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Lucky Number Seven
Seven. The lucky number. The number of times I bit my tongue to hold back words I’d regret this week. The number of buttons on my crisp, new Oxford shirt I bought. The number of bobby pins in my hair to pat down the frayed mass into a bun. The number of papers I wrote since the term began. The number of times I signed my name when I first signed up for a major in psychology, so I could go on to become a therapist.
The number of ‘mentally-challenged’ patients I met this week, alone, without a supervisor to look over my shoulder, to make sure I was actually jotting down notes, to make sure I didn’t say anything to screw everything up.
Yeah, I’d say seven is a ‘lucky’ number. Sure.
The first patient: you can’t really call him a mental patient, not in my terms. He just had a bit of a stutter and an over-active imagination. Being paranoid about monsters under the bed isn’t that bad. Even if your forty-eight years old. Really.
A few hours after I was done, I realized that it had been so stupid of me to actually get so nervous over this; so nervous, in fact, that I just lay in my bed the night before, unable to go to sleep. So nervous, I didn’t trust myself to drive with my trembling hands and took the bus instead. So nervous, I considered running away. But by then, they’d already pushed me through the doors and my body had sat down in the chair in front of the man.
The second patient: I was calmer then. Or so I liked to think. I think I can honestly say that I was almost more scared then my patient. My patient, who was diagnosed with some illness so that you suspect every person you meet carries a knife that would soon be embedded in your chest. Dear gods, I was so scared that the words of the illness they’d told me he had hadn’t registered.
By the time I sat down in front of my third patient, I was thinking of quitting and starting a new major. If I actually got through this and got my diploma, did I actually think I could survive this meet-and-greet routine every day? And depend on it for a living?
The fourth patient: I am proud to say I was quite calm. Even as the man retold his stories about his ultimate wish: to snap the necks of swans he’d seen in a park not so long ago. Even as he told me he had an entire butcher-knife collection at home. Even as I jotted down numerous notes, about how he had in internal instinct to just ‘go out and kill everything in this tainted world.’
I only broke down three times through the course of the day afterwards.
When the day came to meet my fifth patient, I was not too thrilled about leaving the safety of my house. But now I was able to trust myself with my beloved Corvet, and I managed to keep my hands from trembling when I opened the door to another hour-session. The woman was really nice, though. She even gave me some candy at the end. But thank goodness I was able to keep my head straight this time; it wasn’t a good idea to eat something a person who experimented with poison every day in her kitchen, was it?
And, hey! After the sixth person left the room, it was safe to say: I could now eat properly without feeling the urge to regurgitate every bite! My friends--the ones who were sane enough to go with a safer major like journalism--commented on the dark circles underneath my eyes. I just gave a smile, recalling a particular statement from earlier that day, from my patient: if I smeared dog blood over my eyes, dark circles go away almost right away! Guess my patient noticed my failing health, too.
And then it was time to meet my seventh patient. As I stood in the meeting room, legs shaking, nails being bitten, deep breaths being taken, I paused. What the hell was I doing here?
Before I had the chance to bolt out the metal door, it opened, and in came my seventh patient. She wasn’t forty, or thirty, or even twenty. She was fourteen, with curly brown hair, blue-colored braces, and matching blue glasses. She hugged a jansport bag to her chest, clutching it as if it were a lifeline. Her eyes…well, they were terrified.
And as I listened to her story--dad who beat her mother, no relatives, mother who committed suicide, father now in jail--it became clearer to me. The reason why I signed up for this crazy course in the first place.
Because I wanted to help kids, like me. Or who I had once been, and who this girl sitting in front of me was now. Traumatized, and scared, and mistrusting the world. My parents had gotten a divorce when I was young. I’d been sent to live with my grandparents, as neither wanted me, and my grandparents had died not a year later. Since then, I’d house-hopped, orphanage-hopped--whatever you want to call it.
I grew cold. I grew mirthless. In fact, I could say that I heard turned into a complete hermit. But that all changed when I met Dr. Klein.
She was kind, and actually listened to my story. You could tell from a glance that she really wanted to help, and that she wasn’t listening to some half-crazed kid just for the money. She saved me, and because of that, I am here today.
I want to become someone like her. That was my reason.
An hour later, I was done. I was officially done with my Psychology course. I received seven job offers before graduating, seven thank-yous from the family of the patients I’d met with, and seven bouquets from my family members at my graduation.
Seven really is a lucky number, isn’t it?