Warning: The following contains material that may be upsetting to those that have experienced sexual violence. Reader's discretion is advised.
When you turn the power off the game never really ends...
Client M, Session #14 2/14/20XX
-The following record was transcribed from an audio recording of the session with the express written permission of the client. Descriptive elements have been added through the recollection of the attending doctor. Names have been removed for the protection of the client. Please return to file after reading.
M: …can I tell you about the guy that hurt me the most, doc?
D: You mean the man you mentioned near the end of our previous session?
M: *nods* That’s the one.
D: I’d love to hear more about it. But let’s recap for a second, just so I can get this all straight in my head. I’d love to pretend I remember everything Ms. M, but I do have a lot of other clients as you know. Thanks for baring with me here. *sound of papers rustling* Your father was in and out of prison on various drug related charges and your mother had an on-and-off relationship with him, often cheating on him with various men whom she brought into the household on numerous occasions…no need to dredge all that up again…*sound of notes rustling*…You had several unhealthy relationships in your teenage years, none of which lasted more than a year. Two of them ended after reports of physical and verbal abuse and one *more audible note flipping* involving an improper workplace relationship with your boss while working as a secretary…
M: But we already discussed I never meant…!
D: I know Ms. M, I know. It was entirely not your fault. He took advantage of you while you were emotionally vulnerable and while he held power over you as your superior. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Absolutely nothing. I’m not accusing you of anything.
M: *glancing downwards*…Sorry…I’ve been doing those positive thinking exercises whenever I get stuck in that “dark place” when I’m thinkin’…excuse me, thinking about it, just like you said.
D: Oh? I’m glad you’re trying them for once. And are they working?
M: Oh yes, they are…in a way. The meds can’t do all the heavy lifting after all. *forced smile* Gotta keep that “positive mental outlook”, right?
D: *frowns* I’m worried you’re being facetious right now, Ms. M.
M: …They’re working fine, doc. Just fine.
D: *audible notes rustling * At 22 you quit your job as a secretary, moved out of your mother’s home and moved to Forget-Me-Not Valley where you took up work as a bartender. I recall you saying you liked it there.
M: Oh yes, a whole lot. When you’re in the city you get so adjusted to all the hustle and bustle you don’t even recognize you’re always running in third gear. Things were slower in Forget-Me-Not. And the people were a whole lot nicer. Wasn’t hard to find a friendly face.
D: Yet despite this welcoming atmosphere you still managed to find another man who chose to hurt you?
M: Well that’s the thing, doc. Maybe he wasn’t exactly trying to hurt me. But what he did hurt a whole lot more than anyone else ever has.
D: *picks up pen* I’m listening.
M: *takes deep breath*…I was just minding the bar like I always do, and this guy comes in, right? Looks like a farmer of some sort, which wasn't unusual considering where we were. It doesn’t get much more rural than Forget-Me-Not. Anyway, he sits down at the counter and the first thing I notice are those big deep brown eyes of his staring a hole through me from across the bar. I yell to him that I’ll get to him after I finish getting Vesta her drink…she was another farmer in the area. So when I get to him and ask what drink he wants, he says, “Can I get a Stone Oil with a little conversation on the side?” and gave me this big dopey smile. Now all the men in Forget-Me-Not were nice, but they weren’t the brightest fellows, so I wasn’t interested in flirting with any of those bumpkins.
D: So naturally you ignored his flirtatious intentions and just got him the drink?
M: Well I was gonna…but then I said, “I can get you one or the other. Which is it gonna be, mister? Because that’s the most expensive drink on the menu, my time is valuable, and you certainly don’t have enough on you for both,” and gave him a little of that raised eyebrow action. *laughs*
D: You presented him with an ultimatum.
M: Yeah. He gives me this smug grin, slumps deeper into his barstool and says, “You underestimate how good the harvest was this year. It’s an hour to closing and you know no one else is coming in this late. One Stone Oil for me, one Cherry Pink for you, and you sit right there and keep me company for a bit. Is that okay with you, Ms. Barkeep?” So, I says…oops, sorry. I said, “You drive a hard bargain, mister. But this lady’s got a one drink limit, so you better not be trying anything funny.” And then, you won’t believe it, this bastard puts his hands on the table and says, “Hands above the table at all times. You got it, officer.” Like he had the guts to cop a feel under the table anyway. I’d’ve kicked him halfway across the bar before you could say, “Moon Ore”. I still remember that smug lil’ grin like it was yesterday.
D: But despite all that you still drank with him?
M: *throws up hands* What can I say? I’m a girl of my word.
D: Fair enough. *audible scribbling of pen* And the conversation?
M: Good…it was good. We talked about life in Forget-Me-Not Valley and the day-to-day grind. Turned out he worked the farm just across the way from the bar and I hadn’t even noticed before. Country life can give you tunnel vision like that. He inherited the place from his father and quit a lucrative finance job to run it himself. Said he didn’t trust anyone else to do it and he felt guilty about not being there when his old man passed. That and his father’s friend Mr. T couldn’t run the place himself on account of how old he was getting. We were both city dwellers misplaced in that old valley, but we both couldn’t see ourselves ever going back. I’m sure he had other reasons for leaving home, but now that I think about it I never thought to ask.
D: He doesn’t sound like a bad guy. And yet this man hurt you more than anyone else?
M: Yeah. We spent a lot of time with each other after that. Pleasant chats at the farmer’s market, visits to his farm now and again to help milk the cows on my off days. I was glad to do it. Gave me something to look forward to on the weekends. If you don’t keep yourself busy in Forget-Me-Not you’ll go insane, trust me. We even danced at the Harvest Festival once or twice.
D: You had feelings for this man?
M: I was in denial for a while, doc. I didn’t want to risk getting hurt again. But every time I saw him, I couldn’t help but feel giddy as a school girl. And he was good to me, doc! He treated me better than I treated myself sometimes. If I needed a shoulder to lean on, he was there before I even realized it. He even helped my friend G out with financial support when the bar wasn’t doing so hot. Used that fancy business background of his to renegotiate the debt with the banks or whatever. For once in my life a decent man had entered the picture and I was too scared to know a good thing when I saw one. By the time I worked up my courage it was too late.
D: *serious look* There was someone else.
M: *sighs* You guessed it. C. She was beautiful and kind. A real nice sort. She was V’s daughter, a bar regular, so I saw her quite a lot. Everyone’s friends to some extent in Forget-Me-Not. I knew he cared about her too, but I had convinced myself that if I just kept spending more time with him, eventually he would choose me and I’d be forced to make myself happy for once. For one time in my life I would be happy and there was no way I could screw it up.
D: What happened in the past isn’t your fault, Ms. M. You’re allowed to be happy and pursue those things that make you happy. Beating yourself up about the past won’t help anyone.
*a minute of silence passes*
M:…I don’t know if I believe that, doc.
D: Ms. M-
M: *stands up* No, because if I’m happy then something’s wrong! There’s always something wrong! Maybe some people aren’t supposed to be happy, doc! Maybe when some people are happy they git hit or put down or spat on because they just ain’t meant to be happy in the first place! You ever thought of that, doc? Did any of your fancy books or college courses say everyone’s supposed to be a happy little person that wakes up with a smile on their face and pretends they ain’t hurtin’ inside every damn hour of the day! Because I’ve been hurtin’ a long time, doc!
D: *Calmly* I know, but Ms. M that’s-
M: None of those stupid men ever cared about me. You think I needed counseling to realize that? I figured that out a long time ago! I didn’t need you for that, doc! Even my parents didn’t really want me. My mama wanted an abortion. Yeah, shocking, right? I know it ‘cuz she yelled it at me when I packed my bags and left her f**kin’ dungeon of a house! *visibly crying now* And sometimes I wake up and I wish she’d had gone through with it….I really do, doc!
D: *stands up, trying to console her* You don’t really mean that Ms. M. You’re being hysterical.
M: I ain’t done talkin’ doc! *points finger accusingly* You said you were gonna listen and you better well do it because you’d be the first man in a long time!
D: *sits back down in silence*
M: *face covered in tears* How was I supposed to know he was a good thing for me, doc? Huh? I’d never had a “good thing” before! No one sat me down and taught me how to identify the signs or crack the damn code! Now he’s married to C with a good life and a child and that farm and it’s been 20 years and God’s still punishin’ me for all those years I was a f**kin’ whore back in the city- *breaks down crying* I just wanna be happy for once, doc. I just don’t wanna be hurt anymore…
D: *rushes over to console her*
N: *Muffled* Doctor? Is everything okay in there? Can I help?
D: *yelling behind him* No, everything’s fine! Everything’s fine! If you could get a box of tissues that would be just great! *turns back to M* Come on now, Ms. M, let’s get you back on your feet and cleaned up here. You’re alright, Ms. M. Everything’s alright now.
*they embrace, M sobbing loudly*
*silence for the next 20 minutes*
M: …that wasn’t what hurt the most, doc.
D: *pats and rubs her back* Ms. M, it’s okay. We’ll continue this conversation next time. I’m glad you got everything out of your system today. It’s good to vent sometimes. This is the place to do it. You’re safe here.
M: …I wanna finish the story, doc.
D: …Okay. But only if you’re up to it.
*They separate and both sit back down in their respective seats*
*Ms. M blows her nose*
*2 minutes of silence broken only by occasional sniffling*
M: …It was about 10 years after the wedding…between him and C I mean. I was sitting on the beach late at night, full moon out, feeling sorry for myself as always. No kids. No future. Just me. Always just me…He comes up from behind and sits down next to me. Says he likes to come there sometimes too when he can’t sleep…I don’t know why I said it. Maybe I just felt like I had nothing to lose. Like it was all over anyways. I said I loved him. Said that I wish I had told him that before he married C, even if it wouldn’t have changed anything. He was silent for a long time and we just stared out at the waves. It felt like forever. Sometimes I think we’re still both sitting there, staring out at those waves. Finally, he says, “I loved you too.” We hugged. I squeezed him harder than I ever squeezed anything for I don’t know how long.
*A minute of silence passes*
M: I wish he hadn’t said that, doc…Sometimes kindness hurts the most.
-The record ends here