Eye contact cannot be maintained, so his gaze stays permanently fixed upon the linoleum. Down there, nervous toes tap out gobbledygook in Morse code, pairs of aromatic trainers next to sandals next to slippers, a multitude of feet, each hoof a clear and obvious indication that the doctor’s surgery remains frustratingly full.
The crowded space is making him sweat as the room seems to shrink.
That he has managed to make it this far is a relative miracle. Whether or not he can see it all the way through seems to be becoming increasingly doubtful.
Neither family nor friends know that he is here, and this subterfuge weighs heavily upon an already fragile mind. A lunch time appointment squeezed in due to a last-minute cancellation. A frantic phone call made earlier this morning, the sympathetic receptionist calming his jibber-jabber as he babbled into his mobile from the front seat of his car.
“PLEASE, I NEED TO SEE A DOCTOR!”
Hearing these words spoken aloud in his own cracked voice confirmed what he had suspected for some time: that the slow disintegration of his self could no longer be denied.
This truth, and his acceptance of it, resulted in a course of action he had been reluctant to undertake. The opening of a box, sealed tightly shut long ago, locked and then wrapped in the choking embrace of the heaviest chains, spirited away to the murkiest reaches of his mind. Tearing open the chest had proven to be a painful experience. Once done, it was blindingly apparent that it would remain impossible to close.
So many secrets, spilling over the edges, finally acknowledged and let out into the light.
That the tears in the morning shower were of significance.
That the sadness was constant and that this was wrong.
That the man he presented to the world was a lie.
That he was sick and tired of living in constant fear.
Considering these admissions once again causes his entire body to shake, adrenaline pumping into trembling legs, and now he is suddenly rising, heading towards the exit.
“MISTER HARDING PLEASE?”
The Doctor, head peeking out of her office, offers up a slight smile to the eager audience in the waiting room, each member looking at her with disappointment, frustrated that they’re not the one being summoned.
The soft tone of her voice brings him to a standstill. Somehow, he finds the strength to elevate his stare from the dusty floor.
Mister Harding sighs, swallows, then contemplates the two doors that stand before him.
He lowers his head again, closes his eyes, silently asks for the courage to alter his life and change the direction in which he is travelling.
And then makes his choice.