TWO WEEKS EARLIER
I had never been to a therapist before.
When I was in seventh grade, I would frequent my school counselor. Her name was Lisa, I think. Lisa my beautiful guardian angel with big bouncy red curls. She was my saving grace when the kids I grew up with started realizing that Robert’s not just a funny guy who does funny things. He’s gay. I was not exactly one of the cool kids either. I worked in the cafeteria during lunch because it would mean I could eat cafeteria food for free (no offense mom, but your homemade lunches sucked) and I didn’t have friends to eat lunch with anyways so I figured this way I could avoid it all together. I ate with the other cafeteria ladies and gals. Middle school is such a joy. I was a “KTV Kid”, a Kenilworth Television Morning news host who would share “History of the Day” trivia every morning during the morning announcements. One time the producer Kenny, who was my age, told me before the show, “try not be such a fag on air.” Students loved making passive comments about me on the show. As a kid I always loved attention, but in seventh grade I hated it. Even the school janitor told me once that I needed to “man up.” Like excuse me sir, you work here, don’t talk to me like that. But my angel Lisa happened to be nearby when he said it. She defended me.
“Robert doesn’t need to do anything, he rocks,” she said.
I treated Lisa like she was my personal therapist, signing up for appointments that had nothing to do with my career goals or elective classes, but my life. My dreams. She was a fantastic listener. Incredibly wise. Her aura was calm and soothing like a warm cup of Teavana. She was my Liz Gilbert before Liz Gilbert was a thing. I adored her and she adored me in a way.
One day I told Lisa about a dream I had where I was in the kitchen of my very own home, cleaning. In the dream, I had just cooked this whole feast of food for people I cared about. When I peaked into the living room, I could see my fellow lunch ladies and gals sitting on the couch watching TV, stuffed from the meal I just made for them. I was taking care of them. And this made me happy.
“Robert,” she said, voice like morning dew. “You have a…maternal energy.”
I’ll later be told this again at age 21 during a visit to a spiritual healer.
I am innately maternal. Some of my girl friends would argue that I am more maternal than they are themselves. I build strong connections to people and things, attaching myself to their entire being, taking them in, building them up and healing their broken wings. I’ve always done this. The problem is sometimes, I would fall in love with the person after giving them all I had. And it happened with Bryson.
I knew that if I was going to talk to my new therapist about wanting to die, I would have to talk to her about Bryson.
* * *
My head ached from the pitchers of beer and vodka cranberries, but the trauma of my meltdown hurt my head the most. All this time, it was like I was following the string of a hovering black balloon that dangled and ran away from me as I swung my hands out to snatch it. The balloon stayed at the same height but moved forward in a lateral direction, never ascending. I was hoping that if I caught it, it would lift me up, bring me back to life. But by last night, the damn thing had popped.
I fucking lost it that night. Completely. The insanity of my own depression came full force through the alcohol and shadiness of the bar. It wasn’t my first meltdown at Charlie’s, but it certainly was the atomic bomb of all breakdowns.
I laid in bed hung over, distraught, with last night’s cloud still hovering over me. I couldn’t get out of bed. So I turned over to reach my phone and called one person who I knew could help me.
“What’s wrong my love?” Jo asked. She could sense the desperation in my voice.
“I want to kill myself on my birthday.” I said.
“Robert, I need you to call this number,” she said calmly. “Do you have a pen?”
“Yes,” I said. “I’m ready.”
My appointment with a therapist was scheduled for the very next day.
* * *
I sat in the waiting room ready for my appointment, three minutes early, hiding behind a tall sparkling Christmas tree.
“Appointment for Robert?” the receptionist asked.
“Julie will come and get you when she’s ready.”
On most days, I have about as much energy as a TV evangelist. Today, I was a small bird.
Within two minutes she appeared. My new Lisa. My saving grace. The woman who would help me see what I needed to do next.
“Robert, hi there. I’m Julie.”
“Hi, Julie, nice to meet you.”
“I’m a hugger, is that OK?”
I laughed and nodded yes. We hugged.
“Right this way, Robert.”
I followed her to her office. I looked at all the Christmas décor on my way and thought about how I promised my dad I would put up our Christmas trees today. Yes trees, plural. Our family has five.
“Would you like a coffee or tea?” Julie asked.
“No thanks, I already had coffee this morning. But thank you.”
We came to her door.
“After you,” She said.
I walked in and went straight for the chair in the corner. Her office was a cozy nook with bookshelves filled with books and tiny toy trinkets.
She sat down, hot tea in hand.
“Hi.” she smiled like the sun.
“Hello.” Using my smile as a way to ease myself into this situation, and disarm her. Not that she was scared of me. It’s just a thing that I do. Try to disarm people so I can be let in.
“So Robert, you’re here because you said you said you have a plan to kill yourself on your birthday.”
My birthday was in 4 days.
“Yes, I have a plan.”
“Are you going to carry out that plan?”
“No, not anymore.”
“OK, well let’s talk. Tell me about yourself and what brings you here, dear.”
I began by telling her about my meltdown from two nights ago.
* * *
TWO NIGHTS EARLIER
Tonight was my final exorcism.
My ghastly insecurities purged from my belly and entered the world like a sinister demon ready to find its next victim, reeking havoc on the boys who taught me nothing, except how to behave around company. The screaming. So much screaming. I could feel the inside of my throat begin to grate as my screams grew louder and my cries carried on. Eddy yelled back. He had no choice but to pull over on the interstate and snatch me back down from the destructive tornado that caught hold of me as soon as we left Charlie’s at 3:33 a.m.
My bellowing cries slid down to a painful muffled whimper as I latched my hands over my mouth, with the hope of suffocating the shit that was yearning so desperately to come out.
Bryson sat silently in the back seat. I was unraveling in front of him. He was anywhere but here.
Stay tuned for Chapter Three…
Photo by Noemi Gonzalez.