No, don’t be sorry. It’s not your fault. In Starbucks, what were you thinking?
I wasn’t expecting that. For a few moments I don’t move. I’m hunched on the doormat, thoughts running through my head like ticker tape. Do I answer? What do I answer?
Do I want to tell him what I was thinking?
The voice of that therapist from St. John’s keeps running through my head; the one who used to take the Self-Assertion workshop. We do not have to reveal ourselves. She used to say it every week. We are all entitled to privacy. You do not have to share anything with others, however much they may ask you. Photos, fantasies, plans for the weekend…they’re yours. She used to look around the room almost sternly. You do NOT have to share them.
I don’t have to share with Linus what I was thinking. I could walk away. I could write, Oh, nothing! Or, You don’t want to know!!!;) Like it’s all a big joke.
But somehow…I want to share. I don’t know why, but I do. I trust him. And he’s on the other side of the door. It’s all safe. Like in a confessional.
Before I can change my mind, I scrawl,
I was thinking, “I’m a total failure, I shouldn’t exist, what’s the point of me?”
I shove it through the letter box, sit back on my heels, and blow out, feeling a strange satisfaction. There. Enough pretending. Now he knows just how weird the inside of my mind is. I hold my breath, trying to glean his reaction on the other side of the door, but there’s silence. The ripply glass is still. I can’t detect any response at all. I think he must have gone. Of course he’s gone. Who would stay?
Oh God, am I nuts? Why would I write down my most warped thoughts and post them through a letter box to the one guy I actually like? Why would I do this?
Totally deflated, I get to my feet, and I’ve reached the kitchen door when I hear a rattling. I whip round—and there’s a reply on the doormat. My hands are trembling as I grab it, and at first I can’t focus properly. It’s a new page, covered in writing, and it begins,
What’s the point of you? Try this, for starters.
And underneath there’s a long list. He’s written a long, long list, that fills the page. I’m so flustered, I can’t even read it properly, but as I scan down I catch beautiful smile and great taste in music (I sneaked a look at your iPod) and awesome Starbucks name.
I give a sudden snort of laughter that almost turns to a sob and then turns to a smile, and then suddenly I’m wiping my eyes. I’m all over the place.
With a rattle, another note plops through the letter box and I jerk in shock. What more can he have to say? Not another great big list, surely? But it says:
Will you open the door?
A flurry of alarm races through me. I can’t let him see my shrunken, pale, ratty self. I just can’t. I know Dr. Sarah would tell me I’m not shrunken or ratty, I’m imagining it, but she’s not here, is she?
Not quite up to it. Another time. Sorry, sorry…
I hold my breath after I’ve posted the page. He’ll be offended. He’ll leave. That’s it, all over, before it even began…
But then the letter box rattles yet again and a reply comes through:
Understood. I’ll be off, then.
My spirits plunge. He is leaving. He is offended. He hates me, I should have opened the door, I should have been stronger, I’m so stupid…I’m just trying desperately to think of what I can write, when another page drops onto the mat. It’s folded over, and on the outside is written:
Had to give you this before I go.
For a few moments I don’t dare read it. But at last I open it up and stare at the words inside. My head is prickling all over with disbelief. My breath is jumpy as I read it. He wrote that. He wrote that. To me.
It’s a kiss.
At St. John’s, they tell you not to keep rewinding your thoughts and going over old ground. They tell you to live in the present, not the past. But how are you supposed to do that when a boy you like has just kind of, virtually, kissed you?
By the time I see Dr. Sarah at my next session I’ve replayed the scene like a million times, and now I’m wondering if the whole thing was just him winding me up, or having something to laugh about with his friends, or was he just being polite? I mean, does he feel sorry for me? Was it a pity kiss? Oh God. It was so a pity kiss. (Not that I’m an expert on kisses. I have kissed precisely one boy in my life, which was on holiday last year and it was gross.)
Dr. Sarah listens politely for about half an hour as I blabber on about Linus. And then we talk about “mind-reading” and “catastrophising,” just like I knew we would. I think I could be a therapist myself, sometimes.