The counselor walked in front of her desk and stood next to David. He stayed seated, fixing his gaze straight ahead. David was searching the windows for any clue as to what lay outside of them, but he could only see the brilliant sunlight burning through the panes. He stared into it for so long that when he slowly blinked his eyes, spots flashed behind his closed eyelids, and lingered long after he had opened them again. His headache reasserted itself and began hammering his skull with every beat of his heart.
“David, I would like you to come with me.”
“Where are you taking me?”
“To your room.”
David kept looking forward. His lips trembled as he started to respond, but he steadied himself and stayed quiet. Ambient sounds took on a liquidity, as if he were sitting underwater.
The counselor firmly said, “Stand up, David.”
David heard her voice clearly. He ignored her and kept looking forward. She punched him hard in the face. The force knocked David out of the chair. Blood was gushing from his broken nose. He spat two teeth out onto the floor.
The counselor stood over David and when he looked up at her he saw that her appearance had completely changed. She had on a pair of Gianvito Rossi Plexi Leather Suede Pumps that made her tower over David lying prostrate on the floor. She was suddenly dressed in a floral print Anna Sui blazer and pencil skirt with black leggings. Her hair was neatly pulled back.
“WHAT THE FUCK?”
“Shut up, David.”
The counselor stepped over David and kicked him hard across the face. She wiped the blood from the tip of her heel across his shirt, and then bent down, grabbing David by his right ankle. She dragged David across the floor to the door of her office. David was in immense, unbearable pain. His eyes watered and mixed with the blood still pouring out of his nose.
David shouted, “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING? WHERE ARE YOU GOING?” His voice was nearly unintelligible.
The counselor grabbed the doorknob with her free hand and pulled open the door.
“You’re going to your room,” she said quietly, but firmly.
David passed out from the pain. The counselor pulled David out of her office and through the reception area. A bright red streak of blood trailed them on the tile floor. The woman behind the desk stopped typing and calmly looked up over her glasses as they passed.
“You look remarkable as ever, counselor,” the woman said in a dry, flat tone that made it impossible to differentiate between sincerity and sarcasm.
“Thank you, Helen! You know I hate wearing these clothes,” she replied.
The woman behind the desk quietly returned to typing as the counselor yanked David around a corner. She stopped in front of door that had a bright yellow sign hanging below the knob. The sign read, “DO NOT REMOVE THIS SIGN UNDER PENALTY OF DEATH (Just kidding. Please come in).”
“Wake up, David.”
Still sounding like he had a mouth full of marbles, David replied, “I am awake.”
“Stand up, David.”
“What is this?”
“This is your room. Stand up.”
David slowly, achingly, stood up. His nose had stopped bleeding, but blood was caked to his face. He felt for his missing teeth with his tongue, but they all appeared to be intact. It was as if he hadn’t spit them out on the floor of the counselor’s office. David reached for the doorknob and hesitated.
“Open the door, David.”
David opened the door and peered inside. It was a hospital room, sterile and white. A nurse was walking out the door into the hallway outside the room. He hadn’t noticed them enter. A man was lying in the hospital bed hooked up to a ventilator. His breathing was slow and deep. He appeared to be sleeping. David took a couple of steps closer to the bed and looked at the patient. He was staring at himself. His head was covered with bloody bandages and a thick clear tube was jammed down his throat. David felt a dryness in his throat and he suddenly found it hard to swallow.
David asked the counselor, “What am I doing here?”
“You were early for your appointment.”
“I don’t understand.”
“David,” she said softly.
The David in the hospital bed abruptly awoke. His wide, shaking eyes belied his fright, but his body was immobilized. He could not speak because he was intubated. David was the only person in the room.