agreed that she was in improved physical condition, but still
couldn't afford a smile on Dr. Cern's behalf. "I can't quite
remember when I weighed above a hundred pounds."
approximately six months ago. She had morphed into a tiny,
wafer-like creature with bony fingers and chest from an
elongated depressive episode. Her shrinking mass had amounted
to a measly 90 pounds when she couldn't bare to fulfill an
organism's basic survival need. Combination of anti-depressants
and weekly therapy sessions had coaxed her into a more
reasonable disposition, allowing twenty glorious pounds of fat
and muscle to adhere back to her slim figure. Even after
weight-gain, her muted clothes still draped on her frame like
living room curtains and swallowed her whole. She had no
history of a deliberate eating disorder, but rather had nearly
given up on a propensity to live.
reached behind him for his clipboard and paper cup of tea.
Smiling broadly into his papers, he started writing notes.
"Personally speaking, Lis", he rose his eyes to admire the
regained fullness in her cheeks, "it's brilliant to see you."
He was intensely relieved at her relinquished health. He was
silently happier than Elise could glean, and he sipped his tea
equally quietly, so as not to disturb his muted emotions with
intruding sound waves. "How's everything going this week? Any
despairingly at her brown sweater. It was mid-June, with
climates creeping into the low '90s, but was of no relevance to
Elise's choice of garment. "The increased dosage is good. Work
has been good, busy. Many papers this week. Um, coming home is
trying, though. I'm starting to reconsider moving in with a
roommate to dampen the loneliness." Her hair fell listlessly
over her chest as she leaned her head onto the wall behind her.
The quiver in her voice had seemed to startle her. "It's
psychiatrist was tediously following his professional mandates
by writing notes to document Elise's current conditions. He
enjoyed being tedious and had a guilty pleasure for exactness
and closure. But with Elise, he felt more comfortable leaning
his back against the chair and observing her slight gestures
and facial movements. Occasionally he would cross his legs and
fold his arms over his thin countenance, noticeably akin to
Elise's. His thinness, however, did not indicate malnutrition
or feebleness, but rather reflected his predisposition to an
all-consuming academic lifestyle. His evenings and weekends
were spent cycling through psychological and psychiatric
journals, fictional paperbacks, nonfictional gems, and emails
from his father. For leisure, Dr. Cern tidied his apartment,
tendered to his blooming garden, and wine-tasted with his
Mexican neighbors. He was unnaturally homely for his level of
culture and income. He was also keenly aware of professional
boundaries, however, and kept ink to paper.
"Does work keep
you occupied so as not to feel the full brunt of depression?",
Dr. Cern asked.
helps. I'm usually too focused on editing a steady flow of
papers before the director fires me. I've been turning in good
thoughts, mainly. I can't keep them quiet. When it gets
unbearable, I'll fix myself a glass of red wine or a gin and
tonic and sit outside on the grass until I stop crying. The
neighbors have finally stopped giving a damn."
"Can you see
anyone after work? A relative or a friend that lives
"I don't keep
in touch with anyone who'll drive out to see me."
"Have you tried
to get in touch with someone from work? Perhaps you could even
meet them in a public setting."
public outings I can manage at this point are my workplace and
the farmer's market. Otherwise, I'm reposed at
speculated that only a lack of motivation was destructively
hampering social productivity. He thought it was worth Elise's
mental stability to be forthcoming with her. He relocated his
papers and cup onto his desk, furnished with a metallic
bendable lamp and filing folders, and combed fingers through
his hair to thwart impending nervousness. His collared
button-down seemed to tighten around his throat as he began to
speak. "Lis, I wouldn't mind having you over for evenings. I
could even come over to you, if that's more convenient." His
hand was gently clutching the back of his neck to facilitate a
potentially jeopardizing non-professionalism. "For
embarrassment seemed to seep through the hands covering Elise's
face. "I appreciate that, Dave", she paused and continued
slowly. "But I'm not sure how I'd feel about that. I wouldn't
want to waste your time, and I'd feel awfully guilty." Her eyes
dropped frequently to the floor beneath her shoes and only
fleetingly met Dr. Cern's face, a characteristic that the
psychiatrist had noticed early upon meeting her.
He tried to
circumvent the arising awkwardness with an innocent, and
perhaps more acceptable, invitation to dinner. "I don't grow a
garden for pure aesthetics, you know. I've known you for a
year, Lis, and I probably owe you a birthday gift or something
equally respectable." He shifted his gaze to a bookshelf to his
left full of various DSM evaluation texts and journals. "I'd
like to have you over. I have a house right in southern
Lakewood, rather close to you."
Elise lived in
a small apartment in Millstone, and so silently validated the
truthfullness of his statement. She spread her hands over her
jeans in deliberation, "Well, not for too long, I guess. And
probably a Friday would be best."
it, Lis", he spoke to her with a comforting casualness. "The
houses are huge, but are all decaying and inhabited by extended
family. I found one of these near the county park and restored
it fully. It's perfectly livable now, and has quite a spacious
backyard. Hence the garden."
"Have you been
making tamales and fried chilacyote?", she teased and stifled a
giggle. Elise had traveled to Mexico and Peru on vacation
during her 20s and embraced the traditional cuisine,
ironically, as if it were her unrelenting passion.
Dr. Cern had
caught her surfacing facial gesture, even though it wasn't
fully manifested and was vocalized with Elise's stoicism. He
reciprocated with gentle laughter, cracking his knees as he
applied effort to stand. Any further inkling of a smile from
Elise would have sent a characteristic redness to his face. He
thought fondly of her, of course, and found it intolerably
frustrating to ignore a certain impulsiveness around her. "7,
Lis. Come at 7 before los niños find it fitting to blast
contemporary Latino music."