The weirdness finally wears off when there’s only five minutes remaining. It takes the dregs of my limited self control to stop myself from jumping off the nutter couch and pointing triumphantly at Laura and shouting ‘Ha!’
I don’t move. But my face must have. Because she pauses in the middle of her sentence.
“You wanted to say something?” she says, arching her eyebrow in the way that she does so that it disappears behind the thick black upper rim of her funky Gucci glasses.
I think quickly. “I was wondering what happened to your old pot plant?”
She glances over her shoulder at the empty space on her desk between the computer and the inbox tray where a tall, spiky, phallic-like cactus used to sit. She turns back. “It died,” she says simply.
I can tell she doesn’t believe me. I don’t care. I’m still pissed off she suggested Olanzapine “Just in case.”
I knew I shouldn’t have told her what had happened at the hospital.
As soon as I did I realised I’d made a mistake. It was the look she shot me. Something about it said here we go again.
Her chair squeaked as she’d leaned forward. “What did you say you saw?”
I’d laughed to show it was nothing. “It was nothing.” I laughed again. “I knew as soon as I saw it that it wasn’t really there.” I looked out along the jagged line of building tops that crossed the breadth of her office window. When I looked back she was scribbling on her pad.
Sand ran down my skin.
“What?” I said. “You’ve never seen something out of the corner of your eyes that just turned out to be a shadow.”
She stopped and looked at me. Her nostrils twitched. I felt like grabbing that Mont Blanc pen of hers and ramming it up one of those nostrils.
Then she smiled. “Of course I have.” Then she capped the pen and put the pen on the coffee table and covered the pen with the pad. Face down. Then she told me a pithy anecdote about a snake in her garden turning into a stick. Then she brought up the Olanzapine.
I knew I shouldn’t have told her.
“Are you going to get another one?” I say, wishing I’d thought of something better than the cactus to try and distract her with.
Her rubesque lips pucker a fraction. “No.” She crosses her grey wool-skirted, black-stockinged, high-heeled, quite-well-shaped-for-fiftyish legs and frowns. “I’m trying to understand why you’re still refusing to sign this contract,” she says.
Laura and her contracts. A year’s gone by and she’s still stuck on them. I know the easiest thing to do would be to give in and say yes. But I always thought they were ludicrous. I mean really, just because you sign a promise with your shrink not to harm yourself, or not to purge, or not to steal, or not to be a compulsive sex addict, etc., doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll keep it.
Anyway, I have another reason now.
I lean back into the couch. I run my hands over my belly, feel the reassuring swell of my uterus beneath. So different to three years ago.
“Because you can trust me.”
“I do trust you, but I’d still like you to sign this contract.” She holds out her pen to me.
I keep my hands folded.
“If you trust me, why do you want me to restart the Olanzapine then?”
Laura sweeps back a strand of hair that’s strayed onto her face. “Because as I explained to you before, pregnancy and the post-partum period, especially the post-partum period, are a high risk time for recurrences of prior psychological problems.” She pulls her glasses down a fraction, making her eyes grow larger.
I’d avoided those magnified eyes of hers when she’d called me into her office today. I was hoping that she’d forgotten what I’d yelled as I’d stormed out a year ago, slamming the door so hard behind me that the handle hurt my hand. And as I walked the short distance from her office door towards the centre of the room – where the same nutter couch and the same squat coffee table and the same purple rug with the wavy yellow trim sat waiting for me – I kept expecting her to say something. Something like ‘I knew you’d be back eventually’.
But she didn’t.
Instead, as the nutter couch enveloped me in its big, soft, brown, leathery-smelling hug, she just stood next to her desk, holding her elbows, gold bracelets and gold earrings jiggling.
“So,” a kind of smile creased her cheeks. “Can I touch it?”
All was forgiven.
Until she mentioned the Olanzapine.
I knew I shouldn’t have told her.
Things I remember:
- a short, sharp, shiny knife;
- the cold night air on my breasts;
- hearing the mournful hoot of a train whistle as its bright beam transected the linked wire fence above my head;
- the sticky treacle of blood in my eyes;
- the salty smell of his sweat;
- the painful rocky ground;
- the crinkle of litter under my back;
- reaching out, trying to grasp the line of distant houselights in my hand;
- the blazing sting as he stubbed out his cigarette on my clit.
Things I don’t:
- the broken bottle;
- whether he was circumcised or not;
- what he was saying when he tried to set my hair alight;
- if his tie was plain or striped;
- the name of the person who found me curled up next to my car;
- Mark holding the phone to my ear while I cried to Mum;
- signing the police statement;
- testing my urine three weeks later;
- slashing my wrists.
This last bit isn’t exactly true. I can remember fetching the box cutter from the garage. Then watching as the bright red spickled patterns splashed across the white-tiled bathroom floor. But I can’t remember the bit in-between. Laura calls this a classic example of dissociative fugue in a depersonalised state secondary to a severe reactive depression.
I call it not wanting to be me.
Excellent story, so well-crafted, and impactful…