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November 25, 2018 12:19 pm  #1

After All These Years

[Context: Doug and Kevin are at a bar. Kevin is only drinking Pepsi, since he's the designated driver. It's Friday night, so their wives are preparing dinner at Kevin's home. They always eat dinner together on Friday nights.]

“Hey. Are you okay, Doug?”

Doug startles out of his daze and looks at Kevin. “Huh? Yeah, I’m fine.”

Kevin raises an eyebrow. He mindlessly moves his glass in circular motions, stirring the Pepsi. “Alright. You just look like you have something on your mind, that’s all.”

“Hm. Just a hard day at work, you know.” In one swift motion, Doug downs his scotch, winces, and gestures for the bartender to fill his glass again. The bartender wordlessly fills the glass and sets it in front of Doug.

“There’s a reason I stopped working as a counselor. That job was wearing me down to a nub. It’s much easier being a clinical psychologist--I only get to see a patient once every few months, we talk about how the meds are working, and decide what dosage is right for them.” Kevin stares somewhere behind the bar, then meets Doug’s eyes.

Doug shrugs. “I like being a counselor. I feel like I make more of a difference.” He takes a sip of his scotch.

“You probably do,” Kevin admits. He waits a few seconds before speaking again. “So, what happened today? The parts you can tell me, at least.”

Sighing, Doug reaches into his back pocket and pulls out his wallet. He takes out some cash and lays it on the counter. “C’mon. I can’t talk about it in here."

Kevin pays for his own drinks, and the two men throw on their coats before leaving the bar. They exit the bar and shiver as the frosty air hits them. Kevin wraps an arm around his friend’s shoulders to ensure that Doug doesn’t slip and fall on a patch of ice. A couple walk past Kevin and Doug, and the man gives the friends a strange look--probably thinking that Kevin and Doug are a gay couple. Doug is too buzzed to notice or care. Kevin doesn’t say anything about it.

They reach Kevin’s car and separate. Kevin unlocks the car, opens the driver’s side door, and slides inside. A few seconds later, Doug opens his door and folds himself into the passenger seat, quickly shutting the door behind him. Kevin starts the car and cranks the heater up.

Kevin waits until the car starts warming up before asking the question.  “What happened today?”

“Ah, man.” Doug leans his head back against the headrest. “Everything happened. I can’t tell you anything about it, but I nearly broke down with one of my clients. The stuff he was talking about… it just hit me like a sledgehammer.”

“Yikes. What did you do?”

“I took a deep breath and shoved my emotions back where they came from.” Doug shakes his head. “You know it would be unprofessional to break down in front of a client.”

“Yeah. I know,” Kevin says softly. He’d nearly done it a couple of times himself.

Doug hesitates before speaking again. “Have I ever told you why I became a therapist?”


“Well,” Doug takes a deep breath. “I struggle with my own mental health from time to time. It isn’t nearly as bad as it used to be, though. It got really bad when I was a freshman in college--to the point where I was seriously considering ending it all. I, um…” Doug’s voice shakes. “I made an attempt on my life. Using my roommate’s sleeping pills.”

Kevin places a hand on Doug’s shoulder, but doesn’t say anything.

“My roommate found me and called 911. I was rushed to the hospital, they checked my vitals, and waited for the pills to flush out of my system. The next day, I was transferred to a behavioral health center. The rest of it, you can imagine--but, throughout all of that, I never cried. Not once.

Kevin squeezes Doug’s shoulder. “That’s awful. I can’t imagine what that was like."

Doug continues. “I still haven’t really cried about it. I didn’t think I could, but while I was listening to my client today, it all started rushing up. Like--like it is right now. Gosh,” Doug puts his face in his hands. “I can’t do this right now,” He mumbles, his shaky voice barely audible.

“Hey,” Kevin shakes Doug’s shoulder gently. “You can trust me. I’m not going to tell anyone about this. Friend-friend confidentiality, you know?”

Doug keeps his face in his hands. “I can’t do this,” he repeats.

“Yes, you can,” Kevin says firmly. “I know it hurts, and it’s not going to be comfortable, but you can do this. C’mon, Doug. Just let it out.”

Doug inhales and exhales quickly, the emotions overwhelming him all at once. Images of sleepless nights, angry outbursts, and concerned faces flash before his clenched-shut eyes. His hands curl into fists, and his shoulders tense as the emotion wreaks havoc inside his chest. Just as he thinks he can’t take it anymore, Doug feels a burning sensation behind his eyes, and his breath strangles. He gasps, trying to breathe, and breaks down. Unable to take it anymore, Kevin grabs Doug and pulls the man into a fierce hug.

Doug’s strangled sobs fill the small car. Conscious of how ridiculously weak he sounds, Doug attempts to stop himself.

“Don’t you stop,” Kevin nearly growls, as if he can read his friend’s mind. “Let it out.”

Doug stops trying to cut off his sobs and allows himself to grieve--grieve the young man who couldn’t take it anymore, so he made a crappy decision. Grieve all the people he couldn’t help despite his best efforts, grieve for his infant daughter who passed away years ago. Finally, just grieving.

“That’s it,” Kevin whispers, rubbing Doug’s back in soothing circles. “There you go. Let everything out.”

As Doug’s sobs die down, he notices the death grip he has on Kevin--his hands had grabbed fistfuls of the back of Kevin’s coat. Slowly, Doug releases his grip. He sighs as he pulls away from Kevin. Kevin takes the opportunity to reach into his coat pocket and pull out a small pack of tissues. He offers the pack to Doug.

Doug waves his hand. “I’m good, thanks.” He begins to wipe his face with the sleeve of his coat. The wool scratches his face and doesn’t absorb the tears very well.

“It’s okay. Crying doesn’t make you weak.” Kevin stares deep into Doug’s red-rimmed eyes.

Doug lets out a small laugh. “I know. I’m a therapist, for heaven’s sake. It’s just hard to accept it.”

Kevin offers the tissues again. This time, Doug takes a couple. Compared to the sleeve of his coat, the tissues are much softer. He blows his nose and wipes the remaining tears away. When he’s done, Doug stuffs the tissues into his right coat pocket and returns Kevin’s steady, calm gaze. “Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it.” Kevin tucks his pack of tissues into his own pocket.

The two men sit in silence--at least, until Doug starts chuckling.

“What?” Kevin asks.

“You keep tissues in your pocket?” Doug looks at Kevin and raises an eyebrow, amused.

Kevin smiles. “Hey--in my defense, my wife gave me the tissues a while ago. I forgot they were there.”

“Okay, then. If you say so.” Doug laughs. Kevin punches Doug’s shoulder lightly.

“What do you say we get out of here?” Kevin says.

“Sounds good. Our wives are probably getting impatient.” Doug smiles.

Kevin puts on his seatbelt, shifts the car into drive, and backs out of the parking space.

The pair mostly tease each other on the way back to Kevin’s house, needing to lighten the mood. Once there, they walk inside and greet their wives, who are busy setting the dining room table.

They all eat dinner together, perfectly content.

Still, by the clock's revolution each hour,
I dissolve into tears about ev'ry half hour.

November 26, 2018 4:39 am  #2

Re: After All These Years

Even though M/M is not my main interest, I like the way the guy resists to cry in front of his friend, also how after the meltdown the wives will never know what happened.


November 26, 2018 10:53 pm  #3

Re: After All These Years

Aww, I’m glad you guys liked it! ❤️

Still, by the clock's revolution each hour,
I dissolve into tears about ev'ry half hour.
     Thread Starter

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