Loraleigh VanZant’s office looked exactly like I pictured cosmetic maven Mary Kay’s office to look. Everything was pastel and dustless and aggressively cheerful. I felt like I ruined the soothing vibe in there when I showed up in my tartan plaid skirt, bad attitude and blotchy skin.
I didn’t know anything about counselors, other than what I gleaned from the Bob Newhart show. I had no clue what a kid like me was supposed to do in there, so I spent a lot of time looking at Loraleigh VanZant’s hair– could it possibly taste like cotton candy when it looked so much like it? I wasn’t smart or sassy or precocious that fall. It was freshman year, and I was depressed and slept a lot and had a hard time concentrating on algebra.
Sign, cosign, tangent, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
I tried to look the part of a full-of-life high school freshman, but the Wet-And-Wild blue eye liner I caked on my eye lids wasn’t fooling anyone.
I figured I was supposed to talk to her about the accident, but I’d already told her everything in the first session. In the second, third and fourth session she asked me follow-up questions. In the fifth session, she announced that I was “afraid of death.” In my head, I announced that she was dumb as shit, because (1) who wasn’t afraid of death? and (2) I’d just had a bad brush with it that I suspected had changed me forever.
So she was dumb; I didn’t care. She was nice enough to me and it was somewhere to go. I liked her peach-colored flower arrangements.
On the seventh session, though, she went New Agey on me, which I didn’t see coming. It was the late 1980s in suburban Dallas, not fucking Woodstock. “We are going to try hypnosis.”
In a burst of uncharacteristic verbosity, I said, “Why?” I’m pretty sure I was making the are-you-fucking-kidding-me face.
“I think it will help you to relax when you think of the ocean. You will no longer fear death.”
All I was thinking was “will it help me pass my algebra mid-term?” But I was an equal mix of compliant and lethargic so I reclined on her sea-foam green couch and let her take me back to the scene. She promised me that instead of horror and death, she would insert memories of rolling waves and gentle Hawaiian breezes.
I’m pretty sure I just fell asleep, but the look on her face convinced me she thought I’d reached an alternative consciousness where deep healing was just as easy as fifteen minutes on a couch. Sure. Whatever.
I think I saw her a few more times. After the “hypnosis,” I couldn’t take her seriously. I felt rage bubbling up as I stared at her confectionary hair, wondering how she could possibly think she had healed the deep sorrow and terror inside of me. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I was more afraid of death than ever and I probably always would be.
When she asked me if I wanted to keep seeing her, I chose my words carefully. “I’m afraid not.”