Once Upon a Time

Lori McCray
3 min readNov 4, 2023

Once upon a time, there was a room. There was a chair for the girl
learning to be a woman. There was a chair for the man learning to be a
doctor. They faced one another, unless the girl felt angry or misunderstood.
Then she turned away and faced the wall, or memorized the doctor’s socks and shoes. The doctor continued to look (while shifting, restless, in his seat). He wanted to be there, in case she came back. She loved him for this, (but could not say).

One day the doctor discovered an area of weakness. It had to do with feelings. The naming of them, specifically. It seems the girl, though bright, was without a language to describe her inner landscape. “How do you feel?” the doctor probed. “I think I…” she answered. Around they went in circles. He pushed her for transparent revelations. She gave him her most detailed analyzations, but still her heart would not befriend her head.

The girl sat in the castle of her mind, contained and safe from dragons. She heard the doctor knocking at her door (as was his job, you understand) and yelled, “No one is home. I’ll tell her that you called!” She was a stubborn
sort of girl. Knowing that the doctor would need lots of patience for his future patients, she gave him ample opportunity for practice.

She expected he would quit. Just get fed up and overwhelmed and say, “I’ve had enough of this” and split like all the others. He didn’t. She loved him for this (but could not say). Sometimes the girl would venture from the castle in her mind to speak her heart. The doctor always listened. He never said, “That’s stupid,” or “Grow up,” or “It’s not nice to feel that way.” She knew that she could trust him with the truth. She loved him for this (but could not say).

The girl was scared. So scared she even scared the doctor. Putting feelings into words was new to her. Listening to unadulterated pain was new to him. Together they learned ~ the girl to speak, the doctor to encourage. Sometimes the girl looked out the tiny window in the doctor’s office and wondered, “Is this really worth it? I could stay inside my castle and live
quite comfortably. Who would know that I was gone?” The doctor always knew. “Where did I lose you to?” he’d ask. “Where did you go?” She loved him for this, (but could not say).

The years passed by, the girl grew up. She wanted to leave and be free (she wanted to stay forever). The girl (turning woman) found a life beyond her castle. The doctor (turning wiser) found a person beyond his patient.

That room is empty now, those days far behind. And though they are gone,
I cannot let them go . . .

LBM 4/27/99

(I trained him well. I was his first patient. He is head of Psychiatry at the Cleveland Clinic). Addendum, he is now retired, and I have found other trustworthy listeners)

not the chair but a chair

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Lori McCray

Photographer, Poet, Musician, Mother, Mystic, Gardener, friend of wild creatures, swan whisperer. Find me on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wingthing/