Silver Spring MD
Another session, another $90. Therapists. Spouting crapola by the dollar. I slouch in my seat and fidget, most desirous to run away and never come back. But I’d made a vow, and, much like the flying nun, I’m seriously dedicated to seeing it though. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.
Pen notices. “Tell me what’s happening, Liz. You seem a little anxious tonight.”
I cross and uncross my legs, tap my foot, lean forward and study the floor. After a few, I sit up straight and zone in on my savior. “Didn’t go so well this week, Pen. I’ll be honest with you, I thought by now I’d start to feel better. I was doing really good for awhile there.”
She looks down at her notes, then scratches her head. “What happened?”
I study the ceiling. Blah paint job. Hate it so bad. Looks the way I feel, and even worse, reminds me of the hospital. All that’s missing are those demons crawling along the ceiling the last time I was there. I yawn and mutter, “I’m remembering things in a vague sort of way. Kinda scares me, I guess.”
Pen jumps on that right away. “Are the memories related to what we talked about last week?”
I shrug. “Yeah. Seems like every time I sit down to draw or write, a memory crawls out of the woodwork.
She leans forward. “Tell me exactly what you’re remembering.”
“I’m starting to hear this male voice in my head spout things like “you hear me girl,” followed by some God-awful racist crap. It’s sick really.” I abruptly get to my feet and pace back and forth.
“Do you recognize the voice you’re hearing?”
“Sure. Mr. M’s.” I stop my horse trot and paw the floor with my right foot several times before mumbling, “You don’ never forget a voice like that.” I clear my throat and plop back down. “Listen Pen, my brother says it’s not good for people to rehash this stuff. He says you’re opening up a Pandora’s box. Thinks it’s better to let sleeping dogs lie.”
Pen smiles faintly. “Well in your case, Liz, the sleeping dogs woke up. Unresolved trauma, particularly the kind you suffered in your childhood eventually surfaces. It’s not going to stay buried. I think you understand that now?”
I nod slightly. Yeah, yeah, she’s right. Brother’s dead wrong. As per usual.
“Can you give me some specific details about these memories?”
I don’t waste anytime. In short order, I recite verbatim Mr. M’s racist threats, and my run-in with Ruby Pickens.
Pen takes a minute to reply. Her lips are pressed so tightly together, she’d give a dry cleaner a run for his money. “What happens after the flashbacks hit you? How do you feel?”
“I hate it. Start to panic. Get nauseated and go on a floor cruise.”
“So the act of drawing triggers these flashbacks. Do they occur any other time?”
“Um. Rarely, though.” I explain the flashback I had as I loaded the dishwasher. I leave out what had happened as I picked up the broken glass. “So what’s going on here, Pen?”
Now it’s Pen’s turn to clear her throat. “Tell me more about Mr. M. Last week you mentioned that everything went dark when he approached you. How often was that?”
“I don’t remember. But I got a lot smarter after that first time. Did everything I could to stay out of that man’s line of vision. Like, no more staying home from church. At bedtime, I’d hide in the closet, or under the bed. Sometimes, I even went over to this vacant house behind Mr. M’s and hung out there. After school, I stayed outside and wandered around the neighborhood. Met a lot of nice African-American families that way. I think they felt sorry for me. They knew who Mr. M was, yet they still talked to me. What does that tell you? It certainly didn’t jive with what that man was trying to teach me.”
I hear a loud buzz in my ear. I plug the ear with a finger and add, “Of course, staying away from Mr. M didn’t always work. Like at dinnertime. Then after dinner, he’d take me to his meetings and stuff. And I don’t remember the meetings, Pen, so don’t bother to ask me about them. Although I can tell you they were real scary, more scary than a—”
Choke it, Lizzie. Now!
Pen jerks forward. Her voice drops to a cottony whisper. “Than a what?” . . . “Liz? . . . LIZ?”
Liz, the robot, answers, “Two plus two is four. Four plus four is eight. Eight plus eight is sixteen.” Swallow hard, and continue. “Two times two is four, four times four is eight, eight times eight is sixteen—” Cold fingers do a tap dance on my jean-clad knee.
“It’s all right. You’re safe now, Liz.”
That quickly snaps me out of my daze. “So, how do I handle these flashbacks, Pen? Got any good ideas?”
Pen does the blinking thing. God, she’s good at that. But she quickly transitions into sympathetic therapist stance, and tells me to expect more memories to surface as therapy unfolds. She explains how to better handle them. Through visualization and breathing exercises. Reminds me of yoga. I hate the very thought of yoga. So, I tune the woman out as she drones on and on about these techniques.
After she’s finished, I pounce. “Hey GTK, Pen. I’ll put that in my FYI file.” I take out a piece of gum and start chomping. “Speaking of which, let me show you my new FYI file.” I put the tape recorder on the edge of her desk. “See, here’s the thing. As soon as I walk out your door, I forget everything you tell me. But not anymore. With this handy dandy tape recorder, I can record the sessions just by pressing one magical button. Voila, playback. And that’s not all. This handy dandy tape recorder is very versatile. I can even use it to record my thoughts during the week. It’s so blissfully easy to talk into. Better than getting writer’s cramp, that’s for sure.” I smile broadly at Pen’s grim look. Don’t think she likes the idea of the tape recorder, Lizzie. Boo hoo. Too bad. “I’ll show you what I mean.” I push the play button. A few seconds later, I begin to worry about Pen. She doesn’t look so good.
Hot diggity dog, Lizzie! That must be some record color drain. Is there, like, a vampire in the house?