The room was hot and stuffy. The fluorescent lights that worked blinked while most of them were dead or empty. Most of the lighting for the room was natural but with the small windows that looked to be more appropriate for prison, the room was also poorly lite. However, the room was still crowded. This was the venue for the free counselling service in Doran’s new neighbourhood and it was always well attended according to what he heard, though not necessarily by the same people.
“Okay I see some new faces, some regulars and… some who I am glad have resurfaced again. Whatever your struggle, whichever place you are at, whether you are here for the free lunch, as part of your parole, because your mama dragged you here…haha Jamal settle down. I just want you to know, I am here with you. I have been where you have been and I am grateful you are here now. In fact, you are not alone, we have all been there. And we will be here for as long as you need us to be here. Come whenever, we will be waiting.” he finished saying with a serene smile on his face. His name was George. He was the counsellor for the community centre and the main reason the meetings were always well attended.
Despite the poor environment, the dangerous neighbourhood and the lack of funding and interest from the city, George was there, everyday. The group theory was only on Wednesday afternoon, a kind of mid-week energizer as George called it, but he was still in the counsellor’s office of the center everyday of the week, even Sunday. He had even bought a cellphone that was always on, always charged and someone was always responsible for answering it, be it him or some other regulars. Thus, Doran knew that George had succeed in the most crucial job of any therapist- building trust.
George adjusted his knitted sweater, and relaxed despite the heat, the stuffy room and the varied state of the people in the room. He was the eye of the hurricane, lighthouse in this storm of negative emotions and mental states. Even though, he was a sixty-three year old man, his eyes were still bright with youthful optimism but tempered with experience and the comfort of been satisfied by who he was.
“Hi, my name is George and I am an alcoholic.”
“I have been sober for 38 years. I have also had to deal with PTSD, which is actually what triggered my drinking. But most importantly, I am also the counsellor of this community centre. I started of like most of you, looking for help in all the wrong places, mostly at the bottom of a bottle, until I lost everything. My wife, my kids, my self-respect. Then an old army buddy came to find me. He had heard about my condition but he was still on tour so it had taken him awhile to get stateside. He took me to a VA hospital, got me cleaned up. When I was sober he came to visit. He was reminiscing about our tour and our unit. I was so thirsty. I could smell the smoke and blood…and the voices. Then he looked me in the eye and said, ‘Sergeant, we could have died any day. Most of our friends there didn’t make it. Their memory, who they were, what they dreamed, we got to carry it now. So stopping being buried. The one thing the army taught us is to fight…to fight together. Anyway fall down as much as you need, I will always come back to pick you up but remember we are a unit, you need to pick yourself up sometimes so you can help me when I fall down.’ I started crying.”
The calm from George seem to spread across the room when he said this.
“He he he. I wish I could say I didn’t fall down again after that, but I did and General Steven Target of the First Army Infantry Battalion was true to his word. Basically he reminded me about three things. We never accomplish anything alone in the army so why should we try to do it alone outside the army. Secondly, the army teaches through habits, there are habits for everything: making your bed, carrying your gun, loading a HMG. So I just needed new habits. And finally, the hell that is war, is bittersweet; I know the ugliness of battle but I know that my willpower, my habits and especially my buddies are strong enough to see me to the end of any war. So, guys, I am here, I am the Sergeant, you ready to fight a war.”
Doran felt something. It wasn’t the solution. It wasn’t the turning point. It didn’t mean the struggle was over. But he felt he could fight his next battle a little better. Maybe he will be okay on his shift on Thursday, maybe he might enjoy furniture shopping with Alise on the weekend, he definitely will be calling Raj again. Maybe the room wasn’t so hot and stuffy after all, Sgt. didn’t seem to think so.
“Okay, so, this is not an alcoholics anonymous meeting…even though they have some good ideas…and they sure know how to break the ice. I know some of us are struggling with behavioral health issues or substance abuse or domestic violence or whatever. It doesn’t matter. I am the Sergeant and we fight as one. So who wants to go first, tell me about yesterday and we will figure out together how to face tomorrow.
Doran settled down to listen. He wasn’t here to treat anyone and he wasn’t ready to share yet. But for some reason the room seem to be brighter despite the flickering fluorescent and prison windows.
“Yeah Raj, the counselor was pretty good. As experienced as I am, I was a bit jaded about the whole thing but I actually think I felt something…wait Raj, I am not saying I may not need an antidepressant in the future but you know how I feel about medication…yes it is an acute response to a chronic problem…huh, oh yeah, there is a risk with the bar but it’s not like I am going to be drinking there, that would just be adding to my problem. Yeah okay, by the way how is Shan…yes Rajeesh I am asking about your wife to change the subject…okay that’s great, anyway I need to run.” Dorian said as he struggled to fit the key into the apartment door lock, “No, no, no…I am not avoiding you…I just…yeah, I am alright…ha, ha, at least today has been a good day…I don’t care how often my mum has called you, I will handle her. Just tell her nothing …I will call you tomorrow…Okay? Okay…sigh.” he finished the call, focused on the lock and barged into his new apartment.
The door got cut on the clutter of clothes on the floor as there was already little space to beginning with in his new, “micro” apartment, without his current condition exacerbating things. The apartment had a closet kitchen and bathroom with a pull down bed that required everything to be put away before it opened fully. However, Dorian didn’t even bother with the bed, he made do with a sleeping bag set in the middle of all the clutter, which served as his only piece of furniture. The smell of old pizza and dirty socks was a new unpleasant experienced for Dorian but he just couldn’t find the motivation to do anything about it. He dumped his laundry in the pile and proceeded to munch on the latest fast food he had bought as his kitchen was not set for cooking yet.
Ring ring. Ring ring. Ring ring. Ring ring.
Dorian’s phone kept ringing but he ignored it completely hoping the caller would give up and he could then retreat into his shell and let the world pass by as the good mood from the counselling session was slowly fading because he knew who was calling.
Ring ring. Ring ring. Ring ring. Ring ring.
The phone started up again but this time Dorian glanced at the caller ID. Catherine Whitaker (Avoid unless impossible). Dorian sighed heavily as he picked up the phone. He knew he had been avoiding Catherine for so long that she would not stop calling him until well past midnight. He waited for the phone to almost cut before he swiped on the answer button.
“Hello Mother!” Dorian answered.
“I have told you REPEATEDLY not to answer my calls like that. Call me Catherine or mummy…no Catherine or Cat…he he he. WHY haven’t you been answering my calls?” Catherine asked with a whine.
“I have been busy settling in and haven’t had the time.”
“To busy to speak to your mother. Where are you even? You didn’t tell me before you left. You didn’t consider how your actions could affect me… you just up and disappeared. I had to find out from your university. And that your friend…Ramze or Rajee…is the worst. He didn’t even tell me where you are- I am your mother.”
“Yes, mother. I know it was abrupt but…”
“I SAID CALL ME CATHERINE!”
Dorian could feel the excitement and resolve from his first counselling session, evaporate on the steam roller that was his mother: impractical, contradictory, needy, controlling. These were just some of Catherine’s flaws to begin with and Dorian had been on the receiving end all his life. There were too many scars and abandonment issues for Dorian, even as a trained psychologist, to want to unravel, but he was now convinced that his failure to do so was what was crippling him now. Dorian tuned back into the conversation.
“…just like I told you before, your step-sister, Lydia is acting up again. And refusing to enter the mother-daugther pageant with me. Unbelievable I finally have a daughter like I always wanted and she will much rather play with resistors and electric circus…no wait circuits…ah whatever. Its unreasonable and selfish. I need you to talk to her. She listens to you. And then there is Darren, your step-dad. He keeps saying that he is cursed to love me and I need to control myself better…it’s his fault…he doesn’t listen either or consider my needs. Now he is talking about marriage counsel…why is everyone persecuting me…Dorian my boy, how can you leave me at a time like this…WAH, you need to come back and talk to all of them for me.”
“Mum-…sorry Cat? I cannot help you because… I am dealing with a situation,” he mumbles, “that I have had for some time,” he continued louder, “that has resulted in a problem for me. I am about to rest my line for a year and get a burner phone. You will not be able to reach me for a while…but I will call you and the rest of the family…periodically” he mumbles again, “I can’t keep enabling you.” Dorian continues loud enough to hear, “Darren is right and you, you leave Lydia alone…”
“AH, AH, WAH! Why do you hate me like this? What have I done wrong? Why is everyone against me? Even you Dorian don’t leave me…I lost your father already…DORIAN, DON’T…”
“MOTHER! Listen, this is only for a while and it is necessary for me…please try to understand and accept…despite what you may think…. I love you…but I…we need some space. I can’t solve all your problems, just try to see things from other people’s perspective…”
Catherine’s voice got very low and seemingly morose, “Dorian, what are you saying…”
“I am hanging up now mother. Take care.” Dorian hung up the phone as he had finished saying his goodbye but the phone started ringing immediately after with Catherine Whitaker (Avoid unless impossible) on the caller ID. However, Dorian was now more resolved in his decision and powered off his phone. He would have to get a new line and send it to the university and Rajeesh. There were no other friends close enough to know the new number, because his mother and his quick progression through school had somehow alienated them, and his sister and dad would not be able to keep it away from his mum. Oh, come to think of it, he would need to update his phone number at McLaren’s. Ah, he was also going furniture hunting with Alisa.
Dorian couldn’t imagine how he would fake it throughout that day and wished he could have told them that was not necessary due to his apartment size.
As Dorian crawled into his sleeping bag in his boxers and an undershirt, he couldn’t help picture that fiery vixen name Alise as he drifted off and surprisingly her imagine was in color despite the grey hues of his current dreams.
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