Night Sessions

By Brendan Murray

She loves the rain. She loves the way it makes the black asphalt sparkle under the street lamps. The way her hair falls when it’s wet. That scent of moisture in the air before the storm, that same scent that lingers afterwards. She loves the rain. I nod accordingly hoping she’ll go on talking about herself for the last few minutes. I appreciate the disclosure she is trying to make with me but in earnest it’s all lies. She may very well like how her hair looks soaked through and weighted by water, but even people who claim to love the rain retreat under an umbrella when it pours. Of course I didn’t tell her this. If I did she would scribble in her notebook, every scratch an unspoken judgment. Besides, the hour was almost up; it could wait until next week.

‘Looks like we’re out of time,’ she says through a smile. She spoke in the same fashion you’d expect someone to speak to a lost child at a shopping mall. I was already well prepped to leave; I had one arm in my jacket and as I stepped out the door she called out to me.

‘Same time next week?’ Her hopeful tone suggested to me that she would indeed scribble in her notebook despite my silence throughout the session. I didn’t reply.

I always left Ms Bennett’s sessions feeling somewhat perplexed, like someone had rearranged the furniture in my mind. A patient–therapist relationship is one of the most intimate of relationships, yet paradoxically requires a degree of professional distance. Much like a long-distance romance, it just never works out.

As I step out onto the street I’m hit with a chilling breeze akin to falling into an icy pool. I’d left my scarf back in the waiting room but I decide not to go back in and get it. I jerk up my jacket collar to meet my ears and squash my neck leaving little gap between my chin and chest. It is a quiet night, the gutters are filled with rain as promised by the morning’s weather reports and the bus shelter is void of any waiting commuters. I’d opted to take my sessions at night, but come to think of it I’d never really questioned why. Perhaps I was in denial that I was even in therapy, night sessions kept an element of secrecy to them I suppose.

The bus is predictably late. I loathed the commute almost as much as the sessions themselves. When it finally arrives, the doors fling open and a short, stubby man with excessively hairy forearms and lenses two sizes too large for his head greets me from behind the steering wheel. I instinctively stroll to the back quarter of the bus as though all those years catching it to school had taught me to do so. Twenty-seven years old and yet I still cared about the seating hierarchy on the town bus. It was occupied by vacant seats mostly, a night owl holding a can of V sat at the very back and a middle-aged man working a night job at a pizzeria was half asleep a few seats down from me. At the very front, adjacent to the driver, sat a girl with pale blonde hair and skin a shade paler. She wore knee-high boots and an army-green beanie. Staring out the window, her mind seemed preoccupied, her gaze unfocused, until she turned and met my own. It startled me at first; I had been observing other passengers like statues in a museum, not expecting them to look back. I immediately looked away. Even on a full bus I’d avoid eye contact. Looking into someone’s eyes was intrusive; our eyes often reveal more than we’d like them to.

I distracted myself with the neon signs of the shop fronts out the window as we sped past them, a blur of primary colours. My eyes drifted back to the front of the bus but the girl was no longer sitting, she was making her way down the aisle. Her large boots gave her a sturdy stance, at least they seemed to until she half stumbled as the driver changed gears. It made her seem less frightening. Pretty girls never looked at me, let alone talked to me. I suddenly wished I were invisible, more than I usually do.

She invited herself to sit next to me, although she didn’t sit in the regular way. Her legs were crossed and up on the seat, kind of how you were made to sit on the floor in primary school. I continued to stare forward; I could feel her eyes on me. My initial fear had subsided and all that remained was an even worse feeling of awkwardness.

‘Do you like the rain?’ The words spilled out of my mouth.

Speaking helped break the awkwardness, what would have helped more was speaking sense. Yet to my surprise she smiled in reply, her head bopping along to the motion of the bus.

‘Well I don’t today and probably won’t tomorrow. Come the summer I’ll probably be praying for it though.’

As I absorbed her answer I felt pressure to comment, but before I did she spoke again.

‘I’m Scarlett by the way, but those who like me call me Scout.’

‘Scout huh?’ I confirmed with a smirk that seemed to please her. I surprised myself with the swiftness of my charming reply. Before I could introduce myself she jumped in again.

‘Where yah heading?’


‘Where yah been then?’

I hesitated for a moment, not for long but long enough to be noticed.

‘Out.’ The progress I’d made just moments ago was lost with how distant my responses had become. She played with her hair, asking me to ask her about her night.


‘Art school, I’ve been at art school. Night classes,’ she professed with a soft sense of pride. That explained the paint smears on her jacket and the rolls of paper sticking out of the bag she had been clutching to her chest. She caught me eyeing it and didn’t allow the courtesy of pretending she hadn’t.

‘I’ve got some of my work here actually, would you like to see?’ she asked while opening the bag.

‘Sure’ I said, coming off a little disingenuous, which really wasn’t the case. I over corrected by following it up with a statement that painted me more as a parent than a romantic interest.

‘I’d love to.’

She pulled out some scrolls of paper, dropping some fine-tipped paintbrushes onto the floor in the process.

‘Do you like art?’ she asked in a tone that instructed me to say yes.

‘Yeah sure,’ I lied. I didn’t not-like art but it felt like a lie saying I did. She unrolled a large canvas across our laps. The bus cabin lights were poor but the streetlights through the window illuminated her painting.

It depicted a young girl holding a ribbon prancing around a maypole in the English countryside. Although to be fair, my eyes were drawn first to the gargoyle-like monster doing likewise just behind her. I found it quite a strange thing to paint, grotesque even.

‘It’s very beautiful,’ I said, ‘I’m not usually the best with interpreting this kinda stuff though.’ Upon saying this I realised my concession probably appeared as though I had lied about my fondness for art. She didn’t care. She prompted me to find meaning in the imagery; the pastel colours were actually quite soft on the eyes. The tip of her nose was a rosy pink from the brisk weather; it distracted me for a moment.

‘Dancing with the devil?’ I guessed. Her eyes lit up.

‘Ohh close. Not dancing though,’ she exclaimed.

‘Then what?’

‘You’ll figure it out,’ she murmured as she nudged me with a playfully smug air of knowing something I didn’t. It was strange to think that not long ago I felt uncomfortable sitting next to her.

We continued to chat, I leant the conversation towards her rather than me. She was a waitress by day but painting was her labour of love. She could only manage time for it by night, Thursday nights, therapy night.

‘My stops the one after next,’ she said as she rolled up the canvas and stuffed it back into her backpack before swinging it over her shoulder. She had little streaks of paint in her white-blonde hair. The kind you would only really see if you were up close and looking for them.

‘I’m on ’til the end of the line,’ I replied with genuine disappointment.

‘You know you never did tell me your name,’ she said, jokingly implying rudeness on my part.

‘Ohh, it’s Dylan.’ Saying that left a weird taste in my mouth, a taste I seem to always get when I say my own name aloud.

‘Well Dylan, it looks like we’re out of time.’ She adjusted her beanie ensuring it covered her ears, preparing for the cold of the night. She then stood and took a few steps to the back door of the bus and looked back to me.

‘Same time next week?’ she asked in a hopeful tone that I found endearing. ‘You bet,’ I smiled.

The bus pulled to the curb and as the doors opened she gave a thank you wave to the driver before turning back to me.

‘Next week’ she pointed, her tone half threatening. As she stepped out I stood to ask her before she disappeared.

‘If not dancing, then what?’

‘Chasing,’ she replied.

‘Don’t let your demons chase you?’ I asked.

‘Let yourself chase them,’ she shouted through the doors as they creaked shut.

I continued to stand for the rest of the journey home. The windows became covered in veins of water as the heavens opened up and the paintbrushes Scout had forgotten continued to roll up and down the aisle. I’d be walking home in the rain tonight, but I didn’t mind. As the driver changed gears my head bopped along to the motion of the bus.