Light and airy, bright sunshine streamed into the atrium through a ceiling of glass and metal. Filled with towering, full-leafed trees and fragrant, blossom-covered shrubs, greenery couldn’t detract from the industrial feel of the gallery.
Several benches lined the outer edge of a central courtyard, tucked under the shadow of a lush canopy of foliage. Two women sat on one of the benches, the other seats were empty.
The older of the two wore a long, white lab coat over pale blue, knee-length dress. She seemed relaxed, sitting in the corner of the bench, one leg crossed over the other. The only hint of her unease was the constant bouncing of her foot.
“Tell me again about the park you visited recently,” Dr. Sharon Booker didn’t take notes during her sessions. A photographic memory allowed her to transcribe the conversation later. It also gave her the opportunity to focus on her patients’ body language as well as their narrative.
Marjorie rolled her eyes, huffing with impatience.
Sitting rigidly upright on the edge of the bench, the teenager trailed one leg behind her as if readying to run at any moment. She fidgeted with the zipper on her sweatshirt, pulling it up and down erratically, humming along to the rhythm.
Before she could answer, Dr. Booker held up her hand.
“Wait,” she said looking at something over Marjorie’s shoulder. “Dr. Lewis will be joining us. I wanted him to hear this too.”
Lewis went to great lengths to not look like a therapist but only managed to look like one of the facility’s automatons. Khakis and a white shirt, sleeves rolled to the elbow and unbuttoned at the neck, was his typical uniform, with only the shirt color changing. He wore a close-cropped goatee, a tint of auburn in an otherwise brown beard. His hair was a darker shade of brown, graying at the temples. He had pushed plain, black glasses back above his forehead, rarely using them to actually look through.
“We won’t all be able to sit here, let’s go over to the pavilion,” Lewis said. “We can get something cold to drink, my treat.”
The trio sat in silence, save for Marjorie slurping her drink until it made a sucking noise through her empty straw. Lewis and Booker sat on one side of a picnic table, with Marjorie stretched out on the opposite bench, feet up on the seat. She situated herself so she could see both doctors.
“Majorie, tell Dr. Lewis about your park,” Booker said without preamble.
Marjorie answered with a contemptuous stare, lips pursed in annoyance. She shifted around until she was only looking at Lewis.
“There is a small pond there,” Marjorie began.
“It’s in the middle of an old-growth forest. Tall pines and oaks line the pond’s bank. There are flowering bushes covered in pink blossoms just inside the forest shade. Large patches of cattails have popped up in random spots. Some of the brown tails have begun to shed, their fuzzy coats floating on the wind like tiny damselflies.
“A trail winds around the pond.”
“Is it a proper trail?” Lewis leaned forward, elbows on the table.
“No, it’s just a worn animal path,” Marjorie said. “You can see deer prints and fox, maybe beaver.”
“Go on,” Lewis gestured for her to continue.
“Water lilies cover most of the surface of the pond, some of the buds have opened. Dragonflies and honey bees flit from one to the other. Sometimes a big bullfrog hops out the water, landing with a slap on a broad, green leaf. It sits on the pad, waiting for a cricket to hop by. Their long tongues are so fast you can miss it when they catch one.”
“What color are the lilies,” Booker interrupted, her voice betraying her skepticism.
Marjorie tilted her head back, looking at the woman sideways.
“Like I told her before,” she answered, her voice getting louder as she enunciated each word, punctuating them with a slap on the table, bellowing out, “YELLOW!”
“See what I mean,” Booker backed away from the table. Her hands flitted from smoothing her to shoving them into her lab coat pockets. “Her idiosyncratic beliefs are completely delusional.”
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” Lewis said, patting the air with both hands. “I can take it from here, Sharon.”
With that rebuff, Booker left the gallery, walking from the atrium, across the marble quad to her office building. If the facility could be seen from above, it would be as stark, and monotone as the surrounding landscape. Not a tinge of green or any other color than gray anywhere to be seen.
After Booker left, Lewis asked Marjorie to tell him more about her park. Her descriptions so vivid, he wanted to believe she was remembering an actual place, no matter how impossible.
“Are fish in this pond?” Lewis asked with the excited longing of a child on Christmas morning.
“Sure,” Marjorie said, eager to have someone who shared her hiraeth. “There are trout, flounder, and even mullet.”