Things My Therapist Says that Aren’t True by Natascha Graham

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I can’t write.

I can’t do it.

My therapist suggested perhaps it is because I am, “too happy.” Is that possible?

I am happy. Happier than I have ever been.

But too happy? Is that a thing? “too happy?”

I imagine Sarah Lancashire whilst I say that. She said it in my head when I thought it.

She was stood in a doorway, midday, mid-spring, middle-aged and glorious, magnificent, backlit by milky lemon light through closed French doors.

She’s wearing pale colours – whites, turquoise, pinks. She’s just finished a lunchtime croissant and she’s on her way back to the kitchen for more (black) coffee.

She lowers her head, looks over the rim of her glasses when she says it – “too happy?” She sets down her cup. Pushes the button on the coffee machine. “Well that’s just…” She hesitates. Watches the steam begin to rise.
“There’s no such thing, surely?” Another glance over her glasses, this time to check that all is understood.

There is no such thing.

And because it’s Sarah Lancashire, you believe it.

I can pass it around, analyse it through the minds of my favourite people…characters (A tried and tested coping mechanism, and, perhaps, reason alone to go to therapy).

From Harrogate to Halifax, the words would change, in just 60…40 miles, or so.

Now they splinter, when Gillian takes them. As things so often do. With her.

She’s in the corner of the kitchen making tea, pouring water from the kettle into two mugs. It’s dark in here. The windows are steamed up from the washing drying above the Aga, she’s wearing a blue and green plaid shirt over a grey button up top and she has a tea towel over her shoulder even though the baby’s with its other granny, nanny, grandma-whats-‘er-gob.

“Too happy!” She laughs. Exclaims. “That’ll…b-bloody, be the day.” She sets the kettle down too hard and rummages in the drawer. She’s sullen and moody and full of nervous energy.

“I had someone – a bloke. Man, someone. Come into Greenhough’s this morning. Said I’d be “quite attractive”” She puts on a voice, pulls a face “…If, if I smiled more. I mean…who’s he bloody think he is talking like that.” She gestured with a teaspoon, pushed the drawer almost closed with her hip. “f-….pillock. What’s he mean, quite attractive? I’ll give him something to f-ing smile about.” She stopped, frowned. “Well, I won’t, that’s not what I meant. But you get my point…” She stopped. Paused. Couldn’t let it lie. “Nob.” She tosses the spoon onto the counter, doesn’t bother with it, will use her fingers for the teabags instead. The spoon clatters, jumps, and falls onto the floor, and because her backs been playing up ever since that shag with whats-his-name from Ripponden, in his electricians van, and because of so many f-other things, she kicks it under the counter where it can bloody well stay.

I can toss it in the direction of the Goblin King, have him roll the thought between his fingers, hands, hold it up to the light – sparkling, glittering – because it’s just a thought, nothing more, nothing less…

He’d tilt his head to one side, smile that slow brilliant smile, not looking at me, but for me.

“Too happy?” To him it was a challenge, a myth, a dream to be cast, spun and dropped to shatter on whim. To him it was possible, improbable, unlikely and definite. True and untrue, both at the same time – “Because if you look at it this way…” He tilted the words between his hands, tinkling and silver, changing colour with the light, until they took on a whole new charm, a warmth of golds and oranges, purples and pinks, of happiness, building, and growing, swarming through the veins, then the other, where they clink, and freeze, in blues and ice-white, almost transparent, almost a whisper, almost nothing at all.

To Connie Beauchamp. Mrs Beauchamp. Stiff white collar against pale skin, buttoned low, and in response, she would repeat it. Mocking. Eyebrow raised. Bored. Busy. “Too happy?” She’d draw in a breath, already tired of the conversation, “Oh please.”

She would walk away, a silhouette of Chanel, Gucci and Louboutin’s.

But it would stay with her. In her head. She’d think about it whilst she cradled the still beating heart of a patient. How many hearts she had held between those hands. How many she had fixed, and yet she had choked the life from her own.

She would think about it on the drive home, in the dark, night – eye’s a glacial picture of practiced togetherness behind the sparkling, rain-flecked windscreen of a Mercedes driving the long way home – and in the shower. An empty wine glass on the floor. Water on her face, her hair, in her eyes, too hot, smothering, suffocating… too happy…happiness alone was an elusive concept. The extreme almost impossible to imagine.

She would dry her hair, wrap a white towel around her head, a white robe around her body and stand, before the mirror, leaning against the sink, hands cold against the rim. She would look at herself.

Really look. The lines of her face. The flecks of grey in her hair, and another, and another. Then her eyes…she would look away.

And she would go to bed.

To Virginia and Vita, who passed the words between them, swallowed them whole, digested them, and never worried once about the whether or not, whilst they sat, in the sunshine, in the glory of June, in the garden of Monk’s House where the cows stood at the edge of the sky, chewing, ears flicking.

Instead the words were transformed, blurred between the pages of books yet to be written, billowing up into clouds above them, lacing the air, the sky, the sunshine…

Behind them, nearer the house, Vanessa and the boys played boules with Leonard, Duncan and Lytton. Vanessa painting pictures in her head, admiring the way the sun set the orange of Lytton’s hair and beard ablaze, the quiet gentleness of Leonards voice as he leans in, says something to Duncan she doesn’t catch, only sees Duncan smile, laugh, a silent laugh, more in the blue of his eyes than a sound from his mouth.

“I don’t believe one can ever be too happy.” Grass hoppers, invisible but noisy in the grass, bees are between the leaves of the Mulberry tree above them, around them, and the air hums and vibrates with a wandering song of its own.

Virginia watches the flight of a cabbage white before continuing. Vita – watching her, charmed by the dallying of her train of thought.

“Surely happiness alone, is enough?” She asked, as Nelly came from the back door with tea.

 

Raised simultaneously by David Bowie and Virginia Woolf, Natascha Graham is a fiction writer, artist, and screenwriter who lives with her wife in a house full of sunshine on the east coast of England. Her work has been previously published in Acumen, Litro, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Gay and Lesbian Review and The Mighty.

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