Walking home past the big house at the bottom of the road I notice a huge pile of stuff sprawling across the gate and onto the pavement. There is a note taped to the wheelie bin.
“Dear dustmen, sorry for all the rubbish but I’m going through a divorce and there’s a lot to get rid of.”
I’m telling my daughter this story as she’s hunched over a textbook reading about how unborn babies consume more amniotic fluid when their mothers have been drinking alcohol because they like the taste.
“That’s oversharing” is all she says without looking up from her book.
She’s right of course and I wonder what’s going on when we’re telling the refuse collectors what’s happening in our marriages?
“Perhaps she doesn’t have anyone she can talk to,” I say to my daughter.
“Perhaps she needs to find someone,” she says, hauling a huge piece of last night’s pizza from the fridge and putting it into the microwave.
I’m still thinking about the note when I log onto my computer and read an email from a company I freelance for to answer a question sent by a client.
Instead of doing face to face therapy some of their members can just ask a therapist a one-off question.
Sometimes the things they ask such as, “What can I do to sleep better?” lend themselves well to the format, but often I can’t help thinking that the questions are a poor alternative to talking with an actual person.
“Are we getting worse at telling people what we need?” I ask my daughter, now back at her book.
“Probably. It’s awkward isn’t it?”
This feels like a new phenomenon.
When I was young awkward was asking a girl to go out for a drink and being turned down in front of your friends. Once I remember a girl saying “Yes” then coming into the pub the night after and telling me she’d changed her mind. That was awkward.
Awkward was falling over in the staff canteen with a full tray of breakfast while all the shift workers didn’t bother to disguise their laughter.
But now apparently awkward is finding someone to talk to properly when you need it.
Picking up my phone I see I’ve missed a call from my therapist. He’s left a message thanking me for referring a client to him a week or so ago.
I haven’t seen him since lockdown began in March and the more time has passed it’s felt harder to call and pick up where we left off.
Later, I was at the surgery for my flu jab and, standing in the queue fully masked and waiting to be called forward I heard a familiar voice with a deep soft American accent. There can’t be many people from Montana living around here. It’s my therapist.
I turn my head forward grateful to be wearing a mask so he doesn’t recognise me and ask where I’ve been since March.
Afterward, following the one way system out I walk around the back of the building and past all the people queuing at the front.
I stop and pull my mask down,
“Hi John, how are you?”
“Hi, Graham, how nice to see you.”
“Sorry I haven’t been in touch for a while. You’re still working, right?”
“Yes, yes. Thanks for that referral by the way.”
“You’re welcome. Sorry I’ve not been in touch. I’ll call you next week if that’s OK. I could do with making an appointment and catching up.”
“I’d like that,” he says.