The entrance to the viewing platform closed at six, and George knew just where to slip in and hide while the stragglers were shepherded out. He disliked the subterfuge, but didn’t want to spend his last moments dodging tourists with selfie-sticks.
With just two more hours to go, George entered the waiting room. He had chosen the name at random, but he had promised himself he would give it this one shot.
The consultant saw a man in grey. Many of her clients looked nervous when they first came, some were defensive; this one had an air of suppressed agitation.
“How are you feeling?” she asked.
George ruminated. “Empty,” he said. “Blank.”
“How long have you been feeling like that?”
“I don’t know. Ever since I can remember.”
“I want you to close your eyes and try to think back to the first time you ever felt it.”
George sighed. He closed his eyes.
“When you remember the first time you felt like this, I want you to picture the situation in your mind. Where were you? What could you see?”
An image came into his mind. “I remember,” he said.
“Good,” she said. “Now I want you to open your eyes and draw a picture of what you saw.”
George groaned inwardly. But too late now, he had struck a deal with himself, and anyway it was just the once. He started to draw.
The picture was bleak. There were dark walls, a corridor with a window, the skeleton of a tree blocking the view. A small figure in the foreground, all alone. No colours, no hope.
She asked him to describe his drawing, the scene he remembered, and how he felt in the picture.
“I want you to sit back comfortably in your chair. Feel your body. Feel the ground under your feet, feel the chair. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply and let go of any tension.” Her voice was calm and reassuring. “Now I want you to imagine that just in front of you there is an opening. A door in time and space. And just beyond it is the scene you just drew.”
“And now, in your imagination, I want you to step through that opening into that world as your adult self. What do you want to do?”
Without a thought, George stepped through the opening and scooped up his child-self in his arms. He could feel the fragile figure nestle against him, tiny arms wrapped around his neck. His heart was full, but he had no words. His eyes were wet.
Time stood still.
“Now I want you to take a deep breath. Feel your body, feel the chair. Slowly come back into the room.” The image faded.
When George stepped out of the building, a bird was hopping across the path. He followed it, and sat down on a bench.
The clock struck six, but he took no notice. He could hardly abandon the boy in the picture, could he?