I sat restlessly in the waiting room as I waited for my name to be called next. Each time I came to see Dr. Sway, I felt more like a child back in middle school who was waiting for the principle to stick his head out of the door and beckon for me to come in.
I had been seeing Dr. Sway for a few months now and my life wasn’t any better. Our meetings were always the same. I would come in, sit down, and expose my most vulnerable parts—all to wipe my tears away with the Kleenex she kept by the sofa. Afterwards, she would write me a prescription for Xanax which I would never fill, then instruct me to reschedule with Liz, the receptionist, for next week.
Like clockwork, another sad and depressed soul comes walking out, head slumped down and shoulders folded over as if they were about to touch in the front. He looked at me partially, dropped his head, and walked over to see the receptionist.
I remember seeing him a few times before and it was always the same drained and emotionless glance from him. He looked like a man that had the weight of the world on his shoulders.
But I suppose I would have that same, exact emotionless glare in my eyes once I walked out of Dr. Sway’s office in an hour or so. Someone sitting in that same teal blue chair would look at me and say, “poor woman.” I guess that’s who I am now.
It’s been six months since my sister, Dallas, lost her life. Now, I was all alone. I couldn’t talk to my daddy about it because he wasn’t a strong communicator. His thing was plants. That was how he found his peace. He can put his hands into the earth from his garden and dig up his happiness. Lewis Lee Williamson will plant flowers, tomatoes, cucumbers and anything else he can get his hands on in order to avoid the pain he feels in his heart. I can’t do that.
I refuse to walk around and pretend like everything is all happy-go-lucky when most nights I can’t sleep without nightmares and waking up in cold sweats.
The truth of the matter is, when Dallas died, a piece of me died, too. And there was nothing I could do or say to feel better.
Dallas was troubled. I mean, I was troubled, too, but I learned how to conceal mine. Dallas never did. Now, guilt eats at me because I feel like I missed all of the signs and her cries for help.
All the times I would call her and she would whisper so quietly on the phone that you would think she was up past her bedtime. And that time I invited her and Jonas over, I saw him grab her arm and yank her so hard that her head spun in his direction. I’d swear they were both on something that night, but I ignored it. I saw it all and did nothing. I kept saying, “next time.” “Next time, I’ll say something.” “Next time, I’ll tell daddy.” It’s not like he would’ve done anything heroic, but still. If more people would have been able to hold her accountable, she would have been forced to see her life spiraling out of control. Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve, I guess. That’s the game my mind has been cursed to play over these last few months. That’s were Dr. Sway comes in.
Since I’d been seeing her, I’d learned all the basics. I was a black woman who didn’t really love herself; therefore, I subconsciously thought the behavior that I saw from Dallas and Jonas was normal. According to her, I was a by-stander and that’s why I felt so guilty. Maybe she was right. Either way, after each of our visits, I managed to feel lighter, yet sadder at the same time.
“Come on in,” she said as she motioned her hand towards her office.
I walked into her office and I instantly felt smaller. It was like as soon as I hit her doorway, a downtrodden spirit jumped on me and my alright day turned into less than that.
She started out with the basics—asking how I was feeling and so forth.
I smiled lightly because I didn’t want to overdo it.
After I answered, she sat back in her chair quietly with her hands folded. This was always her way of getting me to talk more. I ran my hand up and down the grey sofa and tried not to think about how many tears were shed on the couch from all of her other clients. I had a mild case of OCD, so the thought of touching the residue of snotty noses and leaky eyes turned my stomach inside out.
“Have you tried any of the exercises I’ve given you?” she asked breaking the awkward silence between us.
“I have,” I said as I shrugged my shoulders nonchalantly. “I guess I’m just not sure of how writing my feelings down will help me. It’s not that I can’t do it, but for one thing, I don’t have the time. Two, most days I can’t even say Dallas name, let alone write about having found her laid out on the floor.”
“This is the purpose of the assignment, Torian. A journal is a safe haven for your thoughts. You’re too worried about how it will sound when you read your words back. Don’t let that be your focus.,” she said closing her eyes as if she was using all of her emotions to make her point.
She’s a little dramatic. Actually, more than a little. I had to stop myself from cracking a smile at the changing of facial expressions.
“Answer this, Torian.” she said.
I looked up because she said my name as if it was life or death. Like the words that would fall from her lips were the most important words I’d hear from her yet. Not to mention the look on her face was just as perplexing as the way she called my name.
“Are you really trying to heal? Before you answer that, I need you to stop thinking about what you should say and answer with your heart. Are you really trying to heal?” she asked a second time—this time sitting down in her seat across from me.
Why would she ask me that? Why would I spend every Wednesday coming here to sit in a therapist’s office when I could be doing something else. Something like working on the next ad campaign for Golden Goddess Cosmetics, the next big makeup line since Cover Girl! I had big things on my plate, but no. Here I am sitting across from her and her twisted wig, so I was highly offended and frankly a little pissed that she would question whether or not I was here to heal.
I folded my arms, crossed my left leg over my right, and sat back on the sofa with my mouth twisted sideways.
I pretty much changed my body language in every possible way to let Dr. Sway know that she had crossed the line.
“Of course I’m here to heal. I’m not doing this for shits and giggles. My sister just died,” I said bursting into a puddle of emotions.
I took a deep sigh while the tears fell down my cheeks.
Dang. My eyes gon’ be red when I go to work. I promised myself I was done with the tears.
But who was I kidding? They flowed unapologetically whenever I heard Dallas’ name. Someone could simply mention Dallas, Texas and my tears would find me.
It certainly wasn’t the first time I’d become emotional telling Dr. Sway my tragic story of a so-called life. She would always listen intensely as if she had a personal stake in my breakthrough. But after the tears and deep breaths, I would always go back to my original state of guilt and regret.
Talking about it didn’t help. I needed my sister back. If only but to hug and love on her one more time. And to tell her that she was beautiful and deserved so much more than Jonas’ mentally unstable love.
How did I fail my sister?
I had one job after momma passed and that was to take care of her. It had always been us three. We were a trio in our own right. We spent so many nights sitting on the tan-brown carpet floor, painting each other’s nails and twisting each other’s curly locks while dad watched a football game or Family Feud. Momma was our best friend. And now with Dallas gone, I was alone.
I could keep sitting here talking to Dr. Sway about it or I could really try to heal from within. The only problem was I hadn’t fully healed from momma’s passing. Now I have to carry this load around times two. Leaving Dr. Sway’s office, I immediately knew how the stranger before me felt without ever having spoken to him.