Our Time Is Up For Today

Pinterest Hidden Image

Our Time Is Up For Today

Flash Fiction

by Jan English Leary

At 1:55, I tossed the Amazon boxes out of camera range and clicked the link for my 2:00 therapy Zoom. My face appeared in a small box. I adjusted the ring light so my skin didn’t look red. Always an anxious moment when I’m afraid Dr. Lane won’t log on, meaning I got the time wrong. Or maybe I’d missed the session and would have to pay, and she’d ask if I were sabotaging my therapy. Or maybe she’d forget since I wasn’t worth remembering. No, that was neurotic. I took deep breaths to calm myself. When at 2:00, the rectangle with her face appeared, relief fluttered down my fingers. Dr. Lane wore her reading glasses today and a red silk Japanese duster, her hair newly blown out with gold highlights. Because I work from home on Tuesdays, I wore PJ bottoms and a shirt I’d scavenged from the hamper.

She smiled. “Hello, Sheila. How was your week?”

I mentioned Monica, my passive-aggressive colleague who tries to undermine me, but it’s hard to read the room when I’m not there every day. I like working hybrid but am afraid things are going on without me. I told her I was eating right, making progress each day.

I started seeing Dr. Lane for anxiety but realized my real issues stemmed from abandonment: my parents, my ex, yada, yada. Today, I mentioned my phone call with my mother, not satisfying, as usual, but not awful. I went over standard stuff, Mom, work, my ex, but each week, it felt slightly different. New insights, new wrinkles on old problems, incremental progress. Usually, I doodle while I’m talking. It helps me focus and it is easier not to make constant eye contact, like lying on the couch and staring at the ceiling. 

When I glanced at the screen, I saw her face with an online solitaire game reflected in her glasses. Spider, by the look of it, four suits, not even the easy all-spades version. 

“Go on,” she said. 

I waited to see if the game could be background, but cards moved, spade on spade, heart on heart. Should I say something? Was I so boring she needed a game to get through my session?

I started again. “I’ve had weird dreams where I take risks. In one dream, I was in the park and pulled down a stranger’s mask and kissed him. Then I saw a homeless guy, and we had sex. Then I left. I dreamed of shoplifting, mostly packs of gum or lip balm, but was too easy, but then I started taking more expensive things, more out in the open, closer to the register.”

Piles of cards moved left, right, completed suits jumping to the top row. I paused, but she didn’t look up. So, I continued, confessing to imaginary misdeeds “I got drunk and showed up at work, but no one noticed. I set up an imaginary account and wrote to Bradley’s wife to tell her he and I were having an affair. I have the uncontrollable urge to push a stranger onto the El tracks just as the train is approaching. I pick my victim and make up a story of why he deserves it. I want to break windows and paint on walls, ruin things. Tear up plants, pour acid into the sewer. I shifted funds around at work in small amounts so that no one knows, and I set up an account to withdraw them.” She grimaced then redealt a new game. After a few moves, she redealt again.

I took credit for unsolved murders, mysterious disappearances, abductions, vandalism, cybercrime, sabotage. I borrowed from TV and the movies, from lives more dangerous and edgy than mine. Vibrating, my skin flushed and glowing, I was on a high. 

“Okay, Sheila,” Dr. Lane said, looking at the camera. “Our time is up for today. But good work. Let’s take this up again next week.” She gave me her warmest smile and leaned toward the screen.

“Just one more thing,” I said. “Move the Jack of Hearts onto the Queen.” 

Her face froze, and I pressed the button to exit the meeting, as the blood pulsed in my ears.

solitaire cards
About the Author

Jan English Leary is the author of three books published by Fomite Press: Thicker Than Blood, Skating on the Vertical, and Town and Gown. Her short fiction has appeared in such journals as Long Story Short, Carve, Pleiades, The Long Story, Chariton Review, and others. She lives in Chicago.