Dust within a thought

(The following is an excerpt from a longer piece.)


Dr. Kat Sheroki stood in her office, her hands on her hips as she leaned back and forth side-to-side gazing from her second story suite window. Her deep, hazel eyes were a perfect complement to her light brown hair, and softly painted freckles on a pale complexion. Her short, petite and gracefully slender figure seemed a contradiction by a professional sense of superiority and detachment some may have described as ice-cold and demanded sharp respect.

Lifting her coffee mug to her lips, she would have benefited from a refill, but had not the time or enthusiasm to take a trip to the break room. Instead, she slowly swirled the remnants around, and peered numbly into it to discern the coffee stains. It looked as if an alternate world had been turned upside down and inside out, and its land dwelled above a muddy ocean … a concept to which many of her patients could relate. She set the mug down turning her attention to the window overlooking parking lot.

She noticed smudges on the window glass and dirt and dust in the corners, which irritated and twisted up her nerves … she tried to ignore it. Perfecting everything had been a constant headache and took a great deal of mental time and energy. Recognizing her issue, she attempted to think of things she could be doing instead … if only she could ignore the smudges and refocus. Unable to think of anything better or more important, she strutted to her bookshelf, retrieved cleaning supplies and cleaned off the window and sill corners. Though she felt relieved, it was less than she anticipated. The tediousness of her habits seemed unnecessary after the attention had been given.

Mid-afternoon often provided a mood of restrained containment compared with the swiftness of activity earlier in the day. Sunny and slightly breezy, seagulls were congregating and scavenging around the lot. Kat had been amused by the communication skills of birds. Instinctively they are able to rationalize their place of existence and distinguish their individual breeds. They live peacefully among their own collaborative environment … unlike humans. And unlike humans, birds don’t require a psychiatrist. As a result, Kat felt blessed many human beings leaned towards the psychosomatic.

One man in the parking lot caught her attention as he hesitantly stepped from a rusty old hatchback. He seemed peculiar as he glanced suspiciously at his surroundings, seemingly with mistrust and perhaps a touch of resentment. He obviously wanted to be elsewhere … as did Kat.

Kat sometimes wished she possessed a keener imagination, allowing her to escape leisurely into her mind and enjoy, rather than instinctively over-evaluate. Though a consideration it frightened her having no experience in that kind of mental escape. She wondered, How and when do people know when to return from their deep imaginations? She felt uncertain she would know how to return once caught up in deep imagination, and she knew certain clients never figured out how to return themselves.

She decided her best escape route, however unsatisfying it had been, was to continue to stare listlessly through the window.  It seemed a safe option. But the man she observed in the parking lot seemed to severely struggle with reality, and if he were not able to find an escape he would soon break. Her intuition told her his choice escape would be settling within his own mind …   and she felt somewhat envious.

The man appeared to be in his late twenties, a few years younger than Kat, and his boyish mannerism seemed to clash with his apparent age. He looked a little too thin, possibly causing him to appear a bit taller. He seemed youthfully careless and unsure of what to do and how to do it, appearing to struggle if shutting his own car door would be right or wrong. He made several attempts before shutting it completely. It seemed each time he tried, he shut it as softly as possible in an apparent attempt at not being heard … careful not to draw attention. It would have made no difference. Kat shook her head thinking, the only people roaming around were the mentally ill and a few professionals, like livestock being examined by potential buyers. She cringed at her thought of entertaining such a morbid idea. Though these came to her much too often.

The man’s hair, nearly black, looked somewhat long and unkempt, and he wore a vintage-style black slim fitting tee shirt with dark colored jeans. Ordinary clothes, but he wore them well with an unusual charm Kat could not put her finger on. He walked cautiously towards the building with his head down, and his arms pressed against his body, causing him to seem quite frail.

Something about this man piqued her curiosity, but as he disappeared under her window she realized he wasn’t much different from any other of her clients … sad and tormented for some unknown reason. She felt, all living in a secluded and self-absorbed world but being as much a part of it as anybody else, and the responsibility of every community, could be a scary thought.

She let out a deep sigh. She often asked herself why she had chosen psychiatry, but simply, a curiosity grew into ambition, which made her determined to be the best. She wasn’t. But she looked good on paper. She thought paper is what matters most … paper is ultimately where people are judged despite actions being more accurate. She looked at her filing cabinet where she kept all her client files … her depression visited her again.

She returned to her desk; an antique oak teacher’s desk, painted mat black, nudged and dented, chipped but enticing, which she had dragged out from her mom’s basement years before. A black wooden executive chair on rollers accompanied the desk, a remanufactured copy of a classic.

She browsed through the file for her next client, a new client by the name of Calvin Vincent Szymanski. Thirty-seven-year old Calvin had a long history of psychiatric treatment and a violent criminal record. He had recently been released from an extensive hospital stay. He had two daughters from different relationships; Mayla, age seventeen, and Veronica, age eleven, with whom he had no contact. He had never married.

Kat sat down and stared … out into a void below the surface of a daydream but failing to capture a dream … she came back and pulled opened her left-hand drawer. She removed a framed picture of her and Eric, taken during a vacation at Yellow Stone two summers into their three-and-a-half-year marriage. She often wondered why she kept it. Perhaps it had been a token, an unused and expired token, into the life, the person, and the daughter her mother desired Kat to be. The kind of life her mother considered to be the natural way of things and Kat had persistently denied since her divorce.

Throughout her life, her mother, grandparents, friends, and acquaintances, often accused Kat, of being stubborn, and she had even overheard her stubbornness mentioned by colleagues and subordinates on occasion. She appeared renowned for this and thought of the accusation as strength. It caused her to feel more individual than what others were by taking her own route. Her stubbornness seemed a virtue, a means to tread her own path, in her own way, despite what others thought. She felt going against what other people considered the best way to do things not only separated her from them but set herself above them.

She needed to consider herself above others, where she could observe, contemplate, and keep a safe distance. She felt when people make themselves equal to others, they limit their vision, their senses dull, and they end up in some sort of trouble, involved in situations where they do not belong … other people’s business, and their lives become more and more complicated and they become trapped. Many people seemed to her to embrace this kind of lifestyle, the excitement of drama, but Kat wanted nothing to do with it.

This had been a reason why she had poor relationships with people. Even with Eric, she thought him below her, her subordinate, and in a way, she treated him as such. He had been there to serve her when she wanted him around, but most of the time she acted if he hadn’t even been there, more correctly, as if she hadn’t been around.



By C. Anthony Delano