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April 11, 2012
The chair, soft and comfortable, is completely ironic in its setting. They want me to feel physical comfort, in the hope that I’ll feel concurrent emotional comfort. But they failed. The chair could have been made of needles for the difference it made. He was already sitting down when I walked in, notepad out, writing unknown notes with his fine tip pen. He looked up at me and smiled.
“Hello, Avery. I’m glad you could make it.” He said this as if I had a choice. I sat down and said nothing. He cleared his throat. “Well, let’s get started, shall we? How was your week?” He clicked the pen.
“Uneventful.” He unclicked the pen. He knew it was going to be one of those days.
“Well, now. I’m sure if you think hard enough you can think of something that happened. Did your father come to visit you on Friday?” Of course he did. He visited me every Friday, no matter how many times I told him to stay away.
“Yeah. Derek came on Friday.”
“And how did that go?”
Horrible. “Fine.”
“Do you like it when he comes to visit you?” I let a small chuckle slip. He noticed. “Do you wish he wouldn’t visit you? He is your father. He only wants to help.” Help… Right.
“I don’t need his help.” I don’t need anyone’s help.
“It’s okay to ask for help, Avery. Self-dependence isn’t always a strength. You can’t do everything on your own. Asking for help can be very healthy. It shows trust. That’s why I’m here, you know. To help you.”
“I don’t need your help either.” I said through gritted teeth.
“It’s okay, Avery. You’re in a safe place.” How much longer did this session last? I snuck a glance at the clock. I had only been in here for ten minutes? Seriously?? “Do you trust me, Avery?”
“No.”
“Why not?” He gave me a look of concern.
“You don’t deserve it.”
“I don’t want to try and take your trust. I want to earn it. It’s true that people can’t just expect your trust. You have to give it to them.”
“I guess.”
“How do you feel when someone tries to take your trust without earning it?”
“Gee. I don’t know.” I was done with giving him straight forward answers. Ten minutes in and I was already pissed. The truth is, I didn’t know. The obnoxious questions he’s asked me over a thousand times were a little extra obnoxious today. I told him the truth. Now I’m supposed to tell him how I felt about the truth? My side of the stick never felt shorter. He was getting paid to ask me about my feelings? Sounds like a real tough job. Maybe I’ll be therapist when I get out of here. Then again, if I had to work in this place every day, I’d slit my wrists.
“Avery, come on. Open up. How does it make you feel?” He clicked the pen.
“Angry…” I clenched my fists. “It makes me feel angry” He smiled.
“There you go, Avery. It’s good to let things out. Was that hard?” The condescending jerk. He has no idea how I feel, and he has no right to ask. I’m stuck here without friends or family on the outside and his idea of healthy recreation is spilling my guts about one mistake I made; one stupid mistake. Now I’m screwed for life.
*****
Three years ago, I sat at my desk, using all the strength I had not to cry.
“Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Tears are weakness. You are not weak. Be strong… Be strong.” My voice broke as I attempted to soothe myself.
It would all be over soon. There was no reason to cry. No one would have to know. My breathing became heavier and faster. What was I thinking? Of course people will know. Oh, why didn’t I do something when I had the chance? Covered my tracks? Buried the evidence? Burned it maybe? Oh God… I tasted bile in the back of my throat and I ran for the bathroom. I sat on the floor next to the toilet letting the tears fall. I couldn’t stop them; just like I couldn’t stop the shattered pieces of my life falling to Hell.
“Avery? Are you alright? Are you sick, sweetie?” My mother said from the other said of the door. I tried to steady my voice.
“I’m fine, mom. I, uh, I think I ate some bad food or something. I feel better now that it’s out.”
“Okay, honey. You’ll let me know if you need anything.”
“Yeah. Thanks, mom.” I heard her walk away and I wiped the tears from my eyes. It was time to end this.
*****
“Avery, did you hear me?”
“What- Huh?” I jolted out of my own memories and came back to the room. How much time was left?
“What were you just thinking about?”
“Nothing.”
“It didn’t look like nothing.” No way. He’s not getting this out of me.
“Well it was. Now what were you saying?” I said, trying to switch his mind over to something else. Anything else.
“I asked if you wanted to talk about Ms. Snow.” He said a little slower than necessary.
“Who?”
“Alyson, your roommate.”
“Oh, Fierce. Why? Talk about what?” Oh crap. He didn’t know, did he?
“Anything, really? Are you two very close? How do you get along?”
“She’s my best friend.” I said without thinking. It sounded corny and weird coming out of my mouth, but that was the only way to describe her. No. There was another way. “She’s like a sister.” He smiled. Now I kind of wish I hadn’t said anything. Something told me by the look on his face that I had just had what he liked to call a “breakthrough moment”. But it wasn’t, really. I trusted Fierce. We’d shed blood and tears together. That forms a bond. I guess Fierce was one of the only subjects I could be honest to him about. Fierce deserved the truth; as long as it didn’t involve getting her in trouble, which is why he can’t know about the other night.
“You two gotten into any mischief lately?” He said with a hint of joking. Oh you have no idea, dude.
“Do we ever?” I asked, trying to sound innocent.
“Let’s see. There was the pizza incident…” I smiled. Good times.
“In my defense, the cafeteria food tastes like tree bark.”
“Now, Avery. Mrs. Ames is a lovely woman.” First of all, her amount of loveliness has nothing to do with her cooking ability. Even if it did it wouldn’t matter because, second of all, Mrs. Ames is a dreadful woman. I would have mentioned these things but as I turned, my shirt caught on the metal and tugged the ring. I let out a gasp and a moan in pain. “Avery? Are you alright? What happened?” That was painful…
*****
Last night I screamed and Fierce slapped her hand over my mouth.
“Shhh!!! Cannon! Do you want someone to hear you??” A tear fell down my cheek and I quickly wiped it away. I gritted my teeth and stiffly nodded for her to continue. “Ready? Okay… Here we go.”
She pushed the pin again. It broke through more and more skin. MY groans, thankfully, were muffled by Fierce’s hand. I pulled it off my mouth and she stopped pushing.
“Okay, okay, okay. Give me a minute.” I looked down. I could see blood smeared all over my stomach and it was pooling in my belly button around the safety pin.
“Come one. We’re almost through. You ready?” Fierce asked. I nodded and she put her hand over my mouth again. Smart move. “Okay. One… Two… Three!” And she started pushing again. It took three more minutes, with only two stops, of intense pain and the pin slowing breaking through the skin when it finally broke through completely. She closed the safety pin so it wouldn’t fall out. “There,” she said. “The Cannon is one step closer to becoming one of us.”
“Oh shut up. I already am one of you. Your poisonous corruption works faster than you think.” I winced as she put the ice cube to my new wound. “You know they’re gonna find out about this right? We’ll each get a week of solitary.”
“Not if you don’t tell them.” She said, and winked.
*****
I smiled. I’ve never been good with pain. It’s not like what we did was that “bad” or whatever, and I don’t care if I got in trouble for it. But Fierce hates solitary. I’d spare her as much as I could. Plus I’d never want to give him the satisfaction of catching me.
“Avery?”
“I’m fine. Just a cramp. You know. That time of the month again.” It was so hard to keep my face serious and not laugh, especially seeing the awkward look on his.
“Oh well… Um…” He cleared his throat. “Shall we move on?” And his normal obnoxious smile was back on. “Have you spoken to your mother recently?”
“I guess a few weeks ago.”
“She’s been visiting less and less. How do you feel about that?” He asked with a sad look on his face. Not even. How much longer was left in this session? Twenty minutes? I could deal with that, as long as he doesn’t push me too far.
“It’s no big deal.”
“Why not?” He asked.
“She’s busy. It’s not her fault.”
“But your father’s a busy man. And yet he visits you every week, without fail.”
“My… ‘father’,” I added air quotes, “is a different story. And he always will be.”
“You don’t think the two are related?” What’s with this guy? My mother has nothing to do with Derek.
“No, because they aren’t.”
“I think you borrow from all those breaks you give to your mom and give one to your dad.” What the heck??
“I couldn’t care less about my father.” I could tell my voice was getting louder.
“I think you do care, Avery; which is why you’re trying so hard to make it seem like you don’t.” He was not going to psycho-analyze me today. No way.
“What do you want me to say? ‘Poor me. It’s just been so hard not having a daddy. And having a mommy that doesn’t visit.’ Well it is not gonna happen because here’s the truth. My mother raised me. I love her. My father left us. I hate him. End of story.”
“So you wish he had never come back?” I was so tired of fighting him.
“Yeah. I wish he had never come back.”
*****
A few weeks after I was admitted, I was sitting in the common room. An orderly came in and told me I had a visitor. I was still considered a danger to myself and those around me so they had to bind my hands. They were afraid I was going to strangle the next unfortunate soul who came to visit. It wasn’t really necessary. Strangling isn’t really my style anyway. Besides I wouldn’t kill my own mother. I figured it was her because she’s the only one who had visited me. But when they took me into the visiting room, there was a strange man sitting down in the metal chair. The “visiting room” looked a lot more like an interrogation room, to tell the truth. There were two chairs with a table in between them in a small concrete room with one small window. I turned to the orderly to tell him this was the wrong room, that I didn’t know the man, but she had already closed the door.
“Avery.” The stranger said. He looked at me as though he wanted to hug me. But he resisted. Thank heavens.
“Do I know you, mister?”
“Yes. I mean, no. I mean… Um. My name is Derek. And Avery… I’m your father.” The room started to spin. My father??
“What?”
“I guess this is probably pretty shocking. I’m still pretty shocked myself. I saw you in the paper. And I knew I just had to come.” I stared at the table.
“Why?”
“Sorry?” He asked.
“Why did you come?”
“Oh. Well… I mean, I know I’ve messed up in the past, but Avery, I’m here to make it right.” I looked him straight in the eye.
“You can’t make it right.”
“I know things will never be perfect, but we can make them better. I want to be a part of your life again.” He smiled at me. I stood up.
“No. You’re wrong. We’ll never be anything again.”
“What?” He took a step back.
“You come in here, after twelve and a half years, expecting some kind of a fairy-tale reunion. You came back because you were feeling guilty. You were feeling guilty because that daughter that you left after a year and a half has suddenly gone off the deep end. Well, clear your conscious, because I’m fine. Can’t you tell I’m really thriving here? Now get out and go back to the miserable piece of crap you had the nerve to call a life.” I was yelling at that point. I knew the orderlies would be coming in at any second, but I didn’t care.
“Avery, I-”
“Save it for someone that cares.” The orderly opened the door and started to take me away.
“I’ll be back, Avery. You may not care, but I do. I’m going to fix things.” He said and the door shut in his face.
*****
“You seem awfully distracted today, Avery.”
“Huh?”
“I have an idea. Let’s do a little exercise. There are only ten minutes left so we’ll end on something fun. What do you say?”
“Sure.” Why not?
“What I want you to do is list any truths about your life that come to your head. They can be about you, about your friends, your family, anything; as long as they’re true.” Truths… First thing that comes to my mind… Eh, might as well. They are only ten minutes left, after all.
“The following is true. A man is dead. A girl from my school is in the hospital with a coma. They say she’ll never wake up. I caused these things to happen three years ago. I’m currently institutionalized in The Los Angeles Institute for the Clinically Insane. I am here because of them, because of what I did to them. I am here because I am sick. I have a roommate. Her name is Alyson. We call her Fierce. They call me Cannon.”
He interrupted me. “Why do they call you that?” I smiled.
“Because I’m a loose cannon. Bound to go off at any second. Powerful. And unpredictable.”
“Do you believe that that truly describes you?”
“Why,” I laughed. “Don’t you?”
“No, Avery, I don’t. You are unstable. But your situation, your state of mind, can be fixed. I’m here to help you heal. But first you have to let me help you. Giving up does nothing for you.”
“Right…”
“Let’s move on. You mentioned that your being here is due to the fact that you’re sick? Is that something you actually believe or are you saying that because you think it’s what I want to hear?” He asked.
“Isn’t it what you want you hear?”
“Only if it’s what you believe to be true.”
“Is that all truth is? My perception of reality? Because if I’m in here, I wouldn’t count me as the best source.”
“Do you believe that you’re sick, Avery?”
“Oh. Don’t get me wrong. I’m aware of how truly twisted I am. They say the first step is acceptance. Well, here I am. Accepting.” The timer rang.
“Avery, we’re out of time. But I want you to leave with this thought in mind. Make sure it really is acceptance, because that’s what heals. Don’t go too far to the point where you’re embracing it. No healing comes from that.” I walked to the door and opened it. Then I turned to face him.
“Ah, but that’s just it. I am embracing it. I’m embracing it fully.”
*****
Three years ago I sat in the auditorium at school. Fifth row from the front, third seat from the left. Same as always. I heard Sally Perkins giggling with her little poser cheerleader friends. I rolled my eyes and tried my best to block out their whiny little voices, but their conversation soon caught my attention.
“I heard she had like a total mental break down in the mall. Like, she throwing magazines and shoes everywhere while screaming at the clerk. She’s a complete psycho. I don’t even feel safe sitting this close to her.” Sally whispered while the other two leaned in to hear her.
Oh, hell no….
“Seriously?” poser number one asked in a shrill voice. “Ohmagawd. She should be institutionalized.” Nice, I’m surprised she knew the word and could use it correctly in a sentence, the dirty skank. “How is she even showing her face at school today? It’s only a matter of time before everyone knows.” Poser number two giggled.
I could kill them. I could kill all three of them. I clenched my fists and bit the inside of my lip until I tasted blood. Control… Maintain control. Sally spoke again.
“For real. How can the administration put the other students in the path of her ‘crazy’ streak? It’s just not safe.” Okay. That’s it. I turned around to face them. The look of shock on their faces was too good not to enjoy for a moment.
“Excuse me? Yeah, I can hear you. Now unless you want to see me unleash some real ‘crazy’, I suggest you take your size zero butts far away from me.” They sat in stunned silence. I leaned in closer to them. “That means now, unless you don’t want to wake up tomorrow.”
The girls picked up their purses and ran to the other side of the auditorium, scoffing as they left. There, that’s better. I turned to face the front of the auditorium but someone tapped on my shoulder. I looked up to see the principal. He was motioning me to follow him. Dang… Bad timing. We arrived in his office. He sat down and was silent for a moment.
“Avery. I’m very disappointed in you. Threats are not tolerated at Lancet High School.” I opened my mouth in protest, but he cut me off. “Please don’t try to defend yourself, I heard every word.”
I sat in silence. Maybe if I don’t say anything, he’ll let me off with a warning. This is my first offense so I shouldn’t get a detention.
“I’m sorry Avery, but you are suspended. I’m going to have to contact your parents.”
“WHAT?! Suspended?? Are you kidding me??” I stood up out of my chair.
“Calm down Avery, I believe it’s for the best. You’re lucky I don’t expel you. Threats are simply unacceptable, whether you meant them or not. Are given what happened on Saturday, I don’t think you’re in the best position to be at school. Now, the time of suspension will be two weeks unless your parents feel it needs to be longer.” No, no this isn’t happening. This cannot be happening. I can’t be suspended! I screamed, picked up the golden award on his desk and hurled it straight at him. He collapsed into his chair, unmoving; blood rushing from his head.
“What the hell have you done?” I whipped around and saw Sally standing in the doorway. Her expression was of pure terror. I stared at her for a moment and then calmly picked up the metal nameplate on the desk.
the end





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