Old Fragments, August 27th 2006

I’m sick of having to play so mature

When I’m just a girl with no face in the world

No one can know another’s joy or sorrow

Nothing lives up to it when words died so long ago

But the more time in the corner that I waste

Just trying to make something seem okay

It all just gets worse

Though somewhere up above, I know I am heard

I continue to run but fall even further-

To a place where there are no words left

Where all that is needed is someone to hold me in the silence

Giving up on speech

just to touch, feel, hear and see

Because everything else always feels the same

All the wasted words, being the only change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P.29

     “So is that why you feigned surprise or intrigue by my answers, when you had already perused my War and Peace in your hand?”

“I wanted to hear it from you, and It’s not that detailed. I’d love to stay and pick on you as you get settled in, but I’m already way late for Woodland Hills. So Jacqueline or someone will be introducing you to everyone and finishing all protocol, as well as personally ensuring you abide by your bed rest- which starts tomorrow morning. I’ll be back in a couple days for our first official session. I want to hear good things from Jacqueline. Good things, you hear me? You don’t want to get on her bad side.”

“Write a boring-ass autobiography. Sit and stay. Behave. Got it.”

“Okay, I’m expecting something to read by then,” She said with a teasing intonation as she again rose and quickly made her way along the winding brick walkway outside the window.

         After twenty-some minutes of sitting in the office, I wandered out into the entryway, unsure of what I should be doing or if I should just keep waiting in Shawna’s office for Jacqueline. There was no one anywhere to be seen, so I walked about for another period of time, taking note of the decor, “vision boards” on the walls, took another look at the door from the dream, and walked back out onto the front porch. There was a wooden bench there with two striped mahogany pillows, and two large rod- iron lamps hanging on each side of the double- doored entrance. Heading back and glancing in a few open rooms, all of the flooring and the majority of the house’s structure was made of varying tones of red bricks, with a few portions of white upper walls in a couple rooms.         

The house echoed of a strange emptiness with every step I took, and I was surprised there were really no rugs to speak of, except one small brown square rug in the middle of the living room. There were two pillow- laden brown couches adjacent to one another on two sides of the rug, in front of a fireplace with a sitting area, a sprawling window seat on the next wall, and the third wall was a huge gloss  white floor to ceiling bookcase filled on all but the empty top shelves, which were far out of reach. A modest golden chandelier hung above, and a large bronze carving of what reminded me of the flower of life far above the fireplace reached up to an exceedingly tall ceiling. I saw what I would guess to be most of the house residents in the dining room, which gave off close to no sound from behind two closed glass doors. I saw Jacqueline at the head of the table with five other absolutely stern, fairly gaunt faces. I quickly ducked back out of sight of the couple looking back at me as though they were already pissed off at my presence, but I tried to write it off as nothing personal. Just a moment later as I heard a crash come from the room, one of the glass doors flung open, slamming into the wall and a tall, dirty blonde- haired girl, likely about 18, stormed out of the room and nearly smacked right into me as she turned the corner and bolted out the open front door. 

“No, everyone sit down.” I heard Jacqueline say, in just the way an irritated mother would address her children. 

A few moments later and Jacqueline appeared as well, looking down the hallway, into the living room, and paused with a look at me that said “spit it out”;

“She went out the front door,” I said softly. I immediately kicked myself,  feeling like I had already betrayed someone who would likely end up my roommate. 

    Jacqueline rushed out the front door, but was back inside within the minute, yelling to someone evidently in the staff office to call the police. 

“Wait- Can I try to find her?” 

“What? Look, we don’t have time to mess around playing hide and seek, she’s gone. 

    “You just have to think like an addict” I said, but only in my head. 

 she stood there with her arms crossed, her light brown hair falling out of a messy bun. I guess everyone around here was a foot taller than me.     “Fine, you’ve got ten minutes while I check the back and all the rooms, and then I’m calling.”

       I descended the front steps and paused halfway down the walkway beneath the canopy of oaks. Turning to the larger oak tree- the one that went right up to Shawna’s office window- I started to climb; I knew that’s where *I* would go. I didn’t see her as I made my way up through the maze of unruly branches jutting off in the most peculiar of directions. Then up near the top, where the branches just barely would support anyone, she was. 

I perched on a branch a few feet across from her. Though I knew the time constraint, I couldn’t bring myself to do or say anything but to just watch silently. She reminded me of someone, as I felt the pangs of her tears. I don’t know why, but I noticed a tear on my own face. 

….
 

 

P.28 the Last Letters

        She came back a few minutes later with a manila folder and the vermilion journal that had been sent from home. She opened the folder and set the journal on the table in front of me. 

“So this is the part where you sign a bunch of legal papers while I decide based on our conversation which of our four interning therapists would be most appropriate for you for the duration of your stay at the beautiful life.”

I scanned through the ten or so pages of agreements, noticing some rather odd statements I was expected to sign and initial. I couldn’t help but quietly laugh at a few of them. “I will not die by suicide” was one of my favorites. A hundred questions about my eating and exercising habits, some more extremely odd questions I had never even thought of. 

      “People actually do this weird shit?” 

She appropriately declined to answer my rhetorical question. “So, I’m the therapist for all family sessions, but I stopped taking individual patients when I became director of both here and Woodland Hills a couple years ago- but I’ve decided that I’m going to take you on as an individual client anyway.” 

      “Was that before or after I  told you to fuck yourself? Sorry again.”

“Oh, it was before we met. Sherice sent me your entire case file and looking through it I immediately thought ‘oh I’ve gotta meet this girl, this’ll be interesting’; and sure enough you’ve got the attitude and I can just feel your tension and the anger you’re using to try to keep everyone away- but that doesn’t scare me. I think you’re just a teddy bear with teeth- just someone in pain. But mainly, I don’t think an intern would even know where to begin with you.”

I laughed darkly, closed my eyes, and shook my head. “Why are you doing this.”

     “Doing what?”

“Seemingly giving me this special treatment; you already held a bed open for me for now I find out over a week- when I know this place has a waiting list and you didn’t even know that I wouldn’t be sent back to Alhambra. I mean, great- I’m glad if I interest you, sure I’ll confess it’s reluctantly flattering- but I didn’t come here to have more people dislike me because they think I’m full of myself or thinking I merit extraneous attention. I don’t want to come in here feeling any more like an asshole, and the person who has the power to make all the major decisions in the course of each patient’s treatment plan- being the one I build a personal year-long relationship with- that’s not going to help me fit in with any of the other people my age here.” 

“Everyone’s treatment plan is different. Their problems are not your problems-  your case is completely different; so the treatment is different. And certain privileges may also be granted or withheld as a result. Don’t worry- I’m going to be harder on you than everyone else. You’re going to hate me by year’s end.” 

“Not if I make you hate me first. Look- can you just keep it on the down low, at least at first?”

“Good luck with that. But this is why I’m starting you out on full observation status, and…” she paused for emphasis, “Three days of bed rest- and that’s just for starters- if you behave and actually do it. 

“What the hell!” I stood up from the chair. 

“Ah, struck a chord there? Sit. Yeah, reading your file and I knew the first thing you need to do is rest. I know you hate that. When was the last time you took a week or month off from all your crazy workouts and mountain climbing? How do you have energy for that anyways? Not to mention you had a seizure. You need to lay low.”

“because that’s only an hour here and there- work is at least four hours; I can’t predict when I’ll have an OK hour. I don’t have feel or act any certain way out with the coyotes; and I’m fine as far as one little seizure.” I slowly lowered myself barely back onto the armchair, on its edge as always. 

“I mean you clearly can barely even sit with yourself. As soon as you get one drop of fuel back in the tank you’re flooring the gas pedal a hundred miles per hour, and wondering why you’re so burnt out. So, the first thing we’re working on is learning to just sit- or lie, in your case- relax; and most importantly learn some self-compassion. Do you know what that is?”

 I rolled back the sleeve of my tattered, grey hoodie and held my wrist up to her. “Time waits for no one. Not me, not those getting what’s fair or unfair. Nope. My youth and my life is passing me by and I’m just fucking pissing my time away, splashing like a beta on its side in some inch-deep puddle in the middle of a Japanese market- everyone else is getting things done, changing, going somewhere, trying, loving- living. As a child there was a fern plant that always grew up through the floor of the house, through the carpet; no one could ever kill it- it always came back, always pushed back up through the concrete. That’s why I put that there, where I would always see it when my head is down in my hands, and be reminded to never stop moving forward with the unforgiving time. I can’t waste any more time- I’m losing all of it. That’s why I’m so merciless with pushing myself.” 

“That’s a pretty tattoo though,” she replied succinctly. 

I sighed. “Okay. What am I supposed to do with all of this- apparently of a sliding timeframe-  free time to just lie there and be in my head? That never ends well, you know that.”

She pushed the journal closer towards me. “I want you to write your story.” 

“Here we go again. I don’t have anything to say.”

“Write a factual autobiography then. Sherice told me you like to write, so you’re not getting out of it. Start from the very beginning of your memory and recount what brought you to today be sitting in front of me with such deep wounds that you would try to take your own life.” 

“There’s already an autobiography right there. There’s what- just short of fifty pages of it I wrote, three or four years ago.”

She grabbed the book and opened it to the very last sentence written. 

“Sorry for fucking up your life so far;” she read aloud, “because K*, the only thing that will allow you to finally see what you actually loved, will be losing it all.

Hm. Interesting, but  I still want you to start over. That way you’ll remember even more things that you didn’t write here before.” 

I decided to save my usual scowl for later as she set the book and a red pen back down in front of me. 

….

P.27

“Because I don’t have anywhere to live right now, I’m out of food stamps for the month, I’m not confident that I’d survive the women’s shelter, and I don’t particularly feel like sleeping with John Doe from the internet for a place either.”

“Serious now.”

“I am serious.”

“Okay, then tell me your other reasons why you’re here. You know exactly what I mean.”

“Well for starters, I was sent over here on a 14-day legal hold from BHC Alhambra. Which means I was 5150d at least twice for suicidal ideation and self harm. So you can know that I have an apparent “mental illness”. If you ask me, it’s just depression. Really, really severe depression I guess. They sent me here so that you could babysit me and make sure I don’t off myself, because I’m pretty tired of every fucking part of life at this point and their magical malpractice didn’t make me suddenly want to live another stupid fucking day just to deal with the same stupid fucking shit on a different fucking day. You know that I had a seizure and that I came here from Huntington Hospital, because the doctor saw in my dictionary-sized medical chart that I have a long history of anorexia, so he figured why not kill two birds with one stone and make sure she gets properly fed too, of which Sherice contacted you. And to make it even better, I’ve been off everything now for two weeks and I feel like an even shittier version of me.”

“You were self medicating.”

“Aren’t we all?”

“What were you taking?”

“Nothing. That’s not really even my problem. A bit of Modafinil, alprazolam, Adderall pseudoephedrine, Fetzima- or sometimes a different dopamine/ norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, a bunch of over the counter painkillers- because the harder stuff knocks me out, about 10 cups of coffee, thyroid medication, and biweekly hormone injections.”

All of those?”

“Usually.”

“Oh my god, you know you can’t mix those, those are all stimulants but the one. Hormones?”

“I seem relatively fine anyways. Until quitting cold turkey, thank you very much. I have an abnormally rapid drug metabolism, so everything’s gone in less than 1/3 of the time. And I plead the fifth on the injections until I can speak to the  psychiatrist.”

“Which also means overdose is that much easier a thing for you to do. No, that was not intended as a suggestion. But you’re going to learn to live without all of those things now.”

“So upside I have a heart attack, down side I have enough energy to make it through another day. Wait- all of them? Even coffee?”

“Dr. Shapiro will be in tomorrow evening for sessions with everyone; you’ll discuss it then.”

“Do you only hire people who have a name that starts with Sh or something?”

“No…” she paused with her hand on the door handle to go get something from the staff office- the one in the very center of the house that was off limits to the residents- “Why? But I still want to know how you knew my birthday, ” she said with a laugh; she had that look again like she was waiting for me to confess something she already knew I’d done.

“Because the last six therapists I’ve been assigned to, stuck with, forced to see, etc.- their names all started with Sh, with birthdates on the odd numbered days at the end of December or first few days of January. The 21st was untaken and it just seemed right I guess.”

“Okay, but I’m not your therapist.”

“Are you sure?”

“I think I of all people would know.” she half winked, took a quick glance out the window and disappeared out into the main entry room.

Looking outside I saw a crow perched on the closest branch right outside the window. It called a few times at that moment, and then flew away. It would have had to very intentionally flown down along the long patio beneath the thick canopy of the shrouding oak trees to get here, but I noticed him land there sometime about halfway through the conversation. I knew most people saw crows and ravens as an an evil omen, but to me it was always somewhat comforting to know that at least the crows seemed to like me enough to always stick around.

P.26 the Last Letters

         “So you don’t work, you don’t go to school, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I’d guess you don’t care for being around people- what the heck have you been doing with all that free time for the past few years?”

        “Shit…” I exhaled and leaned my head back on the chair. “Sometimes I don’t even know what the fuck I do. Lately I just lose track of time, like it’s all skewed and blurred, but each year has been a tiny bit different. I guess I’ve mostly been wandering the hills or mountains. Whether on foot or my mountain bike; no real destination. That’s one thing I’ve tried to do everyday, no matter what, to try and keep me sane. I’ve hardly gotten out this last few years, other than out there.”
“Out in the mountains.” she half laughed and half reiterated skepticism. “You’re serious. By yourself? That doesn’t sound like a great idea to me.”
“Yeah, you and everyone else,” I resisted the inclination to roll my eyes. “but I can’t live that way- in constant fear of the what if’s. Hell, I’m hardly even living a life, I’ve got so much fear of life already. Maybe I do it just to flip off the what if’s every once in a while, or I want to discipline my mind and body, or maybe it’s that I feel compelled to just run as far away from everything and everyone as possible. I’m an expert problem-runner-from-er. Especially the ones that have no solutions, and no place far enough away to run to.”

“No wonder your mom is stressed,” with an air of flippancy. “Your parents let you do that, living under their roof and rules?”

        I laughed a bit. “Holy shit, you don’t know how ironic it all is. Hell no are they OK with it. I was raised to be afraid of absolutely everything but the white picket fence American lifestyle. They were so strict and overprotective all growing up that though I know their intentions were good- I got left out of everything and didn’t make friends because everyone knew the answer was always no. I don’t entirely blame them for my not having friends; but pulling me out of school so young and homeschooling me because I was “getting an attitude” didn’t necessarily set me up for a lifetime of being a social butterfly. I mean I’m not even a caterpillar. But what any of this has to do with the mountains is that it got to the point that when I was 19 years I still wasn’t even allowed to walk down the street or be in the front yard by myself; enforced by the “our house our rules” sentiment; it was infuriating- and we even lived in the safest state in the country. I was slowly dying at the time, so my grandma on my mother’s side came out from Colorado to try and “rehabilitate” me, and I decided to go back with her for a couple weeks-”

“Hold on, slow down- I can’t write that fast.” 

     I paused for a minute to admire the massive oak tree creeping up to the window. 

       “Okay, go on.”

“Well I found my chance to give them an ultimatum to give me my freedom after feeling like I had been kept under lock and key all my life. I called my parents from Colorado saying I wasn’t coming home but would be moving into an apartment in Loveland to train with the state cross country team, because I knew a member of the team through grandma from my last trip out there. I honestly was serious about it all, it wasn’t just to blackmail my parents- I just figured that out last minute. As awful as that sounds, I couldn’t live cooped up in that haunted house anymore- and it *was* haunted, but not to get off on another tangent… So I wrote up a document stating that I would be permitted to go out on my own- no more “you need a man” bullshit- in return that I didn’t move to Colorado. And I’ve been able to go out ever since. Not without constant opposition however, but that’s not the point. So yes, I went from not being permitted to go around the block without my brother- who wouldn’t spend any time with me once he got a driver’s license- to going way out in the mountains, by myself, always.”

  “So your way of saying fuck you to your parents, sounds like. Why didn’t you end up moving to Colorado?”

“I honestly have no qualms with telling my parents such a thing- the past is over. I do it for me. I do it so my tireless mind might feel free for a minute here and there, or maybe it builds character- I don’t know.”
“But you still seem to hold the past against your mom.”

“Because she still acts that way. Maybe she’s a little less angry than she was a few years ago- but that’s likely only because of all the hell I’ve unintentionally dragged them along in by not being able to get my ass out of their house. They know what real problems are now. But I don’t want to talk about that again right now.” 

       “And why not Colorado?”

 “Oh, well my parents convinced me to at least go back home to Cali for a week to think and pray about it, say goodbye, and get all my things. I had everything packed and was ready to go when at the very last minute it came out that grandma was taking advantage of me, playing me to get revenge on my dad for “stealing” her daughter away at 18- because my parents met while mom was visiting California. Three days and they were engaged, and she moved away from Colorado to be with dad here- and that was over 30 years ago. Crazy shit to me. Something about “you just know,” but anyway- grandma had held that grudge all that goddamn time, she was trying to use me to get back at dad. I felt so betrayed that I never spoke to her again until the day she died. Not because I was that angry- I’ve never had the energy or attention span for much grudge-holding, but because whenever anyone would try talking to her after that all she did was harp on me about how my life was all my fault and i wasn’t getting better because I wasn’t praying enough, having enough faith, or I was living in the sin of rebellion, on and on.” 

       “Hm. Interesting… So mountains, check. What do you do with the rest of the time, when you’re not tearing the family apart?” she smiled humorously. 

“Oh god, I guess mostly just feel fucking terrible and try to get through the day by any means possible. This year at least has been a bitch like no other- like, I don’t really believe in stupid diagnoses like fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue, but it sure describes it. but every year sucks in it’s own fucking special ways. But still each one *seems* to be worse than the last, so who knows.      Hm…I play guitar, write songs, write other random shit; sometimes I try recording some of the hundred-some songs, but almost always end up deleting anything because I hate everything I make and I have no idea how to create or mix music tracks. I’m not serious about any of that though.”

     I thought for a moment.                      “I spend most of my time at home with a couple dogs at home who like to bark at every blade of grass swaying in our valley of the winds. And some birds who I sort of consider friends, they’ll hang around until they get a girlfriend- just like people, right? But ultimately I think I just spend my time feeling sick.” 

She finished writing and looked me in the eye. “OK, now what- In your opinion- has today brought you to seek treatment here?” she was likely trying to insure that I didn’t lie. 

P.25

“Oh, well that’s a pretty short conversation- assuming you mean  romantic relationships. One three-year relationship from nineteen to twenty two-ish; That’s it for me.”

“You call three years a short conversation?”

“I was still such a child then, in my assessment at least- and that was before everything that’s happened in the last couple years, so to me it was a completely different lifetime; it’s over, it’s distant, it’s irrelevant.”

“Try to tell me a little about it anyways. These things do matter.”

“I guess, just don’t get all Freudian on me. Uh, I met him at a church college group I decided to drop in on one night when I had decided to switch churches. I mostly remember that there was this guy who although he was tall as hell at 6’5″, he actually looked at me when I talked in the group, or would even intentionally stop the other chatterboxes because he actually noticed them just talking over me and not listening at all. Most of my life it had been that way when I was in groups of people- and I’m not even soft spoken or shy at all- but I was so used to feeling ignored, unheard, and left out that I was completely dumbfounded as to what this guy’s trip was- like he actually saw that I existed, even though he of all people was nearly a foot and a half taller than me. So I guess I sort of asked him out, to go waterfall jumping, and we were just kind of always together from then on.”

“Being seen is always nice… So what happened?”

“It made sense, but it’s like that was all it did. It looked great on paper, he was ‘the real deal’, a man of integrity; but from the very start- from the very first kiss in particular- I was so confused as to why I felt absolutely nothing, or sometimes didn’t even want to kiss him. But I’d never dated before so I figured I would warm up to him in the near future in regards to feelings of infatuation or attraction. But it never really happened- at least not enough. Everything felt forced and uncomfortable and as always, something in the very back of my skull told me something about it wasn’t right. I mean of course I really liked him, but I wondered at times if it wasn’t just in a platonic, brotherly way- but I knew that my emotions had always been erratic, irregular, and unreliable. It evidently wasn’t a major problem then though, because from the start we had consensually agreed to “wait” until marriage; which surprisingly, sounds pretty funny to me today. Time went by anyways, because we enjoyed each other’s company, and everything else about it seemed right- often even talking with the assumption of marriage. Then after a particularly nice day together, I never saw him again; until finding out that he was sleeping with a girl only a few houses up the street from me. They got married and I had to watch them together until they divorced a year later.”

“Wow, I’m sorry. Why today do you think you weren’t physically attracted to him?”

“I don’t know… You know, we never in those years had a single fight- not one. We managed to either always agree or he was just so laid back that he always agreed with me. But really I don’t think that was heathy at all- I always told him to feel free to tell me I was wrong, or tell me I was being a bitch if I ever was, to make a decision instead of wanting me to make them, but he never did. Maybe I needed someone who was fiery enough to rival me, beat me in an arm wrestle, and tell me what I should do every once in a while. Maybe? But there’s no way for me to definitively know; I’ve never been really attracted to anyone before.”

“Never? Are you sure?” she glanced back up from her clipboard with a look of skepticism. 

“Would I know if I was? I mean I’ve always been a little different than other people my age- maybe a lot different, if that’s not too presumptuous to say. When they were talking about who’s hot and who’s dating who, I was by myself, wondering how people can be so stupid, shallow, and equivocally content with it. I didn’t date, didn’t do the childish games and peacocking; I was too focused on nailing my next PR or getting to the next mountain range. I can only speculate that if I were to encounter any notably intense  attraction, it would be the result of a strange combination of qualities that I’ve yet to find in anyone I’ve ever met; as looks never did all that much for me in determining. 

She laughed, “Sure they don’t..”

    “Hey now, you’re a therapist, you’re not supposed to have any personality,” I almost betrayed my stone face. 

“I’m not a therapist anymore, now I’m the boss.” she sat up with an obviously facetious air. She laughed again. “You’ll see..”

I raised an eyebrow. “But on a final note, you’ll see my lovely black guitar he left that evening when he ditched. But I’m glad he left- he deserved someone who was crazy about him. And that’s the end of that subject. Next.” 

    

“Okay, so you said no job? What about past? And no college either? ”

“I haven’t worked in five years, come this November. I worked mostly retail with some specialty in holistic health for some years. I’ve never been able to hold a job longer than six months. College I only did one semester abefore dropping out on health leave, and doing a few online classes. A couple certifications but no degrees or anything shiny.” 

“Why have you been unable to work?”

“Ah there we are, the therapist tone is back. I’ve been unable to work for these years now because of severe mood disorder, and physically I have been unwell for a long time. I don’t have the energy, and that’s even if my brain did start working right again. I couldn’t keep jobs in the past because I’d eventually always lose them for these reasons, though the severity back then was exceedingly more manageable- something I now see I much took for granted.”

“Yep, abusing your body eventually catches up with you, doesn’t it?” she had a hint of that awful condescending tone as though everything was quite simple to explain. 

“Indeed it does.” I concurred. “But that’s not entirely a fair assumption either. No one at this point can say that simply any substance or starvation was what brought me to the dead end I’ve found myself. Perhaps I’ve done irreversible damage, but with all due respect, that argument doesn’t hold water to me anymore.  I’ve amassed hundreds of thousands of dollars in guilt and debt in having seen every doctor anyone thought could help- but no one has ever been able to help at all, much less figure out what the fuck is wrong with me- and I believe there’s something. No I’m not a hypochondriac. And if you think it’s so simple or are going to regurgitate the same dogmatic adage to me that I stay “sick” because I find some identity in it, well, you can go fuck yourself.” I paused, sighed, and took a deep breath. 

She simply sat with the same grin on her face I would try not to smile at  for next six months. 

“You know what, I’m terribly sorry, that was uncalled for.”

“No, it’s okay. I can tell you’ve been around this block a few times. And it’s been a while since I’ve had a client tell me to fuck myself.” she was still smiling, looking utterly amused. 

“Can we please move on to the next question.” 

 

P.24 the Last Letters

    “Go on. I know you can give me more than that.” 

“Hm. Okay. You said home life- you already know that I still live with my parents. My brother moved out a few years back, so it’s just me left to deal with mom’s bullshit. I don’t really talk much to my brother, haven’t spent much any time with him since we were teens without licenses. But he was damn glad to finally get out. It was us vs them as kids; now it’s just me. Most ironic, but fortunate- my brother grew up with a severe learning disability and supposed ‘aspergers”, they said he’d never be able to properly hold a job or live on his own- but he did both, with a successful career in the works and going damn straight at life. Equally as funny, I was supposedly a “gifted” student intellectually- at least as the assessments go- but I actually ended up being the one unable to do any of those things; maybe instead of him? I mean I’m happy for him, and pray more for him, but me- I’ve run out of excuses for failure at my age-”

“Wait, slow down. Your mom’s bullshit?”                                        

“Yeah, that’s just what we call it.”

“Call what?” she repeated.                  

I was getting lost in my head again, spinning off in fifty directions. 

“I don’t know, I guess she’s always been like a straight laced and sober rageaholic. Ever since as young as I can remember, she was always stressed, always angry, constant yelling, blaming, martyrdom- we hated being around her. We still do. I still do. Everytime my brother comes to visit he says he still says that he had forgotten how awful she is, or doesn’t know how I don’t just cold cock the woman. Sometimes I nearly do. I break other things instead. And that’s partly why I’m here, tensions were just too high and I have my own shit without hers. They can’t deal with my forgetfulness anymore, and I don’t know why my brain just doesn’t seem to work the way it used to. Even I’m tired of it, I’m surprised they hadn’t kicked me out sooner, for leaving crumbs on the counter or some other dumb bullshit that she’s always cared so much about.”

   “Okay,” she scribbled something down, “See, there’s something. She seemed nice when I talked to her. And your dad?”

“Duh, isn’t that what families do- pretend to be nice when friends are around? Pretend that you like eachother when your date is over?” 

“Sometimes. What’s dad like?”

“I’d say he’s a good Christian guy, a lighthearted kid in a grown man’s body most of the time. I really respect him. He’d always bring the hammer down on us when Mom’s screaming wasn’t enough- but if you ask me, I wouldn’t say he was the head of the household when I was growing up. But he prayed. He taught me to, and to mountain bike, and to keep my eyes fixed on only where I want to go. I suck at that, but I at least learned the lessons literal application after hitting enough rocks, facedown into the dirt.”

“So you like your dad.”

“Basically. In the same kind of distant understanding my brother and I have always had, without much in common, conversation or understanding. But honestly I’ve wondered my entire life if the problem of disconnect isn’t just a problem with me- that maybe I’m a psychopath or sociopath who doesn’t even realize that I don’t actually feel anything, but just use people to get what I need in order to not die.”

“Do you really believe that you use people? If I may say, from the extensive conversations I’ve had with Sherice, you’re anything but a psychopath.” 

“I would never consciously use anyone, but can’t help but wonder; because all growing up I’ve said I love you to my parents- to my mother- but inside felt alone in a family and knew that I could never see them again and wouldn’t hurt any more for it. But as a kid, I’d say I love you to my mother if she said it, but it was like choking on bitter seeds, because I knew she could never know that inside I felt like I wanted to say that I hated her and when I grew up I wanted to be anyone or anything but like her. But she could never ever find that out because as a kid or teen, I still needed things. But even I knew disgust enough at that age to know that something was wrong- and that today I have absolutely no concept of what love is.”

“When you were a kid and you’d get upset, you wouldn’t feel a little better if your dad just held you, even if he couldn’t fix whatever it was? Or you’ve never had a relationship before that you felt love in?”

“Not that I’m aware of, and if I have ever felt “love”, then it must be catastrophically, severely overrated. Never felt it, never been in it; it’s likely nothing more the actions we take as a conscious decision to treat others as ourselves. But if that’s truly all love is, I doubt that it could be as strong a driving force in everyone around me, in this world; I doubt all the songs about it would be on the radio, or even be written at all. I doubt people would become obsessed with another person solely of sexual  attraction, or get married, or raise up more kids who will go though life believing love is just a tool, or a meaningless rose or box of chocolate on February 14th that some people get or deserve while others don’t.” 

“I can tell you that it’s more than that.” She wrote again. “Now let’s move on to relationship history.”

…