Title Our Authors

Coward

By Lee Nelson

Therapy was recommended

and she was recommended

so there I was.

 

All those academic years

and all those practicing years

of the "therapeutic relationship"

for its worth or worthlessness

and I looked at her like so many

have perhaps looked at me

and I felt an absence of commonality

just before blubbering uncontrollably.

 

It all dumped from me like a tipped jug

copious at first and spilling everywhere

until a trickle remained and what was left

had to be raised and poured

and she was good at that

though it didn't take much.

 

I cried to anger

I cried to frustration

I cried to fear

I cried to bereavement

I cried to derision

I cried to misunderstood

I cried to injustice

I cried to disillusionment

I cried to mystery

I cried to futility

I cried to hate

I cried to love

 

and I cried to the mother of them all:
I cried to rejection.

 

She offered Kleenex and advice

and said it was all a good start.

She said next week

same day same time.

Let's get you better.

 

I never showed

and I never cancelled. 

That was discourteous

and shameless.

Weeks passed

and I never saw a bill.

I felt quite shitty about all that

and my problems never improved.

I was left with another reason

to hate myself.

 

Many months later

a patient presented.

A young woman.

She'd blown her hand apart

with a large firecracker.

It was a disastrous injury

life changing

and from her disgusted

terrified and inconsolable

position, quite the

Darwinian experience

to rise above in later days.

Even my Darwinian moments

paled to compare to her horror

but I've had a lot of them

and it's no genius of my own

that I've never been her.

 

I took her good hand into mine.

I pulled her to me and she cried

soaking tears into my shoulder.

She wasn't looking for advice

but I gave her advice anyway.

Maybe I was giving it to me.

 

I gave her the obligatory:

What doesn't kill you

makes you stronger.

This is the first day

of the rest of your life.

One day at a time.

You'll heal.

You'll learn.

This won't define you.

 

I can't tell you if she heard any of it.

The curtain drew.

It was her mother.

Her mother was my lone day therapist.

Thankfully, there was the hand surgeon

too.

 

They got the lowdown

and I got the stink eye.

Here was her daughter

and me.

The busy healer

hadn't forgotten me.

 

Her daughter let go of my hand

when her mother collected her into her arms.

The stink eye continued over her daughter's shoulder.

I nodded and looked at my shoes.

 

Confession:

You do your best for all your patients.

Your best is always an amalgam

of circumstance, vigor

qualities and fallibilities

but all that said

some just get the all of you.

It's like football:

any given Sunday.

 

That girl had my all

all night long.

She did great.

My red eyes meant little.

My care was hardly consequential.

It was all I could ask for.

 

I'll never forget her face

or her hand.

I'll never forget her mother.

She applied

to the canvas of my soul

the briefest brush of wellness

I've ever known

 

but to this day

I'm still me

and still probably you

most of you

most of all of us

that cannot

face.

 

And I've never returned

to therapy.

 

 

 

 

 

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