“How may I help you?” The receptionist smiled: a cheerful, plainly dressed 20-something behind a desk in that occupied a third of the small waiting room of the practice. An engraved plastic nameplate read “Tia Brown.” Rorie let the door close behind her.
“I, uh, I have an appointment?”
“Oh, Aurora, right?”
Rorie nodded. “I’m a little early, I guess.”
“That’s no problem at all. Have I seat, I’ll let Dr. Lysik know you’re here.” Rorie sat down in one of the several padded chairs that sat against another of the waiting room’s walls, and began picking through a small stack of magazines. The reception girl, Tia, spoke briefly into her headset, nodding. She looked over at Aurora, smiled, nodded once more. “Aurora, Dr. Lysik will be right with you.”
“Oh. I mean, it’s not four yet, is it?”
“About a quarter of still, but her three-to-four was empty.” Tia shrugged.
The only other door in the waiting room creaked a little and swung inward. A tall, tanned woman with dark hair and sharp cheekbones stepped out and nodded at Rorie. “Aurora? I’m Sue Lysik.” She held her hand out. Rorie stood up and shook it.
“Nice to meet you.”
“Come on in, will you?” Lysik turned back into her office, moving with a loping confidence that was more athletic than elegant. Rorie followed, and shut the door gently. She glanced around, her hands folded in front of her. The office was small but not cramped. A nearly bare desk with a rolling chair behind it; another chair, a simple wooden one, next to the desk; two padded lounge chairs across from and facing the desk and chairs; a bookshelf spanning on of the shorter walls perpendicular to the desk; several pieces of art hanging variously on the remaining walls.
Lysik sat herself down in the wooden chair, and motioned toward the lounge chairs across from her. “Would you like to have a seat?”
Rorie nodded and planted herself in one of the chairs, crossed her jeans-clad legs at the ankles, and looked across at Lysik.
“Have you ever talked with a psychiatrist before?”
Rorie shook her head. “No.”
“Are you nervous?”
“Uh. Yeah. I don’t really, I mean, it wasn’t really my, y’know. Idea. Totally.”
“You’re one of Tom’s kids, at Adams, right?”
“He said you had something on your mind and you wanted to talk to someone about it. So that’s all we’re doing here. Just sitting back and talking.” Lysik nodded at the office in general. “Anything like what you expected?”
Rorie glanced around again. “I dunno. Kind of. I mean–” She glanced at the lounge chair she was sitting in. “–I guess I expected a, y’know, a”
“leather couch or something. And an old lady with glasses hanging off her nose.”
Lysik laughed, and smiled broadly. “Well, I’m trying not to get too old. As for the couch, people seem to fall asleep too much when they’re laying down. I figure comfy chairs are a good compromise. I can scribble conspicuously on a notepad if you like, though.”
Rorie laughed too. “No, I. I just, I didn’t know what to expect really. Books and TV, y’know.”
Lysik nodded. “So, Aurora. Do you go by Aurora, or…”
“Rorie. Either one. Most people call me Rorie.”
“Rorie. Okay. You can call me Sue. Or Dr. Lysik. Or whatever you prefer. So what’s on your mind?”
Rorie looked at her hands and at Lysik. “I just–I want to, I want to be sure that you aren’t going to tell anybody or like call the guys in white coats or whatever if–”
“Rorie, don’t worry. In this office, everything you tell me is confidential. My lips are sealed. Psychiatrists would be out of business if we didn’t respect the privacy of our clients.”
“So what is concerning you, Rorie?”
(You don’t have to, Aurora.)
“I, I mean. I have, there’s
(You’re upset, honey.)
this, there’s this, oh christ how do I
fucking put this–”
Rorie trailed off. She bit her lip to try and stymie the tears starting to well up in her eyes. Lysik grabbed a box of kleenex from off her desk, held it in both hand, and leaned forward in her chair.
“Go ahead, Rorie. It’s okay. It’s safe here.”
Rorie wiped her
eyes with her sleeve, took a
deep, rattling breath. She met Lysik’s gaze, looked down, back at Lysik. Her mouth opened, closed, opened again.
“Go on. Just get it out there. You’ll feel better, Rorie. Trust me. Go ahead.”
Rorie took another deep breath, let it out, and stared at her hands where they lay folded loosely in her lap. When she spoke, it was soft and slow.
“I hear a voice in my head.”
Lysik sat up a little. “When did you first start hearing this voice?”
“Since. Um. I guess since forever, basically. As long as I can remember.”
“Just one voice, or several?”
“Does the voice, does it tell you to do things?”
Rorie shook her head. “No. Not really.”
“what does the voice say?”
Rorie looked up and stared at Lysik, eyes filling up again and overflowing this time. “Am I crazy? I don’t want to be crazy but oh my god it’s, I, I’m insane, I’m losing my fucking mind aren’t I, I’m, I’m, I’m–” Rorie buried her face in her hands and sobbed in the chair.
Lysik stood and moved to the empty chair next to her, and put a hand on her back, rubbing gently. “It’s alright, Rorie. It’s okay. Calm down, it’s–”
“–alright. Here.” She proffered the box of tissues. Rorie snagged a couple and wiped at her eyes, her nose. The sobs racheted down, and she tried to steady her breath. She look at Lysik unsteadily.
“Am I crazy?”
“You don’t seem very crazy to me, Rorie. Just upset.”
“But I’m having paranoid delusions! I’ve got voices in my head! That’s what crazy people–”
“Rorie, auditory hallucinations can be caused by any number of things. Trust me here, okay? I want you to tell me more about what you hear and some of the details, but my first impression is that you seem like a very normal girl who is just very scared. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. Can I ask you some more questions?”
Rorie nodded, grabbed another kleenex and put it to use.
“You said it’s just one voice, and you’ve been hearing it for a long time.”
“Has it always been the same voice? Has it always sounded the same?”
“I, I think so. Yeah.”
“What does the voice sound like.”
“Like. I dunno, it–I’m not sure it really sounds like anything, I mean it’s more in my head, like I don’t really hear it. I feel it. Does that make any sense?”
“More like when you’re thinking something to yourself?”
“Yeah, but a lot more, I dunno, organized. Coherent, I guess. Like someone really talking to me, not me imagining a conversation I had with someone or anything.”
“How would you describe the voice?”
“It’s, she’s, uh–”
“Yeah. she’s a girl. A woman. Or, I mean, she seems like it. The voice seems like it.”
“Young, or old?”
“I dunno. Older than me, I guess. She sounds like someone’s mom.”
Lysik nodded. Rorie was calmer now, her eyes wandering as she spoke. She sniffed now and then, wiping her nose occasionally.
“Does she sound like your mom?”
“When do you hear the–when do you hear her? Is there any particular time of day? When you’re waking up, or falling asleep, maybe?”
Rorie shook her head. “No. Just all the time. I mean, not constantly, but a lot. Just whenever.”
“What does she say?”
“Just, she talks about what’s going on. I mean, y’know, she comments. She talks to me about what I’m doing. What I’m thinking about.”
“Does she criticize you? Does she say mean things to you?”
“No.” Rorie looked at Lysik, frowning. “No, she doesn’t.”
“Not at all?”
“Never. She’s, she’s really nice, I guess.”
“Does she ever tell you to do things? To say things?”
Rorie shook her head.
“Things you might not want to do?”
“No. She–mostly she tells me to, like, calm down if I’m upset. Or that I don’t have to do something I’m worried about. Or just nice things.”
Lysik stood and walked to her desk. There was a glass pitcher full of water, and several empty glass; she filled two glasses with water and handed one to Rorie, who drank a third of it straight off.
“Rorie, do you ever have any thoughts that surprise you? Thoughts that you don’t like?”
“What do you mean?”
“Just unusual thoughts. Impulses to do something unpleasant, or violent. To hurt someone, or hurt yourself.”
Rorie shook her head, frowning.
“Have you ever ever thought about suicide? Felt, even for a short while, like you should kill yourself?”
Lysik held a hand up, apologetic. “I’m just trying to cover the bases. Okay. The voice, she–Rorie, does the voice have a name?”
Rorie nodded. “Uh, Emmy.”
“Why Emmy? Does she call herself that, or did you give her that name.”
“Both. I mean, I sort of made it up a few years ago, I guess, but she says she likes it.”
“Do you talk to her?”
Rorie nodded, glanced away.
“You said she talk a lot but not constantly. Can you make her go away?”
“Sometimes. I mean, like, short term. If I tell her to shut up a few times she usually will.”
“Can you make her start talking whenever you want?”
“Uh. I guess so. I don’t usually have to.”
“Would it be alright if I asked you to talk to her now?”
Rorie gave Lysik a weird look. “You want me to, uh, just talk to her? Like in right now?”
“You don’t talk to her in front of other people?”
“Uh, no? They’d think I was crazy, yeah?”
“Well, I’d like it if you could do it for me.”
“What do you want me to talk about?”
Lysik shrugged as if unconcerned, but her eyes were locked tightly to Rorie. “Whatever you like. Whatever makes sense.”
Rorie nodded weakly and gazed over at the bookshelf. She took a couple of deep breaths.
Lysik watched, waited.
“Emmy? Are you there?” Rorie frowned. Lysik propped an elbow on her thigh, rested her chin in her hand, and waited.
“Emmy, c’mon, talk to–”
(This isn’t right, Rorie.)
“Look, Dr. Lysik just wants me to talk to you.”
(This is wrong. This is very wrong.)
“What’s so wrong about it? We talk all the–”
Rorie flinched, cut a look to Lysik, and then at nothing in particular. Her chest tightened, her hands curled up into balls.
“Why? What’s the matter?”
(I’m frightened. I don’t like this. It isn’t right.)
“Calm down, Emmy.”
“Rorie, what is Emmy saying?”
“She says she’s scared. She doesn’t, she doesn’t like this. She’s thinks it’s wrong.”
“What is wrong? What’s she frightened of?”
(please make her go away)
“Emmy, it’s okay. What’s the matter?”
(I don’t like this, I don’t want her talking to me)
(oh Rorie I only want to talk to you I only want to talk to you I only want to)
“Rorie, are you–what’s she saying? Are you alright?”
Rorie’s eyes were wide, her mouth clamped tight. She held one fist tight in the other and glanced around with an expression of worry stretched taut across her face. She spoke a word, quietly and gently: “Hush. Hush, now. Hush.” Lysik watched, frozen in her seat.
A minute passed. Rorie relaxed in her seat, closed her eyes for a long moment. When she opened them again they were wet, but she was calm and breathing slowly.
“Dr. Lysik, I don’t want to talk about this anymore right now.”
Lysik nodded. “Okay. Are you sure?”
“Are you alright, Rorie?”
“Yeah, I think so. I just. I dunno. Emmy’s really freaked out.”
“Can I go?”
Lysik clasped her hands together, sat up. She nodded. “Of course.”
Rorie stood up, wiping at her eyes with the heel of her hand. She grabbed her bag, shouldered it, and looked at the door and then at Lysik. “I–thanks, I guess. I’m sorry I had to, y’know, stop, I just–”
Lysik shook her head and smiled. “It’s not a problem Rorie. You’ve never really talked to anyone about this, have you?”
“It’s okay to be upset. It’s not your fault.”
“I’d like you to come see me again.”
“Okay. I don’t, I don’t have any money, really–”
“Don’t worry about that for now, okay? Just give us a call in a couple days, if that’s alright.”
Rorie nodded. She looked Lysik in the eye, a strong but distracted gaze, and smiled gently. “Thanks, Dr. Lysik.”
Lysik smiled in return, and then let her face relax to a thoughtful frown as she watched Rorie slip out of the office and into the late afternoon sun.