Talk Therapy

Everything gets caught up in this highway. Traffic around these parts of the city at 8am usually allowed a bit of movement. This time, when I needed the speed the most, EDSA just assumed her most unaffected face. “Wait,” she said. 

But I don’t believe in coincidences. Never have. If something were to happen, I needed to give way for that specific event to happen. Purposes may be unapparent, but they eventually will come. They always do. 

So I tried to find my way across the few miles dividing North and South. It felt like swimming in a river of thick syrup. The feeling was heavy. 

I was trying to ignore who I was that morning. The night before, I covered the floor in tissues. My pillows were damp. The morning after, I dragged myself to function. Put on a bit of makeup, even. As long as the tear streaks weren’t apparent, I can make it through today, I thought. 

The couple of hours I spent on the road led me to a compound of mid-rise condos smack in the middle of the busiest part of the Ortigas business district. Severe, grey-faced buildings after another and my destination was no different. 

But when Eli opened the door, I noticed that her space was different from the monotonous grey of the outside world. Hers was bursting with green.

Of course, I was there for business. Pen and paper on hand, I was ready to take notes and discuss projects with her. 

“I love your place,” I told her as I looked around. 

“My cats are still asleep, but I hope you can meet them later. What do you want to eat?” she beamed. 

I remembered having nothing for breakfast. I hesitated because I was embarrassed. But she still ordered food from a restaurant she liked and sat down. I followed suit. 

Perhaps I was waiting for it, or maybe the expression in my eyes gave me away before I could even open my mouth. When she asked me how I was, I was ready to bawl unashamedly on her carpet. But first things first–composure. 

Everyone has a story–some skeletons hidden away in some imaginary closet. Most people choose to keep their secrets covered in layers and layers of plaster and sickly yellow wallpaper. I’m young and have never experienced the deep sorrows that life has brought to so many already. But Eli looked genuinely concerned. So I just took the leap. 

A couple of days before meeting with Eli, I found out that my significant other was being unfaithful. The devastation of being betrayed by your first love. Funny, isn’t it? I was convinced I was going to die of the pain that my own hand started to do it for me. My mental health was again in a steep decline. I had tons of chores to do and loads of work to finish. When I arrived at Eli’s, I was in the worst state I’ve ever been in in the last three years. 

Forgetting about the work responsibilities and the tasks at hand, I started to share my feelings of guilt. Why do our partners become unfaithful even if we’ve put all our efforts and love into the relationship? Why do they still seek more? Am I not enough? Is there something in me that needs to change? Am I unattractive? Should I call this whole relationship off?

At this point, the food had just arrived and so we sat down to eat. But I haven’t finished my story yet. Eli bade me go ahead. 

The layers of wallpaper started to fall off on their own. But there was Eli, sitting with her waffles and honey with such a genuine expression of calm on her face. She nodded when it was appropriate, affirmed my feelings, and validated my concerns. At long last, I’ve calmed down. I noticed that throughout the whole experience, she never made any intrusive remark. Not one. I was mostly doing the talking, and she just listened. 

“You know,” she began, “I’ve also had my share of the bad, and it was just as painful.”

“How did you move past it?”

“I dragged myself up. There was nowhere else to go. I built myself up again.”

“Is that how you started all of this? Your profession, I mean.”

“Somewhat. At one point, it seemed like the most natural thing for me to do. I knew I was built for it.”

I paused. It took her years and several life-changing events before she could even start searching for herself and her purpose. As lost as I was along EDSA, she still found her way through life despite the slow traffic, despite the alleys and streets branching off the main road. 

“This is your red sea. You need to find a way to part it, else you won’t move forward. You have to rebuild yourself from the ground up, but once you do, all the good things will come. Everything that was meant for you will come.”

For a long while during my commute home, I kept thinking about what she said. About what transpired in her bright living area. Everything she told me gave me a shard of hope, the nucleus of action and change. What she said made me think. 

How do I rebuild myself when I don’t even know where the pieces are? How do I forgive? How do I truly know if I love someone? My mind was abuzz with these thoughts, coupled with the prompts for the next few articles I’m supposed to write. The next few weeks and months would be the most difficult ones in my life. 

I wouldn’t realize it until much later than that that what she did to me was talk therapy. But I appreciate her friendship more than the therapy, to be honest. I think that’s what matters even in a strictly clinical set-up. I was never friends with my therapists. 

It’s been two months. The EDSA traffic is worse than ever, but along with the debilitating congestion of the streets came clarity that only time can distill. I still ask my hard questions and I still don’t know the answer, but I’m getting there. Maybe I did need to get stuck along traffic the day I talked to Eli. 

“If you build it, they will come,” she said. So I’m trying hard to do what’s right for myself every day. 

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Eli Abela