He chews the nail on his right thumb. He looks at the floor. His stare is deep and vacant. I look at the notebook resting on my knee. The open page remains blank. I glance at the clock. It’s 10:38. Almost an entire session of silence. They say silence is a therapist’s greatest ally. Silence is invasive by nature and often guilty of unearthing unwanted truth. People tend to talk about anything and everything as a way of avoiding it.
He removes his hand from his mouth and looks briefly at his nail to assess the quality of his effort. Satisfied, he removes the newly severed nail sliver from the tip of his tongue and wipes it on his thigh. I look to see if the nail stuck to his pants. I don’t see it. It probably fell to the floor.
I look up to find his eyes on me. He looks at me like he looks at the floor.
“We only have a few more minutes left in our session,” I say, breaking the silence. “Is there anything you want to talk about before we’re done for today?”
He’s still. I click my pen open, then closed, then open again.
“It’s okay that you don’t want to talk,” I say, nodding. “When you’re ready, I’ll…”
He mumbles under his breath. I lean forward.
“There was nothing.”
“Nothing? What do you mean?”
He closes his eyes and draws a deep breath. On his exhale his entire body deflates like a cheap balloon, leaving him slumped in his chair.
“There was nothing stopping me,” he says. “I could have just as easily done it.”
“I could have jumped in front of that train.”
“When were you thinking of jumping in front of a train?”
“On the way to work the other day,” he says. “The same day I checked in.”
“What happened that day?”
“I was waiting for the subway, like any other day. I was just standing there, on the edge of the platform.”
“Okay. Then what happened?”
“And I looked down the tunnel and saw the light coming from the front of the car.”
“It just looked so…I don’t know what.”
“The light you mean?”
“Yes. It was like…” he stops and looks over at the dimly lit lamp on my desk, “…it was like it was drawing me in.”
“What do you mean by that – drawing you in?”
He licks his lips and looks back at me, his eyes unaltered.
“Like it was pulling me in, like I was a moth or something. It was this urge to jump that just came out of nowhere. I had never experienced anything like that before.”
“So prior to that experience at the train station, you had never thought about suicide before?”
“No, not that I can remember. Not in an I-want-to-really-do-it sense. Maybe in like a conceptual way. But never seriously. I was never depressed or anything like that. I never had a reason to think that way, you know? But that’s just the thing. It wasn’t really a thought at all.”
“What wasn’t a thought?”
“Like in that moment. It wasn’t a thought to jump. I wasn’t thinking about that, or really anything else. At least, not that I can remember.”
“So it wasn’t a ‘thought’ to jump. What do you think it was then?”
He pauses, curling his lips and snapping his fingers as if trying to beckon the right words into being.
“I don’t know,” he says, defeated. “I really don’t know.”
I glance at the clock. 10:45. Time’s up. There’s never enough time.
It’s okay not to know right now,” I whisper. “Unfortunately though, our time is up for today, but I will see you same time tomorrow morning okay? In the meantime, please try to get some rest.”
“It’s all I can think about now,” he continues, his stare slowly returning to the floor. “I could have done it. I almost did.”
“But you didn’t, right?” I offer. “You made a choice to come here instead.”
He stands, nodding his head and whispering to himself. I try to make eye contact. He doesn’t engage. He walks by me, eyes on the floor, still whispering and nodding. He exits, leaving the door open behind him.
“See you tomorrow,” I call to him as he walks down the hall. I close the door behind me and walk over to my desk to write my session note. It’s silent again. I put on the radio.
B. Dixon is an emerging poet whose writing draws on his study of Zen Buddhist philosophy and his work with those experiencing homelessness in Boston, MA. His writing has been printed in Frogpond Journal, Eunoia Review, Right Hand Pointing, Unbroken Journal, Under the Basho and Akitsu Quarterly, among others. Dixon has also contributed articles to The Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy’s quarterly journal, Cushion and Couch.