How To Love People You No Longer Respect by Mileva Anastasiadou

It started out as an essay.

Only you don’t do essays, my therapist says. I thought he’d appreciate my emerging rational side, yet he doesn’t.

So I should fictionalize it, I tell him. That’s when he offers me the fabric.

Just to keep you grounded, he says in all seriousness, yet I can’t hold back my laughter.

He advises me to chew some of it every day. That’ll solve my problems. Keep it safe, he insists, claiming it can get corrupted if I don’t pay attention. I wonder by what. He says my vivid imagination can harm it.


So I go home and start the essay. Which won’t be an essay after all.

I write linger instead of longer. The auto-correct doesn’t intervene because that’s a normal word and I get sad for a few seconds remembering Dolores O’Riordan. So I avoid using the word longer and I also avoid other words while writing due to possible typos which could prove sad reminders of people and places long gone. I don’t dare use the words other or smother, because I could write mother instead. Mom left us a year ago.


My brother’s lying on the bed watching me. He can’t move but the index finger of his right hand. Yet he can speak. He feels lucky he can speak.

When I see him I feel so damn privileged I hate myself. So, I turn my eyes the other way. I focus on my writing. Life isn’t fair indeed. And all I can do is minimize the injustice, yet I don’t even do that. I use life’s injustice to justify my own vice and inflict more pain.


People get sick, my therapist says. I wonder how they do it. I mean how doctors are not depressed dealing with disease all the time. It’s easier to imagine yourself crazy than happy, he says. I wish he stopped doing that, yet he insists. I tell him that fabric of reality he gave me doesn’t work. I explain that I still feel reality’s getting further away, like I’m on a ship sailing away from the island on which all real things exist. I can still remember them, I know how they feel like, how they smell, what they look like, yet they only float as ideas in my head. That’s stupid, he says. He then says he’s sorry, he didn’t mean to be judgmental. I tell him I know the idea of a house, yet I don’t know what a house is made of. I only know houses as theoretical ideas. It’s like I live in a bubble, watching the world from afar. He then asks if I have studied philosophy. He should have known I have not. He remembers I don’t do essays, yet he doesn’t remember that. It’s easier to change the world than your mind, he says. I wonder if that’s why he became a therapist, if he was attracted to the difficulty of the task. He nods. I ask him if I frighten him. He says he has many irrational fears, but I’m not among them. He then mentions being a doctor after forty is almost impossible. Well, he’s not even a doctor. Of course I am, he says, yet he changes the subject. This isn’t about me, he says. He hands me another prescription and tells me our time is up.


So now I’m back home, busy with the essay. My brother yells from his room, asking me for water. I try to ignore his voice and focus on my writing. Then guilt overwhelms me. He’ll die from dehydration because of me. I run to the kitchen and fetch him a glass of water. He moves his index finger in gratitude. I go back to my room and try to forget about it. A little voice inside tells me it’s impossible. I chew another piece of the fabric. I think this time it works. The world’s emptying of ideas, of words, while facts are filling my mind. Uncontrollable facts I don’t know how to handle. I wish we were only ideas, I wish we didn’t have bodies that get sick, that disappoint us, yet we do. I want to call my therapist and tell him; there’re serious side effects I can’t ignore. I think my imagination’s shrinking. I’m not sure that’s good or bad. I spit the fabric onto the floor, but it’s too late. This fabric of reality gets bigger and bigger and transforms into a monster with sharp teeth, and it opens its mouth and is ready to swallow me. I should be swallowing it, little by little, yet here it stands ahead of me, spreading like a disease all over the room. I leave the room screaming and close the door behind me.


You’re doing your best, my doctor says. Being idolized can be flattering. It can serve as an irresistible ego boost. Yet in the end, you’re bound to fall off the pedestal. There’s this darkness in me I can’t get rid off, I tell him. He lights up the place every once in a while. Yet that’s not enough, he claims. The whole point of all this is for the light to stay on without him. I mention mom’s back minutes before the end of the session. I watch his surprise with the corner of my eye, feigning indifference.

He then asks more questions. How’s the essay going? How can you respect someone you don’t love? I still don’t know, I say. He suggests acceptance.

He finally asks the questions I’ve been meaning not to answer. Who is it you’re trying so desperately to love? Is it your mom we’re talking about? Is it yourself?


Our time is up, I say before I go out and close the door behind me.


Mileva Anastasiadou is a neurologist. Her work can be found in many journals, such as the Molotov Cocktail, Jellyfish review, Asymmetry fiction, the Sunlight Press, Ghost Parachute, Gone Lawn and others.