How Are You?

Therapy

Rahul’s a 26-year-old literature graduate. He works as a content writer, or at least tries to. Life’s stuck between taglines and writing words on top of words. The job description equals a sedentary life, and he ends sentences with prepositions. He’s not a fan of Shakespeare. Sue him.

He can’t have sex. Maybe he doesn’t want to. He looks away from women, and it’s not like he’s looking at men either. His virility is only limited to the gym. When the pen doesn’t feel mightier than the sword, he becomes the sword. He chokes people out after 7 am, or he gets his elbow almost snapped clean. He’s a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu white belt.

What’s more? When he’s done writing and fighting, he’s at the gymnasium executing lifts with the finest form and technique. When that’s done, he sits down and learns how to code. He’s acquainted himself with 4 languages thus far, in 4 months. But yeah, most days, he’s a content writer. Right now, he’s at the therapist.

The psychologist asks, “How are you, Rahul?”

Rahul begins to respond with a smile that neither starts nor ends. His mind’s looping through a response. He rests his lips on two fingers and his chin on his thumb, in a striking how-thinkers-think pose. He could pass for an intellectual, only at first glance.

“Stop thinking it, Rahul. Just feign ignorance. Hide. Say anything”

His mind has got a mind of its own. Think nested Russian dolls.

He’s lost in thought. Dr Dan sees that Rahul’s fingertips are stained with vitiligo, so are his lips, knees, and toes.

Vanity mattered to Rahul once. It nearly killed him. Now, he’s got that assured body composition that holds his frame upright, just right—part muscle that was once part-lanky runt of the litter. He’s a world of contradictions. Doesn’t confidence mask scaredy cats? Don’t answer. This is rhetorical.

Rahul asks absentmindedly, “What was the question again?”

Dr Dan articulates, “How are you feeling, Rahul?”

“Don’t say it. Don’t say it. You can live without this”—his mind you see.

She sees that he’s ready to execute the function respond (). The argument is added. He executes the cached function in memory, like the malfunctioning, self-aware robot that he’s become.

“Don’t ask such loaded questions, doctor. I can’t go toe to toe with your reality. I’d rather wait for the next dose of Clonazepam. No, my state of mind isn’t a reflection of the society I live in. I’m not brilliant like that. I end sentences with prepositions. I seed paragraphs with antecedents. I litter with alliteration for effect.”

Rahul continues, “I’m not the refuse who mirrors his dystopian environs. This isn’t that kind of talk. Sorry. My mania is mine. Let it be just mine. Life has sucked since time immemorial. We’ve been flawed since before we took human form. We lied, cheated, and murdered even before we became sapient—clever pun right there. Go ask the chimpanzees. Coming back to your question. I’m just a suicidal 26-year-old blood bag, nothing out of the ordinary.”

As if the backrest was lit with fire, Rahul hurriedly sits up straight and adds excitedly with a fully visible crescent of a smile, “I feel half alive, never in any moment, fully.”

Something excites him.

“My mind does this thing while I do most things: eating, shitting, working, streaming…every gerund. It thinks of the best way to kill, well, me: nitrous oxide or the hangman’s knot. Let’s see what the noggin’ wants. But imagine that. A mind trying to bring its own house down. Not so smart after all. And it turns out that it’s up to this smarty pants to buy the idea of life—consumerism knows no bounds.

If it doesn’t, you better be prepared for evenings with doctored spirituality, muscle relaxers, and emotion wheels. Your rescue mission begins, and nobody can give you a better answer than ‘because we must live.’ The blinded are leading the sighted. What a tragedy.”

He assumes a new position. He handsomely leans back in the armchair, legs crossed in a manner that’s effeminate. That would be his power pose. But his hands tightly grip the arms of the chair, and his fingertips are bursting with the color white. They could burst. Muscle contractions would be the contradiction here.

His gaze is steady. His breathing is measured—2 seconds of inhalation, 2 seconds of exhalation—coded to a tee. His grip is still maniacal. The atoms of the arm rest are under considerable duress. He looks past the doctor who’s sitting across from him. His grip instantaneously loosens, blood rushes back to his fingertips. He smiles after realizing a truth that’s been there all along, like gravity. He frees his fingertips. Hope has left the building.

“I’ll exit the loop, and you’ll keep singing the same song. Ha-ha.”

But he masks his true words and says, “Thank you, Dr Dan. I appreciate your time. I think I’m fine. Let’s call it a day.”

He doesn’t shut the door behind him when he leaves.


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