'It was fine,' I lie.
'Wasn't sure you I would see you again.' I purposely arrived five minutes late to make her sweat it out a bit. Call me petty. Call me childish. I prefer passive aggressive, thank you very much.
'I figured I would give you another chance.'
She smiles. 'I'm glad you came back. I think I can help you if you really want me to.'
'You got your hair done.'
Instinctively, she reaches up to touch the ends that now end at her shoulders. 'Yeah, on Saturday. I needed a change. Like it shorter for the summer.'
'Where do you go?' Her hair actually flatters her face now. Frames it in a more complimentary way. I'm impressed.
'Place on Newbury Street.'
'Salon capital of Boston!'
'Salon capital of Boston,' she agrees.
There is a moment of uncomfortable silence. Both of us waiting for the other to pick up the strand of unraveling conversation.
Being the professional, she yanks it away before I can grab at it. 'I need to ask you a few things. They relate in a way to that day, but only indirectly.'
'They're more like fill in the blank type questions. I need to make sense of how you did the things you did.'
You and me both, I think. 'Give it your best shot, but can we stop if I get too weirded out?'
'Of course.' She reaches over and picks up that yellow legal pad that I have come to despise. All sorts of shit written about me on that thing. She must have written down questions on the pad because she reads off it and I see her make a check mark as she goes down the list.
'You ever shoot a gun before?'
This takes me a bit off guard. Despite all the attention and all the hoopla surrounding that day, nobody ever thought to ask me this. Shooting a gun isn't something that comes naturally. It's not simply a matter of point and shoot, especially when under duress and on the move.
'A friend of mine back in college had a collection of guns. He used to take us out to the shooting range and let us use them.'
'You became comfortable with guns?'
'Not comfortable exactly. They still make me nervous, but after a while I could hit the target more often than not. The only guns I had trouble with were the bigger ones. He had a Magnum - you know the kind Dirty Harry used? - that I could never handle right. It would kick back on me all the time. Gave me a blood blister on the palm of my hand once that hurt like hell for days.'
'If you were nervous around guns, why did you go to the shooting range?'
'Facing my fears, I guess. I figure to get past my anxiety about them, I would learn how to safely use them. My friend was a good teacher. Made sure I knew the steps to make sure things were loaded and the safety was off, how to hold it so the aim was better, goggles and earplugs on, stuff like that. Was kind of fun, once I got used to things.'
As soon as the words are out, I realize how they might be interpreted and quickly add 'That doesn't mean I had fun....'
She interrupts me by putting up her writing hand in a stop gesture, pen still woven through her fingers, 'It's okay, I didn't take it that way. You have any more of those episodes?'
Assuming she's referring to my flashbacks of that day, 'Actually, yeah, but it was an odd one this time. I smelled the gun one day.'
'Yeah, well not the gun, but the smell after a gun shoots, that gunpowder smell, but that's not it, exactly. Whatever it is, that sharp, stinging smell. Smelled it like I had just shot a gun. Weird.'
'Where were you?'
'Was making dinner. Just shucking some corn when it hit me.'
'How long did it last?'
'Maybe a minute. Less? Hard to tell the timing. It's just there, then gone. It might have only been a few seconds.'
'How are things at home?'
I take a few seconds with this one. The sudden change in direction throws me and I'm not sure what business it is of hers, anyway. Deep breath, while I decide. In the end it's just easier to tell the truth. I'm too tired to fight anymore. I've done enough of that lately to carry me a lifetime.
'Actually, David's the reason I came back. Or one of the reasons. The main reason.'
'David's your husband?'
'Yeah, he said I was becoming difficult to live with and if I didn't get help he couldn't promise me he could stick around.'
'You think he would leave you?'
I shrug, 'Maybe. I dunno. I wonder if he is bothered by what I did. Like he's been out machoed by his own wife. Things were fine for a couple of weeks. Just happy I survived, I guess. But...'
'You said I had a lot of anger in me. I think I've been taking that out on him. I don't mean to, he's just there and little, stupid stuff bothers me. And I know it's not really him or what he's doing, but that doesn't make it any easier to stop. You know?'
'I do know. You are experiencing post traumatic stress disorder. Understandably so, if you want my personal opinion. Those flashback senses, the lack of sleep, your quick temper. It's all related.'
'So...how do I stop it? Is admitting it the first step?'
'You're not an alcoholic....'
'Yet,' I interrupt. This stops her and she gives me a hard, questioning look. 'Sorry. I was just kidding,' trailing off to a whisper, like a scolded kindergarten child.
'Right. There are medications you can go on, depending on how your body reacts.....'
'I really don't want to go on drugs. Isn't there something else? Can't I do like mental exercises or Yoga?'
'Clearing your mind would certainly be a benefit for you. I would like you to try the group therapy sessions.'
'I'm not ready to go back there. I can't see those people.'
'I still remember the way they were looking at me when everything was over. Just.....I don't know...'
'A lot of people may have been in shock in some form or another.'
'I know. I think I was one of them. I remember being extremely upset that my shoes were ruined.'
'I was more upset about that then anything else. Those were nice shoes.'
'Are you going to look for another job?'
'I have to. Something outside of Boston. I can't even go into the city now.'
'Plenty of jobs around. Waltham might be a choice. Plenty of jobs out that way.'
'Yeah, we'll see. I'll deal with that when the time comes. Right now we're okay financially, so it isn't urgent I get back. I just want to be normal again.'
'You consider yourself abnormal?'
'Well, yeah. I can't walk down the street without someone recognizing me. We get calls at the house constantly. We've even changed our number, but a reporter called last night. How did they get it so fast? And why is it when you kill people you immediately become famous?'
'I don't know if famous is the word.'
'It is, though. Think of all the mass killings that have taken place. You always remember the killer's name, not the victims. Unless you're close to someone who was killed, of course. Recently it's the places. Columbine, Virginia Tech, Waco...you think of these places and mass murder is the first thing that pops into your head. Death and mayhem are what people associate with all of these places now. Doesn't matter what they were known for before. I mean, the term Columbine is now a verb.'
'It's just human nature. We remember traumatic events more than the mundane.'
'It's more than that. I never thought so before, but I don't think we've ever out grown our Wild West culture. Shoot 'em ups in the streets, vigilante justice. We've always glorified violence. It's why men feel suddenly comfortable coming up to me in the street. A few have asked me to marry them,' the memory makes me laugh a bit.
'It may have more to do with the way you look, then what you've done.'
'But what I've done make me more dangerous or....not sure what the word is....manly in their eyes. Suddenly I'm an equal, instead of a possible trophy wife.'
Therapist takes a quick look at the clock, 'Our time is almost up and I'd like to ask you the question.'
Great. 'Okay, let's get it over with.'
'This one won't be so bad. I want to know why you came back? Besides David.'
Not so bad, she says. If she only knew how hard it was for me to walk in that door. 'Not sure how to put this into words, but part of me wants to get past this. I can't stand the way I'm feeling and I'm scared I'll be like this for the rest of my life.'
'I can't promise you won't,' which doesn't give me comfort, although I appreciate the honesty.
'Aren't you supposed to say 'Time heals all wounds' or something.'
'Time is just distance. Healing comes from within.'
'What a therapeutic thing to say.'
'Sorry, I try to avoid the cliches whenever possible. But in this case it's the truth.'
'So you came back because you want help. That's seems like a positive step.'
'Well, I do tend to face my fears.'
'You're scared of therapy?'
'You're scared of ME?' incredulous.
'No, I'm scared of me.'
'More like what I might find out about myself.'
I take half a minute to get my thoughts together; what to tell, what to omit, whether she can actually handle what I've, in some way, accepted about myself.
'Such as....I don't feel guilty. I don't feel guilty about what I did.'
Again, I've left my therapist speechless. The one person who is supposed to have answers for me, supposed to know exactly what to say, make me feel better, give me 'tools', is left staring at me.
'Don't you think I should feel a little bit bad?'