Black Box

Black Box by Julie Schumacher Read Free Book Online

Book: Black Box by Julie Schumacher Read Free Book Online
Authors: Julie Schumacher
Tags: Fiction
even on days when we weren’t allowed to visit.
    Most of the messages I sent were short and cheery:
Dora—I miss you. Everything is going to be okay. Lila and Kate both want to say hi.
    Once I wrote that exercise and fish oil (I had learned in an article my father had left on the kitchen table) were good for depression. Dora sent back a note with a picture of herself as a long-haired fish lifting a pair of barbells.
    K fyrc kv fcpc,
she scribbled underneath.
I hate it here


    “Tell me what you’re thinking and what you’re feeling,” the Grandma Therapist said.
    Apparently someone had decided—since we were still living through a “period of stress”—that I would have a regular appointment every Tuesday at four-fifteen.
    I pushed my spine against the back of my chair. I wished our chairs didn’t face each other. Talking to a therapist, I thought, was like taking your clothes off and then taking your skin off, and then having the other person say, “Would you mind opening up your rib cage so that we can start?”
    “I don’t see what good this is supposed to do,” I said. “Our sitting here talking.”
    The Grandma Therapist nodded. “The idea at first,” she said, “is that you start to trust me.”
    I didn’t understand why trust was relevant: it wasn’t as if I were telling her secrets. “Dora’s been in the hospital,” I said.
    “I heard. Your mother spoke to me on the phone about that.”
    “Do you think Lorning is a terrible hospital?” I asked.
    “No. But I’m not an expert.” The Grandma Therapist looked at me as if it were my turn to talk. It almost always seemed to be my turn. The Grandma Therapist wore white plastic glasses that matched the white of her hair. She wore one silver earring.
    A couple of minutes ticked by.
    “Where is it coming from?” I asked. I meant Dora’s depression. I understood unhappiness when it came
to something: to someone dying or to a friend moving away or to being disappointed. But Dora’s unhappiness—or whatever it was—seemed to exist independently, on its own. I pictured stunted, faceless creatures manufacturing it in a cave somewhere, like a toxic gas.
    “I’m not sure what you’re asking. Where is what coming from?”
    I turned sideways in my chair and kicked at the leg of the little table where she kept the plant and the clock and the tissues and the jar of stones. “Never mind.”
    “Are you angry about something?”
    “It seems as if you’re angry. Or maybe upset. You’re not looking at me.”
    “I’m not upset.” Through a slit in the blinds, I could see a slice of gray sky full of clouds. I tried not to picture the Grandma Therapist as a giant ear. “How long does it usually take?” I asked.
    “Do you mean, how long does it take for a person to recover from depression?”
    I nodded.
    “That varies a lot from person to person. Every instance of mental illness is unique.”
    I took a couple of stones from the jar. “It’s not ‘mental illness.’”
    The Grandma Therapist tilted her head.
    “That’s not what it’s called,” I said. “That makes it sound like Dora’s crazy.”
    “I’m not saying your sister is crazy,” the Grandma Therapist said. “I wouldn’t use that word for anyone.”
    I kicked the leg of the table again.
    She stood up and lifted the table carefully, setting it down out of reach. Then she sat in her chair again, facing me. “You still haven’t told me what you’re feeling.”
    “That’s because I don’t like the word
” I said.
    “Why not?”
    I told her about my family reputation for being stoic. “I’m not a crier,” I said. “I never cry.”
    “Maybe that’s something we should talk about.”
    I tried to push myself even farther back in my chair.
    “It isn’t easy to live with uncertainty.” The Grandma Therapist folded her hands. “Maybe you wish you could wave a magic wand and put everything back the way it was.”
    “I don’t want a

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