I wore a green wool sweater today over my usual ill fitting work clothes, it’s still summer but it was chilly.I knew deep down that I looked ridiculous. It didn’t help that I was wearing green pants and a green and blue shirt with a green backpack. My shirt is constantly coming untucked, my shoes are falling apart. But in my mind, I am able usually able to convince myself that I look great, which is a quality that I like about myself. Saves a lot of time.
I like to imagine that I look like Kurt Cobain in that green sweater he wore on MTV Unplugged in the 90s, shortly before his death. This is so far from the truth, I am as far away as you could possibly get from angel haired, heroin chic. The only similarities to Kurt Cobain and I are that we are both male and we are/were usually struggling with some sort of mental health symptom (I’m assuming this on Kurt’s part). I have never done heroin, as Kurt did, but I have been known to enjoy a Vicodin or three even though any pain from dental procedures is long gone or was never there in the first place.
When I got out of work, I had my sweater on again and it had warmed up outside and I was gross and uncomfortable but I didn’t feel like taking it off. I walked to the bus stop with the sun blinding me because I forgot my sunglasses. I think my sunglasses are a promo gift from an insurance company or something and I would never buy real ones because I would just lose them. I actually think those who do buy expensive sunglasses are very foolish and I am pretty sure they lose their sunglasses all the time and just throwing money down the drain.
The green sweater began to feel like I was wearing an electric blanket on an uncomfortable and annoying “medium” setting. I still refused to take it off because then I’d just have to walk around carrying a ball of green wool or even worse somehow attach it to my backpack and have it drag on the ground and fall off. “YOU DROPPED YOUR SWEATER!”
I waited around for the bus to come, smoking a cigarette and not enjoying it. Papery, hot and dry. Not like a cigarette with coffee or even better, a cigarette after Taco Bell.
One bus came and it was too full for there to be any seating available. I really didn’t feel like standing. Too much going on with the sweater and the mild heat and the sweater. Another bus came that looked promising in the open seating department. I got on and realized this might not be the case.
I went into my seat seaking missle mode. Like a very competitive game of musical chairs that only I am playing. More that willing to plant myself next to a crying child or a demonic crazy man, all I care about is the seat.
I saw a few open seats in the back of the bus. Not completely sure, there was a possibility there was a seat mirage. A miscalculated equation of sitting bodies or standing bodies just getting ready to sit. With hope, I made my way back to the bus. It turned out there was one seat left! In the back, where it’s a little tighter, a littler warmer, but a seat is a seat.
Just as I was about to triumphantly sit my ass down, I saw that sitting in the seat next to mine, was my therapist.
I stopped, confused, frozen, just staring at him and smiling idiotically. He smiled, waited a beat, and then waved his hand at the open seat like a “Price Is Right” model after she opens the door of a brand new refrigerator or front loading washing machine. We both laughed a little “this is awkward but this is happening and there is no way out of it” laugh. I sat down and stared straight ahead, sweating, in my sweater. I chose to stare straight ahead. And then realized that because I made that choice I had to stick with it through the entire bus ride.
I thought of anything I could possibly say or do that would make this less awkward for both of us, as the bus made it’s clumsy way down Michigan Ave. There was nothing. Every thought, everything I observed, every person's face I saw looked back at me in awkwardness.
A therapist isn’t like your teacher or boss or former one night (or ten minute) stand that you can be like “It’s so crazy to see this person in real life” and move on. They know every issue you deal with, every tragic thing from your past, every stupid little thing. They know things your family doesn’t know or your partner or spouse doesn’t know. And this is for good reason. So you have a safe space to share your absolute crazypants thoughts, and so your family, spouse or partner doesn’t have to deal with it. The only thing is, you can’t really have a relationship of any kind outside the therapist's office. With the clock and the books and the neutral artwork.
Could I make casual conversation as I would with a coworker who I was forced to sit next to on the bus? No. Because that might open up a Pandora’s box that (as the myth goes) can not be closed. In this case, the one to close it might be the therapist. And I did not want to have some comment or topic fly out of my mouth that might get a blank stare. Not that I would ask him to compare dick sizes (that’s silly no one would do that on a bus, not during rush hour) but I just couldn’t think of anything that might be appropriate for a therapist and patient to talk about on the fucking bus.
So I said nothing and he said nothing. I looked out the window on Lake Shore Drive at the beach at all of the shirtless, tanned, perfectly toned men bobbing along in their endless jog to nowhere. I swear they are hired models. Then I started thinking he probably thinks that I am looking at all of the shirtless models who are jogging along the beach to nowhere. And then I was like, fuck it. I was too tired from this mild trauma to care anymore.
As we neared my stop, I got up and smiled at him. He grinned oddly, but happily and I got off the bus. I wondered if he was watching me as he passed by the bus and again decided I didn’t care.
I pulled and grabbed at the fucking green sweater trying to get it off me as if it were on fire. I walked down the street, my shirt partially tucked in, carrying the sweater in the aforementioned ball. Relieved to be away from that silent, seemingly benign but in the moment, horrific situatuon.
As I waited for my next bus, a bus that always has open seats, a homeless man came up to me and asked me for a cigarette. We go way back, he knows I’m good for it. After he took it he said, “George Burns lived to be 120.”