more from the interview

“I have spent years chasing the tail of my darkness.”

“Yes?” Dr Axelrod responds, lifting his eyes from the notebook he feverishly writes into. “And what have you discovered?” His eyes lock with Marissa’s. He needs her to spell it out for him so that it’s on record.

Marissa smiles again, then looks down at the floor before continuing. “I didn’t even remember I was raped. I blocked it out. I blocked out a lot of my youth, but there was always something inside me that ached so bad. The sun would be shining, people would be singin’ and dancin’, but something felt dead in me for so long.”

She looks at Dr. Axelrod again. “When I met Stan,” she continues. “Something changed. It was like things weren’t so fuckin’ dark anymore. It was like the sun was shining down on me, too, and I could finally sing and dance with everyone else.”

“Mmm.”

“I know it sounds corny and cliché but it’s how I felt; things were just so fuckin’ great between us.”

“Marrisa,” Dr. Axelrod says. “When did you remember being raped? What happened to make you remember?”

“Oh doc,” Marissa sighs. “Can I have a smoke first?”

“Not allowed.”

“Of fuckin’ course,” Marissa snaps. “Fine.”

Marissa shifts, bringing her knees into her chest so that she hugs herself on the chair. “I didn’t remember till after me and Stan got married, obviously. I mean, who’s gonna marry their rapist? That’s just sick. So one night we went out to the bar and had some drinks and stuff, and when we got home, we started going at it. You know. And we’re both kinda drunk and it’s getting really heated and stuff and all of a sudden, he pulls at my hair.” Marrisa closes her eyes again and holds her hands to her head. “He yanks at my hair and just kinda snaps my head back a bit and just holds it there for a second too long and that’s when it comes back to me like a motherfuckin’ semi runnin’ me over.”

She opens her eyes and looks at Dr. Axelrod who’s writing in his notebook. “I let him keep drillin’ me and when he finally came and released my hair, I looked at him and it was like I was nine again. It was like I was laying on that cold stinky clammy garage floor. In the dark. All alone.”

Marissa inhales deeply before resting her chin down atop her knees and exhaling. “He rolled over and outta bed and went to the bathroom, and I re-lived the nightmare from twenty years ago in my head. I started shaking bad and he came back to bed and saw me shaking and went and turned the heat warmer. I started screaming like mad but I don’t think it happened outta my head, ya know? Because he just turned the notch on the thermostat and went and sat by the computer.”

“Did Stan rape you when you were nine?”

“Yes.”

“Did you confront him after remembering?”

Marissa didn’t answer. She just sat in the chair hugging herself, rocking a bit.

“Did you confront him about the rape after remembering?” Dr. Axelrod prodded again.

“Not until I killed the motherfucker.”

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Lost

She spent her whole life pretending.

A smile always on her face.

Even if she felt ripped to shreds on the inside. Even if she felt complete and utter emptiness on the inside. Still, a smile was present.

She always asked how you were doing… how your family was doing. She listened, really listened. And the next time you ran into her, she’d be sure to ask about you and yours again. Rarely would she speak of herself and hers.

Everyone found her to be so beautiful. Tall. Slender yet curvy. Long hair. Gorgeous eyes reminiscent of days dreaming while looking out to the sea.

She was funny, she was attentive, she was oh so giving.

Don’t you know those are the people who are aching on the inside?

Don’t you know that under that smile and those listening ears is a little girl who feels lost and alone– no matter who is by her side on the outside?

Don’t you know that she needs help? Like real fucking help?

Well, you need to know.

Look around. Really open your eyes and soul and look.

Just because she may seem happy and put together, doesn’t mean that’s the case. Just because she’s newly married and newly a momma to a beautiful baby, doesn’t mean she feels complete.

Because she doesn’t.

If it appears like she’s got everything and the rainbow too, she absolutely doesn’t.

She needs your help but she won’t ask for it because she’s the giver, the listener, the one who’s got it all together. The one who’s trying so hard to hang on but feeling like she’s falling deeper and deeper into darkness.

Hang on. Please hang on.

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Lucy

Daddy named her Lucy the day he gave her to me. We were at a carnival and he won her for me by shooting water onto a tiny target to make a small horse win a race against other shooters—mainly me and my brothers Andrew and Mark. From all the toys he could’ve picked, he chose the little rag doll with the orange dress, and as soon as the attendant gave her to him he smiled and handed her down to me.

“What’s her name?” I asked while hugging her.

“How about Lucy?” Daddy answered, whistling and singing an old Beatles song.

“I love her so much, Daddy!”

Lucy’s arms and legs fit perfectly in my hand so that I could drag her around with me wherever I went. She had this long gold curly hair and she wore an orange and green dress. I tried changing her clothes more than once but it never worked; the dress was just a part of Lucy. Sometimes I’d put other clothes on top of the dress but after a while, I just let Lucy be who she was.

I was seven when Daddy gave her to me. I remember a lot about that time. We all went camping and stayed in a pop-up camper with no running water or electricity. But we had so much fun. Lucy was at one of the carnivals near the campground we stayed at. That was also the vacation when I learned how to swim because my older brother Andrew pushed me into the pool. I wasn’t so happy about that and it took me a day before I’d go back near the water but then when I did, I wasn’t so afraid of going underwater anymore, and I started swimming through the water with my whole body submerged. It was pretty awesome the way the whole world just kind of turned into a blur as soon as I was under the water. I loved pushing the water away in front of me and kicking my legs at the same time to glide along. I imagined myself up in the sky, finding my way through a big white fluffy cloud.

That was the best summer vacation ever.

Mommy made french toast over a campfire for breakfast one morning, then fried some fish we caught one day for dinner one night. We went on hikes through the forest and slapped our skin to rid itself of bug bites. We ran and hopped on the hot sand dunes to get into cool water to go for a swim in the lake. We ate ice cream and ice cones like it was our job.

I don’t remember a lot from my youth but some things can’t be forgotten. And every time I see Lucy on the shelf next to some of my favorite books in the world, I always think of that summer and smile.

Life was really good then.

 

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fear

There was a loud crash in the hallway and Marissa slammed her face into a pillow to stifle a scream. She lay still for a minute, ears listening for any little thing while her mind thought of what she would do—pretend to be asleep? try to attack? try to hide?—when the intruder found the door to her room.

This was Marissa; she was always afraid. Irrationally so. Ever since she could remember she always heard noises and saw things. When she was in one room, she was sure she’d see shadows quickly darting about in another room or down the hallway. Not all the time, not every day, but she saw these shadows and she heard strange noises quite often. Like the crash in the hallway.

There was never anything to come from the sights and sounds other than maybe an elevated blood pressure or a premature gray hair. Noises generally were a result of something getting knocked down from the vibrations of the trucks on the street she lived on, for example; shadows were just a result of her overactive imagination.

Nevertheless, Marissa always envisioned the worst.

When she was younger, Marissa was sure the car door would suddenly fly open and she’d be sucked out of the car as her mom and dad and brothers drove down the highway to visit family. She hated sitting against the door because of this, but she hated the middle seat more. At least if she was by the door, the chances of her little brother Mark puking on her were slimmer than if she was in the middle since her older brother Andrew refused to give up his seat behind their dad. Of course if the door did finally fly open, she’d be a goner for sure, but she figured that since the door never opened she’d stick with the safety of being able to rush out of the car when Mark puked. Because with Mark, it wasn’t a case of If he would puke in the car, it was always When.

Even when she was a child, it annoyed Marissa how paralyzed she became by fear, but as soon as the fear subsided, she wouldn’t give it another thought until the next time she was paralyzed.

Paralyzed by fear.

It was getting so bad she wondered if she’d ever live a normal life. At 23, and still living at home, Marissa let fear control her. It was like an abusive boyfriend, but of course Marissa couldn’t see this. And because she wasn’t ever the one amidst her peers to shine, even a little bit, Marissa felt doomed for a life of solitude as a result.

And then she met Stan.

Again.