By: Tachel Brown
6/16/2012, 10:03 p.m.
[redacted]: we met the other day?
Tachel: Yeah…awkwardly haha
[redacted]: haha how was it awkward though?
Tachel: It just was kinda awkward how you, Nikita, and I were just walking and stuff not saying anything I guess
[redacted]: I didn’t know what to talk about when Nikita was there.
Tachel: Well it’s cool. We can talk now I guess.
* * *
People say setting up the first appointment is the hardest part of going to counseling. You’ll think the hardest part is sitting in an overstuffed yellow chair, hoping your insurance works out. Hoping the male counselor you have to see because the women counselors don’t have any more openings works out. Hoping you don’t sound like an idiot as you outline your problems while sitting in an unfamiliar room across from a complete stranger. Hoping you can get better and you’re not a lost cause. All you do is hope while you sit in the waiting room. Hope and wait and tap your feet and wring your hands and forget to breathe.
The good news is, the waiting and hoping eventually ends, and you’ll get called back into some tiny room with dim lights. If you’re lucky, the room will have a window that allows natural light to fall onto the chairs and the carpet. The bad news is, your anxiety comes with you in the room. There’s enough room on this other overstuffed yellow chair for both of you. You’ll keep tapping your feet and wringing your hands and forgetting to breathe while you tell the man across the room why you’re there. You’ll tell him that somehow, [redacted] managed to rewire your brain. [Redacted] knows how to tangle synapses better than anyone.
“How did you meet [redacted]?” he’ll ask.
“He came to my childhood church one day with my friend Nikita.”
You’ll leave it at that. You won’t tell him that the exact date was June 10, 2012. You won’t tell him that you wake up on that day every year with a sense of dread that weighs down your muscles and shakes your bones. You won’t tell him that you often wonder how different your life would have been if you would have just pretended to have period cramps that day like you did every other Sunday so your mom would let you stay home from church. You won’t tell him any of that—at least not today. You don’t know if you can trust him yet.
* * *
8/29/2013, 6:33 a.m.
[redacted]: i really need you here with me cuddled up in bed…just so I could hold you and we could talk…not about anything in particular, just to talk.
* * *
Remember when you read Shakespeare in high school, and you thought it was a story about two dumb teenagers who couldn’t keep their hormones in check? You groaned along with the rest of the class as Mrs. Blade made you break down each line to see the beauty of the iambic pentameter.
But you still pictured yourself as Juliet and [redacted] as Romeo. You were the ones dancing at the masquerade ball. You were the ones standing on the balcony under the moonlight. You were the ones visiting Friar Laurence in his dark chambers. [Redacted] was never more than a few feet away in these fantasies. You wished he was only a few feet away then, sitting next to you in the row of cramped wooden desks instead of the new girl who won’t stop using exaggerated voices to read Juliet’s lines when it’s her turn.
And you thought you’d take those fantasies from ninth grade to the grave, didn’t you?
You won’t. You’ll tell your counselor one day while your legs and hands and fingertips are shaking and while your lungs expand until they’re too big to fit in your chest.
For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo.
* * *
6/18/2014, 2:49 p.m.
[redacted]: Can you just talk to me about what’s going on right now with us…i at least deserve that… I pray for ya every nite.. I miss you so much… and I’m not going to ask ya back into my life if you don’t want to be in it…but I do want to know what happened to us
6/19/2014, 3:17 p.m.
[redacted]: I miss my best friend Tachel… I’ve been so worried about you
* * *
One day in counseling, as your eyes become painfully aware of the dimness of the room, you’ll talk about how you were easily manipulated back then. Like always, he’ll ask you what you mean. You’ll swallow, focus your energy on wringing your hands instead of on the dimness of the room, and begin.
“I thought I knew what love was, or how it felt to be loved. But I don’t think [redacted] actually feels emotions toward others. I think he knows exactly how to fake it. And the scary part is, I had no idea until it was too late.”
From across the room, he’ll nod, his hands clasped in his lap. He’ll already know this about you. He was just waiting for you to figure it out yourself.
* * *
8/27/2015, 1:32 p.m.
[redacted]: you’re such a dumb fucking bitch. you can’t break up with me, not after everything i’ve done for you. just know that i can make your life a living hell. you’re going to regret this for the rest of your life.
* * *
During one of your weekly Wednesday sessions, your counselor will tell you that trauma memories are different from regular memories.
“Do you remember your sixteenth birthday?” he’ll ask.
You’ll nod, remembering how your mom and dad drove you to the DMV as soon as it opened so you could get your license because you didn’t want to spend a single second as a sixteen-year-old without being able to drive.
“How did you feel that day?”
“I was super excited. I woke up at the crack of dawn.”
“Do you feel excited now while you’re remembering that day?”
You’ll shake your head. “I guess not.”
“Ok, think about a bad memory with [redacted]. How do you feel now?”
You’ll stare at the ground and notice the color of the carpet for the first time. It’s a blueish gray, like the color of the ocean. You went to the ocean once, but you couldn’t enjoy it. All you could think about was [redacted], even as the saltwater tangled your hair and the sand warmed your toes and the waves crashed onto the shore next to you. You kept wondering what [redacted] was doing. He was angry that you went to the ocean instead of staying in Illinois with him. He didn’t want you to enjoy the breeze or your new bikini or your pink pedicure or your friends, so you didn’t. You couldn’t.
As you become aware of your heart beating against your sternum, you will manage to look up from the ocean floor and into your counselor’s eyes.
“Thinking about him makes me feel scared.”
“Do you feel that fear anywhere in your body?”
“Yes. My chest is tight, and my shoulders are tense, and my hands won’t stop shaking.”
He’ll nod. “That’s because the body doesn’t forget how trauma feels.”
* * *
6/10/2016, 4:14 a.m.
[redacted]: Hey uhh I had planned on attempting to add you on Facebook on June 10th hoping you’d be amused that I remembered. Or even touched that I still think of you. However an unfortunate circumstance may prevent that so I figure I should tell you now how sorry I am for all the things I’ve done to you… after so long to think about it I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t know how to show love yet… I am sorry
* * *
It may not seem possible now, but you will learn how to function again. You will learn how to feel safe, even when [redacted] makes new social media profiles to contact you every few years. You will learn how to control your breathing and your heartbeat and your shaking when you remember everything [redacted] did to you. And you’ll only get there when you finally decide to dial the counseling clinic’s phone number and make an appointment. It will only happen when you drive there, get out of the safety of your own car, and walk inside for the first time. You will have to sit in the waiting room on that first day and hope that your synapses can be repaired, or at least salvaged. You will have to spend hours letting your hands shake and your heart palpitate and your lungs expand as you sit across from a man who is no longer a stranger in a dim room that your eyes will finally adjust to.
One day, your body will learn how to forget.
Tachel Brown studies Professional and Creative Writing by day and works as a barista also by day. In her free time, she annoys her boyfriend, drinks wine, avoids texts from her coworkers, and writes poetry.
Link to my website: https://tachelbrown.pb.online/