I sit in the same chair with both hands tucked underneath my thighs. This is the last of the ten free sessions I am eligible for the calendar year. I don’t anticipate hearing anything new from Dr. Weber. She is going to give me a non-progressing Progress Report. Well, to be more accurate, it will be a regressing Progress Report.
I am acutely aware that my Achromatopsia is getting worse. In no time I will only see black, white and grey. I am a race case. The ophthalmologist could not diagnose me as Achromatopsia positive because I was not born with this condition. From two years ago, I have been gradually losing my vision ability to see colours. On my medical report, my condition was referred to ‘Undetermined Achromatopsia’, and I was referred to Dr. Weber, a clinical Psychologist for further assessment.
Dr. Weber conducted DSM-IVR assessment and she did not give me any mental illness diagnosis. She recommended me to receive psychological counselling to help improve my coping with losing my colour vision. I have been seeing Dr. Weber for more than 2 years. Personally, I don’t think it is helping with my Achromatopsia. I keep attending the psychological counselling sessions as I get ten free sessions annually which are fully funded by public health Medicare, and I enjoy talking to Dr Weber. Every time after I see her, I feel ok with losing my colour vision. I am grateful that I was not Achromatopsia from birth. I know the full spectrum of colours. I remember the rainbow and the distinctive colours of four seasons. It is in the middle of Autumn now. When I look at the fallen leaves, I see a cluster of yellow-orange-red. They are less vibrant than what I am used to. But they are still pretty. It is more like water colour impressionist painting. It gives a mesmerising illusion feel.
“Sage, thank you for waiting. I apologise for the wait. Please come in and make yourself comfortable as usual.” Dr. Weber is wearing an A-line dress with a scarf hung on her shoulder. The prints look like Japanese maple tree which I find fitting for the season. I always admire her sense of style, elegant and calming.
“It’s ok. I was just daydreaming anyway.” I sink myself in the apple green beanbag with my legs stretching to a V shape. I feel comfortable and in a relaxed mood.
“This is the last free session we have this calendar. I will do a year review with you. First though, tell me about your life since I saw you five weeks ago.” Dr. Weber sits facing me, sideway to her cream fabric oversized lounge chair situated next to the 3-seater matching couch.
“uhm…I had a good month I suppose. Nothing is sticking out in particularly at work, home or dating, haha, the absence of dating I should clarify.” I share with her in a cheeky way.
“You look relaxed and carry a sense of fun it seems.” She smiles showing her pearly white teeth, with a visible gap between the two middle top teeth. I think that makes her cute although she is in her 50s.
“What about your colour vision?” She carries on.
“I still can see colours. They are just more blurry and meshing together. It’s like looking at impressionist paintings. I don’t mind really. it kinda makes me more arty.” I give her a big grin.
“At the last session, you shared with me that you saw colours but they were mixing with grey and black. Is that still the case in the last weeks?” Dr. Weber asks while making reference to her notes on her tablet.
“Yea, last month was rough with project deadline to meet at work, and I hadn’t gotten laid for ages. So, I was as grumpy as shit. It might be lack of sleep which worsen my colour vision. I don’t know really. The grey and black seemed to disappear after the Easter break. To be honest, I feel after a good night sleep, my colour vision has better focus. I can tell the colours distinctively.”
“What do you mean by telling the colours distinctively?” She probes.
“I mean I can tell the clear borders of colours. They are not like what I am seeing now with blurry outlines. I could tell when the blue sky finishes on the horizon. But now, it looks like the blue bleeds into the gold sunset. I don’t know how to describe it better.” I run my fingers from the top of my scalp to the back of my neck. When my hair ends just before my neck, it reminds me that I had my shoulder length hair chopped off to a slick back cut.
“I understand now Sage. Would you like to tell me more about the day before Jason’s disappearance just after his solo painting exhibition opening? I believe this has crucial correlation with your colour vision impairment.” Dr. Weber moves her tablet to her lap. This usually means she is ready to tap on her tablet for some drop down box options or multiple choices selection. I know that because I work in the graphic design industry. I can tell by the way she taps her tablet.
“I don’t know what else I can tell you Dr. Weber. That day is like a grey cloud to me till today. One minute Jason was there with me sharing a joint to wind down from the exhibit opening night. It was an instant success. He sold five pieces of original work and a bunch of print copies on an anticipation of none. Then he told me he needed to duck out to the bottle shop for more grog. The next minute he was gone just like the fame of his painting. I waited and waited and waited. I thought he met up with friends, got pissed and stayed out for the night. He didn’t answer his mobile when I called nor responded to my messages on Messenger, WhatsApp or Instagram. I was so mad at him that I popped some Valium and was knocked out. I hate myself for it. I really do. I didn’t even think of the possibility of he was in danger. I just fucking assumed he was being an ass. Now he is gone. I hope he is still just being an ass rather than being murdered by some sicko.” I finish talking and I find myself pacing in the room instead of sitting on the beanbag.
“Sage, what do you think if you went out to look for Jason after realising he was not answering his phone?”
“I could go to the bottle shop and asked the owner where he headed after he bought the grog. But I don’t think that will mount to anything.” I am still pacing with my head down looking at my boots.
“What else could you do if you were not asleep?” Dr. Weber’s voice is levelled and assertive.
“I don’t think the police would do anything about it if I reported a missing person. I would sound like a drug affected lunatic.”
“Anything else you can think of that you could possibly do?”
“I could message his mates via Apps and I would probably find out he was not with them. But, how could I? I would be like a clinging fuck buddy. Oh God! I wish I was that clinging bitch.” My hands are on each side of my head with fingers digging into my scalp, still pacing.
“Sage, let me get you a glass of chill water, or coke? We can take a break if you’d like.” I can hear Dr. Weber moving towards the mini bar fridge in the far corner of the room.
“A mini coke please Dr. Weber.” I stop pacing and lie down on the 3-seater couch. I feel a migraine is coming on. I lift one arm to block out the light.
The light is dimmed to a night light setting. I take the coke can Dr. Weber handing to me and roll it across my forehead. The icy cold feeling on my skin supresses the migraine.
“Let’s keep going Dr. Weber. I don’t want to be a quitter like all the other times. I know this is hitting a spot. I don’t want to let the migraine be an excuse. I know I need to press on.”
“Let’s do it Sage!” Dr. Weber sits back down at her lounge chair. “It seems to me that there was little difference you could make for preventing Jason from disappearance. I understand it to be a tragedy especially when there is no closure for you and people who love and care for Jason.”
“I know. It is only wishful thinking that I could save him. I love him although we were never officially dating. I have known him all my life. He was so goofy from day one in kindy, the only rosy cheek chubby Asian kid in the whole school. My Mum still looks over our photos in year books. He is like the son my parents weren’t able to have. To me, his disappearance took a chunk of me with him. I feel he took my keen eye for colours with him like the most brilliant part of me. Now I am losing the ability to see colours. I feel the certainty of him dying in some dungeon.” My head is throbbing and my scalp is feeling tender. I open the coke and take a couple sips.
“Tell me more about the certainty you feel relating to Jason is dying, how did you come to that sense or conclusion?”
“I feel the gift I have for colour is always what Jason saw in me that attracted him. It is like a bond we have. He always said his passion for art in particular in painting was inspired by me from our young age. We used to spend hours in colouring, drawing and describing everything we saw in colour words. When we hit secondary school, we started to describing our feelings in colours. That’s what Jason’s paintings are about, an expression of moods, emotions and feelings through colour construction. I did it as a fun game. To him though, colour was like a world he lived in and breathed in. I feel haunted sometimes as if Jason is possessing me even he is not with me. I almost feel he is controlling my colour vision at times. I know I sound crazy. You told me I am not clinically insane. I can talk to you about these thoughts and feelings. But I will never share with others. There is no way they think I am normal. I shared with my Mum once and she thought I took some psychedelic drugs and tripped out.”
“Have you taken psychedelic drugs Sage?” Dr Weber asks.
“Nope. I only smoke dope when I am stressed or need to wind down from the natural high. I don’t drink either if you remember in our initial assessment Dr. Weber.”
“I do remember. It was more than 2 years ago. I want to be sure with my understanding of your condition. It wasn’t meant to come across as an offense.”
“I wasn’t offended, just to clarify, that’s all.”
“Sage, grief may cause us experience all kinds of difficult and unexpected emotions including the feeling of not be able to think straight. Grieving is a highly individual experience; there’s no right or wrong way to grieve, and no ‘normal’ timetable for grieving. Jason was and is a big part of your life in friendship and intimate relationship. I commend you for seeking counselling to try to make sense of your condition and reality. I hope you find our sessions helpful and you get something out of it.”
“I do Dr. Webber. I feel I have an outlet to express myself. It’s not like I will go around to show my sad face every day to people around me. I am trying to move on and get better. I am thankful I can still see colours sometimes. To be honest, if I completely lost my ability to see colours, I am ok with it. In some way I know an important part of me is with him.”
“It seems to me you are at peace with it, is that the case Sage?”
“I wouldn’t say I am at peace with not seeing colours anymore. I used to love this colourful world, anything that is visually stimulating, I was in. Now, I suppose it is ok to see the world in a monochromatic way. C’est la Vie.”
“So, would you say you come to acceptance of your condition and this new reality?” Dr. Weber is looking straight into my eyes when she asks the question.
“I think I do. No! I know I do. I accept the world is lack of colours, even monochromatic since Jason has gone, and I am ok with it.” My eyes meet hers and my cheeks relax to a smile.
I walk out of Dr. Weber’s office. The Autumn chill air greets me. I wrap my scarf around my neck and look up, the elm tree sways in the late afternoon sun, shimmering its leaves like golden tassels. I imagine them to be burnt orange by now. Autumn is our favourite season for the pure joy of Autumn colour palette. I pick up a fallen leaf and blow it to the sky, whispering “Jason, this is for you. Tell me what colour is it in my dream tonight.”