Counseling center waiting rooms are the most awkward places. You’re sitting there with other people, and you all know that you’re here because you have problems. You know why you’re there, and you can’t help wondering what has brought your fellow waiting-room-sitters. You’re trying to decide whether their problems are worse or lesser than your own (the latter possibility makes you feel either a weird sort of superiority or like a hopeless mess, and the former makes you wonder why you’re even there), and you never know if it’s acceptable to speak to someone else or even to make eye contact.
It’s all the worse if the counseling center is attached to your school, and your sessions are at 8 p.m. on Mondays, and APPARENTLY SO ARE EVERYONE ELSE’S, and EVERYONE ELSE IS PEOPLE YOU KNOW. Her? Really? I never guessed she had some kind of deep, dark, tortured issue! And him? Wow, I always suspected… Good for him for working on it! …Wait. Are they thinking the same things about me? Are they speculating about me?? Are they evaluating me???
Are you supposed to make conversation when someone you know sits down across from you? If so, what do you say? Do you make idle small talk as though you’d just passed each other on the way to class and you weren’t about to bare your soul to someone who can practically read your mind and as though you weren’t dying to know what each other’s topic of soul-baring may be? Or do you come right out and say, “So, whatterya in for?” If you do speak, what do you say when you part ways? “Have fun!” (digging up the most painful parts of your inner self), or “See ya later!” (as we bump into each other again on our way out with red, puffy, teary-eyed faces).
I have an idea for a story — either for a dark-humored romantic comedy or a flash fiction. A man and a woman always end up across the waiting room from each other at a shrink’s office. They’re the only two people there each week. Eventually, one of them bravely initiates the awkward small talk. Over time, the awkward small talk grows into normal conversation, which grows into him asking her on a date. They originally make it a point never to discuss their counseling sessions, but as such things are wont to do, it comes out one day. Whatever their problems are make them realize they’re both seriously messed up people, and fighting ensues, and they break up. But then they still have to sit across from each other in the waiting room every week. They’ll probably end up living happily ever after later down the road, but we’ll never know that for sure.