Andrew was lying on his bed in Easthaven, utterly gutted. He had lost everything he had in him. There was just nothing left to give. He didn't know what was worse, the drugs or the withdrawal. His chest ached to be high high high and his throat was raw from laughing and vomiting and screaming.
He wanted a drink. He wanted to laugh. He wanted to cry.
Why not? Asked Bee’s voice in Andrew's head. Andrew considered. Why not just cry, or laugh? What harm could come from emoting now? Here? He wanted to, he realized. Andrew wanted to feel things.
And there was the problem. Andrew wanted to feel things. That was not part of the plan.
Andrew considered. There were two ways forward now. Feel his emotions fully and put his ability to protect his property in jeopardy, or focus on protection and put his emotions in their boxes.
The question was which one he prioritized more, himself of his promises. Himself or his property. Himself or his family.
Andrew pushed himself out of bed and started to do his daily work out. He didn't particularly care about staying in shape, but it would make Kevin angry, and as fun as that was, disappointing Kevin meant disappointing Neil, and Andrew didn't know if he wanted to do that.
Push ups. Being angry again. Andrew missed being angry.
Sit ups. Getting distracted by emotions and screwing up a promise.
Jumping jacks. Figuring out what he felt for Neil, if anything.
Lifting the small nightstand by his bed. Letting Kevin get hurt, or worse.
Running in place. Being happy. Andrew stopped running.
There it was. The grand reason for Andrew’s new consideration. He wanted to be happy. It was a little bit stupid actually. He couldn’t believe that this was what was possibly endangering his family. This stupid little desire to be happy. It was selfish. What right did he have to be happy? With all that he had done? All that had been done to him? Yet still, he wanted it. Didn’t everyone want to be happy? What shame could be felt in wanting to enjoy what was around him?
Andrew used to be happy, right?
Andrew started running again, not in place this time, in aimless little circles. Running from his thoughts, from the questions that he didn’t want to ask himself. They ran with him. He wasn’t Kevin, he wasn’t Neil, they had spent their time learning how to not see what was there in front of them, Andrew had spent his learning to see it as clearly as possible.
The question was his priorities. Which was more important, his feelings or his family? Andrew considered. What was more important? His family, end of story. So why did it feel like the consideration wasn’t over?
Andrew ran himself ragged, so he could focus on the patter of his feet, the labored quality of his breathing, the pain in his chest, the weakness his body had grown so sickeningly used to, so he could focus on making himself better. Every moment he was focused on being stronger was a moment he was not focusing on silly things like how happy he was.
Andrew didn’t realize how weak he had become until he collapsed. Andrew tried to get back up, but his legs refused to cooperate. He kicked his legs out and tried to get up. He could move his legs, but there was no strength behind them.he tried to stand until it became clear that there was no other option. He would have to claw his way over to his bed.
It was a painstakingly slow process. An exercise in futility. It took a lifetime to roll over. He could call a nurse or a doctor, but he didn’t know if he could come back from someone seeing him in this state. Andrew was reminded of Neil. Firing shot after shot at Andrew until his arms went so limp that he couldn’t hold a racquet. Andrew wanted to laugh. They had both been bested by their inability to stop.
How long had Andrew been this? When did Andrew become this ? A junkie who wanted nothing but to be in control of himself again. An idiot on the floor clawing his way back to an uncomfortable bed. A scared boy who couldn’t admit that he wanted to be happy.
He spent half an hour trying to get back into his bed. He lay, again sprawled out on his lumpy mattress. He wanted to cry. He wanted to laugh. He wanted a drink.
He wanted his drugs.
This was an occurrence that could never happen again. He couldn’t keep living like this.
If what came from ignoring what he felt was this, then he wasn’t ignoring what he felt anymore. Andrew had decided, and unless something came around to make him change his mind, it was a permanent decision.
An hour later, when Andrew had burrowed deep into his blankets and a copy of The Great Gatsby that he had found in the small Easthaven library, and his heart had started beating in his legs, he heard a knock on the door, followed by the turn of the doorknob. It was a nurse, coming to approve his schedule for tomorrow.
The nurse was a kind, motherly looking women. Not that Andrew trusted her, he had had his run-ins with kind, motherly looking women.
“Hey there, sweetie,” She said, smiling at him. She looked at a small clipboard through glasses that were perched on the edge of her nose. “Minyard comma Andrew?”. Andrew nodded confirmation. “Your first day of therapy is tomorrow,” She obviously wanted Andrew to respond, but it wasn’t a question. “You excited?”. Was Andrew excited? A little bit.
“A little bit,” Andrew replied resolutely.
The nurse, Jan, her name tag said, smiled warmly at him. She checked her clipboard “All right, Andrew, it looks like tomorrow you have Doctors Smith, Goldfarb, Slosky and- no, that can’t be right,”
“What?” Andrew asked.
“Well it says here that you have Doctor Proust, but that’s ridiculous, he’s not the usual therapist we give to people in your case, he specializes in re-enactment therapy. You’d be better with Doctor Scott. I'll mark it down on your sheet,” She scribbled it in on the clipboard “Sorry about that, imagine how terrible it would have been if I hadn’t caught that!”
Andrew didn’t know exactly what reenactment therapy was, but he could imagine, so he said “Thank you,”
“It’s no problem, here’s your schedule for tomorrow, darling, have you eaten yet?” Andrew looked away as she placed his schedule on his nightstand and shook his head. “I’ll have someone bring you some food later,”
Andrew nodded and (groaning in his head) tried to smile at the woman. The woman smiled back and said “don’t hurt yourself, sweetheart.”
A lesser man would have blushed.
After lunch and three extremely boring therapy sessions Andrew was ready to labor through his last one, and go to the library. He lumbered through the hall on his weak, aching legs to room 115b for his session with Doctor Scott.
Fuck this , Andrew thought to himself, fuck this so hard.
He really, really wanted some drugs.
The room numbers got higher as he walked by. 112, 113, 114, 115a, until he heard something strange. Music?
Andrew looked into the window of 115b at a woman, not much older than him, dancing to loud punk rock. Headbanging, jumping around, twisting, mouthing the words with a happy, frenetic energy. She looked utterly carefree, a woman of the wind. Andrew at once wanted to feel as free as she did, and as controlled as she wasn’t.
Andrew had to knock a few times before the woman heard him. She looked at him, embarrassed, and scrambled to turn the music off, and Andrew checked his schedule to make sure this was the right room.
“Um, hi,” The woman said, opening the door. “Can I help you?”
“Are you Doctor Scott?”Andrew asked.
The woman looked over him and eyed him with suspicion “Who’s asking?”
“Ah, I see, they tried to give you Proust?” Andrew nodded confirmation “Scheduling accident, it happens, yeah, I’m Doctor Wilhelmina Scott, you could just call me Will, or Mina, I like Will better. Come on in,” The woman talked quickly, like an auctioneer as she ushered Andrew welcomingly into the room. “I thought no one would be by for this time block, as you could see by the, um,” the woman gestured aimlessly “dancing,”
“Do you usually spend your breaks dancing,” Andrew asked flatly, mind still caught up in the carefree movements.
“No it just felt like that kind of day,” Will said, nervously combing her hair back with her fingers.
Andrew looked her up and down, she was wearing a black turtleneck and dark skinny jeans, the darkness was offset by her bright blue lipstick and dyed platinum blonde curls, Andrew saw her Easthaven lab coat on the couch inside the room.. She looked like the kind of person that danced around her office just because she wanted to. “Uh huh,”
“I can feel your enthusiasm drifting off you in waves, have a seat, let’s get started,”
Andrew wasn’t going to engage. He would sit across from Doctor Scott and give monosyllabic answers until he was released. No matter how ‘fun’ she tried to be.
He walked down the hall, and he heard shouting coming from 115b. One voice was Doctor Scott’s, the other belonged to an old man wearing a doctor’s lab coat.
“He’s my patient,” Said the old man petulantly. Andrew already didn’t like him.
“He was referred to me, William,” Said Dr. Scott
“A judgement error by a foolish nurse, she will be dealt with as well,” The old man’s face contorted with hate.
“Hey, don’t talk about Jan like that, she’s been working here forever, and she knows what she’s doing,” Dr. Scott looked indignant on Jan’s behalf.
“Ms. Scott-” The old man began.
“ Dr . Scott,” She corrected.
“He is my patient, and I will not have you and your insolence take him from me,” The old man repeated.
“In his case, Dr. Proust, re-enactment therapy would only set him back! If I can be frank, it’s an outdated branch of therapy that should have been discredited years ago,” Ah, so this was the famous Doctor Proust. Jan had made the right call, if you asked Andrew.
“No matter your thoughts on my profession, Ms. Scott, Andrew Minyard is my patient,” Proust was beginning to sound like a broken record.
“So you keep saying,” Dr. Scott crossed her arms “What is this about, hmm? Why are you so adamant on treating him?” Dr. Proust looked caught off guard.
“Ms. Scott, I have a great deal of respect for you, so I must advise you to keep your nose out of places where it doesn’t belong,” proust was terrible at redirecting. Scott’s question had him rattled.
“Do you always talk like a cartoon supervillain? And let’s not pretend like you respect me. I am a queer, black woman, and you have a problem with all three of those things. But this is a place of work, so I ask that you remain professional. Can you tell me why Andrew minyard is your patient. Try and give me a reason besides ‘I really, really want him to be’,” As Dr. Scott talked, she led Proust to the door. He said nothing as he spluttered, looking for a justification “That’s what I thought. Unless you can give me an excellent reason why he shouldn’t be, Andrew Minyard is my patient,” Proust looked like he had just swallowed a lemon covered in spikes.
Dr. Scott opened the door and all but pushed Proust out. “Speak of the devil! Hey Andrew, have a seat, I’ll be with you in a sec,” Andrew walked in and plopped down on the couch. Doctor Scott had gotten him out of a bad situation, which, much to Andrew’s chagrin, meant he was beholden to Doctor Scott, which meant he had to listen to her. Fuck.
Dr. Scott winked at Andrew and called back at Proust in the hallway “Oh, and William?” Proust looked back at her with revulsion. “It’s Doctor Scott,”
Over the next few weeks, Andrew settled into a routine, breakfast, Smith, Goldfarb, Slosky, lunch, free time, Scott, library, workout, shower, dinner, sleep, rinse and repeat.
As much as Andrew hated to admit it, sessions with Doctor Scott were slowly becoming the highlight of his day. He didn't understand why he liked her. He knew plenty of people like her and they seemed flighty to him. Frivolous and stupid. So why didn't he think she was?
He brought this concern up to her and she nodded her head, considering.
“Hm, I'm not sure, maybe it's because I don't try and make assumptions for you?” Andrew nodded at this and gestured for her to continue. “Well I mean, you go up to any other person and go ‘I don't usually like people like you, so why do I like you?’ they usually just assume you're being a dick,”
“That language doesn't seem very professional of you,” Andrew commented.
“Shh, that's why you like me,”
“I thought I liked you because you didn't make assumptions,”
Will smiled “The reasons for liking me, my friend, are endless,” Andrew rolled his eyes and Will smiled wider. “There you go! You’re emoting!”
Andrew sighed. “You get way too excited over me rolling my eyes,”
“Well, can you blame me? Before, you were all,” Will’s face went blank “Beep boop, are you Doctor Scott? Boopity Boop Beep Boop, I’m not going to talk for our first three sessions, I’ll just have staring contests with my therapist. Beep Beep Boop. Let me only answer in one word replies for the six sessions after that. Beep Boop. Let me not engage until. Boop Boop Boooooop,”
“Was that supposed to be a robot me?” Andrew asked.
“Yes, I’m sorry, was that over the line?” Dr. Scott asked
“No, it’s just that it was outdated, robots don’t go ‘Beep Boop’ anymore. That’s so Star Wars,” Andrew said. This is fine. This is not making yourself vulnerable, this is just a conversation. This is just making a joke in a conversation . “It would be more like ‘are you Doctor Scott?’” Andrew punctuated his passable Siri impression with a sheepish half-smile.
Will giggled “And he’s funny too!” Andrew didn’t know what to say to that. “You’re allowed to make jokes you know,”
“Jokes are useless tools for people who are eager to please, I don’t need people to like me for me to keep my promises,” Andrew said matter-of-factly.
“There are so many sad things about what you just said,” Will sighed. “One, jokes are for everybody, because they’re jokes. They’re meant to make people laugh, so they’re important. Two, having people like you doesn’t hurt, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar and all that,” Andrew rolled his eyes again. “Okay, I’m happy that you’re using your body language to show how you feel, but I would appreciate if you heard me out, okay?”
“Fine,” Andrew huffed.
“Thank you,” Will opened her mouth, and then closed it, confused. “Where was I?”
“Number three, I think,”
“Oh, right. Three, there’s more to life than keeping promises,”
“You sound like Bee,” Andrew sighed.
“Good, there are a lot of people in the world that are worse to be compared to than Betsy Dobson,” WIll crossed her arms.
“Look, I keep my promises, end of discussion,” Andrew wanted to move the conversation back to robot voices.
Will put her hands up in a placating motion. “And I’m not saying you don’t, but are promises really all you want from life?”
“Look, my promises haven’t killed me, and they’re not going to,” Andrew.
“We really need to raise your standards for your life above ‘not dead’” Will said, shaking her head. There was a pause before Will cleared her throat and changed the subject. “So um, the time of day when we have our sessions is that really awkward time of day when it’s too early to have dinner, but too far from lunch, so we get hungry, so I was thinking I could smuggle in some snacks.”
“I’m listening,” Andrew replied.
“How do you feel about ice cream?”
And Andrew smiled, Andrew really smiled.
“So let me get this straight,” Will said through a mouthful of Raspberry Ripple.
“You can’t get anything straight,” Andrew interrupted over his pint of chocolate chip cookie dough “Ba dum tsh,”
“Hardee har,” Will said, pointing her spoon at him “So he just like, went off on Riko? Like, in front of everyone? Even after the whole television debacle?”
“The idiot has a death wish, I’m telling you,” Andrew rolled his eyes “He texted me to say happy New Year,”
“Wait, so if he’s such a pain, why are you smiling?”
Andrew stopped smiling “What? No I’m not,”
Will raised a suspicious eyebrow “Yes you were, why?”
“It’s good ice cream,” Andrew said.
“It’s the same kind you had last week, and besides, it wasn’t that type of smile, I haven’t seen this one before, it’s kind of the smile you get when you talk about Nicky and Aaron but-,” Will gasped “Oh my god you like him!”
“What? No I don’t!” Andrew denied it way too quickly. Will’s eyes widened.
“You do! You totally like him! You like Neil Josten! You like like him!” Will teased childishly.
“Geez, Will, what is this, kindergarten?” Andrew said, scratching the back of his head in embarrassment.
“So you admit it! You liiiiike him,” Will did a smug little dance in her seat
“I hate him,” Andrew said, reigning in his emotions. He was getting better at letting them out, but this was a little too much for his case.
“If you say so,” Will said skeptically.
“All right,” Will said, still unconvinced
“Will,” Andrew said solemnly “I don’t want to like him, okay? I can’t like him, not right now,”
Will’s brow furrowed “That’s where you’re wrong, bucko. Come on, doesn’t he make you happy?”
“He makes me want to kill him, that’s what he does,” Andrew said.
“Deniiiiallll,” Will sang out “We can figure out your feelings for Neil later, it’s segue time, speaking of things that make you happy, I’ve got an assignment for you,”
“What is it?”
“I want you to make a list of little objects that make you happy, favorite-things style,”
“Favorite things style?”
“You know, raindrop on roses and whiskers on kittens ,” Will sang. She could not sing. “Stupid little arbitrary things that make you happy,”
“That’s dumb,” Andrew said
“Too bad,” Will replied.
Andrew looked down at the blank piece of paper in frustration. How did he not know what made him happy? There had to be something.
What makes you happy? Andrew asked himself. He let himself forget everything and he let his mind wander, the rest of the world fell away. Milk that comes in glass bottles , he thought, really good apricot jam . Suddenly thoughts of small things that provided Andrew with a little bit of joy started to flood in. The feeling of freshly ironed clothes, the smell of old books, gum that tasted so strongly of mint that his nose felt cold when he breathed in . Suddenly the blank paper was full and Andrew understood why Will had made him do this.
Happiness wasn’t really as hard as Andrew thought.
“Last day,” Will said.
“Last day,” Andrew repeated.
There was a long silence, filled only by the ticking of the clock on the wall. It stretched out, long and heavy, until Andrew couldn’t help but say something.
Both he and Dr. Scott started to say something at the same time but then stopped when the other began to speak.
“You go first,” Andrew felt the need to say, he wouldn’t have said it before he met Will.
“No, you, I insist,” Will said softly.
Andrew closed his eyes and breathed out, it wasn’t easy for him to say this. “I’m-,” he stopped. “I-,” he couldn’t do it.
“It’s okay, Andrew, take your time,” Will said.
Andrew took a deep breath. “I’m going to miss you,”
Will teared up and let out a laugh. Had Andrew said something wrong?
“What? What did I say?” Andrew asked.
“No, no, I’m not laughing at you Andrew, it’s just,” Will sniffled a little bit and sighed out a smile “I was going to say the same thing,”
Andrew’s eyes widened in surprise. He didn’t think he was capable of being missed. He felt a smile spread slowly across his face.
“You know, just because I’m not going to be your therapist anymore, doesn’t mean I can’t be your friend,” said Will, scribbling something down on a piece of paper. “My cell number, so you can call me when you want to talk,”
Andrew grabbed the paper and tucked it in his pocket, he nodded.
Another silence stretched out, more comfortable than last time, but uncomfortable all the same.
“Okay,” Will said “Screw this, you know what,” She tapped a few buttons on her phone and some music started playing out of a small speaker. “Today is a dancing day, get up,”
It was the best last day Andrew could have asked for.
“No, I’m serious, Andrew was a model patient,” Andrew heard Will telling someone around the corner.
“Sure he was,” Came Aaron’s bitter voice. “I’m sure he also has the singing voice of and angel,”
“I don’t know about that, but I’m sure he could with enough practice,” Will said, Andrew felt himself rolling his eyes.
“Careful not to choke on all your optimism, Will, I sing as well as a rock can swim” Andrew said.
Will smiled in his direction. Andrew felt himself looking over each of the people in the waiting room in turn. Aaron, Nicky, Kevin, until his eyes fell on Neil, looking like he had been beat to hell and back, they all seemed surprised he was looking at them. Andrew didn’t care, he was more focused on what had happened to Neil.
“What happened to your face?” Andrew asked.
“I’ll tell you later,” Neil answered. Typical. He probably needed time to come up with a convincing lie.
“Don’t bother,” Andrew “Nicky can tell me when we get back,”
“So commanding,” Will teased.
“Shut up,” Andrew teased back.
“It’s not going to be the same around here without you,” Will said.
“Sure it will, just keep ice cream in your office and gossip with the wall about the other wall,” Andrew suggested.
“Not a bad idea,” Will smiled, and then looked sad “Hey, would it be okay if I hugged you goodbye?”
Andrew shrugged “Yeah, why not?”
And so they hugged for two seconds and broke apart immediately.
“No,” Andrew said.
“No way,” Will agreed. “Let’s never do that again, see you if you’re ever in Columbia again?”
“See you then,” Andrew nodded.
“I have another patient in a few minutes,” Will said.
“Go, I’ll see you around,” Andrew assured her.
“You’d better,” Will said, and then she was gone. Andrew turned and the waiting room was looking at him like he was an alien.
He didn’t care. He was halfway across the building by the time they had gotten out of their chairs.
Andrew Minyard was back.