“-as FUCK,” she enunciated those last words, presumably to either piss me off, encourage me to end the session, or both. Of course, I knew that she was in fact trying to do all this, with an added desire of getting me to probe. Like the mind reading counsellor that I am, I do exactly that.
“And why do you think that seahorses are…” I pause to squint my eyes, treading carefully, “magical as fuck?”
Her own brown almond eyes widen slightly. She’s surprised that I would mirror the casual profanity of Gen Z, and she’s deciding whether my response is a trick, or if I’m actually a “lit” Boomer. If I’m gonna decide, I need more to decide, her thoughts, verbatim. I smile on the inside, intrigued on what she says next before she says it. Her response floats around in my head, and I’m saying it with her in my mind as she’s saying it in real life.
“I mean, think about, right. So you know that seahorses exist and everything, somehow, like you’ve heard it on t.v or like through documentaries or whatever. But have you ever actually heard people talk about them? Compared to other animals or marine creatures, like fish or sharks. No, right? Even mermaids, literal myths, are mentioned more than seahorses. It’s like everyone knows that they’re there, but they never truly know it. Like they’re not something you ever remember until brought up, which is practically never.”
And even though I had already analyzed her response before she had finished, I give a slight nod and the customary “mhmm”, urging her to go on. She thinks for a while, gathering a more laconic way of projecting her thoughts.
“There was a time I just thought about seahorses randomly, like genuinely thought about them for real. And I remembered that one fact where the male seahorse is the one that gets pregnant, which is weird, but cool. It’s really cool, and it got me thinking about them and how they seem like something out of a fantasy novel. I mean, they look like tiny, regal, multicoloured anchors just floating around randomly in the sea and it created such a vivid picture in my mind. Like wow, I’d love to see it.”
For a moment, she’s lost in her thoughts, which are surprisingly clear for the time being. She’s imagining what she had described, and it translates directly into my mind. A herd of resplendent seahorses, bobbing around in the pellucid blue water, doing nothing of interest, yet invoking a surge of interest in anyone who looks on. I too, am entranced by this imagery, until the scene suddenly changes and a number of the seahorses contort their body. Sounds, like faint sirens, pierce my mind as a myriad of bubbles protrude from their...noses? Snouts? Whatever their breathing mechanisms were called, tiny bubbles emerged, until all you could see was blurred water, like looking through smoke. And then, just like that, a bunch of baby seahorses egress, seemingly out of nowhere, along with Sierra’s laugh.
“I don’t think that’s how seahorses give birth,” and as soon as I say it, regret kicks in. Shit.
“What?” her reaction changes from amusement to confusion, naturally. I’m not usually like this; I’ve learnt to control how I respond to my clients thoughts. Learned to oppress overtly reacting. Trying not to judge, and therefore not react at all. So why did I do that?
I look over at Sierra, who catches my eye and raises her eyebrows, cocking her head to the side. Wondering how I knew what she was laughing about. How I knew what she was thinking about. I’m trying to plan fast, ways to diffuse the situation, but unfortunately my powers don’t extend to veiling the truth.
Did I mention how they give birth? Why else would he have said that….
A streak of her musing catches my attention out of everything else swirling about in her mind and mine. Out of all our chaotic thoughts, as if it was coaxing me, whispering that it was my best shot at covering my tracks. I couldn’t, could I? If I depend on a false conversation that she was already considering, wouldn’t it make her more suspicious? I can’t think of anything else though…
Why is he taking so long to answer? God, I hate therapists.
“I’m not a therapist, I’m a counsellor,” I snap too quickly, failing to control my powers, again. She looks at me, this time with more concern, more shock. And something else too. Was that...was that fear? Was she scared of me? Oh come on, you’d be scared of you too my mind is starting to feel overwhelmed, and I think I feel a headache coming on. This hasn’t happened in a while, not since your primitive days of mind reading. This is bad...OH MY GOD how the fuck did he know that...you’re practically exposing yourself, Bob...this is so creepy, why is he staring into space like that...answer the girl before it gets worse you moron...I should go…
My rampant thoughts amalgamating with Sierra’s produces a searing pain in my sinuses, and I have to close my eyes. It’s never been this bad, and though I realize I’m scaring the crap out of her, I can’t move. I can’t respond, and I can’t open my eyes. They’re stuck shut, and I groan in agony, trying to emulate that on my thoughts. But they don’t stop, they get worse with every passing second, and the last thing I hear before I start to feel the darkness is “I need to leave” and a slam of the door.
I never thought I’d ever actually do it. Every time I believed I had done enough research, enough practice, enough to finally bring it to fruition, there was always something missing. Always, until one day, there wasn’t. One day, I thought I was going shopping, but little did I know that my mind would be inundated with everyone else’s decisions about whether they wanted to try this cereal or stick to their usual.
I always had this immense desire to do more. My mum, sorting through the house bills that had become a mountain on our rickety kitchen table. My dad, living his new life with his new trophy wife and her snobby kids who insisted that money wasn’t everything, but “still, go and make something of yourself. Don’t be like your mother.” I looked at the capitalist hell we were all confined to and I wanted to get out, but I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want to leave this world knowing I hadn’t done anything for my mother, or everyone else who was deemed unworthy by society based on the status of their wealth. I wanted everyone to succeed in what they loved and what they were good at. Imagine if we all collectively honed our innate skills, advancing them to their full potential. Imagine our society. Imagine our world.
So from that point on, at the tender age of thirteen, I set off on trying to open up my third eye and harnessing my natural abilities. Compassion, empathy, sensitivity and being an idealist were never strangers to me; it was only logical that the power I unlocked, during my years of being a counsellor, was the ability to read people’s minds and therefore advise them in the most effective way.
For years now, I’ve mind-read in the most purest form, sometimes even blocking out a client's thoughts if that’s the best way forward. On the one hand, there’s no way I would ever take advantage of something I’ve spent my whole life acquiring, for the benefit of all those around me. On the other hand, however, I’m not naive to the fact that some people would see this as an advantage in the wrong context. People who would try to exploit it, inevitably turning it into a capitalist tool like everything else.
So I kept quiet, knowing that the only way I’d reveal it to another was when I could be absolutely sure their intentions were as pure as mine.
For a mind-reading counsellor, that couldn’t be too hard, could it?
There’s a knock on the door, four raps. Even without her usual knocking pattern, I'd know it was Sierra.
“Come in,” I call out, aware that I had no reason to feel anxious. After all, I was the one who called for this impromptu meeting that I had actually been planning for weeks.
“Bob,” Sierra purses her lips and gives a slight nod as she walks in tentatively. She’s eyeing the plush cream sofa versus the wooden chair across from me, weighing out the least threatening seating option in her mind.
No, you promised yourself you wouldn’t read it this time.
“Sierra,” I respond, gesturing towards the sofa, trying not to seem pushy, but wanting nothing more than to get started. As she finally cedes to the sofa, albeit the far corner, I take out my notebook pen combination.
“Do you mind?” I enquire, pen poised above the thick leather cover, noticing her eyes noticing my instinctive counsellor movements. I know I promised not to read it, but her thoughts pop into my brain without warning
Do you mind...how apt. She smiles as that formulates in our minds. The pun was unintentional, of course, but her amusement infects me too, until we’re both just sitting there, staring, but smiling at each other.
And all at once, it dawns on me why I had inadvertently let myself be so careless in our previous encounter.
“After 6 months of these sessions, of you talking to me, opening up about your divorced parents, being one of my more honest clients, I believe the least I owe is the truth about last time,” my voice comes out calm, but not the faux calm I had become so adept at over the years.
“I’m listening,” she too, remains quiescent, but not stoic. I catch a glimpse of wonder (or was it knowing?) in her eyes before continuing.
“I think you’ll understand…” I start, veering from the speech I had prepared. Right now, it didn’t seem necessary. “I think you’re meant to understand...if that makes sense. I think in order to genuinely explain this to you, I have to shut off my indicators that help me...say stuff.”
She says nothing, just blinks. I take a deep breath.
“I….I can read minds. I don't really know how to say it in detail, but I’m trying to be as blunt as possible,” I start, although I lied. I spent the next half an hour going into every single detail, relieved to finally be able to tell someone, to tell someone pure. She was always going to be the one the voice in my own head, which I’m starting to believe is the bodiless advice of my bodiless power, sings. You were taking so long to find the “perfect” one, I couldn’t take it any longer. You’re welcome.
She’s quiet for a long time after I finish speaking, so long that I start to wonder if she died from shock, or information overload, or both. Just as I’m about to actively break my promise and access her speculation, she speaks.
“So...so what you mean to tell me is that you’re magical?”
Shit, I’ve screwed up. I shouldn’t have told her, what on earth was I thinking?
“You’re literally a seahorse. A mind reading seahorse,” her voice is airy as her eyes start to light up and an infectious smile plays on her face. If it was anyone else, I would have never stopped chastising myself for thinking I could ever reveal such a thing. But it was Sierra, and if she saw me as a seahorse, then she saw me for who I truly was.
“Thank you,” I whisper, meaning to add “for believing me”, but we both knew it was tacit.