“Come on, down,” Becca demanded, tugging on Malik’s empty sleeve, shamelessly not indulging Malik’s pity party. She laughed instead, a loud and obnoxious noise-- and managed to tug Malik to the ground.
Malik went along with it. Malik let her.
Rebecca beamed. “Come on. Half-lotus. Sukhasana.” She told him, adopting the position as she spoke.
“I thought half-lotus was completely different from sukhasana. And we are going to be down in a moment anyway.” Malik grumbled, but found himself mimicking Rebecca’s peaceful pose.
“It is.” Becca easily agreed. “Come on, you know the routine by now.” She grinned, and they sat in silence forever, breathing even in the park that was filled with noise and activity, and Malik had a hard time thinking of the last time he felt so serene. Malik heard Rebecca fall back loosely, carelessly, on the mat.
“You too,” she ordered without opening her eyes, and Malik, once again, adopted a similar pose next to Becca.
Soon, he was breathing in sync with her. Inhaled the air of the park, and held it in his lungs-- Malik heard the white noise of recreation; the children, the animals, and he could smell that goddamn hotdog vendor that was three blocks away-- what the hell did he cook his dogs in, whale fat? -- and Rebecca’s humming.
It sounded suspiciously like Ke$ha.
“You’re holding a lot in, Malik.” The doctor told him reproachfully. “That isn’t healthy.”
Malik pursed his lips. “Neither is what you are asking.” He gritted out.
“I know it hurts,” said the doctor, reaching out a comforting hand to lay on Malik’s knee. “But you need to talk about it. You learn a lot by sharing, Malik.” She looked at her watch, and pat his knee one last time. “That’s it for today. If you don’t want to talk about it with me, Malik, talk about it to your loved ones, to a friend. Don’t keep it inside to poison you, Malik.”
Malik inhaled sharply and left.
Malik was in the park only because his apartment made him feel sick and stir-crazy. Malik hated the park; he felt as if everyone was staring at him, or rather where his arm was supposed to be. Everybody noticed a one-armed man in a thin black jacket, his conscious yelled shrilly.
There wasn’t anybody really staring at Malik-- nobody except some hipster on a yoga mat. Malik refused to be cowed and stared back, just as hard. He had been through much worse, and dammit, he wasn’t going to be out-stared by a fucking hipster. His jaw tensed at the challenge.
And then the hipster got up and Malik felt all of the gusto he was working up drain from him, and his mouth went dry. Oh, fuck, Malik thought as the hipster grabbed the yoga mat and began to walk closer to him. Hipsters. He wished for a moment that he was cleared to carry a gun, and then wished (not for the first time) that he could shoot one-armed.
“Dude.” Said the hipster when it reached Malik. “Dude.” It repeated. “You are really fucking tense.”
Well, that was unexpected to say the least, and Malik gaped at the thing-- female, he supposed-- for a moment before he managed to get his jaw to grit again.
“Excuse me.” He said tersely.
“Dude, you should relax.” She said again, adjusting the yoga mat that now hung from her shoulder.
“If I give you money will you go away?” Malik asked after she didn’t leave. She just grinned shamelessly.
“Nah, you look like you need it more that I do, anyway.” She said, and Malik’s hand curled into a fist.
“Excuse me.” Malik said for the second time. The hipster just laughed, a light tone, but it still sounded fucking mocking in Malik’s ears. He felt his face burn in shame, and he looked at the ground.
“I’m sorry,” she apologized, still giggling. “It’s just. God. You look so pissed. You should relax. Go to a spa. In Poland.”
Malik was torn between confusion and anger, and his embarrassment had nearly drained away by now. “What,” He said.
“Polish spas are fantastic,” the hipster explained, looking affronted. Malik was leaning toward confusion.
“Poland’s a shithole.” Malik said before he could really think..
“It is not.” She shot back immediately, “You’ve probably never even been to Poland.”
Malik, petulantly, replied that it didn’t matter, eastern Europe in general was a shithole, and the hipster just laughed. Again.
“Oh, god, it’s worse than I thought.” She said lightly, and then she tugged at Malik’s empty sleeve shamelessly. Shameless! Malik thought, absolutely aghast. “Come on, I know a place with good tea. Help you relax, yeah?”
He took a deep breath and stood. Malik didn’t know what compelled him to follow her.
“You seem more open this week, Malik.” The doctor said to him nearly three-quarters through their session. “I am a bit surprised, but that isn’t to say I’m not thrilled.” She didn’t sound thrilled. Malik grunted.
“Have you spoken to your family?” She prompted.
Malik’s heart clenched painfully. No. No, never. I wouldn’t. I don’t want to do that to Kadar. Again. “Yes.” He lied.
She raised an eyebrow in disbelief. “I see,” she said, lips pursed. “And... it’s working well for you?”
He thought about his week, about the damned park and that motherfucking hipster and, dammit, it was better, but not for the reasons this hack thought.
Malik let out a deep woosh of a sigh. “...Yeah.” He said, after a moment.
Minerva beamed at him.
Malik was eating a very suspect brownie at a very suspect cafe called Green Beans that Rebecca (that was her name, Malik learned) had dragged him to. He ate slowly, savoring the brownie though he really had no desire to savor... well, anything. Becca chattered away happily about the antics of her tortoise and her Zen Rock Garden while stirring her green tea lazily.
Malik was not listening to her, at all. He simply held the brownie, and moved it to his mouth where he would take a bite before his hand would set the treat back on the table. Malik chewed slowly, deliberately, like this brownie was the best brownie in the fucking universe.
He told Rebecca so.
And he took another very slow, very deliberate bite of the brownie.
Rebecca bought him six.
Rebecca informed Malik that she was an IT consultant and she had graduated cum laude three years ago and worked part-time at Green Beans, because it was always Rosa’s dream to own a café, but owning a business is hard, especially when you are just starting out, and Becca knew Rosa from her required English classes and they had gotten along spectacularly...
Malik finished his final brownie and tuned Rebecca out.
When Rebecca finished, she set her cup firmly on the small wooden table, held firmly between her hands, arms almost covered to the elbow in handmade jewellery, she squinted at Malik deliberately. “So tell me about yourself.”
He paused for a moment, staring down at the recycled paper that the brownies were wrapped in and Malik’s hand was splayed firmly on the table.
And then the words came spewing out of Malik, like an explosion or like vomit, and he spoke fast and low and and stumbled over names (Robert), words (compromised), but he never slowed, and never stopped.
Rebecca listened, her eyes concerned but her mouth silent, and by the time Malik reached the end of his life he realized that he wasn’t crying, he wasn’t angry or miserable as he normally felt when thinking of it, he just felt hollow.
Becca didn’t say anything when he finished, but she brought him another brownie. Malik accepted it, feeling his heart thumping heavily in his chest, resounding in the hollowness, and decided that Rebecca was alright.