Heart

Ryn is morbidly pessimistic, blaming the world for his problems. He would probably see past the anger if he could still... well, see.

Asher sees the good in everyone, probably best since she blocks out what everyone says about her. Not by choice, but she does it.

The pair are forced to form a bond after becoming partners in group therapy as a desperate attempt to bring some light into their lives, starting with writing letters to each other. No one expected a third letter to arrive.

// Cover by ireumeun.chloe

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10. Nine ∞ Choices

When Ryn gets home, his mind is stuck in the past, although both Asher’s letter and text on his phone are trying to bring him back into the present.

           

When he was younger and lived nearer to the beach, his biggest concern was if his mother would be home late that night. Now, his biggest concern is if she’ll ever come home at all.

           

It’s one of the paintings on his wall that triggers his reminiscing. He can’t see them, but he can feel the texture of oil paint beneath his fingertips as he trails his hands across his bedroom walls.

           

Back then, his mind had been alive: a mess of bright colours in every shade of blue and green, and a heart that beat too fast from the excitement of simply existing. Those colours faded to grey sludge when they moved to a new house, and he spent many nights with minimal hours of sleep to paint all of his memories onto a page before they faded too.

           

When he lost his sight, it wasn’t just the excitement of the ocean that he lost: he also lost his heart. He lost the will to keep himself afloat in the metaphorical ocean of existence, and although his lungs ached from the water, he couldn’t drown, not quite yet, anyway.

           

So, he started with writing the letters. Pages and pages of letters, frantically scrawled onto paper and printed onto his desk when he forgot to check for the edge of the page. Lines overlapped or dipped dramatically down the page, and the occasional letter was written on top of an old one rather than a blank piece of paper. To some people, it would look like the ramblings of a mad him. To Ryn, he couldn’t see what it looked like, so he didn’t really care.

           

Sometimes, he thinks that his letters were what convinced his mother to drive down to the grocery store and never come back. He can’t remember how his father explains her absence, but he remembers a week passing with unwashed dishes piling up beside the sink and takeaway containers in the overflowing bin and the sound of his father’s tears not being drowned out by the television.

           

He’s becoming trapped in the past, so he switches back to the present.

 

Asher’s letter is still in Ryn’s hand. His father described it to him: blue ink, cream paper with narrow lines, doodles of flowers in the corners of the pages, a complete contrast to the letters he writes. The other noticeable difference is that her words are full of hope. Hope that people will eventually accept her. Hope that she’ll rebuild her relationship with her mother. Hope that she and him can be friends.

 

If Asher ever read any of his old letters, she would realise how they will never be able to be friends.

 

***

 

After school, Asher decides to go to group therapy, a different one than what she usually goes to. The letter with the green ink is still stuck in her mind, and Ryn’s letter is still unopened.

           

When she arrives a few minutes before the session is due to start, she’s surprised to find Jonathon sat at the edge of the circle. His face burns red as soon as he sees her.

           

“Why are you here?” Asher asks, sitting in a seat that’s close to him but not too close. She doesn’t know if their relationship is exists only in the therapy room, or if they can act like acquaintances out in public.

           

“I have my own issues, too, you know,” Jonathon says, scratching at the stubble on his cheeks. It looks like it’s been there for a few days, and his eyes are bloodshot. Asher decides not to make a comment. “Listening to Ryn’s existential crisis week after week will do that to you.”

           

Asher just smiles politely, arranges her skirt across her knees, and decides to end their interaction.

           

The room soon fills up and the person leading the session is a young woman, probably fresh out of university, with glossy magazine hair and a billboard smile. Her aura of positivity could’ve made her a millionaire if she decided to sell it in bottles.

           

She smiles at the beginning of every sentence, making eye contact with each person in the circle. There’s an interpreter sat beside her and three kids sat across from Asher watch with wide eyes. “Welcome, everyone. For those who don’t know, my name is Paisley, and this is Daniel.” She gestures to the young man who is interpreting her words. “I see we have some new members to our community. Don’t worry, I won’t make you introduce yourselves. This is supposed to be a safe and welcoming place for everyone.”

           

Asher breathes an audible sigh of relief, her mind turning back to Jonathon making her stand up and talk about her problems.

           

“Due to some requests from the end of last week’s session, I’ve decided that we’re going to wander further into the topic of death and morality. We’re going to spend the first twenty minutes of today’s session writing a eulogy. Imagine that you’ve died and what you’re going to write is what will be read out at your funeral. You may leave the circle and begin writing whenever you’re ready.”

           

Asher’s mind drifts back to the letters in her pocket. The one in green ink sounded like a eulogy, almost an apology for wanting to give up on life and leaving people behind.

           

Instead of writing her eulogy, Asher steps away from the group and sits on the floor in the corner of the room, using her paper to hide the glow of her phone screen. She sends another text or two to Ryn, telling him about things she hopes he will find funny.

           

The woman running this therapy session is basically a cartoon character! xD

           

Jonathon is here. Did you know he went to therapy? He’s just as screwed as the rest of us!

           

Then, with a hesitant tap of the ‘send’ button: Is this the right number? You didn’t reply to my last texts :/

           

Again, there’s no reply.

 

***

 

The twenty minutes are up before Asher has the chance to put her thoughts onto the page. A few people returned to the circle within the first ten minutes, clutching their eulogies to their chest as if someone was going to take them away and reveal their darkest thoughts.

 

“Is there anyone here who would like to read out their eulogy? You don’t have to if you don’t want to, or you could ask someone else to read your eulogy. I think it will be interesting for us to discuss our more individual opinions with the group.”

           

For the first time that she can remember, Asher raises her hand. Paisley smiles encouragingly and gestures for Asher to stand up. She does. She clears her throat, tucking her blank piece of paper into her pocket and replacing it with the letter written in green ink. She takes a deep breath.

           

“Sometimes, I feel like I’m underwater, like all the air is being pushed out of my lungs. I’ve felt like this for a while. I’m drowning, but I can convince myself that I can still breathe, even though I can’t. I need to gasp for breath, but that will let more of the water in. Soon, I’ll have to end this, and I’ll do it on my own terms.”

           

No one speaks when Asher is finished reading. She knows it’s not a proper eulogy, and she knows people would notice that she didn’t write it during the session, but she’s desperate for insight on what those words could mean.

           

Paisley smiles again. This time, it doesn’t reach the rest of her face. “Thank you for sharing. You can sit down now, if you’d like.”

           

Asher returns to her seat.

 

Jonathon stares at her with unblinking eyes as she folds up the letter, not looking away as she tucks it back into the safety of her pocket. He doesn’t say anything, but Asher can tell he knows something that he isn’t willing to share.

 

He knows who wrote the letter.

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