A waiting room is a form of torture. I was convinced of this even before I stepped foot in the hospital, and definitely was even more so after entering the McAllen Medical Center. This was because, as I sat there, ruminating on what could or could not happen, the drone of the A/C unit began to get on my nerves, and the silence penetrated me like a knife attempting to puncture the eye of a needle. I hate to admit it, but I squirmed—not only because I anticipated something bad happening, but because I believed I was stupid for being here in the first place.
Remain calm, I remember thinking. Everything will be just fine.
But would it, though? Would the doctor not come in and see right through me—see all my doubts, my fears, my worries? It seemed likely, since at times I was transparent as glass, but I couldn’t know. I didn’t want to know, to be perfectly honest.
This was why, when the door opened and a tall black man walked in, I froze.
“Mister… McAllen?” he asked as he looked down at my file.
“Yes, sir?” I asked.
“My name is Doctor Miguel Jackson. I’m here to discuss whatever issues you feel you may have today.”
“I see you’re a bit nervous,” he said as he walked into the room and then sat down upon a rolling stool. “Your blood pressure was also a bit high when you came in. Are you feeling any better?”
“I’m terrified,” I admitted, and laughed.
“Of what?” Doctor Jackson frowned.
“Of being here. With you. In this office.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. I can assure you that we’ll get to the root of the problem you’ve come in for today.” He wheeled himself over to a computer and then punched a series of keys, rather jarringly at that, before leaning forward and saying, “You’re here because you’ve been experiencing heightened anxiety issues?”
“Yuh… Yes sir. I am.”
“Tell me: what are you anxious about?”
“Everything,” I admitted.
The doctor raised a brow.
Sighing, I reached up to press a hand over my mouth, then inhaled a long, deep breath before lifting my eyes and saying, “I just got here.”
“Where? The hospital?”
“That’s a pretty drastic move. Tell me, though: why are you here? It says on your chart that you’re a full-time student. Couldn’t you have enrolled in a school in the area you were from?”
“I… I don’t…”
The doctor frowned at me.
I sighed once more. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I guess I’ll just come out and admit it.”
“My parents. They… well… terrorized me. Growing up, I mean.”
It was here that I remember looking at him—and trying, without success, to keep my emotional barriers from crumbling around me. It was like watching stars fall into the atmosphere, only to strike the walls of the most beautiful palace to ever be built; and as the marbling fell slowly but surely into the sea of despair, I was left to watch, for it was here—in this hour, in this place—that I knew that my emotions were going to get the best of me.
I swallowed. Trembled. Then slowly but surely said, “They… yelled at me. Scolded me. Threatened me.”
“Threatened you?” the doctor asked.
I responded with a nod.
“In what way?” he continued.
“My dad was prone to carrying a gun around the house,” I said. “He’d… beat my mother at times; and when I tried to intervene sometimes, he… well… hit me, too.”
“You are aware that any time a parent does what you’re describing to a child that it’s considered abuse, right, Mister McAllen?”
“I—” I started to say. “I don’t—”
Then, I stopped.
It hadn’t dawned upon me until that moment—when, while sitting there, looking Doctor Jackson in the eyes, it came shooting toward me: a silver bullet in the night. Striking the beast head-on, it revealed it for all it was worth; and, it could be said, in all its horrible glory.
Why hadn’t I been able to see it before? Why wasn’t I able to admit it until that moment?
I, Dean McAllen was abused as a child? How was that possible? Was it even true? And if it was true, had I heard it correctly?
Of course you did, my conscience said. You just don’t want to believe it.
Why didn’t I, though? Was there a reason? A cause? A certainty that I didn’t want to admit? Why, of all things, did I not want to believe this man who seemed to know it all?
While staring at him, waiting for either me or him to respond, a tightness seized my chest, and a slate that had once been blank ran red.
“Mister McAllen?” the man asked.
“Yuh… Yes?” I asked, swallowing the ever-thickening lump in my throat.
“Are you all right?”
“It’s just—” I started. “I wasn’t… I didn’t—”
“Believe you were abused,” the doctor said, and nodded. “It’s common for victims of abuse to not see that they were—at least, not until they are told, sometimes even not then. It’s a coping mechanism they develop in order to normalize the horrible events taking place.”
“But… I wasn’t…”
“Hurt… that badly.”
“That’s the other thing,” the doctor said. “Victims of childhood abuse almost always compare their experiences to others. Sometimes they claim that others had it worse than them, so they downplay their own experiences. Others think that, if something in particular didn’t happen to them, they don’t feel like they deserve to feel the way they do.” The man pauses and leans forward to examine me from behind his thick-framed glasses. “I will tell you right now, Mister McAllen, that you have a right to feel that you’ve been wronged. No child should have to endure any type of abuse or neglect from their parents.”
“Thu… Thank you,” I managed.
“Do you need access to a counselor, by chance? Or did you just want to try treatment?”
“I… don’t think I’m ready to face what I’ve gone through yet,” I said. “It’s still so fresh, so… so close.”
“I understand,” he says.
And with that, he rolled back to his computer, then proceeded to type onto his keyboard.