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Most days he loved his job, and enjoyed the feeling that he was putting together a human jig-saw puzzle. His patients entered his office in various stages of assembly, and he would guide them to find the missing parts and match them to their proper places. Some had probably lost certain pieces for good and would always have odd holes that could only be patched up at best, but for the most part, he enjoyed the challenge of coaching them gently towards empowering self-discoveries. The brain was a marvelous masterpiece.

Every now and again, however, the process drained him. This occurred on days when his systematic capacity to separate work from personal life was not as sharp. Thank goodness it didn’t happen too frequently, or he might be tempted to leave his practice altogether. It was on one of these rare days that he had a post-lunch session with a girl who’d been coming in for months now without many signs of progress. He knew she was there because she needed to be, but she had yet to reveal anything substantial enough for him to work with. She was of the type that masked her thoughts in vague general terms. He usually reveled in the particular endurance required to assist this barmy sort of introversion that surely shrouded her deeper insecurities, but he was weary today, and paranoid that his usual patience was wearing thin. Even worse was the fact that her words seemed to be echoing his sentiments. He decided to opt for a Socratic approach in hopes that she would reach useful conclusions on her own.

“Sometimes I am so tired and my body feels like a trap”
“A trap?”
“Yea, like I am prohibited from floating away somewhere safe. I have to stay here, in this chair, and then meet my sister in the city and walk around—and sometimes my sense of self is too wobbly for it.”
“To be with your sister?”
“It’s actually worse with her. With most acquaintances, and friends I don’t know too well, I’m ok with keeping quiet. I don’t feel the obligation—as I used to—to entertain them or engage with them. Maybe its selfish, but it’s true. With my sister, I think I love her most in the world—or at least she’s in the category of People I Love Most, but sometimes we need to reach across chasms to find each other. Sometimes not.”
“So you’re not close?”
“Well I don’t know. We can keep quiet together. We trust each other. We know the same things about our family together. But family is weird.”
“Yea. This collection of random males and females that live together and share everything. And then move out.”
“Does that make you sad?”
“Sometimes. It used to really get to me. But now I’m more accepting. And I see how much we all return home and that says a lot I guess.”
“Why are you more accepting now?”
“Umm I’m not sure. Because it’s a way to keep content. And probably because it’s part of my genetic coding or something. But…” Her eyes drifted lazily to the edge of the carpet where the sun was falling through the window in slanted rays. He followed her gaze and considered the amount of floating dust particles revealed by the afternoon light.
“But what? Are you concerned you don’t get along anymore?”
“Not that we don’t get along. Just that we have no meeting ground. As if we’re just floating spheres, but no Venn diagram. I hate that.”
“What do you hate?”
“I don’t know. Dissonance. Indifference. Can we stop talking now? I know I paid for this, but I’m tired and I prefer to just sit for a minute.”
“Sure, sure.”
He wanted to say that he himself was tired as well, and also preferred to just sit for a minute, but reasoned that such a comment was not very professional of him. He mustn’t let his patients perceive him as anything other than their shrink. And why, he wondered now, did he have a sudden sense of confusion on the boundaries his profession required him to maintain? What was their purpose if not to further the dissonance, really? Why couldn’t he just tell her he was tired? He shook off the thought and only entertained the question for a moment. He checked his watch and decided to ask his wife out to dinner that night.