How to Save a Life
Aiden stared. He wasn't really staring at anything, he was just staring. Staring and thinking. Rather, letting his thoughts wander, it seemed a more accurate description at least. He didn't really catch where his thoughts were wandering to; but that was completely irrelevant. He knew that he was not thinking about how boring his life had become recently. No definitely not that. And he wasn't thinking about how he felt like his mood was on a constant roller coaster. Or how he couldn't do anything right anymore. Or how even when he felt like he could do something, within an hour he would see how stupid that was. Or how because of that last thing he was now on his way to see a shrink, some old guy paid to nod his head and ask Aiden "how does that make you feel?".
"And to make matters worse, it wasn't even Mom and Dad that set up this fiasco, it was Mr. Balden. My English teacher feels he has the right to set my up for a shrink but not my parents!" Nope, he most certainty wasn't thinking about any of that. He had no idea what he was thinking about but he wasn't thinking about any of that.
"Hey," Aiden's mom patted his knee from the front seat. "We're here." She made it sound like it was such a great thing even throwing in a small smile. It was as if she was saying 'we're here, now go inside and come out the son I've always wanted you to be.' But no matter what he did, he wasn't good enough; his grades were never perfect enough, his attendance was never great enough; he was never enough of the 'someone' his parents wanted him to be.
"Okay, I'm coming." He replied, opening the door of their family's forest green mini van. Standing next to the soccer mom car, as it had been affectionately dubbed by Aiden's little sister, he looked up at the non-descript building in front of him. The building was the same as any of the countless office buildings on the same block. The whole block had a very uniform feel to it. It was kinda creepy. He wasn't surprised though, with the kind of money that was being shelled out by his parents so that he could get, 'help', it had to be a private location that wouldn't draw attention. After all he was the perfect son, they couldn't cause a fuss by going somewhere where anyone might see him.
"Come-on, Aiden. If we're late, we'll have a hard time getting you in at all." His mother hurried up the steps to the glass doors. "Come on!"
Aiden hesitated only momentarily before following.
The inside was the same as the outside had been, completely general, nothing that wouldn't have fit somewhere else. Commonplace potted plants, bland terracotta colored furniture, the kind that was made out of the really cheap, durable, uncomfortable fabric, and the obligatory middle aged women behind a desk that was as ugly as everything else was uninteresting.
His mother was already at the desk checking him in. Aiden considered how much he really looked like his mother; he had her doe brown hair, though his was quite a bit shorter than her waist length waves; her eyes were also his own. They shared her family's intelligent green eyes, even when she was acting like a bimbo the eyes always gave her away and, according to Aiden's father, it had always been that way. He reflected that one of the few things he shared with his father was his tendency to see only the best or only the worst of someone, in Aiden's mother's case it seemed to be the former for both of them.
If he was being brutally honest he could admit that his mother was nothing more than a gold-digging social climber who married his father only because it had seemed as if he was the next up and coming millionaire. But he, also like his father, was seldom quite that honest with himself.
His mother was done checking him in and they were being asked by the nice middle aged woman to have a seat on one of the uncomfortable looking couches.
"Dr. Harold will be ready in just a few minutes, I'll call you when it's time." The woman smiled in what she must have thought was a very pleasant manner and went back to sit at her ugly desk. He wondered if most desks were that ugly? He'd yet to see one that quite matched up to this one but who knew? Maybe somewhere some poor shmuk was breeding horrifically ugly desks.
"Mr. Stern? Dr. Harold will see you now." The middle aged receptionist, woman said. Aiden got up and was halfway across the unremarkable room before he realized that his mother was following him. He didn't turn, but he did stop walking.
"Mom, this is a therapy session." He could feel her behind him, she didn't move.
"Ma'am, I'm sorry, but he's right, you really can't go in with him." The middle-ager chimed.
"Oh." His mother went and sat down.
He crossed the rest of the room and followed the older women to the session room, as they called it. The unnecessary torture room, as he called it.
"Wait here, the Doctor will be in in a moment."
The room was nowhere near as non-descript as the rest of the building, it was themed in soothing warm colors, reds and browns mostly. The furniture looked comfortable, swathed in a deep maroon cloth patterned in simple geometric shapes. There was a short couch that looked like it could hold maybe three people, if one of them were sitting in the others' laps, and a large armchair that looked so overstuffed that Aiden was afraid it would come apart at the seams. A few cherrywood bookshelves were scattered around the room. He wandered over to one of them, scanning the titles as he walked.
"I'm glad to see that you find my selection of books to your liking." A melodious feminine voice sounded from the door way.
"Your books? I thought they were the doc's?" Aiden inquired. He was staring hard at the books without really seeing them; he was really hoping she wouldn't answer the way he knew she would.
"I am the, 'doc', as you put it." The woman, Dr. Harold, gave a good natured laugh. "Am I to assume that you are Mr. Aiden Stern?"
It was Aiden's turn to laugh, "Who else would the receptionist bring to your 'session room'?" He asked. She chuckled. Her laugh was really warm.
"Silly question?" He could hear the smile in her voice.
"Yes." He finally turned to confront his new shrink. She was about average height, with honey blond hair that curled slightly and bold brown eyes that had a real edge of intelligence to them. Her face was softened by the smile she wore, making her seem open and understanding. Otherwise, she had the perfect face for a psychologist. He'd ended up with someone almost the exact opposite of who he'd expected.
"Was it stupid of me to think you'd be a guy?" Aiden asked.
"No." Dr. Harold answered. They were both sitting now. Aiden on that lovely short couch and Dr. Harold occupying the overstuffed armchair. It was awkward. At least, it was for Aiden.
"Do you ever feel weird doing this?" Aiden asked her, gesturing vaguely in her direction.
"'Doing this'? What do you mean by that?" Her eyebrow arched.
Aiden struggled to find the words he wanted. "Being…being a shrink." He ground-out haltingly. She let out another good natured laugh. It annoyed him, how she always seemed to be laughing.
"No, I don't really ever feel weird."
"Because I help people," She said simply, "And, I get paid very well to do it." She grinned, pausing to let him soak up her comment. "Do you mind if we get started?"
"No, go ahead."
"Do you know why you're here?"
"You're the one getting paid to tell me that."
"No, I'm getting paid to: One, diagnose you from what you tell me and the observations I make, and Two, listen to what you say." She corrected gently. "So you want to tell me why you're here?"
Aiden sighed; this was going to be a very long hour.
"I just want to go home." Aiden thought, as he climbed onto the big yellow transport to hell the next morning. It was really fairly pathetic, according to his brand new shrink, he was depressed. That's what Dr. Harold told him after spending less than an hour with him.
"I can't be absolutely sure at this point but it seems to me that you are very depressed." She'd said it in such a serious tone too. He had no doubt that she believed every word that came spilling out of her mouth. At the time, he had asked her exactly what he'd asked his English teacher when he was about to call Aiden's parents. He'd asked her what he'd done to make her think his head was screwed up. She never answered, just gave him a sad look.
Aiden settled in next to one of his friends. A slightly slouched redhead named Aron.
"Hey man. What's up?" Aron asked.
"Nothing much, the normal. You coming to the game tonight?" Aiden fired back the question.
"Nah, too much homework." Aron replied.
"You didn't finish it over the weekend?" Aiden asked.
"No, I went to some parties. Homework is not something to do on a weekend anyway." Aiden laughed at his friend's reply.
"So you're going to do it on a week night when you could go to a basketball game?"
"Better than a weekend." Both of them degenerated into mindless laughter.
The bus pulled into the school parking lot soon after.
"I can't believe I'm 16 and still taking this yellow monster to school." Aiden commented.
"You? I'm a senior and still taking the bus! Imagine want I must feel like."
That was the whole problem, the fact that all Aiden's friends were seniors. Every last one. All of them were going off to some collage or another, in some far away state. Sure he was happy for them; it was great that they were continuing their educations. "I just wish I had some friends in lower grades." Aiden thought.
"It's a whole new level of pathetic." Aiden agreed wryly. Aron nodded sagely, not minding the dis session at all.
The two of them headed into the school and to first period, lightly bickering the whole way.
The bell rang for first period immediately after Aiden slipped into his seat at the front of the English room. Mr. Balden was already standing to start the lesson.
"Today we're going to being starting a group research project." The class visibly brightened as soon as the word group came into the picture. "Don't get too excited though, I've already picked your groups for you." The atmosphere dimmed again. "You will be in three person groups, hopefully with people you haven't worked with before. You'll be researching a classical book of your group's choice."
Aiden ended up with a peppy red head he recognized from the girls' basketball team and a sloppy guy with mop brown hair that Aiden didn't know from anywhere. He was the kind of person that you didn't notice until he spoke. It didn't seem like the two should run in the same social circles, but both his partners acted as if they were childhood friends.
"Do you two know each other?" Aiden asked. The peppy red replied.
"Yeah, he's lived on my street since we were really little, like six."
"I thought it was something like that, you guys argue like childhood friends." The two looked puzzled by his declaration. The red head recovered fast, springing right back.
"I'm Éclair, like the dessert," She introduced. "And, this is Damien, there is no cute comparison in existence for him, sadly." Éclair waved her arm to include the mop haired kid in her spiel. He waved, seemingly happy to let his animated red head friend do the introductions for him. Their apparent close friendship made his situation seem even more hopeless.
"I'm Aiden." He gave his lame self introduction.
"So what book should we use for the project?" Damien jumped in. For the rest of the period they discussed possibilities for what book to use. He kept getting distracted by the smallest things, it frustrated him.
"Hmmm." Dr. Harold made a noise that Aiden assumed was supposed to mean she was deeply pondering what he'd said. "I'm happy that you seem to have made some progress with your depression, but I can't help and think that you should keep trying to make more friends. Having a support system is often the most important thing for people with depression."
"Really?" He asked dryly.
"Really." She replied, just as sarcastically. Her psychoanalytical bull was really getting exasperating, and being exasperating was getting irksome; it seemed like he was annoyed, exasperated, frustrated, vexed, or just generally irritated most of the time now days. And, to top things off he was having problems sleeping, couldn't sit still, and was always tired.
When he brought up all his frustrations to Dr. Harold, she only started talking about the 'tools' he 'needed' to 'get over' his supposed depression, and how she could 'help him talk things out'. He had left that session a wee bit early.
"You really do need to start considering that you might have depression." She continued, oblivious to his inner musings. "I mean, everything that you've described to me sounds like symptoms of depression. I'm not saying that you don't know your own mind best, all I am saying is that you need to think about it, do a little research. We both know that you've been feeling down a lot lately, and I just want to help." She'd had him up to 'I just want to help'. He'd been thinking that maybe doing some research wasn't a bad idea, more information was always good. And when he got more information he could think about it, make his own decision on whether or not he needed anyone's 'tools' or not, but her last comment just made him angry. He didn't want her pity, he didn't want anyone's pity, but they all tried to give it to him. All it did was make him resentful.
Dr. Harold was still waiting for his reply. "Do want me to believe that you're not just some high-and-mighty idiot waiting to get paid?" he asked her. She was taken aback for a moment before replying.
"Then stop throwing those words around! They're so cliché! People only say things like that when they want something!" Aiden was shouting. She hadn't expected him to explode like he had, her eyes were wider than they should have been, and she was frozen in shock. He was so tired of hearing the same things all the time! 'I just want to help', 'Let me help', it was nothing but help, help, help! And the worst was none of that was real, no one wanted to help some one else just for the sake of helping, there was always an ulterior motive, always.
Aiden got up. He couldn't stand being in the, 'session room', any longer then he had been. He flew out the door to the waiting room calling to the woman at the ugly desk on his way out.
"You can send the bill to my address." Then he was on the stairs, quickly moving outside. When the sun hit his face he felt a pressure release. He hadn't been able to spend much time out-of-doors ever since he'd started the sessions with Dr. Harold in the building that looked just like every other around it.
After running for about 3 blocks, he slowed to a trot, then a fast walk, then a slower one as he calmed further.
He kept walking, no one would be by to pick him up for a while yet and he had his cell. While he walked, he thought. Mostly about the emotional blow-up he'd just had. Maybe Dr. Harold's hypothesis about his depression had some backing after all; maybe he really was messed up like that. He didn't want to think so, but. maybe how he'd been feeling and how he'd just reacted was a sign that he really did need some help. It was a desolate thought to Aiden, but maybe he couldn't manage his own life without help.
It had been two weeks since his blow up, and Aiden was starting to see that he really couldn't manage his life. To make matters worse, he still wasn't getting any sleep so he was even more snappish than he would have been otherwise. On top of everyone else being grating on his nerves, he was grating on everyone else's. There seemed to be only one exception to this rule, as he'd started to think of it, Éclair and Damien.
"Well I guess that's two exceptions then." The two of them were so in sync Aiden had begun to think of them almost as if they were one person. It seemed like his incessant bad mood didn't bother either of his English partners. If anything, he was very grateful for that little fact, it meant he had someone who would try, and probably succeed, to cheer him up, even when his senior friends started to avoid him because of his attitude. He was disappointed when they handed in their research project because it meant that unless they invited him, he wouldn't have an excuse to hang around.
At lunch, he hung out with his friends like he usually did. He didn't really get into the conversations though and had a hard time paying attention to anything going on around him. It took Aron waving a hand in his face before he realized that someone had asked him a question, and when he hadn't answered the whole table looked at him with concern.
"Aiden, are you okay?" Shelly, a girl he'd known since her freshman year, his 6th grade year, asked with evident worry.
"I'm fine," He assured the entire lunch group. "I was just zoned out, sleep deprivation, and midterms are coming up." It was half true. He hated lying but some of his friends he wasn't that close to, they were, a lot of them, more like acquaintances that he liked to hang out with. He wouldn't have told Aron, let alone the rest, that he was starting to suspect that he couldn't handle his own life. He would never tell them that his English teacher and shrink believed that he had depression and that he was starting to believe he had some kind of problem too.
"After all, why else would I be so pathetic?" He thought.
It seemed like his answer had failed to placate Shelly and Aron, but the rest of the table was satisfied so they let it go, for the time being, and returned to their own conversations. "Leaving me to my own thoughts." And, for now, he was quite happy with that.
After another ten minutes of staring into space, Aiden decided he needed some different space to stare at. He stood from his group's table and walked out of the room, leaving a slightly awkwardly filled silence in his wake.
Aiden couldn't stand to be inside any longer. He'd always been an outdoorsy type person, he played baseball, soccer, and ran track for the school, and he still ran outside when he was upset, or when he needed to think.
Out to do just that, he settled into the shade of his favorite tree on campus, a pine that overlooked the soccer field. Some of his class mates were on the field playing a game with the half hour they had left of lunch. He squinted at the field and recognized two of the figures running to catch up up with the ball. One of them was Damien, and was the one Aiden recognized first. The other was Éclair, who was running just ahead of Damien in the race to steal the ball. Aiden felt a pang of envy at their close friendship. At one time, his friends would have chased him out of the cafeteria asking him what was wrong, but they hadn't. He guessed it was to be anticipated; they couldn't be expected to chase after a sophomore, they were seniors.
He realized it then, how sad everything about his life was. He hung out with friends who didn't care enough about him to ask what was wrong and press when he was lying, his parents were both seriously emotionally messed up yet he still did everything he could to please them (neither one of them had been the one to say he should go to a shrink), his English teacher was the only one who noticed that he was acting different, and he dreaded the end of group work because it meant he would be left to himself again, he didn't even have the excuse of a traumatic past he was just this pathetic naturally. Aiden tried to think about why he kept going, but he couldn't remember.
Aiden stood at the edge of the stadium sized bleachers. He was contemplating throwing himself off. He was pretty tired of the life he was trying to lead. Besides if he did it like this it could be shaded to be an accident.
"I was cheering on the soccer players and slipped. No one's at fault and Mom won't have to air our dirty laundry for the world to see." He couldn't believe he was still thinking about making his parents happy, even now. "I guess if a behavior is ingrained enough it becomes second nature." Aiden stared at the ground for a long minute. "Maybe I'll jump off a bridge instead, something that couldn't ever be an accident, force her to air the laundry."
"Hey, what are you doing up there Stern?"A loud chipper voice called from the ground.
"Éclair, I don't need you to get in the middle of this." He didn't reply to her question out loud. He started fortifying himself for the jump. He wondered, briefly, if he should spread his arms, like a skydiver but dismissed the thought as silly. If he did that they would know he hadn't just slipped.
"Hey, you! Stern! Quite ignoring me!" He kept ignoring her.
"He's ignoring you because he wants to jump." Damien's voice quietly chimed in.
"Well, that's not good." She pointed out. "The height from the bleachers would make him go splat. Even if he wanted to off himself, from that height probably wouldn't kill him. Only maim him for a month or two. Terribly painful, but not quite the intended effect. Normally being maimed tends to ruin your mood." She put in smartly. With a little jolt he realized she was right. He really wasn't in his right mind the fall was only 3 stories at most. Aiden had heard stories of people surviving off of 6 or 7 story drops. No, if he'd jumped, it just would have hurt, a lot.
"We did come up here to see if you wanted to go to the movies with us today, but if you're going to try to kill yourself there's no point." Damien said in a matter-of-fact voice.
"We were going to see that one that just came out too." Éclair pipped up. Aiden had to smile at that.
"Good job narrowing down the field there." he finally called back to them.
"Good, so you are talking to us." She replied. "Does this mean your not going to kill yourself?" She asked.
"Of course he's not. He never was. I can't believe you didn't get that it was just a joke!" Damien exclaimed, the loudest Aiden had ever seen him.
Aiden and Damien shared a glance. Aiden knew that he knew that Aiden really had been trying to kill himself, or at least seriously thinking about it, and Damien knew that Aiden knew that he knew. Aiden knew they would have to have a long talk later, but was grateful that Damien was helping make Éclair think it was just a joke. Aiden also knew that if he knew any more his head would just about explode.
Aiden started down the bleachers to join his new almost friends in planning for the movie.
Another school assignment that I felt like posting. Let me know what you guys think!