Another installment of Dysfunction of Family. I’ve had this idea for a story for a long time. As I’ve toyed with it, it has taken on many different threads and themes. This latest one has moments that hit very close to home and examine personal experiences.
I’ve had to think a lot about crossing the lines between fiction and non-fiction. How much of my own story am I allowed to tell without changing details “to protect the innocent”??? And define ‘innocent.’
At the moment, my conclusion is this: These are my experiences and I must have had them for a reason. I believe the reason is so I could tell this story.
Yes, I will conceal the identity of players from my past. But not much.
If my words touch a nerve or you recognize your own part in my life story, tell me: Why?
Catalina slid her ten-year-old white Ford F-150 into the reserved parking spot under the sun shade covering the seventeen spots reserved for the Sunwell Clinic in Carefree, Arizona. She sighed with fake envy as her eyes roamed over Nicole’s one-year-old bright red BMW 525.
“You come at much too high a price missy.” She stroked her truck’s dashboard. “Lots of miles ahead of us Belle. And no payments.”
Catalina slid out of her truck, careful to hold onto the door so it wouldn’t touch the BMW.
At 9:00 am, Catalina was setting herself into the soft leather chair on the patient side of Nicole’s desk.
“Right on time,” Nicole didn’t need to check the time.
The two women studied each other. They’d been in this room, in these chairs, many times over the years discussing many topics. But the one they discussed now was by far the most incredible if not the most disturbing one of all.
“You understand what’s happening to you, right?”
Catalina exhaled hard, surprising herself. She hadn’t realized she was holding her breath.
“Kind of, not really.”
“Stop with the sarcasm. What the hell? I thought that was my role here.”
“Can we bypass the bullshit this morning and just get to it? It’s not like I need the instructions read.” The fire in her eyes said she wasn’t joking.
“Are you kidding me?” Nicole raised her hands in surrender, “never mind, you’re right. Let’s get started.”
Catalina took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She pushed all thoughts from her mind and let the sensation of the soft leather under her fingertips be her only connection to the physical world around her.
Nicole picked up her pen and hovered her hand over the open note pad in front of her, prepared to take notes.
One minute passed. Then another. And five more.
At 8 minutes and fifteen seconds, Catalina began to speak. Nicole’s pen flew across the pages creating words, symbols, facial features; any details she could get down before Catalina moved on.
Twenty-two minutes and seventeen pages later, the monologue ended.
Catalina doubled over, putting her head between her knees. Nicole got out of her chair and came around the desk, taking the chair next to Catalina.
The heat of Nicole’s hand on her shoulder felt like a hot iron. Catalina jumped, “Shit!”
“What?!” Nicole pulled her hand back.
“You’re hand is hot.”
Nicole pressed her palm to her cheek. “No, it’s not. In fact, my hand feels cold.”
“Not to me. It felt hot. Too hot.” Catalina scooted her chair away, knowing her friends tendency to touch.
“Okay, no touch.” Nicole held up both her hands. “I won’t touch.”
Catalina scooted further away. “How about we just go over the notes.” It wasn’t a question.
Nicole stood up and reached across the desk for her note pad and held it out to Catalina. “You want to read it yourself or go over it together?”
Catalina took one look at the fuzzy writing and squeezed her eyes shut. “You’re going to have to decipher.”
Nicole looked over her notes and agreed, “yeah,” she sat back down in the chair next to Catalina, “Okay, let’s start at the beginning.”
Usually Nicole’s easy going banter made Catalina smile. Laugh even. But today, right now, she wasn’t amused. And it bothered her.
Nicole flipped through her pages looking for some dots to connect. She called out words as things popped out at her. “Trust. Lies. Truth. Faith.” She flipped through the pages then handed the book to Catalina and pointed to a small doodle drawing. “This is interesting.”
Catalina studied the ink drawing of a woman’s battered face. Her breath caught in her throat as the flicker of a memory passed just outside her ability to grasp it long enough to make any sense of it. She shook her head, doing her best to let it go. She didn’t have the energy to think about something for too long. Especially something that didn’t want to be remembered yet.
She pointed to block letters in the top right corner of the next page and another ink doodle of a woman sitting alone in what looked like a theater. But the screen looked like the inside of an eye.
“Sitting inside an eye, looking out?” Catalina asked.
Nicole studied the drawing, “that’s what I see too,” she agreed.
Drawings, words, lines and circles, the pages were filled with so much chaos. Catalina felt her head begin to spin. She placed her hand in the center of the page and forced her eyes away. “What do you think?”
Nicole pressed her fingers into a steeple, balanced her chin on them and closed her eyes. “I think you have to let it come the way it wants to. Not the way you think it should.”
Catalina did her best to not sigh loudly and waited to see if there would be a better explanation.
“The truth has a way of revealing itself. The liars are held accountable. When history repeats, we see the patterns. Revealing the truth is not easy, but it must happen. Love prevails.”
Catalina snorted. “Love always prevails.”
Nicole opened one eye and agreed, “Love always prevails.”
Catalina shook her head, slapped the note pad in her lap and stood up. “Debatable.” She reached across the desk and tapped the keyboard. The screen to her right popped to life. “We went over our time again, I need to get to my room and set up.” She turned, nodded to Nicole, “Thanks,” and held up the book. “I’ll let you know what I come up with.”
Nicole’s eyes were shut again, but she nodded in response. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Catalina closed the office door behind her and made her way down the hallway to the reception desk. “Good morning Sherry.”
“Good morning Catalina, here’s your patient list for the day.”
“Thank you,” Catalina took the list and picked up the pile of files at the end of the counter. She’d see six people today and hopefully be able to help them feel better than she did.
She continued down the hallway to the last door on the left and pushed the glass door open. On the inside, she paused to lower the overhead lights and set the files down on the counter behind the door. Then she set about to lighting candles, turning on the three stone water fountain in the corner and tune her iPod to the Pandora station her first appointment enjoyed during her treatment.
When she finished, Catalina slipped into the small space just off the larger room. Originally it had been the closet of the bedroom that was now her treatment room. Having a business in a building that was once a house had its pros and cons. Catalina and the other practitioners of the practice all agreed the small closets were a plus.
Closing the deep purple velvet curtain that separated the closet from the treatment space, she took her place on a short stool and faced the small alter in front of her. Beginning her ritual, she gave thanks as she struck a match and to light a candle and asked for guidance.
A light flashed and Catalina dropped the match, thinking it had flared. She thought the light was at the tip of her fingers. The match went out before it landed on the narrow plank of her alter. Letting her eyes adjust to the dim light, she waiting to see if the flare would happen again without her trying.
A full minute passed before Catalina gave up waiting. She picked up the box of matches and pulled one out, taking her time to notice its wooded body and red head with the white tip. She focused on the white tip as she slid it across the black diamond line on the side of the box. The match flared to life but did not flash like the one before.
Pulling the fire across the three wicks, the flame sprang to life and danced above forming pools of wax at their base. She waved the match through the air, extinguishing the flame and blowing away the trails of dark smoke, its short existence over.