Elise herself 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."
It was 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.
Dr. Cern 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 triggers?"
Elise tugged 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 difficult."
The attentive 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
"Sure, it helps. I'm usually too focused on editing a steady flow of papers before the director fires
me. I've been turning in good work, lately."
"And at home?"
"Intrusive 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 nearby?"
"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
"The only public outings I can manage at this point are my workplace and the farmer's market. Otherwise,
I'm reposed at home."
Dr. Cern 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
Frustration and 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
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."
'"You'd like 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
"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."