She keeps the dry erase EXPO markers in a bag, but none of them have been used yet. They were items on a receipt a year ago, oblivious to empty shelves and a toilet paper drought. Instead, they’ve sat unused on the rear corner of the desk since March, next to the stapler and a dusty roll of tape. The painting of a sailboat fades into the tan wall, unassuming and patient.
Her office is positioned on the end of the building, overlooking a squished parking lot. The drivers change shifts in that room, stuck in an empty white cell, deaf to the phantom conversations that came before.
Of course, the scope is limited when they walk in, strangers in an abandoned space. All they see is the bucket of wipes they need to use before the shift and after, the HDVoice telephone with a yellow Post-It that reads “Don’t answer the phone!” and the black, wrinkled sweater wrapped around the backrest of the chair. On their first shift, they glanced at the brimming bag of expired Hershey’s kisses on the bookshelf to the right. They swivel. They spread out their work all over the desk. Then they leave as quickly as they came in. Check in, wipe down, check out.
The room is devoid of initial emotion, replaced by an odd vacancy. There is that candy wrapper that has sat curled on the ground since the students returned. The only life are the plants in the high windowsill. Someone must have watered them, for they flourish in the partially filtered sun. One student said he didn’t even know there were plants, but that he opens the desk window when he’s alone.
“The atmosphere is too dry,” he added. “An open window brings in hope. We need that today.” It’s easier for him to work when he can hear the library bell and groan of navy blue golf carts.
It’s only after sitting for hours and for days in the office, swiveling, that students will catch a glimpse of what the doctor is like. Her Wright State University degree sits proudly on its own part of the wall, but her license, slipped in the corner of the frame, screams for renewal: “Current through 08/31/20.” Maybe she can’t get the paperwork yet or maybe she forgot. There’s a little white stain on the floor. And her file cabinet key sits in the lock, inviting inquisitive intruders. In it, she has hundreds of folders with scribbled handwriting: “Resources,” “Multicultural,” “Hypnosis.”
She’s a reader. All the books on the shelf, a broad range from non-fictional Freudian textbooks to a tattered Tarot manual, have a purpose. With dog-eared corners and broken spines, these books have traveled through time with her. Knick knacks, like the untouched incense kit and stuffed animal with big ears in the coffee cup, were carefully set.
“It’s a way to put something that is meaningful to me, but not too exposing,” she said. “In our work, we try to not put too many personal things about us because it takes away from the space for the clients having their own.”
Reder has been displaced from her main campus office since she started, at the hand of waiting room renovation and a pandemic. “I’m not emotionally attached to the office,” she said. Still, personal items, like her collection box, remind her where she’s from.
She’s only been here a year so no one knows the boat in the painting is her sailboat, in Israel. “I grew up sailing. For me, going anywhere by water is happiness. It’s where I go to..balance.”
Molly Yanity/JRN-501 Reporting and Fact-Checking