Standing to one side, I watched the crouched figure remove a nail from between its lips. The figure swiveled slightly, sweeping its gaze past me just for a moment. The opaque eyes panned the landscape beyond without searching or wavering. I might have been a fleeting emotion; untouched, unobserved and unable to connect with this consumed being.
Slowly, it placed the nail on top of its pale foot and brought the hammer down in one precise swing. No hesitation in the movement, no acknowledgement of pain, only deep involvement in the process. Nail from lips, to foot, swing of hammer and repeat the process. The figure’s tortured feet bristled with the consecrated nails. The ground beneath was a red reflective pool of form, action and indifference.
I shut my eyes to the void where anguish should be, and opened them to the dim light of my office. My throat was dry when I spoke.
“It seems your parents requested this meeting, yes?”
Giving the file an explanatory nudge, I glanced over at the young woman sitting across from me in the over-stuffed chair. My question hung in the air, as expected. I was the last hope after neuroscientists, psychiatrists and shamans. I was the traveler to her living purgatory. But I wasn’t her hope.
“I’m sorry.” Pausing for gentle emphasis, I continued, “I cannot help you.”
My senses intensified to gage her reaction - a honed response from having issued this innocuous finality before. The young woman continued to mindlessly regard the carpet, picked for its soothing blend of soft colors and simple patterns. The decorator had done well, but the lack of vitality in the office was almost obtrusive. Or perhaps I was still dealing with remnants of the girl’s psyche.
I paged the attendant to escort the young woman back to her room.
Gazing at her parent’s number on top of the closed file, I reached for the telephone handset. My mind conjured up the vision of a hammer swinging down resolutely. My knuckles went to my eyes, rubbing ineffectively to erase the visual that looped quietly in my head.
(story & illustration by me)