‘Talk to me’

“Hello there. Have a seat. What’s your name?”

“Elliot. E-L-L-I-O-T.”

“How old are you?”

“39.”

“Why are you talking to me today?”

Elliot paused. He’d normally say it was because he had nothing better to do. Really, he wanted to know he wasn’t alone. He glanced around. “To get some advice.”

“I’m here to help. Tell me, what thought is taking up the most space in your head right now?”

“I’m not normal. I don’t care about anything. That’s not how normal people feel.”

“And why are you focusing on that at the moment?”

“There’s so much I should care about. My wife’s pregnant. The country’s a mess. I’ve got a job I should enjoy.”

“Ok. Look at the blank screen in front of you. I want you to draw a picture of yourself.”

Elliot raised his finger. On this greasy little screen? He felt empty, like a vessel. He drew a small, imperfect circle in the centre of the screen. Seeing the outline made him think there should be something inside it. He shaded it in.

“I can see you’re feeling distant from yourself. That happens sometimes.”

Yeah, sometimes, Elliot snorted. All my life.

“How would you like to feel, Elliot? Like this, forever?”

“No. I want to enjoy life. Like everyone else.”

“Right. Now, draw me a picture of what that would be like.”

Elliot drew the same circle, but this time with a face, and full of dots like confetti. Around him, he added a dozen other faces, a huge sun, a cartoon house, trees – all in energetic lines.

“Who are all those people?”

“That’s me, and my wife, my sister, her kids. Other people. I want to be with people more.”

“Is that a cat in the corner?”

“It’s a dog. A sheepdog. We’ll go running together.”

“And that bit at the bottom?”

“This? It’s the seaside. A beach. We’re sitting on the beach.”

“Very good. Now Elliot, remember – ”

The voice cut out. The room went dark and the hum of the fluorescent lights stopped. Elliot walked around to the bar.

“Power cut mate. It’ll be back in five.”

“But I was -”

“On the machine, was you?”

“Yeah.”

“How far d’you get?”

“The… the drawing?”

“I can probably get your two quid back. Let me get a screwdriver.”