Los Angeles, California USA
"Old Soul Song" by Bright Eyes comes blaring from my phone...
_ _ _ _ _: Hi.
Me: Hi. How are you?
_ _ _ _ _: Good. Good. How are you?
Me: I've been better.
_ _ _ _ _: I'm sorry to hear that. Anything in particular?
Me: A few things, yeah. I was just thinking. Remember that time we went to that miniature golf place?
_ _ _ _ _: (slight laugh) Yeah.
Me: And remember how on the way back in the back of that van I laid my head down next to you and then from out of nowhere you grabbed my hand?
_ _ _ _ _: (quieter) Yeah.
Me: That was really nice. I'm glad you did that.
_ _ _ _ _: I am too.
Me: It was so unexpected and...just really...nice. I wish more things like that would happen to me in my life. I wish you hadn't let go.
_ _ _ _ _: Sometimes I wish I hadn't let go either.
_ _ _ _ _: Yeah, sometimes. I guess things just got too complicated.
Me: That is partly my fault.
_ _ _ _ _: And mine too. But I don't want to talk about that. I called because I want to know what's going on with you.
_ _ _ _ _: Because I'm interested.
Me: In hearing about me?
_ _ _ _ _: Yeah. Is that so hard to believe?
Me: Well, yeah, I don't think I've ever had anyone call to ask about me before.
_ _ _ _ _: Is that okay?
Me: Are you kidding me??? It's wonderful...and terrifying.
_ _ _ _ _: Why is it terrifying?
Me: Because if you really want to hear about me I might really tell you about me and then you might really hurt me and I just don't know if I can let that happen.
_ _ _ _ _: Because of what has happened in the past?
_ _ _ _ _: With me?
Me: With you, with other people. Like I said, my whole life, I don't think anyone has ever really stopped to ask about me. It's a little scary.
_ _ _ _ _: Is that why you're always smiling? Even when you're upset?
Me: Yeah and it's exhausting.
_ _ _ _ _: I bet it is. Well, you don't have to do that. Not right now. We are going to clean the slate. Pretend I'm the first person you've ever met in your whole entire life and all I want to hear is what you are up to, what you're thinking, and what you want.
Me: Well, okay...I can try. I've been tired and not like sleepy tired, but like running out of resources tired.
_ _ _ _ _: Why is that?
Me: Because I'm lonely. And I'm not lonely like I-hate-myself-so-much-I-can't-stand-to-be-alone lonely. I mean like really lonely, like desolate lonely, like I-feel-like-the-only-living-creature-on-a-dead-planet lonely. And everyone keeps telling me I need to be patient, that things will happen when the timing is right and I know that, but it doesn't stop my heart from screaming out at night. It doesn't make things easier. Do you know what I mean?
_ _ _ _ _: I think so. What else makes you so tired?
Me: Well, I've been hiding a lot.
_ _ _ _ _: Hiding from who? Or is it "whom"? I never know.
Me: I don't know.
_ _ _ _ _: Me neither. Sorry to interrupt.
Me: No, it's okay.
_ _ _ _ _: Please go on. Who or what have you been hiding from?
Me: See, that's the thing. I don't really know. I know it's something that happened to me when I was really little and it was something bad, something terrible, something unspeakable. Since I never got to tell anyone about it and no one ever asked me or explained what had happened, I can't remember exactly what it was.
_ _ _ _ _: But you know it was terrible.
_ _ _ _ _: Do you remember who was there?
_ _ _ _ _: Who was it?
Me: My father.
_ _ _ _ _: Wow. And you don't remember what he did to you?
Me: I only remember certain things, the things that weren't so terrible and I remember afterward. I have nightmares though that are much more graphic and I sometimes wonder if they are just exaggerations of what really happened or if they are memories coming back to me. Like last night, I had a dream that I had a bumble bee stuck in my throat. It was terrifying. I wanted to get it out so bad and I was so scared that it would sting me while inside my throat. I was paralyzed with fear. Some of these dreams involve my mother and my sister too.
_ _ _ _ _: Have you ever told either of them about this?
Me: I have not told my mother.
_ _ _ _ _: And your sister?
Me: I told her, but she doesn't like to talk about it, which I can't say I blame her. She doesn't say it didn't happen, but I don't think she really believes me either.
_ _ _ _ _: This is terrible.
Me: I know.
_ _ _ _ _: What are you going to do?
Me: I don't know. I want to find help. I get so angry sometimes I really scare myself. I really love my life and I want to live, but sometimes I just wish I was dead. He threatened my life, you know.
_ _ _ _ _: Who did? Your dad?
Me: Yeah. I haven't told anyone that. He told me he would kill me. He also told me if I told anyone he would go away and I would never see him again.
_ _ _ _ _: He did?
Me: No, I don't know. See, that's one of the things I think happened, but I can't remember. They aren't concrete memories. They're more like ideas about what might have happened, but I remember when I was in elementary school I used to fantasize about a girl in my class being locked away in a bathroom, forced to stay in the bathtub forever. Sometimes snakes and rats were released in the bath water and she would be so scared, but she wasn't allowed to get out. When I played with my Barbies I would tie them to their bed and the Ken doll would keep her prisoner. I think sometimes even the other Barbies would keep her prisoner too and torture her. But see, I don't know what that means or where that came from.
_ _ _ _ _: Wow. This is too much.
Me: Are you sorry you asked?
_ _ _ _ _: No, of course not. I'm glad you told me. God, you needed to tell someone.
_ _ _ _ _: I'm glad it was me.
Me: I'm so glad it was you too. Will you help me?
_ _ _ _ _: Of course I will. I don't know how, but I will try.
Me: That's all I need. I just need someone to try. That's why I'm so tired. I've been trying my whole life to keep it all together and no one has helped me. Not even my psychiatrist.
_ _ _ _ _: Why do you say that?
Me: I went to her for three years and she barely discussed my past. I get so mad when I hear about people going into therapy and then discovering all the secrets of their past, like they just come pouring out. I went to her for three years and she barely even mentioned it. She should have known. She should have tried harder to figure out what was wrong with me.
_ _ _ _ _: Maybe she didn't want to. Maybe she wanted to keep you coming in every week.
Me: Yeah, maybe.
_ _ _ _ _: Or maybe you didn't want to talk about it either.
Me: Well, I don't really, but that's what therapists are supposed to do. They are supposed to ask you about things that you don't want to talk about so that you'll get over them. But that doesn't matter anymore because now I have you. God, I'm so relieved you called.
_ _ _ _ _: Yes you do have me now except for one little problem.
Me: What's that?
_ _ _ _ _: This isn't real. You made it up. I don't exist. I haven't called you in weeks and I haven't seen you in a year. I have a girlfriend and I think I love her.
Me: Yeah, I know. When I found out a year ago that you were dating I went home and drank a bottle of wine by myself. I blacked out for the first time ever. That's how upset I was.
_ _ _ _ _: I'm sorry.
Me: So then it's true?
You: What's that?
Me: I'm going to have to heal myself?
_ _ _ _ _: I'm afraid so.
Me: *sigh* Well, all right then. Hey, before you go, do you remember that other time when we were leaving the office at the same time? I was really depressed and you walked me down to my car? And then you gave me this hug, this great, fantastic, soul-grabbing hug for like a minute. And then I gave you a ride to your car and you complained about how cold it was. Then before you got out you kissed me on the cheek.
_ _ _ _ _: Yeah, I remember.
Me: I was really mad at myself that night that I let you do that, but now I'm so glad I did. Oh! And that other time you came with your friend to see me when I was working at the record store. We went out to dinner to that Thai place across the street. We sat next to that decorative water fountain on the wall to the left of the entrance, next to the bar. You held my hand under the table and smiled at me so warmly, like you were really happy.
_ _ _ _ _: I was.
Me: Well, I was only on my break and I had to leave before the check came because my time was up. After you paid the check you brought me my leftovers in a brown paper bag at the end of the register counter and before you left you asked so timidly I'll never ever in my whole life forget, "Can I kiss you?"
_ _ _ _ _: Yeah.
Me: Oh, my, God, it breaks my heart in such a great way, just how vulnerable you seemed in that moment. Why couldn't we have had more moments like that?
_ _ _ _ _: I don't know. I don't know. Why are you bringing all of this up again?
Me: Because these are the things I don't want to forget about you. These are the things that keep you inside me. These are the things I wish meant something to you.
_ _ _ _ _: They did mean something to me. You mean something to me. Look, I have to go. I wish I had more time. I wish that even in your imagination I could be a better person, but I...I have to go. Please...just...just forget about me, okay?
Me: I'm trying. Thank you for asking about me though...even if I did make all of this up. It was still nice.
_ _ _ _ _: You're welcome. Please take care of yourself.
Me: Of course I will. If I don't, no one will, right? Goodnight, _ _ _ _ _.
_ _ _ _ _: Goodnight.