The therapist asks about my first memory of despair. This is too easy: a multiple-choice question with the correct answer listed as a), b), c), and d). I reply with a wince—Sunday afternoons of my youth spent in my parents’ living room, dust atoms arrested in sunlight, newspaper strewn about, and the judgmental remnants of Sunday mass percolating within me. This was my primer, my first lesson in vanishing hope.
What about my current state of despair, the therapist asks. It’s true these emotions have matured from zygotes into adults. They’ve lost teeth, outgrown their braids and mohawks, sat for yearbook pictures, worked crap jobs, fought with lovers, and concocted plans to end the flipbook of my life. Yet even when prompted, I am reluctant to measure the depth of their reservoir—to acknowledge the sedimentary layers of their helplessness.
The therapist invites me to imagine my life free of despair. She is testing my loyalty, determining whether I possess the fortitude to bury my own.
Within a month, I’ll forget the therapist’s name, the waiting room couches, the wall art that hints at new beginnings.