Kim walked into the diminutive waiting room with her Kate Spade bag clutched under her arm. I can do it this time. She tucked a loose strand of blond hair behind her ear, replacing it with the other strays as she approached the sign-in desk.
“Hi,” she smiled and ducked her head, “I’m Kim Green. I have an appointment at 2:15 p.m. I’m a bit late, I know.”
The clerk rolled her eyes. “You’ve been here before. Walked out on grief counseling, right?”
“Yes,” Kim said, clearing her throat. “Yes, that’s right.”
“Have a seat,” the clerk huffed. “I’ll call you soon.”
Kim sat next to a man cleaning his glasses. He had on khakis that were far too short and a plaid button-down. She caught herself snickering at the sight of him. She stopped. Be kind, Kim.
She picked up a magazine from the stack next to her and pretended to read it so that she wouldn’t have to make eye contact with anyone. Her pulse quickened with each minute that passed sitting in that chair. The walls shrank and expanded with each inhale and exhale. Sweat dribbled down her forehead. The red exit sign called to her.
But she didn’t leave. Instead, she reached in her bag and pulled out sanitizer, a stick of gum, and a photo of her and her mom. She sanitized her hands because God knows what kind of dirty freak had his hands on the magazine last. She looked back to her neighbor, now cleaning his phone. What’s his deal? OCD? Nerves? She shook her head, unwrapped her gum, and folded it neatly into her mouth.
Tears scalded her eyes when she looked at the photo. It was the last picture taken before her mom’s sudden death. Kim and her mom were shoulder to shoulder in the photo. Bright smiles and blissful ignorance filled their faces.
She was hit by a drunk driver six years ago, just two days after the photo was taken. Kim thought she could handle her death just like she handled everything else: on her own with grace. She couldn’t. She spent the last six years waiting for the pain to pass, waiting for her mind to heal. She hardly recognized the girl next to her mom anymore.
A trashcan was nowhere to be found, so she balled up the wrapper and put it back in her bag. When she did, her fingers grazed smooth glass. Kim gasped. She knew exactly what it was; it was a half-empty bottle of vodka from the previous night. I must’ve forgotten to throw it away.
She closed her eyes remembering the telephone pole, touched the bruise on her face knowing how lucky she was. What if that pole had been a car with someone’s mother in it? What if I was going faster? She shuddered at the thought.
“Kim?” the clerk called. “The therapist is ready for you.”
Kim stood and pulled the bottle from her bag. “Do you have a trashcan back there?” she asked, her mouth molded into the shape of determination.
The clerk looked up, un-phased by the vodka Kim was holding. “Sure. I can take that, Hun,” she charmed. “If you’re ready.”
Kim looked at the bottle one last time before handing it to her. “I’m definitely ready.”
Photo courtesy of Pexels