Martyn settled back onto the couch and clasped his hands together over his paunch. He’d been looking forward to this session all week. Where else did he get a chance to offload? When else was he the focus of attention? When was it ever all about him?
“For starters,” he began, “I’m fed up. Fed up of people getting my name wrong. How many years have I been going to that coffee shop? And they still get it wrong. Like I’m a normal Martin with an i and not a y. It’s plagued me all my life. I blame my parents. And I get embarrassed about asking for skinny decaff. But the Mrs insists. In fact, she’d rather I didn’t go there at all. Waste of money, she says, when we’re supposed to be saving for a skiing holiday. Times are tough all round. We might not make a full fortnight on the slopes this year and have to cut back to ten days. And we haven’t been able to pop across to the villa as often as we’d like. And then there’s the house move. Well, they say it’s the most stressful thing you can do, don’t they? But, well, we have to up sticks if we want Jolyon to get into that school. So, you can see, Doc, I’m under the cosh at the moment. And sometimes it all gets a bit too much, you know, and I wonder how I’m going to survive.”
There was a moment of silence as Doctor Kang replaced the lid on his fountain pen and put his notebook aside.
“I would like to try something,” he said in an accent Martyn couldn’t place. “A little unorthodox and experimental but I am sure you will benefit.”
“Of course. You’re the doctor, Doc.”
“Very well. This is a new form of regressive therapy.”
“I need you to be silent. Now, I want you to close your eyes and think back to a time before your present situation. Before you were married, perhaps. Before you lived at your current address. Before you were at school, even. Before you learned to talk…”
Martyn experienced a curious sensation. He was falling, through a vortex of time, but he could still feel the leather couch, solid under his back and legs. Images, memories flashed before him and he felt the years fall away. His shoes slipped off and fell to the floor. He began to feel smothered and a rising tide of panic overcame him.
“You may open your eyes,” said Doctor Kang.
Martyn did as he was told. The light of the consultation room was harsh and made him squint.
The face of the psychiatrist loomed over him like a harvest moon. Martyn realised he was naked and cupped his hands over his privates.
“What’s going on?” he squeaked like a dog’s toy. He saw he was standing in the circle of his shirt collar.
“Now that you are the size of my fountain pen,” said Doctor Kang, holding the implement next to Martyn to demonstrate, “I shall leave you in the care of my colleague.”
He moved across the room and opened a door.
“Come, Sigmund,” he called. A tabby cat slunk into the room like a silver tiger.
“I shall return in thirty minutes,” Doctor Kang smiled from the doorway. “And then we can talk about your problems.”