Ariana sits on the foam laced chair in the waiting room. Her head rests against the cool brick wall as her eyes pursue the new piece of abstract art added to the room's collection. Bold, striking colours blended together with obscure patterns. She loses herself in the painting, her brain working overtime to figure out what is hidden amongst the swirls and lines of paint. It is the red that pulls her in, such a passionate colour yet something deadly. Something that forces her fingers to stroke the scars on her wrist.
“Dr Fisher is ready to see you now.” The polite receptionist directs a gentle smile towards Ariana.
Ariana pauses before leaving her seat. Enough time for her to take another look, a quick assessment. Gold is a colour of opulence and barely visible in the painting. It must mean something. The artist had a reason for including it, even if it’s just a sprinkle in the middle.
Dr Fisher's familiar head pops out of his office. His thick rectangular glasses balance at the end of his nose and his pallid skin looks almost translucent, like he spent his week living with the dead. “I am ready for you Ariana.”
She makes her way into his room, taking her usual seat by the window. The tissues and fake grey flowers are, as always, on the coffee table and the same lonely picture - a black-and-white photograph clings to the wall.
“So how has you week been?” The doctor asks. His voice is pleasant, like feathers against the flesh.
“It was okay.” She mumbles. Her fingers return to the scars decorating her wrist, and she presses hard against the raised skin. “They only gave me a few shifts at the café. I had to keep myself busy.”
“And how did you do that?”
“I walked. Every day when I wasn’t working, I walked. I walked the full-length of the canal, the park. There are some interesting trees. I even walked the city’s streets.”
Dr Fisher nods his head, approving of Ariana’s choice of activity. “How do you feel when you walking?” His eyes zoom in on her slender face and her cheekbones that pop out of her skin.
“I like it when it rains. It is refreshing the water on my skin. And when its windy, I like how the air blows me around. I don’t like it when its sunny. The heat slows me down.”
Dr Fisher responds with a noise concealed behind his lips. He must make a note of what Ariana had said. It is valuable in her recovery and he slips the pencil into his hand.
“How have the nights been?” Asking this question is like ripping a plaster from its wound, quick with force. Dr Fisher knows its importance. The nights are when Ariana remembers, when there is some hope she will heal.
“I don’t sleep? And when I do, I have the dream.” Ariana's voice turns into a whisper and her finger moves up and down the scars, bending with the wonky lines.
“Let’s talk about the dream.”
“No, I can’t.”
“It is the only way you are going to get better.”
“No, never.” She shouts.
An uncomfortable silence presses itself against their eardrums. It is deadly. An atmospheric silence where the eyes, ears, nose work overtime to mend the damage. Dr Fisher removes his glasses, allowing Ariana to see the full shape and colour of his hazel eyes. His eyes—a marriage of honey and caramel change every part of him, making him warmer, more appealing.
“I spoke to my Mum yesterday.” Its sound of Ariana's breath that feeds her strength. Her nostrils trap the air and she blows it out with a pant. “They want me to come home.”
“And would you like to go home?”
She shakes her head, flicking her wavy hair in different directions.
The silence reappears, but Dr Fisher welcomes it. This silence gives Ariana time to consider her choices, to reflect on her situation. Thoughts tumble into her head. Returning to the town where she grew from her tiny feet into her rebellious adolescence. Where the smell of sourdough bread baking in the oven filled the kitchen on a Sunday morning and the chatter of her father’s work friends would bounce around the house on a Friday evening. It was when her hands worked more than her feet. A paintbrush in her fingers and empty canvas would by the end of the day be full of colours. And the look on her mother’s face when she showed it to her.
Ariana’s eyes move to the black-and-white photograph hanging behind Dr Fisher’s head. A glimpse of life before colour. The clothes the ladies wear, the cars on the road, the shop signs, the colour of sky. It is our imagination mixed with observation that decides.
“Why do you choose that picture for your wall?” She asks. Her eyes stay with the high street and as she waits for a response, she envisages the sounds. The horns beeping, the newspaper and fruit seller bellowing out their offers, car engines grunting, delicate shoes tapping the pavement.
“How about this Ariana?” Dr Fisher leans in towards her, his hazel eyes still on display. “I will tell you why I choose to hang this picture on the wall for our sessions if you tell me just a little about your dream.”
“You choose a picture to hang on the wall for our sessions.”
“Yes.” Dr Fisher smiles, his hazel eyes widening.
Ariana moves her gaze to her wrists. She barely looks at this tattoo of her own work. To touch is one thing, to see is another, and she has no memory of how they got there. At work they insist she wears long sleeves. Customers will be put off their food at the sight of those wonky red lines cut into her skin. “I am in a garden.” Her gaze glues itself to the deepest scar. The vertical line that reaches her elbow. The rest of her scars have healed by bulging out of her, but this physical reminder of her mutilations has gone inwards.
“Yes.” Dr Fisher encourages. His pencil fights the air, desperate to take note of her words.
“It is not my parents' garden, or a garden I think I have been to. It is full of colourful flowers.”
“What colours?” Dr Fisher interrupts. His heart rams itself into his chest. She is about to remember. He can feel it.
“Pinks, purples. Lilac colour. So pretty.”
“Are you alone?”
Ariana closes her eyes, and she pushes her lips up to her nose. Anything to battle the pain. “She is there with him.” Tears collect, ready for a trigger. “Can we stop now?”
“Just one more thing, Ariana. One more part of the dream.”
Her eyes shoot open, remaining with the scars on her wrist. “My arms.” She shoves them towards Dr Fisher as if she is ready and willing to be handcuffed. “The skin on my arms was beautiful. There were no marks, no scars. It was like the skin of a baby.” Ariana’s head falls into her chest, dangling for a moment in mid-air.
“Why did you hurt yourself Ariana?”
A tear falls, sliding down her curved face and dropping into her chest. “I can’t remember.”
“Well done.” Dr Fisher smiles. He pushes the tissues in her direction. “You did so good.” He leans back in his chair and his pencil attacks the note pad. So much progress made in one session.
Dr Fisher drops his pencil, staring at Ariana. The first day she entered his office her plump voluptuous lips trembled at the description of the dire state of her life and her cat shaped eyes rimmed with thick eyelashes opened and closed like a revolving door as she discussed the emptiness of her memory. She is, just like her work—art. “You are the most colourful person I know and from what I have learnt about you. You see colour differently to the rest of the world. I am interested in your response to life without colour?”
Ariana has been short-changed. She offered him so much, yet all he has given her is some psychological crap about colour. “Can I go now?” She growls, eyeballing the door.
“Sure. But before you go, a visit home might help.”
Ariana leaps from her chair and into the door. Her fingers grip the handle, but as she turns it, she stops. “What about the paintings in the waiting rooms?”
“They don’t look familiar?”
The door slams close, the wood frame shaking. Ariana hurries over to the new piece of artwork hanging near the exit door, her nose only centimeters away. The brush strokes are rough and the swirls make you dizzy, and the use of red is too much. It takes over the painting. The artist was in a whirlpool, their emotions controlling their work.
“Would you like to make another appointment?” The polite receptionist asks, hiding behind her computer screen.
“Yes.” Ariana mumbles. Her gaze follows the sprinkles of gold. The wealth of the picture. “Who drew this painting?”
“Sorry?” The receptionist replies.
“Who is the artist?”
A nervous laughter falls from the polite receptionist's lips.
“Who is the artist?” Ariana repeats, her voice sinking into her chest.
“You are. It is your final piece before you gave up painting.”
A full-blown punch is thrust into the pit of Ariana's stomach and she is helpless. Numbness, sickness, every vile feeling pounds her body. She wobbles over to the polite receptionist, her hands hitting the desk. “I drew this?”
The polite receptionist shrinks into her chair, pushing it away from Ariana’s flushed face. How can she not remember? Another wave of nervous laughter topples out of her mouth. “Yes.” She whispers.
“Why does Dr Fisher have my paintings?”
“He is your biggest fan. He believes he is the only one that can help you.”
“Thank you. Same time next week, please.” Ariana smiles. She moves towards the exit door, passing her own artwork. Rather than admire it, she looks through it, seeing only the hard wall it sticks too.