t know if everything is fine. If everything is gone.

I don’t know. It’s hard to describe.


Illustration: Lila Huang