“What is it that you want from your life now?” my therapist asked me. I watched as she adjusted her glasses on her nose. I wanted to tell her but the truth was that I didn’t know, that I had no clue about anything anymore. I was moving more on auto pilot than I was feeling or acknowledging my feelings. It was the best way for me to cope when I had a lot of shit going on like right now. Being here and vulnerable was overwhelming and made my heart race, I couldn’t get things done and be this kind of emotional all the time.
“Can you repeat the question?” I was stalling because I didn’t have an answer.
“What is it that you want?” That was a good question because I didn’t know anymore. The last few months were the lowest of my life. I almost lost my life, I got rid of my boyfriend, and had to salvage my grades after being hospitalized from a horrible asthma attack. Now I was back, but everything was different about me. I was searching for a way back to myself but maybe that road was closed.
“I don’t know what I want anymore. Nothing really matters.” There I said it. I told the truth. I just didn’t want her thinking I was going off the deep end. I didn’t want her knowing exactly how dead I felt.
“What about school. That matters to you right?”
“That’s different. School is an obligation, a promise to my dead brother.” I worked, studied, went to class, and repeated that routine. I had no life outside of that. Now that I was single I could fully devote every second of my day into being a doctor. That way I didn’t have to worry or think about how hurt I was from losing the only supportive person in my life.
“So you're not doing it for you?” I tried to think back to when I fell in love with the idea of being a doctor. I liked telling people that I wanted to be in the medical profession and watch their eyes balloon at my lofty goal. I fell in love with that.
“You wanna know the truth?” I told her. “I became interested in medicine and then obsessed. I just wanted to please other people and have them admire me because I was going to be a doctor. Now that I’m putting in all this work trying to keep this scholarship, I don’t know what I want anymore. What if I don’t really want this. I just wanted the admiration but now…” My life was a big ass mess. I felt everyday like I was selling my soul to medicine. But this was what I told my brother I would do and this was what he gave me his hard-earned money for. I couldn’t mess that up, but trying to keep a promise to him I now didn’t know what mattered to me.
“Since the attack I just don’t know what’s important anymore. I feel like I want more but there is no one around to give it to me, nor any time for me to go get it because I have to get all As in my courses to keep my scholarship.” She just listened, not saying a word, not even scribbling in her notebook but just staring at me, giving me a faint smile like she understood. Now, I was so close to graduation that I could taste it. I just had to keep my head up but I couldn’t deny my reality. I was depressed, sunken, and I knew why it was impossible for me to change it.
“I want peace.” It was something my Mama used to say. Back then as a girl I couldn’t quantify peace. It was only something I knew that was referenced in relation to war, and at the time I only recognized the wars they talked about in the history books.
“What’s peace to you?” The answer wouldn’t make any sense but I said it anyway.
“Having that day back when my brother killed himself. Telling him that I love him and that we can’t make it without him, that he’s the strongest person I know and whatever he needed to get off his mind...that I wish I could have listened.” I dreamed about that happening.
“You told me that he was paranoid.” I nodded as I remembered the nights when I would find him sitting in his car with a gun on his lap. Somebody said they was gonna kill me.“When someone hears voices those voices can be very loud and demanding. Even if you said those things to him it doesn’t mean that your brother wouldn’t have succumb to the voices. Do you feel guilty for his suicide?”
I shrugged my shoulders at that. It was something I had told myself a hundred times but I still wish I could have tried. He crossed my mind at least once a day and that’s when the what ifs set in. What if I would have seen something? What if I could have helped? But deep down I could hear him telling me there was nothing I could do. I still had the what ifs and I wanted them gone. Getting rid of them would be peace...but I hadn’t mastered the ability to travel back in time.
“I feel guilt even though I know there was nothing I could have done.” We sat for a few minutes in silenced as I processed the weight that someone’s bad decisions has on you. You love them so much and only want the best for them, but your powerless to direct their trauma. That’s what I felt about my brother. Just sorry for whoever hurt him that drove his mind to take himself away.
“What else would bring you peace?” She asked and I could only think of one thing.
“Him? Who? The man that saved you?” I nodded as she scribbled notes on her yellow legal pad.
“Yes. He’s the only person in my life that I don’t have a name for. I only have an initial, P.” I kicked myself every day for not asking his name.
“Hmm…” she made a noise, jotting down more than a few notes. It was more like a paragraph.
“What is it?”
“I see you don’t like being in a helpless situation. You don’t like being wrong. That’s why you keep replaying your brother’s death, wishing there was something you could do.”
“No…” I shook my head. “I go over it in my head because I don’t like to be hurt. I’m trying to figure out how not to feel like this again, how not to feel like my soul has been ripped out of my body. I felt this when my mother died. Now feeling this from my brother is killing me.”
“What’s killing you?”
“All this pain.”
“You can feel it.”
“Yes! Physically I can feel it in my chest. It's like an elephant sitting on my lungs. I feel all this pain and I cry every day. I just don’t want to feel like this again. I need to fix myself so I don’t get this emotional.
“You can’t fix anything because you didn’t break anything. Life is a series of events that we have no control over. Pain that we can’t stop nor prevent. What you're feeling is emotion. You stopped feeling when your mother died.” I felt like everything in the world stopped. I couldn’t hear for a moment, just a ringing of the truth in my ears.
“I wasn’t allowed to feel. I didn’t have time for it. I had to keep moving, plus no one cared that I was hurt anyway.” I tried all the time to prepare myself for things and I was always caught off guard.
“You can’t control everything.”
“Of course I can’t, I know that. Because I can’t even stop myself from hurting.” I had to laugh. “But when I’m alone in my bed crying I search for the truth in my head. The truth about what happened to my life. I have to understand it all, that’s what’s helping me heal.” The tears would have fell if I had any left today. I had been crying all day since this morning and now I just wanted relief. How could I stop this pain.
“Things that happen to you may not be your fault but it is your responsibility to fix it.” I took that in, taking a deep breath as a tear fell.
“I know that. That’s why I’m here.”
“But you have to realize that you aren’t at fault for anything that happened to you. Things happen and you don’t have to figure out these elaborate ways not to love people so you can save yourself from being hurt.” Somehow she had pried the cover of my soul open and was reading each page.
“You're not that little girl anymore. You aren’t 3 or 4. You don’t have to fight. No one is going to hurt you anymore.” The tears came as I wrapped my arms around my shoulders. Sometimes the only hug I had was from me to myself.
“I just don’t know how not to fight. When I let my guard down and loved someone I got pregnant and he went cold on me. I had to go fix that alone...again. Then I got robbed and...the only person that helped me I can’t find.” I cried really hard now. Snot flying and throat sore I coughed and coughed, blowing my nose and taking deep breaths.
“You are doing great. I’m really glad you are opening up and being honest with yourself,” she told me, as she slowly walked across the room over to the couch I was sitting on, putting her hand on mine she spoke softer. “Being this marks four months of visits for you, let’s talk about everything you’ve accomplished over this time.”
It felt like it was way too much to name. As I cleared my throat, I thought back on all the little light bulbs that went off in my head since the robbery.
“I realized I had low self-esteem and I was hiding inside of my relationship.” That was the biggest one. I had no clue that I had taught all of these men that they didn’t have to be there for me. Chance not showing up that day at the hospital held a deeper symbolism that I didn’t realize until coming to therapy. “And…” I took a deep breath. “That my molestation has shifted a lot of things in my life.” When I woke up after those three days everything had shifted in me even my brain. That’s when I figured out that I was molested as a young girl. Soon after leaving the hospital I had a breakdown, a very, very bad meltdown where I remembered the events. Events that I tucked away in my mind so I wouldn’t have to come to grips with what happened to me. But like my situation with Chance and all the other bad stuff in my life I realized I couldn’t just tuck it away, I had to deal with things. But figuring out the molestation was the easy part. Dealing with the pain that followed was much worse.
“Your brother. He tried to protect you. That’s why you cared about him so much.” I cried at the thought. How he tried to stop it that day but got hurt himself.
“His arm broken in two places trying to stop my mother’s boyfriend from coming into my room. My Mama high and asleep in the next room, her boyfriend came in and got in my bed. He forced himself on me, and my brother…” I could still hear his voice when he woke up to me screaming, how he came and beat the shit out of that bastard. He got his arm broken but he didn’t stop swinging until that motherfucker passed out.” Wiping away tears I remembered it all like it was a distant memory. It had always been there in my mind behind a haze of smoke but I never dealt with it. Not talking about it was destroying me.
“He and I, we went through all of that together and for him to choose to leave me…” It was hard to admit that I was mad at him. Losing my brother to an end that he chose broke everything in me. I was hanging on by a thread and I used school and fulfilling a promise as a numbing agent and a boyfriend who was needy and possessive as my crutch.
“Yeah, I’ve come to many realizations in the last four months.”
“You are very strong. It is a daunting task to do what you're doing.” That made me sit up straighter. A year ago at this time I couldn’t freely talk about being molested. I didn’t even use that name for it. Now, I was sitting in therapy not only freely discussing it but I was moving past it. I felt like a weight had been lifted but there was still a lot more weight to move inside me. “You must realize you are coming out of a severe depression. You are changing and growing and sometimes that hurts.” She wasn’t lying about that. Every day I felt like I was pushing myself to new limits.
“You know I cry every day.”
“That’s a good thing. You have to express your emotions,” she told me, but It didn’t feel good. I felt relieved afterwards but during the process it hurt.
“I don’t like crying.”
“Because it’s you not being in control.” Again with the control thing. She loved using me and control issues in the same sentence.
“So will I see you next week?”
“Next week.” I smiled with a tear filled face. Coming to therapy helped me a lot and I genuinely felt like she was listening and understanding me. “So I think we have hit a milestone and next week I want you to start infusing things that you want to do into your life. Testing boundaries that are outside the usual constraints.”
“Okay…” I wasn’t quite sure what she meant. “Are you basically saying you want me to let my hair down. Let loose.”
“Yeah…” she laughed. “Pretty much. You need to get out of the habit of depression so do something you wouldn’t normally do.” That made sense.
“Okay. I can do that.” I was serious about getting better and healing. After losing my brother I came to grips with my depression. I understood what was happening but after the robbery I realized my anxiety was way too high for me to handle. I had to get some help and that help had changed everything in my life. It was like someone had turned the lights on in my head and I was now feeling and navigating every part of my brain. I wasn’t afraid anymore and I owed all of that to therapy. But now I had figured out that this healing wasn’t as easy as coming to cry on the couch, I had to put in the real work when I left here.
“Alright I’ll see you next week,” she said, and just like that the hour was over. I put on my sunglasses, thanked the therapist, and headed across campus to my class.
On the way I thought about everything we talked about. What happened to me was more than an asthma attack or a robbery, it was like I woke up from those three days of sedation a new person with a new perspective on life. I had torn apart my life and was now putting the pieces back together, and I saw that I was severely depressed and filled with anxiety. I’ve grown so much after realizing all of that, and now I was trying to heal. I felt like I was walking around in a new world but I still had the same fire. My objective hadn’t changed, I still needed to graduate and get to medical school, so now I was busting my ass taking a full load this semester so I could graduate on time after last year’s meltdown. Last semester, finding a seat would have made me feel like my heart was going to come out of my chest. But today, I scanned the rows and rows of the lecture hall, taking my time to see what I was working with. I went past the dumb jocks and the anxiety filled sorority girls and the row of science fanatics that were chatting away. There were a few weirdo types with taped on their glasses and stickers all over their laptops that depicted every animated cartoon from the last decade. I soared past those types to the back of the room. Sitting up straight with his head buried in his phone I watched him swipe and swipe away without a care in the world. This had to be a mirage of some kind. I blinked, rubbed my eyes with my fist and then blinked some more. After all these months, it was him.
IT. WAS. HIM!
* * *
I wanted to scream, rush over, and wrap my arms around him like we were old friends but as I questioned whether running up to this man would make me look like a psychopath. The professor walked in and commanded the room.
“Alright class, welcome to Advanced Anatomy and Physiology. My name is Doctor Norris.” I heard him speaking, but my eyes were on the man that saved my life. I watched him take out a notebook, not noticing me. Didn’t he recognize me? It's not every day that you save someone’s life. Just chill until class is over.But that seemed like years from now. I searched for this man for so long and now he was a few feet away from me. I wanted to scream a thank you, I love you, or something to that effect. I had lived this moment every day for four months and now that I was here I was so unprepared. I wasn’t as glamorous today as I was in my thoughts. There was no flowing hair and flawless makeup or gowns. I was in sweats, a bun, and the only makeup I had on was lip gloss with after-cry crust in the corner of my eyes. I was the furthest away from glamor that anyone could be.
“Alright we're going to talk about cellular metabolism. But first let's get into minerals.” The professor was at the board writing but I couldn’t muster enough strength to pull out my notebook. The man that saved my life was a few feet away from me. I had been looking for him for months, did everything short of hiring a sketch artist to find him and here he was sitting peacefully writing notes. I wanted to go up to him, wrap my arms around him, and kiss him like I had done every night in my dreams.
“Alright class. It started, the professor jumping to the front of the classroom and handing out papers like hot potatoes. “This semester we are going to have a great time with a series of group projects, tests, and reports.” I was barely listening, I couldn’t keep my eyes off this guy, trying to make sure that it was really him. I sat on the opposite side of the hall from him a few rows back. The profile of his face matched what I had in my mind. But how can you be so sure. It was late, and months ago and you were going through a traumatic situation.I questioned my own sanity but it had to be him. “Alright I’m going to do attendance before we get too deep.” The professor went back to his computer, reading off names as I listened and hoped he would call the name that I needed.
“Umm I got a P. Loughton…” I watched the mystery man raise his hand. P was the initial he used on the card. It had to be him.
* * *
Class felt like it lurched on forever but as soon as it was over I followed him. Staying a few steps behind I waited until he was outside looking at his phone. In the sun I could see more clearly and know I was extra sure it had to be him. It was the same face that was etched into my dreams.
“Excuse me. P…” He looked up but he barely looked at me. It was as if he was looking through me.
“Yeah…” He looked annoyed but it didn’t stop him from glancing over my body to my feet and then back up again.
“It’s me…” I didn’t know what else to say as his eyes finally met mine. “…Rya” He didn’t recognize me, I could see in his eyes he had no idea what I was talking about.
“You rescued me. I was being robbed and you beat the guy up.” He looked around and behind himself as if he was expecting something.
“Is this a joke.”
“No. I...I can’t believe you don’t remember.” He laughed.
“You cute and everything but if you want to talk to me just be a grown woman. Say I’m fly as fuck and you wanna fuck wit me. Don’t make up no fairytales for a nigga.” I felt like he just shoved his hand into my face and gave me a stiff arm. I didn’t have the words to explain or the energy to make them coherent before he walked away.
To Be Continued...
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