Kalopsia: [origin: Greek] noun the delusion of things being more beautiful than they are.
Dr Bennet’s room looks cosy and welcoming, even I have to admit that. The room is spacious, the walls are painted light blue and sunlight streams through the open windows. The doctor sits on a single sofa in front of me; pen and notepad in hand.
“Hello, James. Nice seeing you again. How are you feeling?”, the doctor asks.
Etude in C-Sharp Minor, Op.10, No. 4. Preferably, but not necessarily, played by Vladimir Horrowitz. But of course I can’t tell my psychiatrist that. So instead, I tell a little, harmless lie.
When I was younger my mother used to warn me to not tell lies. “They’ll catch up to you one day”, she had said. One of these days, I feel certain my lies will find me and strangle me alive.
The doctor writes something in his notepad. “What about your wrists?”, he asks. Absentmindedly, I trace my fingers on the vertical stitches on my left hand, where just a few weeks ago I had sliced open my veins until all I saw was red, red and red. I remember how Henry was the one who found me; pale and dying and covered with my own blood.
“They’re healing”, I reply curtly. I find it quite ironic that my doctor, a complete stranger, is the one who has actually talked about my failed suicide attempt head-on. My parents didn’t, my best friend is silent and the whole world basically shuts up about it. They would rather talk about simpler, happier things, like me getting accepted to Juilliard or how the local newspapers had called me “the young piano prodigy”.
“So, James, are you ready to talk about her?”, Doctor Bennet asks. Ah, looks like he’s going straight to the point this time. I nod my head, bracing myself for questions that I know will open old wounds I have tried desperately to close up. Somewhere in his notes, he must had written “communication issues” or “complications in expressing emotions verbally” or something because his next question is actually different.
“Tell me James, in your own way, how do you feel about her?”
How do I feel about her? Or in other words, what song reminds me of her? Well, there are many, too many to list down in one single therapy session. Miria was, is, the soundtrack of my life. She was complex, a collection of small wonders bind together in one body. But there is one song that suits every aspect of her, which I can, even now, still hear playing in every memory I have of her.
“Nocturne No.2 in E Flat Major, Op.9” I tell him. And suddenly I am drowning in the memory of her. She was sunlight in an empty room, with white curtains blown by gentle breeze. She was walking in front of me, close but always too far for me to reach out. Always. Her temper was a volcano, but she never failed to calm the raging storm inside of me. Miria was warm mint tea on a rainy day, and I loved how everything froze when she smiled.
I don’t tell the doctor any of that, just the piano piece. The depth of other people’s emotions is always deeper than what they show you, I’m sure he knows that. He nods and smiles.He has kind eyes; it’s a physical trait that I’ve always noticed but never really acknowledged till then. I tend to doubt stereotypes, but he looked like the type who knows the piece by heart like me. I can tell that he was glad that we were making progress. At least I am talking. He writes something in his notes. I hope he is writing about me and not Miria. I can’t stand if he is writing about her. It is one thing to act like he understands me because that is his job, but it’s a whole other thing if he pretends to know Miria.
“That piece is beautiful, James. Melancholic. Can you tell me why you chose it?”. I want to shrug, but then I stop myself. This is not going to be like the rest of my therapy sessions where the doctor tries to fill in the silence while I just sit there silently on the sofa, dodging his questions like bullets. I will try to get better this time.
“Miria liked to paint”, I began. “She was really good at it. She had won awards and all from every art competition she went to. She only ever paints one thing though: the sky. I mean, she had tried to paint other stuffs too at some point, but she always tore the painting to pieces right before it’s finished. She used to say that painting them felt wrong. I never really understood why. But I think I do now. She painted the sky because she wanted to be free. You should’ve seen them: summer sky, sunset sky, midnight sky. A hundred shades of colors on a canvas but there was no land in her paintings – just air and clouds and freedom. And I think that they’re beautiful but sad at the same time – just like her. Chopin’s piano piece reminds me of her, but I don’t think there’s anything that depicts Miria more than her artworks”. It is the most I have talked in a while, and I suddenly feel tired. Not the exhaustion of the body, but more of the soul.
The doctor turns to a new page on his notepad.”You told me she wanted to be free, but from what exactly?”
I take a deep breath and answer him. “Life. She wanted to be free from life”. The doctor motions for me to go on. “Have you ever heard of the word ‘kalopsia’, doctor? It’s ancient greek that stands for the illusion that things are better, more beautiful, than they really are. Miria used to say that it is a state of mind and almost everyone is born with it. It allows people to see life as something more beautiful than it actually is – sort of like a defense mechanism our mind created in order to keep going, to keep living. But she wasn’t born with it, and she had always told me that she just wanted to be free from it all. She said that she didn’t want to be chained down, and that life is the biggest chain of all. She used to say all of this but I never thought she really meant it. I couldn’t understand how anyone could think like that. She gave me all this clues and I did nothing, I didn’t try to save her. I didn’t-“, I stop and put my hands on my head because suddenly my head felt like exploding. My heart ache, but it is a dull ache, the kind of ache you feel when all you’ve really known is heartbreak. The doctor keeps on scribbling in his notepad. I can’t see what he’s writing, but I’m pretty sure “nihilism” and “extreme pessimism” is in there.
“Is that why she killed herself?”, he asks. I nod my head. “Her paintings got really dark towards the end. They were still pictures of skies, but she used more black and red than before. In her last painting, there was even a picture of a girl floating in mid air. The girl’s head drooped down, like she was hanged by an invisible rope. In the end, that’s how Miria killed herself:, by hanging.” I press my fingers on the bridge of my nose as I try to stop the tears from coming out. ” Like I said doctor, there were all these signs, but I was too blind to see them”.
The doctor leans forward and say, “I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but it’s true. Miria’s death is not your fault.Reading her mental health records from her doctor, I can tell you that she suffered from major depression. No one can save a person from themselves, James. You can try, but ultimately you yourself has to be your own savior”. I can tell from his tone that he’s not only talking about Miria, but myself too.
I look down at my lap. “If you google the name of artists who suffer from mental illness, the list is endless. People say that the greatness of an artist’s artworks depends on the magnitude of the pain they feel. Like Van Gogh or Beethoven or Sylvia Plath.” I raise my head and look at Doctor Bennet in the eye. “Miria’s paintings were masterpieces. How much pain do you think she had to suffer to create art like that?”
The doctor reach out and brush his thumb on my stitched wrists. “Not more than you do”. He leans back on his chair. “But here you are: alive, and breathing, and trying to get better”.
Our session ends then, and I walk out of the doctor’s room to find Henry still waiting for me on a couch in the waiting room. I sit next to him as we wait for the nurse to give me my prescribed pills.
“Honestly though, I can’t see why you hate this place so much” he says. “Nice place, complimentary drinks, a 2 hour session with a man paid to listen to all of your problems. Plus the receptionist’s pretty cute” he winks in her direction. However she, to my utter relief, is too busy with some paperwork to notice.
I don’t bother myself to answer. I look down at my wrists and notice how the wounds are starting to close up. Not long now there will be a scar, and eventually it will fade and maybe everyone I love would forget the fact that I actually tried to kill myself. Maybe then they would stop treating me like a piece of porcelain; terrified that I would shatter at any given moment.
I look up at my friend and smile, “Thanks for doing this, you know”. Thanks for saving my life the other day. Thanks for staying with me until the ambulance arrived, frantically trying to stop the bleeding. Sorry I gave you the shock of your life. But I can’t say the rest, because some things are bigger than a mere ‘thank you’ or ‘sorry’ could suffice.
“You mean babysitting you? Sure. Can’t have you running away and avoiding your doctor’s appointment like the last time, can we?” he chuckles. “God, you sound like a 5 year old.” He continues reading the pamphlets, avoiding eye contact. I hope one day he can forgive me. I hope one day he can forgive himself for not being enough to make me want to stay alive. I wish one day I can find a way to tell him that none of this is his fault, that I’m the one who’s screwed up and not him.
I hear my name being called and I walk to the pharmacy counter. The nurse hand me a plastic bag and inside I can see blue pills, or Prozac, for my depression and two other pills for my anxiety and insomnia.
Later on, in the car, I look at my best friend in the driver’s seat and say, “I’ll try to get better this time, Henry. I promise. I won’t let you miss today’s soccer practice for nothing”. He is looking straight on the road ahead, but I can notice him smile. A real smile, not just something fake plastered on his face to cover up his sadness. And it turns out that something as simple as that – a genuine smile of a friend – can make something inside me come alive again.