Short Story: Aromatherapy

A timid knock came through the old wooden door. Dr. Waters stood from his desk and, buttoning his brown suit jacket, opened the door.

“Good morning, Jack,” Dr. Waters said with his friendly, yet authoritative voice, that came with years of psychiatric practice.

“Morning, Mr. Waters,” Jack responded, staring down at his scuffed leather shoes.
Dr. Waters thought of correcting Jack as he had not called Waters by his proper title but advised himself against it. “So how are you today, Jack?”

“I’m alright,” Jack said plainly, sitting in the large comfortable chair that made the person sitting in it feel like they were wrapped in a hug.

Dr. Waters sat across from Jack in the small, warmly lit office, prodding him with questions about his life. Jack would only give short responses, never revealing anything

Dr. Waters could use to understand Jack on a deeper level. Jack was holding back; he always held back.

The two sat in silence for a moment. Dr. Waters knew he had to find some way to help his patient, since Jack had been seeing Dr. Waters for months with no real change in his depression. Waters looked down at his empty notepad and decided to try one more drastic measure.

“I want to try something, Jack, but it’s a bit experimental.” Dr. Waters moved over to a cabinet and pulled out a long black metal box.

“Experimental?” Jack asked nervously.

“Don’t worry, Jack, it’s nothing dangerous.” Waters pulled the lid off the box revealing several small glass bottles containing different colored liquids.

“A friend of mine makes perfumes for a living, and she will sometimes ask me to test some of her new fragrances. As you most likely know, smells can trigger memories, and I certainly found this to be true with some of the stronger perfumes that my friend had me test. I eventually decided to start trying to use the memory inducing effects of smell and my friend’s skill at making perfumes in my therapy sessions. I’ve had some luck with this form of aromatherapy, but it’s still in the testing stages.”

“Aromatherapy, huh. I’ve never found that alternative medicine stuff to work,” Jack said.

“This is a bit different.”

While most forms of aromatherapy are theorized to help the body physically, this is just meant to induce memories. The smells themselves won’t help in your treatment, but your memories might use a good starting point.”

“I’ve never had a good memory, to be honest.”

“You might surprise yourself if you give it a chance.” Jack thought for a moment, nervous, but interested. He eventually agreed, and the treatment began.

Jack thought for a moment, nervous, but interested. He eventually agreed, and the treatment began.

“Now just relax. I have fifty different bottles. I’m just going to pick one at random.” Waters stood behind Jack and wafted the open bottle under Jack’s nose.

The smell was strong and was of untouched grass in an open field. Jack found the smell pleasant, but the only memory he could see was from a few weeks ago when he visited his adopted parents’ farm.

“I don’t know if that memory is going to help, Mr. Waters. I remember my visit home, and it was nice, nothing worth talking about.”

“We can try another.” Dr. Waters moved another bottle under Jack’s nose. After barely a second of smelling the contents of the bottle, Jack stood up quickly and began pacing.

“What’s wrong Jack?” Dr. Waters asked sniffing the contents of the bottle. The bottle smelled of burnt tire rubber and gasoline. It was pungent, but Dr. Waters would never have thought that smell could give someone a reaction like Jack just had.

“They just left me.” Jack said almost to himself.

“Who did Jack?”

“My parents, my real parents.”

With that Jack began to talk more than he ever had to Dr. Waters, or anyone for that matter. Jack told Dr. Waters about how when he was only three years old his parents abandoned him at a gas station out in the country. A kind farmer had found him and adopted the baby into his family. Jack said he never would want to find his birth parents because those farmers were his real family. The chatting went on as Jack talked more and more about his everyday life that he was normally closed about and before they knew it their session time was up.

“Same time next week, Jack?” Waters said shaking Jack’s hand.

“Looking forward to it Mr. Waters.”

With that, Jack left the office doing something Dr. Waters had never seen him do before. Smiling.

– Matthew Brosche

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