Old Friends [CW series #12]

“Can I speak to John, please? Dr. O’Reilly here. It’s important, yes, and it’s urgent.”

Henry frowned at a fly which was making its way across the mahogany surface aiming for the half eaten almond croissant willing it to drop dead before it reached its target. There hadn’t been enough time to finish breakfast before the first customer arrived at the Mindfulness Clinic this morning. The last time a session had plunged into chaos with the subject falling into a dark place within himself and crying, no, sobbing, unstoppable tears running down his cheeks, he had been found hanging from a rope in the cowshed on his parents’ farmland the next day.

Business had suffered, taken a right slump, and he had to be careful. If anything like this happened again, it would be the end of the clinic and he might as well go on the dole. A lot of his Facebook followers were still posting links to articles which critique the mindfulness concept and question whether blocking out the past and the future to focus on the present is such a healthy thing to do.

“I have another referral for you. At least I hope she’ll turn up on your turf, man. Are you free for lunch?”

An Fidléir Dubh was busier than John had expected it to be when he suggested that the two men meet up there. They had first met when they were both studying medicine in Dublin and had struck an unlikely friendship then. John had an easy way about him, professors and fellow students would warm to him in an instant, as soon as he gave them that wide smile of his. He had a brightness about him, a glow. Tall, with a muscular build and a moon shaped chubby face and a hint of the double chin which was to come in his later life, he was just a little off being drop dead good looking which didn’t stop the girls falling for him left right and centre. They found Henry scary, they said. Poor troubled Henry. A loner. His expression a perpetual frown, everything about Henry was dark, oily black shoulder length hair, anthracitic eyes glowering at you from dark craters in a skeletal face. Black cotton shirts and black biker’s pants hanging off his bony frame. His mother had died when Henry was 14, and his father had left for work one morning the year after and never showed up there nor returned home that day. He had disappeared. Gone, gone forever. There was an aunt, Geraldine, in her sixties already when she took the lad in. She had never married and John presumed wasn’t used to dealing with adolescents, never mind a bereaved specimen.

Henry had been surprised when John invited him along to a party a week into first year, even more surprised when John made a point of joining him in the dark corner which Henry had sought out and they got talking. Why had they chosen to study medicine was the introductory topic. He had thought John the shallow type, intelligent but self serving in his choice of easy company. With a wide grin John had confessed that he expected to be bored with most of it and figured that it was just going to be a step up from having learnt a good deal of basics through helping out in his dad’s business, a butcher’s, and his uncle’s veterinarian clinic during school breaks. His dream career was to become a psychiatrist, skilled at dissecting and healing the human mind. Henry felt that he had ample experience of the darkest pits of the human mind already and would happily settle for setting himself up as a GP on Dublin’s southside.

They had lost touch a few years after graduation, the year Henry got married to Ginnie, one of John’s many ex-girlfriends. John never got married, his devotion to psychiatry killing off any promising relationships he had throughout the years. He had moved to the West after his last failed relationship two years ago and had set himself up as a private psychotherapist in Sligo town, having got tired of Dublin and curious to see if the slower pace of life in the new and unfamiliar environment would change him. Unaware that Henry had also relocated to the countryside, he was taken aback when he turned up in his practice out of the blue last year, distraught over a suicide he thought had been triggered by a mindfulness therapy session at his clinic in Leitrim.

John had nearly finished his full Irish breakfast and was contemplating a second pint by the time Henry arrived.

“Took me an age to get here, man, sorry about that. Jimmy’s cows were being led across the road, and his rookie sheepdog was running rings around my jeep instead of moving them along.” Henry dropped a large folder onto the table and sent the pint glass flying off to the ground, “Oh man, this is so not my day. Will I get you another?”

“Don’t worry and sit down, and breathe. You look like you could do with something stronger. What’ll you have?”

“Nah, I’ll just have a coffee and a ham and cheese sandwich. You go for it, though. Look, I really need your help. I’m not sure what she’s going to do, I tried to calm her but she ran out in tears. I couldn’t stop her. I tried to ring her, but she won’t answer her mobile. Not to me, anyway.” Henry’s hand shook as he took his glasses off and sat them down on top of the folder.

John thought it best to see to the order first, adding two Whiskeys for good measure. He had a feeling they would be needed. “I’ll drink them both, if you don’t want yours. So what’s with the folder?”

“My notes from every session I’ve had with this woman since she first started seeing me last year. I want you to read them, see what you think. I’ve asked her to make an appointment with you urgently, but I’m not sure if she will or not. She’s in an abysmal dark place all of a sudden. I didn’t see that coming at all.”

© Ash N. Finn, 2016

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