Aphelion Issue 245, Volume 23
November 2019
 
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Too Many Thoughts

by David Smith




I sit on the chair with my hands folded in my lap, anxiously anticipating for when I get called. My parents are worried about me being “disengaged” with the rest of the world. They’re sitting beside me in the waiting room. I look around in the empty room, speculating on what the psychiatrist is going to talk about with me.

The small room is brightly lit, but that doesn’t ease my nerves. There is a table between two chairs with a five-year-old issue of The New Yorker. There’s also a year-old issue of National Geographic. There are a few works of exotic art on the walls that don’t make improve my jumpy feelings all too well. Besides the entrance into the waiting room, there is a secondary door leading directly into the hallway that goes to the psychiatrist’s office.

He was referred to my mom and dad by our family’s so-called “Primary Care Physician.” He’s the main medical doctor who takes care of our family’s basic medical needs. He gives us our check-ups and gives us special pieces of paper called “prescriptions.” If we’re really sick and need something that requires one of these, he writes it down as a prescription and we give it to our local pharmacy. They give us the special medicine for whatever sickness we might be suffering from.

Anyway, though, this special doctor who deals with sickness in the brain, called a psychiatrist, was recommended, so here I am with my mom and dad. They’re very worried about me and want to know if there’s anything wrong with me. They don’t think I know what they’re worried about. I have special ways of knowing what’s on their minds. It makes me very worried, too. I don’t want to be sick.

The door finally opens. A lady comes out and says, “Craig Moore, Dr. Helding can see you now. Please follow me, young man.” She gestures for me to come along.

“Go on, Craig,” my mom says, seeing that I’m hesitant to getting to my feet. She gently pushes my back.

I get up and go over to the lady, and she puts her hand on my back and leads me to the office. It’s dimly-lit, the blinds closed. The only real light source is a small lamp next to the doctor, illuminating his workspace.

When he hears the door close behind me, he says, without looking at me, “Sit down, please. Make yourself comfortable.”

I sit down on the couch that I recognize from movies where a person would lie down and talk about their feelings. After a minute, the doctor spins his office chair around. He’s not elderly, but he’s definitely an older man. He has a small white beard and thick, silver-lined glasses.

He extends his hand. “Hello…uh”—he quickly thumbs through a stack of papers, then looks back—“Craig.” He says this slowly, as if still unsure.

I shake his hand, “That’s my name, Dr. Helding.”

“Please, call me Phil. Don’t think of me so much as your doctor, young man. Please think of me as your friend.”

“Oh, okay.” I am a little more comfortable now.

“How old are you, Craig?”

“Nine.”

“Okay.”

We both sit back.

“Tell me, Craig.” He’s fiddling with a pen. “What seems to be the problem?”

I hesitate for a while, which doesn’t seem to faze Phil at all. I bow my head, facing my feet. I think long and hard. I lift my head back up. “The truth is, I don’t really know what’s…wrong with me. I really didn’t know there was anything wrong until my mom and dad started noticing stuff.”

“Oh? Well, let’s start there, Craig. What stuff were they noticing?”

I sigh out of not finding the right words. “I stare.”

“You…stare?”

“Out my bedroom window. My legs crossed, you know? I just stare at the cars outside as they go by. It soothes me. I get stressed out a lot. And—And, it just helps me.”

I must have said the last part a little irritably because he assures me, “It’s okay, young man. I understand.” He pauses, his hand grasping his chin. “Were you always like that? Staring out the window?”

I look down again and sigh. “No. No, it wasn’t. That was why my parents thought I might need some help.”

“I see.” I feel a lot less scared than I was because of his understanding. I do have manners. “Thank, Phil, for being so understanding.”

“It’s my job, to be understanding. I’m a psychiatrist. I try to work with your mind.”

I nod.

“What we have to do, Craig, is find out what made you start behaving like this. Being all alone in your room staring at cars, okay?”

I nod. “Got it, Phil.” I smile. “Thanks, Phil.”

“No problem, young man.”


*****



“So, Craig,” mom asked, “what did you and Dr. Helding talk about?”

I shrugged. I didn’t want to talk about it.

It was a rather tense environment in the kitchen, where I watched mom rinse dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. Dad and I were having lunch on the granite countertop, where we sat on our stools. I also took glances out the window that looked out to our big backyard, where there was a swing set and a slide. I took a weird interest in watching two squirrels chasing each other.

I know they’re my parents and they love me and wanting to know what‘s going on in my life is their job, but don’t they ever think that they can butt out of certain affairs? Like, for instance, a private conversation with a psychiatrist?

“Hey, boy,” dad cut in, always believing that I should respect authority no matter what, never thinking anything’s off-limits to parents (I should’ve known he would “stand up” to his son), “your mom asked you a question. When she asks you a question, you answer it. Got it, son?”

“I just don’t want to talk about it, okay?”

“Well, guess what?”

“No, it’s okay,” mom interjected.

“No. You asked him about how it went with the psychiatrist. You want to know, so he should tell you!” He said this, of course, all while still looking at me.

“Leave me alone…just for now…please.”

That was it for dad. He grabbed me by the cheeks so as to make my face look like that of a fish’s, and pulled it close to his.

(Really, Richard, you don’t have to do that!)

My eyes suddenly shifted to mom. I heard it. I knew I heard it. She never opened her mouth, but I heard it just as loud as I would have had she vocally spoken up for her son.

“Don’t you ever defy your parents,” he said, his breath reeking of something I had never smelt before. “We are the law of this house. Got it?!” I jumped at the force of the last part.

(Please, Richard, that’s enough!)

Come on, mom. He can’t hear you. He’ll listen to you, but not if he can’t goddam hear you!

I didn’t do anything in response to this sudden force, but something made his eyes go from angry to fiery. He let go of my cheeks and slowly put his hand toward my neck.

This was finally enough for my mom. “Enough, Richard!” She slammed a dishrag onto the counter where me and dad were sitting on our stools.

Dad shook his head as if coming out of some kind of trance.

My mom saw me shaking a little, and gave me a look as if to apologize for not saying something sooner. I looked back with what I hoped was a forgiving face. (I’m sorry you have to put up with this, hon. I just wanted to know.)

“It’s okay,” I said out loud.

She looked at me with a surprised face, as if I had just read her thoughts.

“I’m going to my room, if that’s okay.”

“That’s fine, baby.”

I went to my room and listened through a crack.

“Why would you do that, Richard?” she scolded her husband. I took solace knowing at least one of them was on my side.

“You asked him a question, Linda,” he said in a tone that suggested bewilderment at why he was getting yelled at, the stupid ass—“and he didn’t want to answer. You’re his frickin’ mother! You should be scolding him, not me!”

“Oh, God. He just didn’t want to talk about it right now. That’s—“

“Stupid, Lin. Stupid! He should’ve told you what he and the doctor talked about. Nothing is off-limits to you.”

Mom gasped. Thank you. “If you really think that—“

“I do!”

“—then you’re gonna’ destroy our son!”

“Pff! What are you talking about? Never mind. I don’t care.”

“Screw you, Rick!” With that she stormed out the front door.

I closed the door the rest of the way as quietly as I could so as not attract suspicion, and stood with my back leaning on the door and slid down. What also came down were some waterworks. I covered my face with my palms.

(Stupid bitch. Stupid-ass kid.) A long pause. (Why did I ever leave that hot thing in high school? She wouldn’t have given me a screwed-up little shit like this idiot.)

I’m nine, dad! It wasn’t like this my whole life. You’re the one who’s screwed-up…daaaaad.

I always heard everything. Why? Why me? Just so many damn thoughts. Too many thoughts.


*****



It was nine at night and time for bed as I sat on the edge of my bed, not looking out the window for a change, rather just staring at the wall thinking about what had happened that afternoon. I hated my dad sometimes. Mom tried to keep him at bay, but I was often the object he took his anger out on.

The funny thing was I must’ve been too nave before I went into this phase to notice dad’s temper. But now, it terrified me. He was like this every day. Sometimes I was really worried he might do something to me and mom.

My mom came into my bedroom to tuck me in.

This time, she stood for a moment, looking at me, and smiling very tenderly. She sat next to me and put her hand on my shoulder. “Dad and I love you. You know that, right?”

I was silent a few seconds. “Maybe you.”

The silence and absence of anything to say back spoke louder than anything she could have tried to say.

She sighed and wrapped her arm around me and held me close. The warmth made me feel safe for a moment from dad, and the world.

“Where is he?” Mostly just to have assurance he was far away.

“Out. He left for work after…you know. He won’t be back until late.” She was whispering now.

There was silence between us for a couple minutes.

“I won’t pretend to be smart and know what exactly you’re going through, Craig-honey. But what I will do is help you the best I can to try and get through…whatever it is you’re going through.” She paused, just us having a moment. “And all the while, just being understanding of everything. I’m really sorry.”

“It’s okay, mom,” I replied, also whispering.

I was getting to a point I might have known what was happening. How would I explain it? How would I even begin? I couldn’t understand. I was hearing what other people were thinking.

She gently took me by the arms and pushed me away. She looked straight into my eyes, looking at me in a way—I can’t explain this, exactly, just seemingly looking into my soul.

(I love you, Craig.)

“I love you, Craig.”

“I love you, too, mom.”


*****



I made my way through the rest of the week, trying to steer clear of dad and stay as close to mom as possible, the one out of the two who actually seemed to be trustworthy. She protected me when dad came home and when she would tuck me into bed.

I couldn’t wait for the next visit with Phil. Imagine, a kid wanting to go to the doctor. Well, I knew Phil wouldn’t ridicule me. He would listen to what I had to say. I knew that from the first time I talked to him. Going to visit Phil almost seemed like my safe haven.

“Hey, Craig! Are you ready?” the same nurse said that Monday of my appointment. I had weekly appointments with him.

I walk calmly into the usually dimly-lit room and sit on the couch.

“So”—the doctor shuffles through his papers—“Greg, how have things been going?”

“It’s Craig.”

“Oh, okay. So how have things been going, Craig?”

“I’m doing about as good as I can.”

Phil sighs. “You seem to be a strange soul, Craig. What I mean is—Well…”

I wait curiously to hear where he’s going with this.

Phil looks me straight in the eyes for a minute. “You don’t…see things the way others do, do you?”

Well, that was unexpected.

(Strange kid, I must say--)

The irony of that thought he hears doesn’t go unnoticed by Craig, the Strange Kid.

(--Not bad, but strange. Hm.)

“I never have,” I’m finally able to answer.

We both sit silent a long time. I’m trying to see if I can tell Phil about the…thoughts.

“I hear things, Phil,” I begin. “I think that might have been what put me in this stupor. Maybe it’s part of this puberty thing I’m starting to hear about in school. But they only talk about feelings I’ll get, mainly towards girls. And for them, the other way around. They also talk about showers and hormones. They didn’t say anything about this.” I pause. “I hear things, Phil. Not things going bump in the night, or even things that aren’t there. I hear what people are thinking, and I hear it in their talking voice.”

Phil, as I expected, is taken aback, but doesn’t tell me I’m crazy. He simply sits and absorbs what I just told him. “You hear people’s thoughts? You hear things even when they don’t say them out loud?”

“Yes.” All I can say.

“Well, can you tell me what I’m thinking?”

“I could try, but usually it’s involuntary, under stress. I just heard you say I was strange.”

Phil sat silently with arms crossed. “I see! Try again, if you would.”

I sat. I inhaled a bit and tried.

“It’s no use, Phil,” I said as I breathed out.

“Don’t hurt yourself now, Craig,” Phil said with a hand up. “But try one more time.”

I did. I strained a little, but there was a payoff this time.

(You are a gifted boy, Craig.)

I exhaled deeply, and chuckled. “I’m flattered, Phil.”

“I see.” His eyes widen a little. “Tell you what. Over the course of the week, when an…episode happens, try if you can to feel what’s going on through your mind and see if there’s a way you can figure out how to control it. Do you understand what I mean, Craig?”

“Yes, I’ll see what I find out about this…this gift, if anything.”

“Very good.”

I walked out of the waiting room with my parents. My mom put her hand on my back.

“We’ll get through this together.” (You and I.)

“Thanks, mom.”



THE END


2019 David Smith

Bio: David Smith is 22 years old and a senior at Southern New Hampshire University, working toward a BA in Screenwriting. He’s had two stories published in this zine, “The Piece of Paper” (August 2018) and “I Saw the Black Rider” (February 2019). He hopes to eventually start a career in horror fiction sometime relatively soon, beginning with a hopeful first sale. He’s been in love with movies since before he can remember, and has loved writing since reading The Hunger Games at about 14.

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