Fact and fiction

A woman, about twenty, quietly enters the waiting room of her doctor’s office. There’s only one other woman in there, quietly reading a magazine. This woman, a little older and a little prettier, bored from waiting, notices this new arrival and takes interest. It’s something better to do than read these pointless magazines, at least.

She watches this woman approach the reception desk, not nervous, but perhaps unsure of herself. She’s clearly tried to be presentable- her hair is slightly matted in the back,  a classic sign that she slept on it last night, but at least she’s tended to the parts she can see. Her jeans are worn, but not in the designer way, and her coat is at least one size too big. All in all, this older woman thinks, she’s not too bad. About to go back to her magazine, disappointed there wasn’t more to catch her interest, the younger woman makes her way to a chair to sit down. And that’s when the older woman notices it- a purse so ugly it’s almost shocking. Pink shiny pleather, edges lined with silver studs, topped off with leopard print handles. The older woman can’t look away- it’s too ugly! She tries to hold back a smile, embarrassed for this other woman and the terrible fashion mistake she has made. The older woman realizes that this woman must be quite poor, to not be able to afford anything better. And clearly, somewhat trashy too. Pity for her is now rampant. “Oh, she’s trying so hard,” she thinks. She goes back to reading her magazine, thinking about how unfortunate this other woman’s life, and purse, must be.

A woman, about twenty, quietly enters the waiting room of her doctor’s office. There’s only one other woman in there, quietly reading a magazine. She’s probably about thirty-five, and quite pretty. The younger woman approaches the reception desk and checks in. She’s still exhausted from the night before and almost missed her appointment.

She notices the other woman’s eyes on her, but doesn’t really take interest. Her mind is too full of thoughts. She chooses a seat somewhat near the other woman, sets her purse on the seat next to her, and grabs a magazine. Celebrity gossip again, she sighs. It’s about ten minutes before she gets called back. She realizes that the other woman is still sitting there reading and wonders why she is going in first. Nervously, she shakes the doctor’s hand, and walks back to her office. As they enter the office, she looks at the name plate on the door: “Dr. Fulton, PhD Licensed Psychologist.”

A girl, about thirteen, sits in Dr. Hubbard’s office. She’s in tears, but still managing to squeak out words- “I just can’t eat. I look at the food and it’s repulsive. I want, I mean, I do, I want to eat, but I don’t know. I’m scared. I’m scared of the number getting bigger.” She looks up at Dr. Hubbard, who is nodding her head, always there to support her. The girl thinks about how she needs her, how much she doesn’t know if she would make it if it weren’t for her. “I wish you were my mom,” she whispers. Dr. Hubbard has heard this from the girl almost every visit. “I know how much you need her and wish she could see the real you,” Dr. Hubbard responds.

The woman, about twenty, sits down in Dr. Fulton’s office. She smiles and manages a “I’m kind of nervous. I’ve never done this before.” Dr. Fulton smiles, a friendly smile. “Well, let me start by telling you a little bit about me and the way this works, then I’ll ask a little more about you. The first visit is really just focused on getting to know each other.” The woman relaxes a little and listens to Dr. Fulton go over some business stuff then talk about how therapy works. When it gets to her turn, she feels a little more comfortable and starts to tell her story.

“Well, I’m here today because I’ve realized that I just can’t handle it all on my own anymore. I’m nine-teen and I’ve been through a lot.” She laughs, even though it’s not funny. She looks at Dr. Fulton, who appears to be listening intently, patiently. Taking a deep breath, she continues, “Anyway, um, I have been feeling a little depressed. I have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, but I have to. I go to school full time and then work nights, full time, because I need the money.” Dr Fulton listens as this woman tells her about how her mother was killed by her abusive boyfriend two years ago, how she and her little sister  now live in a one-bedroom apartment and she pays all the bills. She listens to how the woman was raped at the age of fourteen by her father’s best friend. She listens to the woman’s story, and how at nine-teen she has survived and keeps on surviving despite all that is against her. She listens to how, despite her pained past and the long hours at work and school, there is so much love and joy in this woman’s life as well.

The girl finishes her session with Dr. Hubbard and returns to the waiting room to her mother. Her mother drops a magazine and gives her daughter a pained smile. The girl walks right past her to grab her coat, and they head out the door. The woman feels helpless and doesn’t understand why her daughter is in so much pain. The girl is annoyed she can’t drive and has to ride with her mother, getting battered with questions the whole way home.

A while later, the nineteen year-old finishes up with Dr. Fulton. Feeling a little lighter, she stands up, thanks Dr. Fulton, and grabs her purse. She smiles at it, and thinks about her morning.

She’s getting ready for her first counseling appointment. She realized she had to go when her sister, who is twelve, made a comment about her sadness. Reluctantly, she agreed. Now on this morning, she is so nervous she can’t eat breakfast. She wonders about what it will be like, how much she’ll have to share, and what people might think of her. She can’t stand pity. On her way out the door, she realizes she almost forgot her purse. Turning around, her sister is standing there with a smile on her face. “Here, take mine,” she says, “for good luck and support. I put your wallet in it.” The woman hugs her sister and heads out the door with the pink pleather purse- a reminder of why she is doing this all in the first place.

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