Connor’s therapist warned him to not get attached to Laika too much. It was still so early in their friendship, or whatever it was, that the therapist viewed it as a kind of risk Connor was taking with his emotional stability. He’d been on just about every antidepressant in existence off and on for the last two years and had just started taking what she referred to as a “mood stabilizer.” The idea was something Connor didn’t agree with. Aren’t moods supposed to fluctuate?
“Sometimes it’s nice to just hold someone, you know?” Connor told his therapist, Doctor Kim. “Like, I got so used to sleeping by myself that I forgot what it felt like to sleep next to someone who wants to hold you too. I haven’t felt like that in a long time. And honestly, I don’t think I care whether or not it goes anywhere. Even just the thought that I got to do that feels good.”
Doctor Kim looked across the room to Connor. Most therapists’ rooms don’t look like they do in the movies with the couch and the crying patient laying down on some leather, oddly shaped furniture. It’s mostly chairs.
“I’m not saying to not pursue anything, but you said some of these same things about Lauren way back when,” Doctor Kim reminded.
“There’s no way I said I felt these same things about Lauren,” Connor laughed.
“Would you like me to read some of the things you said about Lauren? Because I could. I won’t. But just be careful is all I’m saying. You know how in recovery groups they caution against moving on to a romantic relationship until you have yourself under control? It’s not necessarily something I advocate. But, in your case, I think you just need to be cautious. You’re just getting back on your feet, so to speak, and you might not be as ready to move on as you think you are.”
“Do I need to move on though? Realistically, I’m probably never going to really move on, so much as I’m going to forget about her. My goal when I came in here was to get to the point where I would be fine with or without Lauren. And now I feel like I’m finally to the point where I am fine without her. I haven’t talked to her in months. I don’t plan on talking to her anytime soon either. Laika is pretty much the only person I think about anymore. Probably more than myself.”
“See,” Dr. Kim said, “this is the kind of talk that I caution against. You need to think about yourself more than the person you are with, or whatever it is. It sucks to say that, but it’s actually how healthy relationships move along. Progress, is what I mean. You need to be fine with being by yourself, thinking about yourself, and just generally be comfortable with who you are before you establish anything permanent with someone. That’s how healthy relationships start. I want to remind you though, and this is important, that you also said that one of your goals for therapy was to start writing again, or you at least wanted to continue writing because you weren’t at the time. So far you haven’t mentioned much about writing anything. You haven’t mentioned writing in weeks.”
“Well, I guess I just don’t exactly know what it is you are saying. What am I supposed to do then? Just sit around by myself all of the time. I hate myself, and Laika makes me hate myself less. Like, I don’t know. I don’t really know what to say. I don’t think I’ve ever disagreed with you before, but I kind of like having her dominate my mind, you know? It keeps me from going crazy. I know people say these same kinds of things about their dogs too, but this is different. I’m fine, I think. And I am writing again. Not much, and it’s garbage, but I’m having fun doing it.”
Dr. Kim studied Connor. He was picking at his nails and wringing his fingers as if they were towels and he was simply trying to dry them. He rarely looked her in the eyes and when he did it was more of an I-swear-I-don’t-have-Asperger’s-Syndrome protest. Not that Dr. Kim ever suggested this, but he did fall into a lot of the telltale signs. To her, he was most definitely socially impaired.
One day Connor told her that he says weird when he drinks.
“What do you mean you say ‘weird things’? What do you actually say?” she asked him.
“Well, like, a while ago, I was watching my friend’s dog because he was out of town, right? So I’m watching this dog and I’m home alone, as per usual. So I get a call from my friend and he wants to go get drinks. Well, I’m like, ‘Shit, I don’t know this dog very well and I don’t want to leave him home alone and have him tear up all of my shit.’ So I take him, the dog, with me. We sit outside and everything is cool. Waitresses are coming up and asking me about him and I’m making up all of this bullshit about the dog because I want to get laid, potentially. So I’m there for, like, an hour. I’m about to close my tab and this bartender comes out and kicks me out of the place. We were sitting outside. So, I have this huge argument with the guy and he asks me if the dog is a service animal. First, he’s not my dog. I decide I’m going to fuck with this guy. I know the laws and everything. The bartender was breaking the law by kicking me out. So I say that the dog is a service dog. The bartender asks me what services the dog provides. So I look at the beer in my hand and say, ‘Well, when this—’ I point to my beer ‘makes me want to kill myself, this little guy keeps me from blowing my brains out.’ That’s what I said. I went home and wrote the owner of the restaurant about the incident and got an apology, but I think I weirded a lot of my friends out by it.”