Your Voice: A Student Publication


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Your Voice: A Student Publication


Your Voice: A Student Publication


Therapy Session – Fiction Piece

This narrative is told through the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 grounding technique used in cognitive behavior therapy.

Five things I can see:

  1. The amorphous, oily stains on the loveseat, like grease on Dad’s T-shirt. He wore his exhaustion on his sleeve like a badge of honor. The stains are off putting; they remind me of tumors on a CT scan, growing on the couch like cancer trauma. Whether it be spilled tea, spilled tears, or cancerous tumors, everything about the stains seems infectious. 
  2. Mom, sipping tentatively on her ice water, the only liquid she drinks in order to keep her slim figure. She hates her body, but we curve in all the same places. 
  3. The therapist, looking at me pitifully to avoid the empty space surrounding me. Mom is to my left, preserving a safe distance of two feet in case I snap like a wound toy. She treats me like I’m fragile and then tries to break me down more.
  4.  A poster of a sunset plastered to the wall, peeling at the edges, adorning an empty affirmational phrase. The image is pretty: the sun breaks through the clouds in fragmented rays, golden spotlighting over rippled water. However, the scenery isn’t aiding me with its suggested “Positive Thinking.” I think to myself that I am positively sure I’d rather be anywhere else but here, exposed, on this cancerous loveseat, with Mom, without Dad.
  5. Dad’s absence. 

Four things I can feel:

  1. My hands wedged in between my thighs and the loveseat, creating separation between me and the cancer-couch. It’s a habit I developed from riding on the subway, a sanitary measure to protect myself from contamination, whether that be ambiguous stains on the subway seats or the intimate brush of a stranger whose intentions I can’t deduce in a fleeting moment. I used this method of separation in all the hospital chairs, keeping my flesh safely elevated. I hate being touched. I crave ownership.
  2. The biting wind through a cracked window, a cruel temptation. 
  3. Burning resentment, a fire lit inside the pit of my stomach that singes its lining, my chest cavity, and my heart, beating faster and faster.
  4. Dad’s absence. 

Three things I hear:

  1. The white noise machine, meshing with the Therapist and Mom’s hushed discussion. I hear their covertness, the fragility in their tone as they glance at me in transient whispers. I hear no discernable words, but I don’t need to: I am awash in the blank, flat, noise of the machine. It sounds like brain fog. For a moment, I am finally not here.
  2. A pause in conversation to account for Mom’s phone notification. In my peripheral vision I see it absorb her attention, a habit I’m used to being on the receiving end of. She did this all the time in the hospital and it made me mental. Sometimes I wonder how dad was the one who got cancer and not her (can you get cancer from blue light?) 
  3. My fingers drumming against the chair’s arm, a bewildering metronomic pattern. It consumes all of my focus. I’m not even thinking about the strange couch splotches I must be touching. Well, now I’m thinking about them. I need hand sanitizer.

Two things I smell

  1. The hand sanitizer, excruciatingly medical and poignant. It slides across my palms and oozes in between my fingers. I can feel it slipping through the cracks and onto the carpet, another tarnishing to the exhausted interior. 
  2. Mom’s perfume. It’s artificially sweet, like floral scent that comes bottled in aerosol containers.

One thing I taste

  1. The bitter taste of Dad’s death.


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    Pam SheldonMar 28, 2024 at 12:57 PM

    Wow! This is one of my all-time favorite pieces. Really nice work revealing the scene and story (and in such a unique format.) You build a world of experience for us in a small moment. Thank you for sharing this.