Dr. Blackstone padded across the threadbare gray carpet on his thick socks. A few days before her appointment, she had watched him being interviewed on an internet video, one that had been done several years ago. He'd had a pot belly then, and he had the same one now. He preferred to take off his shoes whenever possible, he said, because he liked to feel more grounded.
Origami birds twirled over the examining table. Big, now old-fashioned stereo speakers stood at the end. The huge stereo system did not surprise Althea, since Dr. Blackstone's office operated without accepting credit cards and without relying on computers. It was cash or check only, and the receptionist was allowed to input only the most minimal of data into the one antiquated computer. Everything else was paper and pen.
A whale swam out of an ocean picture on the opposite wall. Colorful wooden figurines carved by Indians and Native Americans crowded the shelves above his funky old desk. A dusty potted plant, some sort of palm, stood by the one small window that looked out onto an airwell and was taller than he was.
She tried to picture their separate life trajectories on an imaginary map. His lines ran from New York City to Philly to Missouri, hers from Georgia to Los Angeles to Kansas. And then they had converged. Now here they both were, sitting face to face in his decades-old office in the Marina District of golden San Francisco. He was asking all sorts of questions. Her answers, she knew, would be tossed into the remedies.
What had she liked in school? Had she dated as a teenager? Had her periods been painful? What illnesses had she suffered? What griefs had she known? When she was sad did she want to be alone or with others? What tragedies had befallen her?