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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Other · #1849270
Phoenix Jones agonizes over life on a Sunday morning...
He looped the earphones over his ears and put the buds in, wiggling them a bit to get the right fit.  The iPod attached to those earphones was a new one - 160 GB 7th generation black Classic.  It replaced the 20GB white refurbished iPod that his friend had so lovingly given him for his birthday last year.  Unfortunately, the 20GB did not last as long as anyone had hoped, but it had opened up a whole new world for Phoenix and he loved his friend for it.  He turned up his Linkin Park collection on the iPod and grabbed the box of wooden kitchen matches next to his desk.  Phoenix loved the scent of sandalwood.  Striking the match, he smelled the sulfur and the smoke as he lit the small tealight candle inside the amber-colored glass bowl.  Blowing out the match, Phoenix sat back and turned on his computer.  His computer was quite a setup.  He had a 17.3" laptop hooked up to a 37" TV monitor through an HDMI cable.  The wireless keyboard and mouse made it ideal.  His all-in-one LaserJet printer-fax-scanner-copier was also hooked up to the laptop.  Everything was set up just the way he wanted it.  It worked.

If you looked at the rest of Phoenix's office, however, it was a disaster area.  Piles of books and papers everywhere barely left room for his goat trail through the mess from the door, past the gecko terrarium, to his desk.  Phoenix had named his leopard gecko Meeb.  Meeb was a little over one year old and was very particular.  He would only eat from Phoenix's hand and had quite the personality for a lizard.  Phoenix had gotten him as a juvenile on a cold day in December.  Keeping him inside his jacket for warmth, Phoenix had gotten him home safely to his new desert environment in the office.

It was Sunday morning and Phoenix was struggling with his thoughts again.  This happened frequently.  Thoughts from the War dominated his thinking and his every waking moment.  Nightmares kept him awake at night and flashbacks haunted him during the day.  He could not trust anyone and had become quite isolated.  He was on nine medications to try to regulate his mood and his symptoms.  Phoenix had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Major Depression from his experiences in the Middle East.  He was hospitalized for suicidal ideation periodically and was currently undergoing a series of electroconvulsive therapy treatments (ECTs) at one per month.  In the midst of all of this, Phoenix was managing to make his way through a graduate program in psychology.  He had two undergraduate degrees, one in biology and one in psychology, and had graduated magna cum laude despite all of the turmoil the War had endowed him with over a decade ago.  Phoenix's psychiatrist was very proud of him and kept him going.  Sometimes that doctor was the only thing that kept him going.  He was the best doctor Phoenix could ever have.  Why, you might ask?  What made the doctor so special?  The doctor had PTSD.  He was in Viet Nam.  He understood and that meant that he could legitimately care for Phoenix and have a relationship with him that no other doctor could have.  Phoenix could trust him.  That doctor had also overcome his disorder, and this gave Phoenix hope.  Hope was that invaluable thing that kept him from shooting himself at any given moment.

Part of what Phoenix was having difficulty with this Sunday morning was the loss of a friend and the loss of his case manager.  The friend had rejected Phoenix based on "how he was" and the case manager had a sudden job offer that she could not refuse, taking her away from the clinic to a new employer.  The loss of the past week had been overwhelming.  Phoenix had no intention of ever becoming attached to the case manager, much less feeling loss and pain over her leaving.  He knew better than to become attached to people.  He had met the new case manager.  She was very girlie and disconnected.  Maybe she was just nervous over having to meet a new client, and a Veteran at that.  She had no experience with Vets, and was straightforward about that.  At least she admitted it so that Phoenix knew what he was dealing with.  There was no immediate gut feeling of compatibility, though, and that worried him.  He feared a string of incompetent case managers who thought of him as a mere number with chronic PTSD and the disability that accompanied it.  The very thought made Phoenix suicidal.  His doctor had been worried about that and had called the nurse to ask her to make contact with Phoenix on his day off to check on him.  When the nurse called, she said that the doctor would be calling her to find out how Phoenix was doing later in the day.  Not wanting his doctor to worry over his weekend about him, Phoenix lied and said he would not hurt himself.  Now it was Sunday.  Phoenix had managed to keep his promise to his doctor thus far.  He would see his doctor the next day, too, as a matter of fact.  All he had to do was make it through another day and a half.

Phoenix had plenty to do, but could not concentrate.  His graduate studies required a huge amount of reading and work on assessments, interviews, statistics, and other tasks.  These tasks would all be much easier when he got his new glasses in a week.  Being able to see would help immensely.  He was also trying to come up with feasible and worthwhile thesis topic.  He was stuck on all fronts.  A brilliant idea flashed through his mind, then was gone again.  He changed the music on his iPod to Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and continued thinking.  Thinking.  That seemed to be his pastime of choice.  He thought about going back to judo.  He thought about going back to church.  He thought about learning German.  He thought about getting in shape.  He thought about going for a walk.  He thought about riding his bike.  He thought about applying to medical school again.  He thought about doing some artwork.  He thought about getting on the radio and talking to someone.  He thought and thought and thought.  These were all things he had a passion for, and yet all he could do was think about them.  "What is wrong with me?" he asked himself.  He knew the answer.

Phoenix told his spouse that he was going for a drive.  On the way out the door of the basement apartment, he picked up his psychotherapy book on motivational interviewing and his clipboard.  He pushed the unlock button for his 2011 grey Ford Supercrew 4X4 that was parked in front of the house.  Placing his book and clipboard on the passenger seat, he picked up OX, an UglyDoll he had bought at Hastings the day he met the new case manager and said his final goodbyes to the old one, and hugged the doll tightly to his chest, speaking softly to it.  He put OX next to his things in the passenger seat and pulled carefully out of the parking spot.  Phoenix felt numb.  That was never a good sign.  The numbness was as maddening as the anger was.  Phoenix felt it.  The depression was coming on strong.  He stopped at Hastings, fearing that he was not in a safe mindset to continue driving.  Grabbing his book and clipboard, he walked into the Hardback Cafe and claimed his favorite table at the back of the coffee shop.  He shed his rust-colored coat and put it over the back of the chair adjacent to the one he intended to sit in before ordering his customary large Earl Grey tea.  It was noon.
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