“Thanks for this couple’s retreat,” Daniel said. “I really appreciate it.”
“Just making life easier for you.”
“Yeah, but then we have to get back to reality.”
I looked down. We were both in our bathing suits by the pool at night. The glass ceiling up high revealing the black sheet of night. Stars protruded beneath. The only light coming from the underwater lights, reflected in never-ending motions by the surface waving of the pool.
It was an expensive retreat, but one in which Daniel and I could use. Especially considering the past few weeks.
I sighed. “You know, you can keep up this positive attitude. What’s to say you can’t?”
Daniel chuckled. “Easy for you to say.”
“You were happy. At least I thought you were,” I mumbled.
“I am happy. I swear it. It’s just,” he shrugged, “things are harder for me to process, I guess.”
“You still haven’t told me everything.”
“Are you going to?”
He held his breath. “I…don’t know.”
“Well, why don’t you take me to the psychiatrist you’ve been seeing?”
He looked at me. “Okay. I guess I can live with that.”
“Good. See? Compromise,” I smiled.
A lull occurred. I heard a small slap of the water and craned my neck forward to check it out.
“Sorry we haven’t been having as much sex lately,” Daniel said, breaking through my fixation.
I didn’t think he’d bring it up. I thought he thought we were having plenty considering, but it’s true, we haven’t been at it like usual. It’s not because of the medication he’s been on. There is medication that won’t hinder his libido. It was just him emotionally. He’d get hard, would kiss me, hug me, touch me, but the moment we start taking off our clothes, the heat just subsides, and something in him just makes him stop. And I can’t go on because he suddenly can’t handle an overwhelming emotion, and I need to be there for him more so than just sexually.
“It’s totally fine,” I smiled to assure him. “We can spoon.”
He held out his hand. “Come here.”
I smiled and stood from my long pool chair and hopped into his, lying down on my side and in his embrace. It was uncomfortable at first; for however expensive this retreat was, these chairs sucked. But it got better. He placed a kiss on the top of my head; I switched around and rested my head on his chest.
“Some of these people are weird don’t you think?” he asked.
I chuckled. “Daniel.”
“No really,” he laughed. “I mean, not to be rude or anything, but I thought I had problems.”
I laughed again. “They’re not so bad.”
“Not so bad? Did you hear what Ernie said about Sandra?”
I looked up at him. “No. What?”
“She’s this pathological cheater. She’s addicted to it. Can’t stop. So he figured to just let her do her thing.”
“Oh my God, that’s so sad.”
“Like I said. These people, whoo.”
“Why doesn’t he just leave her?”
Daniel shrugged. “Don’t know. Obsession? I’m telling you, that isn’t the only weird story I’ve heard.”
“Wait, wait, wait—you’ve heard? As in rumour?”
“They told me, too. Weren’t you there?”
I shook my head. “I guess I don’t roll in the same circles as you do.”
“It’s fucking weird. They spoke as if they’re so proud. To a whole breakfast table full of people. It wasn’t just me. And they all nodded without judgement and I’m the only one looking around shocked. Am I so far removed from reality that relationships have become that evolved?”
“I don’t think it might be healthy but—” I shrugged— “he loves her. I guess relationships have evolved but not as far as not doing anything to keep the one you love.”
I looked up at Daniel when he didn’t say anything. Pain flooded his eyes, it hinder his words and silenced him. This was my first foray into dealing with someone who was mildly depressed and I didn’t know if I should watch my words or not. Was it supposed to be all the same? Like how it was? How it’s always been? This is another reason why I wanted to be in the same room as him and the psychiatrist he’s been seeing. I wanted to know if I was doing my part in helping him overcome his depression. Can I do that without knowing the causes? I’ve read that some people can’t figure out the source of their depression and so they go on not knowing. I didn’t know if I should feel frightened or not that Daniel knew his cause almost immediately and was so sure of it. No doubt whatsoever. I guess it’s a good thing. Right now, I need to focus on him telling me what they are.
This may sound so selfish, but I hope they’re not about me. The last thing anyone wants to know is if they’re the cause of someone’s suffering. That would catalyse an aspect of devastation I’d never known, and therefore, never known if I could bear.
So, we’re back in New York and Daniel has been jittery the whole journey back. He’s been going back and forth on whether or not it’s a good idea to bring me along for the ride. Turns out I’m not the only one with doubts and worries in my head, they’re just much harder to deal with on Daniel’s end.
“You said I’d be able to come with you.”
“I know, I know, I know,” Daniel said, dropping our bags at the entryway. “I just thought maybe you don’t come to this session. The next one.”
“That’s what you said last time, and the time before that,” I said as softly as I could.
Daniel held his smile with effort, crushing his lips together. “You really restrained.”
I sighed. “I know. I’m sorry. I just don’t want to be an addition to your, you know…”
He chuckled. “Another symptom to my depression?”
I dropped my hands, defeated, and tilted my head. “I’m sorry.”
He shook his head. “No, it’s fine. But this is exactly what I’m afraid of happening. I don’t want you to go in there, listening to everything, and then come out with a different opinion of me.”
I don’t know how to promise that won’t happen. I gulped. “I don’t…”
And almost as if he read my mind, he said, “I know you can’t promise me anything, but I just don’t want you to think less of me.”
I walked closer to him. “That, I can promise, won’t happen.”
“I still want to feel like a man, you know, not some pussy that can’t deal with hard shit. There are people at war, dying children, and I’m the one that can’t deal with pain, which I happen to internalise by the way.” He shook his head, still smiling. “So stupid.”
“Stop it,” I grabbed his head to keep it still. “There’s nothing wrong with the way you feel about things. Everyone’s different. I’m just glad you’re doing something about it.”
I huffed a little laugh. “Seeing a psychiatrist. Communicating. That’s huge.”
“You’re not mad I never told you?”
I shrugged. “What good will that do?”
“Just don’t freak out okay?”
I laughed. “That sounds promising.”
He laughed with me. “Okay, just—” he straightened his arms out for a second— “be cool.”
I brushed my fingers through his hair. “Like, Daddy Cool?”
In the elevator of the building, Daniel was bumping his knees back and forth, watching the numbers increase.
“Relax,” I urged, using my free hand to rub down his arm.
He breathed a heavy load of air out. “I’m relaxed. I am.”
“You’re way too jittery. Look, if you don’t want me here—”
“No, you should be here.”
“Don’t think too much about whether or not I should or shouldn’t be here. Do you want me here? I don’t even mind coming another time.”
“No, that made me calm down a little, though,” he smiled down at me.
He nodded. “The fact that you’re not pushing for this is helpful.”
“Good, good.” I didn’t know much about these things, but it was my innate instinct that made me believe I shouldn’t press for actions, or for things to be done my way, in his condition. But it was also a fine line between being courteous and walking on egg shells, which the latter is something that Daniel will hate if I do.
The office of Doctor Bette Perkins situated on the 7th floor of the building. The receptionist was the first person I saw. Logging away on a computer behind the desk. To the left was the large waiting room, open to floor to ceiling windows that let through bright pastel yellow-white light.
“Daniel,” the girl beamed, “good to see you again.”
“Yeah, you too Andrea.”
“And who’s this?” she asked, looking at me with an ear-to-ear smile. Her short chestnut brown hair up in a ponytail, wearing a light pink cardigan. Teeth as white as milk.
“This is my fiancé.” He squeezed my hand.
Andrea’s eyes widened. “Fiancé—” she elongated the word— “how awesome—” definitely in her 20s— “when’s the big day?”
“We haven’t picked one out yet,” I said.
“Well, I better be invited,” she winked, twirling a pen in her hand.
“You’ll be the first to know,” Daniel said, to my surprise.
Andrea laughed. “Yeah, right. Well, the doctor is in, you’re on time, let me take you through.”
“Andie?” I muttered. Daniel looked down at me. “You guys are on a nickname basis?”
He shrugged. “I come here.”
I nodded. I’d missed a lot.
The doctor’s name was plastered on the door in block letters: Dr. Bette Perkins, followed by a bunch of acronyms. Her office was large but cosy; large double seater couch, black leather, facing a coffee table and beyond that a large office chair whose backseat widened at the top, beginning from the bottom and turning up in an upside down triangle. A small table next to it, housing a notepad, a lamp, and a timer.
Bette Perkins was behind her desk (in a much smaller chair) and rounded it when we entered the room. She took off her glasses and held them in her hand. “Welcome back, Daniel.” Then she looked at me. “And welcome to you, Anna. Glad you could be here.”
I smiled. “Thanks. I wanted to come.” I squeezed Daniel’s hand.
“Please, take a seat.”
Daniel and I sat on the couch, glued together at the thigh. It was a two seater but it looked big enough to fit three maybe four.
“So,” Bette breathed out as she sat down in her single chair opposite us, “what made you decide to come along, Anna?”
“Oh, I just want to be here for Daniel. I want to know as much as I can and help in any way I can.”
She nodded, jotting down some notes on her notepad. “Good. Do you know everything?”
“Not specifically. I know he’s been dealing with a depression but I don’t know what the cause or causes are.” At this I noticed Daniel gulping. He was avoiding my gaze effortlessly.
Bette caught a glance of his while I was speaking and then returned to me. “The best way to understand a person with depression is for me to let you know how their brain is working.” She began to draw large amounts on her notepad and then held it up so we can both see. “This—” she pointed at a circle with irregular shaped blocks inside, and one small circle— “is the mind of a person who isn’t dealing with depression. This—” she pointed to the circle beside the other, where the irregular shaped blocks were mushed to the sides by the much larger circle inside— “is the person of someone who is. These are fundamentally two different minds that think way differently from each other. They feel differently from each other. The comparison is massive. And this is where we’ll start.”
“But I thought Daniel was dealing with a mild form.”
“He is,” she nodded. “But it’s the same thing. He has bouts of extreme depression that come and go. This can all be controlled through medication.”
“I’ve…never noticed,” I said in small voice, feeling ashamed.
“No,” Daniel shook his head, “I hid it well. Sorry.”
“Okay, next order of business,” Bette said. “Can we talk about everything and anything?”
Daniel furrowed his brows. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, does Anna know everything?”
“No, I figured she’d know here.”
Bette nodded. “Okay.” Then, she leaned back. “Whenever you’re ready.”
Daniel turned to me and clapped my hand in his a few times. Both of ours warm and clammy. “Okay, well, I guess it started with my mother.” He cleared his throat. “I can’t shake the thoughts that it was all my fault she died. I let her die. I tried helping her and I couldn’t. And it killed me. So, yeah, that’s where it started. Not timeline wise, but I just kept thinking about it until it took over.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” I whispered. “You did everything you could. I know she’d be proud of you.”
“She’d be proud of me no matter what, Anna, that’s what hurts the most.”
I gulped and held my tongue.
“How’s the drinking going, Daniel?” Bette jumped in.
“Oh, he’s going well,” I said. “Last he had was a beer and that was only a few sips.”
Bette flickered her eyes between me and Daniel. Daniel’s eyes were on the floor, then he peered up.
“Daniel, if we’re going to talk, we’re going to have to be honest,” Bette said.
Daniel licked his lips and turned to me again. “I…I haven’t exactly been so good with the drinking either.”
“Well—” I stopped short, confused— “what do you mean?”
He sighed, his shoulders rising and dropping. “While you’re sleeping I sometimes grab a drink, or two or…whatever. Just so you don’t see.”
“Oh my God.” My eyes began to burn. Water was going to rise, I just knew it.
“But I’m trying to keep it under control,” he quickly said.
“I’m taking them out of the apartment.”
“What? What about you?”
“I’m not drinking either. I think we should both cut it out.”
“Anna…I don’t mean to change everything—”
“You’re not. This is a good thing. This is a very good thing for the both of us regardless.”
“Are you sure?”
“Mm-hmm,” I nodded, smiling. Keep those tears on lock! I sighed. “Anything else you want to tell me?”
Daniel and Bette stole each other’s glances again. This time round, Daniel seemed extremely worried. He didn’t blink once and his eyebrows hadn’t lowered either.
It was too intense for me to bear, the secrecy was just too much. “I don’t want you to think I’m coercing you.”
Daniel laughed. “No, you’re not. Oh God—” he breathed out, his laugh fading— “Fuck.”
“It’s up to you, Daniel,” Bette said. “But if you want us to work through with this, then you have to be as honest as you can.”
“Okay—” he took my hand in both of his, rubbing in between and then kissing the back of my hand. My heart was pumping like crazy— “just know that I love you and I still want to marry you.”
“Okay,” I said, hesitantly. It wasn’t meant to come out hesitantly but my mind was running wild with theories.
“I, umm, ever since I found out Richard was having a baby with his new model, I’ve been searching them and following their footsteps, you know, through google. Well, they had their kid.”
I nodded. “Okay. They had their kid.”
“It’s hard to see that when…you know…”
I drew my hand back and froze. “When I don’t want kids.”