Sonia came to my office one day, devastated. I have permission to tell her story. And I have Makeet’s as well. I have only omitted details that do not change the deeper understanding, like their real names, where they live, where they work, and who they know.
I had just come into my office that day when Sonia burst in and started to cry. She came in, apparently skipping by the front desk and the introductory form, and it did not seem like the time to start with bureaucratic details. I took a breath and switched my focus to her crying. It felt like a release. Some dam had opened up and the waters were rushing forth now, finally freed from some burden… I waited.
“I don’t know anyone I can talk to about this…” she started, finally, five, maybe ten minutes after coming in…
“I had to come and see someone… do you think you can help me?… I knew there were therapists in this building but I did not know which one could help me. When I saw you outside walking toward this building, you looked so sure of yourself… and I feel so unsure of myself… I just followed you… Then you entered your office… so here I am… Do you think that’s strange?… Can you help me?” She said everything she had in mind as though it was my role to sort it all out… to make sense out of it.
“I don’t know… it sounds like you just trusted your gut feelings…” I reflected, reassuringly.
“Gut feelings…” she said, “so that’s what gut feelings are…”
She looked disheveled, wild. Her breath was shallow. She noticed my looking at her and apologized.
“I am sorry that I look like this. I didn’t dress up today or put my makeup on… I am overwhelmed and things that used to matter don’t seem as important today.”
I welcomed her and told her about my process and expectations, and that I had a maximum of two hours today, if she needed that much.
“Two hours?” she repeated, “Okay. Oh! Money’s not an issue…”
Her statement was congruent with her demeanor. Although she came in with little care for her appearance, she carried herself like someone well to do. She signed the informed consent letter. I decided to postpone taking her family history. Her story was fresh in her mind and this was the best time to hear it, when she was still emotional, when she had not had a chance to fit it into something meaningful. I invited her to tell her story.
“He came out of nowhere… he walked toward me… I knew he was going to snatch my purse… I saw it in my mind… When he snatched it, it felt like I’d been waiting for him to do that… It felt like… you know when you wait for the train at the station and you wait and the train arrives and you get in… just like that…like he was the train and my purse was just waiting for him… But then I snapped out of this vision, I shot him – I always have a gun with me, it’s registered and everything – I only wanted to wound him so he’d slow down and the police could get him… and I called the police.”
She said all this, like a train picking up speed… and, when she stopped, she was breathing hard and her forehead was moist as though she’d been running. I asked her: “Were you running to fire those shots?”
“You sound out of breath and you’re sweating like you’ve been running! Is that how you feel?”
“Running… Yes… It’s like a dream… but I cannot quite make it… it feels so real… more like a memory… Oh! my gosh look at me, I’m crying!” she said and stopped talking.
“You’re crying…” I said softly, acknowledging her.
And she burst into tears. “I lost him. He was supposed to be mine. And I lost him…”
“You lost him?” I continued.
“Yes… I can see it clearly like a movie of my life… I shoot him… while he is running away… I shoot him… one single shot and he falls down… dead. I am running so fast… and I kneel to feel his breath… I kiss him and kiss him and he does not breathe…. He does not take a breath… I kiss him like we used to… I don’t want to lose him… But he is gone… I shot him… kissing him does not do anything and I cry. I’m angry with him. I scream: ‘Why did you run away? I gave you everything! Why? Why did you make me shoot you? Now I have lost you!’ I leave my purse with him; it’s too late now… I would have given him anything – my god, I loved him so… And I cry so hard, holding him while his blood soaks my clothes… I don’t care… I don’t care… there’s nothing to care about anymore… I could die right now with him…”
“A different memory?” I suggested.
Sonia was suddenly introspective. “Wait!… There’s more… My clothes!” she said with surprise, “I see my clothes… they’re not what I usually wear…”
“… in what way?” I asked to let her know I was taking it in.
“They look like old fashioned clothes,” she said. “It feels so real… We have slaves… My husband and I have a sugar cane plantation… My husband is never home… I am in love with one of our young slaves. He is strong, always singing… he never looks down… We make love often in the afternoon… I give him everything…”
(soon to be published in a collection of shorts called CONSTELLATIONS)