Spotlight on Dark Blossom by Neel Mullick
What happens when doctor and patient find themselves in the same sinking boat, yet rowing in opposite directions—one clinging to the past, and the other unable to move beyond it?
Sam returns home from a business trip a day before his son's thirteenth birthday to find his world cruelly shattered in one fell swoop. Initially thinking he can cope on his own, Sam finally seeks the help of Cynthia, an experienced therapist. What he doesn’t know is that Cynthia herself is trying to recover from a debilitating divorce and the sinister shadow of her ex-husband. In the midst of it all is Lily, Cynthia's daughter, who harbors a secret that has the power to explode the lives around her.
Taut with tension and intensity, Dark Blossom explores what lies beneath the surface of the lives of apparently “normal” people.
An excerpt from Dark Blossom
In the Same Boat
I love to stroll in the city but, that day, I had to be brisk. I needed to keep the cold out and didn’t want to miss the next train back home. Stepping carefully on the icy pavement, I planned the rest of my day. I still had a couple of patients to see later in the evening, giving me just enough time to prepare dinner for Lily and myself. I went through a mental checklist of the ingredients that would get us through with minimal fuss. Teens...Aargh! What I wouldn’t give for her to be all grown up? Or for me to be that age again?
As I entered the terminal, the aroma of coffee and sugar-steeped bread wafting through the labyrinth of people took my breath away. My fondest memory—that of my father standing near a pillar almost ten meters away and whispering how much he loves me, and my wonder at being able to hear it all the way across the whispering gallery—is another reason the terminal has that effect on me.
With more than forty platforms, it’s the largest station in the world. That almost three-quarters of a million people pass through it every day doesn’t overshadow its incredible history. The backwards Zodiac with 2,500 stars sprawled across the ceiling, the hocus-pocus the Vanderbilts fed the world about the mural being backwards because it was meant to depict god’s view of the universe, and the hole above Pisces serving as a reminder of the rocket that was housed there during the Cold War era—all add to its grandeur. And these are just parts of the opening act of the gala that is Grand Central.
Descending into New York City’s deepest basement to wait for the train to roll in, I looked down at the tracks running side by side. I couldn’t help but think of the parallels between Sam’s life and mine. While he had lost his family to a tragic accident, I had recently lost the veneer of mine to a debilitating divorce from Connor. My own loss was more bearable than his. Moreover, it was of my own making.
Following the tracks and seeing them criss-cross in the distant darkness, I thought of the paradoxes between our lives. While he couldn’t stop thinking of his family because he missed them and wanted them back, I couldn’t stop thinking of Connor because I couldn’t get rid of the sinister shadow he had cast over Lily and me.
I suddenly found myself in the same boat as Sam. And it was my job to keep him afloat. Only, we were rowing in opposite directions.
Settling into a window seat on the train, I thought of how a fatal crash at the turn of the nineteenth century had instigated a thirty-seven-year-old visionary to recommend the extravagant remedy of razing the existing depot to build the engineering marvel that is the Grand Central Terminal. Although I’m a staunch believer in just one life, I could see how in the passing of the old there is the birth of something new.
But not for Sam. My thoughts slipped back to him.
The loss of a loved one is like an amputation for the bereaved. Even though he may transition from anger to acceptance eventually, the phantom pain may never go away. I wanted to write some notes—all I had from our session was numbness in my index finger and thumb from holding the pen too tight.
I rummaged through my handbag for my Sam-notebook. I keep separate notebooks for each of my patients—they’re pocket-sized and each one comes with its own pen. That one was pastel blue with a darker, more vibrant embossing of Antoni Gaudí’s mosaic-dragon from the entrance of Park Güell in Barcelona. And it had a light-green pen nestled in a matching loop. It was distinctively Gaudí, as were most of my notebooks. He is my favorite architect, after my father of course.
Sam was stuck somewhere between denial and anger but much closer to the latter. He said he had gained weight, stopped socializing, and started smoking again. His work was his panacea but he had lost his mojo even for that—something that had never happened before. He had managed to pull himself together for the funeral, but his grief had exacerbated after the family had left.
The tussle between the past and the present—that of living through the experience and venting one’s emotions—is important for moving on. There is no better substitute than mourning—the lesser he mourned, the more difficulty he would have in letting go.
Yet something about our session didn’t add up. It had been a while since the tragedy, yet his memories had been very vivid, almost fresh. That’s not what piqued me though—what did surprise me was how angry he had been at the start of the session and how quickly he had crumbled. I wondered if he had expressed his feelings and shared the painful memories with anyone since the accident, or if our session was the first time he was talking about them. It mattered less for our therapy but more for his well-being that he had others to talk to as well about such intimate details. It was clear he needed to share and express more.
The announcement for Stamford broke my reverie. Even though it had been a somewhat tentative start with Sam, I was happy to be practicing again and knew I could help.
As I tucked away the notebook, my heart went out to him and then turned to Lily. I was filled with gratitude for having her in my life. She’s my pride and my passion. Even the rewards for helping my patients are a distant second to my gratification from nurturing her. She had gone through a lot but the worst was finally over—Connor had moved out and the divorce had come through.
I was almost at our doorstep as I thought—how could I have not seen it? How could my need to preserve the façade of a family have made me so blind to such a monster?
From Dark Blossom by Neel Mullick © 2019 by Neel Mullick.
This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.