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“The group will begin now,” said Dr. Page, his face worn beyond its years. “Please take your seats, and phones off.”
Jason was busy Instagramming his new Chuck Taylors, while Katelynn sat sideways, by the window, attempting to photograph herself in a ray of sunlight, looking shyly away.
“Phones away, please,” he insisted, with the air of exhaustion they’ve detected countless times. “Let’s get started.”
Katelynn sighed, unable to capture such a perfect moment, stomped over to the center of the room and took a seat. Jason shrugged and slid his phone into his shirt pocket. His lean frame lay limp over his cold metal chair.
“And how was everyone’s week?” Dr. Page began.
Amanda sat cross-legged on her chair. She looked up at the group slowly and said, “I found more pictures.”
“Go on,” said Dr. Page.
“There were tons of them,” she managed softly, tugging at the hem of her jeans. “They were in some slideshow,” she said with disdain, “and I was in my underwear, drinking milk, laying on the family dog.” She looked down and sobbed quietly. “The comments all said how adorable I was. There were at least ten of them. Ten. Who needs ten pictures of a little girl, in her underwear, drinking milk?”
“That bitch!” Jason shouted. “That unimaginable bitch!”
“Now, now, Jason,” Dr. Page interrupted. “Remember our respectful words.”
“It’s just that -” Jason began, then trailed off. He wiped his hand across his forehead and looked away.
“Jason?” Dr. Page prodded.
“What? What, Dr. Page? What is it? What do you want?” Jason hissed.
“Is there something you wanted to share, Jason?” Dr. Page offered.
“Is there something you wanted to share, Jason?” he mocked.
The crushing weight of silence strangled the room. Dr. Page allowed Jason to collect himself before continuing. Katelynn stared longingly at the sunny side of the room, the windows, the Ficus, framing a shot with her fingers.
“Well?” Dr. Page urged. “Is there something you need to get off your chest?”
“Yes, there is,” Jason’s cheeks filled with blood. “I read a post today, about the lisp I had when I was three.”
“And there were only thirty-two comments. I mean, did she not love me enough to promote my post further? My sister’s post? The one I mentioned last week? About the diaper accident? One-hundred-seventy-four. And it was picked up by the Huffington Post. Was my lisp not good enough? Was I not good enough?”
“And, you know,” he continued, venom in his voice, “her Twitter handle was Wine Drinkin‘ Mama. And I’ll tell you what. Never, did I ever, and I mean EVER, see a bottle of wine in that house. She played favorites and she was a liar. A goddamned liar!” Beads of sweat hung precariously on his forehead.
Stephanie sat up in her chair. Her slender silhouette gently supported a thick mane of silky dark brown hair. “You know what, Jason? Mine, too.”
“I found a few tweets from my sixth birthday,” she continued. “We had gone to the zoo. She told us that it was The Best Day Ever and that she was very happy we were able to enjoy it together. And? On Twitter? She said and I quote, ‘Somebody stab me in the face. These $*%&ing kids wore out my patience before we even left the house. #sendwine #motherhoodsucks‘. Motherhood sucks, Jason.”
The group sat silently.
James, a chubby college student with an unruly mop of blond curls, cleared his throat. “My mom? Shamed me. Put signs on both me and the puppy, and shamed us. ‘Goes to the bathroom on the rug’ it said. And, to this day, she only refers to me as DS1. My name is James. It’s James, dammit!”
James stood up and banged his metal chair on the floor loudly.
“My name is James,” he said quietly, turned towards the door and walked out.
Just then, the sun began to set. Dr. Page, knowing the implications, attempted to head towards the row of windows to quickly and quietly close the shades.
The squeaking shades jarred each member of the group immediately out of his contemplation. Their heads whipped around almost mechanically.
“Sunset,” Katelynn said, with the dispassion of a zombie.
“Sunset,” Jason said, clearing the tears from his eyes.
Not a moment later, the entire group was leaning over a cabinet of shelves, pointing their phones westward.
Dr. Page knew he had lost them.
“Next week, then. Same time, same place,” he stated, resigned.
No one was listening.
He threw his coat over his shoulder and walked out.
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By Laurel Regan