The white squeaky walls echoed a queer silence. The dark-tan leather couch, stood there, against the wall. The old clock, ticked and tocked with a photo of Marilyn Monroe just a few instances above it. I fidget, tap my feet as I run my fingers across the couch. Maybe I was trying to reach for the warmth in the room, this space reeked of nothing but coldness. I guess the general unanimous agreement by psychologists, therapists, healers, empaths,deep-thinkers and humanity at large that, we failed Marilyn Monroe. If we understood fellow humans better, if we sought to be truly seen rather than liked, if we reached out to friends and loved ones more often, oh well.

I look across, this purple tulip sits, a few miles away, distance and detached. Leaning her neck to the left, biting her nails so hard. The sign on the door reads, ‘Silence! Session in Progress!’ How I got here, a thought thwarted at the back of my mind. But how she, the purple tulip, found her way here, an active tab…

Her name is Rose. Her mother probably loved roses a turd, so she named her Rose. Or maybe her father wooed her mother with a bouquet of fresh roses. Perhaps, her skin’s natural scent smelt like roses at sunrise. But to me, she looked like a tulip. A long stalk with a few asymmetric purple petals dangling at the top~ she was lean long-necked with a pretty asymmetric face. The awkward silence punctuated with occasional spats. I take a quick glance at the Marylin Monroe once again. Quickly I reach out for her hand. Her palms are cold, but I hold on for a little longer, the leather beneath our hands wriggle uncomfortably. This is the part we exchange a few words, but we sit, in the loud silence.

The door creaks, a pink face with a blonde-haired head pops out.

‘Please come in.’

Her radiance lights up the cold space. We let go of each other’s hand. I get up, smile and walk towards the light. I hated walking away from Rose the purple tulip. I worried how cold she felt again. I would never judge her if she got jealous. I would be watching a soul friend, I just met walking towards the light. We are all chasing a ghost, some unanswered question, a hard truth and unforgettable pain. I did not know which she sought after. I just knew from the moment I reached out for her hand, maybe just maybe, some little warmth was all we needed. A safe place to call our ghosts out, in the hope that perhaps we will get the answers.

I really hoped I like Dr. Alison enough to pour my soul out.  We got off to a rocky start. My mind racing with incorrigible thoughts about the Purple Tulip.

‘Is she okay?’

‘She will be. ‘

Dr. Alison radiant beautiful smile fills up the void between us.

‘Is that how you deal?’

‘Huh?’

‘Is that how you deal with your pain? Looking for the next broken thing to fix?’

‘Isn’t that we all do? We have a void, we fill it with drugs, sex, people, therapy?’

‘That’s what you do?’

This banter ran for a longer than I had planned. My conniving mind wasn’t here to talk about the death of my best friend. I was here to feed a curiosity, whether therapy really works or other conniving minds conned wandering minds into believing telling their truths to someone else really did heal. I was and have always been a firm believer that if you told yourself your own truths, it would never break you like it would coming from another. Words are knives and swords but your truths from yourself to yourself, music to the ears.

On my way out, our eyes lock with Rose the purple tulip. I quickly look away, embarrassed and ashamed of my wickedness~ dismissing what was probably her last hope. My guilt conscience cajoles me to start hoping it really works. I slip my business card in her hand hoping Dr Alison does not mind this kind of thing. Not really. I was hoping she does not think I am a bad influence on her.

Rose never called. I never stopped missing my best friend. Dr. Alison never stopped asking is that what I do.

Then one day, she calls. Gasping for breath between long bursts of crying. Myself, I am half way the second bottle of dry Four Cousins. Before I put things into perspective, she is apologizing fatally, that she did not know why she called, she mistook my number for Dr. Alison’s.

I beat myself up. What if she really needs me. The last time my best friend needed me, I did not know he needed anyone at all. We were still meeting up for long strolls, chasing sunsets and hilltops. Then one day, he dies. Or he ends it. I remember not crying for days, with a blank feeling and later crying unstoppably a few days to his send off. I failed my best friend. He had sunk into a deep depression when all his demons started chasing him. He must have felt powerless on his last days before deciding to actually do it, that incessant feeling, you have no one to cling on, no straw to clutch at. Everyday hoping your friends or your family will reach out, with calls or gift cards at your door. Sometimes praying your best friend embraces the coldness out of your soul. You eventually decide to put an end to it all, to all of them.

The unanswered question sends everyone spinning. Some, eventually end up at Dr. Alison’s dark-tun couch with Rose the purple tulip.

I take a cold shower, slip into my robe and called Rose for almost three hours. At intervals though, trying to paint a ‘normal’ picture of myself. After being sent straight to voicemail, I shed off the ‘normal’ mask. Now I am, myself- overly sensitive, a deep empathizer and a volatile human being who gives a fuck about other human beings. Mark Manson opines we must give a fuck about something. I do. Humans.  I thought of calling Dr. Alison, but I kept on hesitating. I knew she did not need someone she paid to listen to her with a few hours of volunteer work. She did need a friend or a familiar stranger who held her hand in a cold space.

I did not catch a wink that night. I kept on hoping, if I do not reach out to her in time, before she decides this life was worth nothing, therapy should really work. Even so, a miracle. God, in a beam of light appears to her and in Morgan Freeman’s voice tells her she is loved and we are all here for her (myself, healers, empathizers, her family if she had any).

The rays of the sun peak through my translucent polka-dot curtains. I stare at my phone, crossing my heart that joy comes in the morning. I jump up when it starts buzzing, damn sure many hours later. It’s Rose the Purple Tulip! We arrange to meet up at her house. Whilst, the small voice in my head squeaked endlessly about my fragile state of mind, I ignored it humming hymns in my head, pacing up and down.

She lives in a one-room apartment, partitioned by gravy wood. A shelf of books on one corner, a portrait of Bob Marley on another and Mother Teresa on the other. There is a vase of red roses on the table, with an old family photo lying next to it. The warmth she radiated stirred some self-doubt. Am I delusional or was that phone call a cry for help? Her space was too kept together for a person with depression. For a few months, my best friend’s place looked like a combed nest~ clothes strewn all over, disarranged furniture, messy bedside table. We deal with it differently, don’t we? I am answering a cry for help, so I will stick to my script, get in and out, in three. Tell her I am here for her, she is loved, whole and enough, then make up an excuse and leave.

Rose the Purple Tulip pulls out a porcelain chess board from one of the drawers and hands it over.

‘Red or white?’

She asks between her teeth. I was also wondering if she was a red or white person, red guys are visible. They are the bold ones. White guys like to be invisible, the reserved ones.

‘White!’

‘Ah. Makes two of us!’

I am struggling to arrange the pieces on the board, a worried person. The last book I read about depression and the human struggle said something like avoid drugs. The high is apparently a temporary solution. But if you get used to it, you get hooked, so you spend your days chasing highs. We all love chasing highs, an escape.

I pull a double pawn for my first move. She smiles through the half-raised glass wine and plays similar move. I think to myself, if she was a seducer she is the ‘mirror.’ She mirrors her victim’s deepest desires and fears. I play a knight and gobble up the crisp 4th Street. Something about wine. White wine.

‘Rose, are you okay?’

She chuckles, plays a knight and sips her drink.

‘Where are you coming from?’

‘Huh?’

‘A place of concern, judgment or curiosity?’

All are right.  Except, judgment. I have battled with mine since I was consciously alive. If I judged everyone’s path, I would be judging myself.

‘Concern, I guess. ‘

She laughs herself to tears, sits up and pushes her king.

‘This guy likes to show up. Unannounced. Sometimes, it is a short visit. Other times, he sets camp.’

I try my sense of humor but it is missing in action. I listen on, drearily drinking the wine in big gulps. The discomfort, Oh Lord! We sit in it for a while.

‘He has different personas. He can be dark, gleam and hopeless or messy, angry and bitter. ‘

‘He can’t be king. He shouldn’t be.’

My humor attempt almost succeeds. She chuckles, like a hundred bells chiming.

‘He is king.  He said, checkmate the 15th of August two years ago. Ever since, I am barely living just surviving, trying to stay afloat.’

‘But the queen loves you, and the knights and the pawns. See, even the bishops and rooks. They would give their lives for you.’

‘It is not about giving. Sacrifices are just that. Sacrifices. ‘

‘Someone giving up something for you is not a way of saying, I love you? Like Jesus?’

She leans forward and her big brown eyes pierce into mine.

‘Is that your love language?’

We burst out laughing. Lots and lots of pearls of laughter. It is an inside joke. Ho-ho. The thing Dr. Alison does when her calculating mind tries to wrap around our wandering minds.

‘I am not sure about my love language. But as long as there is good wine, any goes!’

We laugh again. I should go in for the kill. I have subdued the victim, softened her knots with my witty sense of humor.

‘When that guy says checkmate, it is a bad situation. No one can save you. Not the rooks, bishops, knights nor the pawns. ‘

‘I don’t think no one can’t. I think we feel that way because we feel no one can understand. So, we are all we have. ‘

‘No one ever does. ‘

‘So, we save ourselves. We understand that this guy, is just a visitor. Yes, there are days he will comes and darkness will engulf us. But that doesn’t mean, we are not enough or lovable.’

‘I never looked at it that way.’

A long pause of silence subdues us. We sit there, in her ambient space sipping wine, thinking kings and chasing ghosts.