He punches me in the face repeatedly.
Drawing his arm away first to muster up all his strength before balling his fist tight to ensure maximum impact, he throws himself at me again and again.
They land square in my face and I reel backwards as my head explodes with stars and my nose implodes from the force of the vicious attack.
‘Shut up.’ He says firmly. ‘Shut up.’
I don’t matter.
The room is cold and humid with the damp odor of a thousand tears shed.
It smells of last year. This makes me angry.
Outside, from the ledge on the roof, I spot old water hanging frozen in to stalactites that would be beautiful, I think to myself, if it wasn’t for the ingrained dirt and filth shining through the glimmering mirage. The imperfections are not what make them beautiful. If only it was clean water.
James sits upright in his chair, his glasses perched on the end of his nose, his legs crossed, his Christmas moose socks peaking out from under his trousers, providing me for the briefest of moments with an internal grin, a respite from the cesspit of hopelessness I have become buried within.
Moose socks rock. I must remember to get some for Addison. I am pretty sure Chandler had some on Friends that Janice bought him. Moose socks would make me laugh more. I could drink my coffee in them. I hope Grey’s anatomy is back on soon.
Three chairs occupy the cramped room, all of them positioned around a small round table containing a telephone, and all of them taken.
We sit like sardines, all staring at the telephone. If it rings now we will shit ourselves. It is so quiet in here.
Actually, I am not sure why there is even a telephone in here. Maybe some therapy sessions go on a bit long and they have to order food in. I wonder if Domino’s deliver to mental hospitals. I’d have a pineapple one. With extra cheese. And dough balls and…
James coughs in to his balled up fist.
I shift in my seat, uncomfortable. I want a pizza.
I know I am stalling. I also know I need to stop stalling and thinking about cheesy goodness dripping with.. STOP IT!
They are both waiting for me to speak.
I need to stop thinking about pizza. With extra cheese and possibly mushrooms. Although that could be overkill.
The woman in the chair next to mine is a friend, just to clarify. And I’m not in a police cell in the mental hospital either. I know they have one of those, which is worrying but no, I am in an experimental therapy session.
I just need to get on with what James has asked! He asked me to speak.
The silence lasts forever. I can hear her tapping her foot next to mine. So bloody impatient.
I hunch my shoulders over and sniff, bringing my right boot on to my left knee so my fat knee is pointing at her. I play with the laces on my boots. I am sat like a man. Like the alpha male. This isn’t how I wanted to come across at all. I am vulnerable! Shit!!! But if I move back now I will look weird. This is so uncomfortable. I need to speak. I am embarrassed but I need to speak. I’m also getting cramp and I need to trump. Damn.
I move my leg back quickly and say ‘ok’ loudly, in the hope it will mask the nervousness escaping from my bum.
At least I try to say ok, but I have been silent for so long it gets caught behind a ball of flem and I end up choking instead, which definitely masks the trump that was forced out by the cough, so I am relieved at this, as I gasp for breath.
‘Ok’ I try again, after my back has been patted and I have regained my breath and taken a sip of water. Good job my trumps don’t smell.
‘You are a good person missis and I love you. You are kind. Err… you care about others. You have looked after me. You make me laugh and you make others laugh when laughter doesn’t seem possible. Err…You have pretty eyes and a huge heart. You look after your friends and know the meaning of fighting for what you want and err…You gave your last tenner to a homeless person when you needed it to get home, because you care. I admire you for that. That was kind. You never put yourself first and will go above and beyond for somebody in need. You are not a bad mother, or a bad daughter or an evil disgusting person. Err…’ I shift in my seat. ‘…You have nothing to feel guilty about. You are not going to hell. You deserve to be loved. You deserve love. You don’t have to beat yourself up for the things you are unable to do. Erm…’
I trail off and slouch unwillingly back in to the uncomfortable silence, still unable to make eye contact while saying any of that, I am now looking down and weaving my fingers through my huge red scarf, that is sitting on my knee.
I feel fragile. I do not believe the things I am saying to my friend, but I feel I have to say them. She needs me to say them. She needs to know someone is there for her. She is a good person at the root of it, but she has caused a lot of pain too. Its hard not to judge her for that.
‘Can you make eye contact with her Lexy please?’ James asks softly and I feel her look up at me for the first time too.
‘No’ I whisper. ‘I’m sorry.’
They both sigh simultaneously. Once again I have failed. I feel mean.
‘Would you like to respond to Lexy?’ Jamie asks her kindly, inquisitively.
Her head shoots up and she glares, but not at me, at him. She seems angry. Aggrieved, pissed off. She is strong. She is intimidating when she is like this.
‘Not really.’ She barks pounding her fist on the arm of the chair.
‘Try.’ James implores kindly.
I take a deep breath. I am not sure I want to be here for this really. Maybe I should call a taxi. Maybe that is what the telephone is for actually. For when therapy goes wild.
‘You are wrong,’ she growls as she turns, taking a deep breath and switching her intimidating stare from him, in to the side of my head.
I’m not stupid enough to make eye contact so am now staring at the stalactites again. But I feel it. Her fire is burning holes in my head. She scares me. I shouldn’t have come here today. I need to look after myself never mind her. I have enough going on. I want to go home for a pizza. Damn that bloody telephone.
‘So wrong.’ She continues while my leg jiggles about nervously ‘I am a bitch, I am selfish, I am wrong, and YOU’ she shouts now she is on a roll ‘more than anybody knows that! I should be happy with what I have and I am not. I am spoilt and rotten in my core. What I have done cannot be forgiven! I took an overdose!! I chose death over you, and my child and my boyfriend and my parents, are you listening? I only think of myself!!! You may sit there and tell me you love me,’ she spits this out ‘but we both know you are only saying these things because James is making you. When we leave here today I won’t hear off you for weeks as usual and given that I am evil, I can’t say I blame you. I hate myself nearly as much as I hate you and your constant positivity telling me I actually deserve things and people and bloody love! You think by sitting in here and pretending you love me that this will all go away? I told my brother I hated him and he died. I was so selfish and I still am! I never put a wash on, on time, I am a crap mother, I can’t even cook, I bump my car constantly and I am never on time. I am lazy! LAZY AND SELFISH! I hate you and I hate myself!’
I avert my gaze from the frozen filth outside and take a deep breath as I turn to make eye contact with her for the first time.
She is beautiful and illuminated in her anger.
‘Yes.’ I whisper ‘I know you think you are all of those things but I disagree. One thing I will say though, is you are a bully. You bully me, and that needs to stop. I need you to hear that. I am fragile and you control me, but I want you to know I am here. I do deserve to be loved and I will not put up with your bullying any longer. I am going to fight back.’
Two tears roll down my cheeks as I blink.
‘Lexy’ I continue on speaking to the empty chair, the other side of me, the strong side of me, that is staring back at me angrily, in my mind. ‘You are worth it. You matter. You do a thousand things a day that prove that. You have to forgive yourself. You are still fighting. You are still here. I am fragile but I am ok.’
I am my own worst enemy and I am learning to fight her.
James leans over and pats my leg. ‘Good work today Lex, keep fighting the bully in you. Take a few minutes and we will have a break.’
My eyes watering from the force of his punch I grab his hands.
‘Addison. Mummy was telling you she loves you. We mustn’t hit, even if Special Agent Oso is saying something important, it will never be more important than mummy telling you she loves you. You are perfect and mummy will never tell you any different, but we mustn’t punch and we mustn’t be horrible. Do you understand me?’
‘Ice pop?’ He asks in return, a question sealed with an open mouthed slobbery kiss that catches more of my nose and leaves my face covered in pre- dummy gunk. Nice.
Yes son. You can have an ice pop. You can also have my heart and you can keep that. You are perfect and beautiful and bold and funny. But you will not hit me.
You are the reason I will keep confronting my bully and spend the time teaching you to love yourself.
You are my reason to fight.
You are perfect.
‘But throw the wrapper in the bin please and NO!! DO NOT SHARE IT WITH DOODLE!!! DOODLE IN TO BED! YOU HAVE A DODGY ENOUGH BOWEL WITHOUT SHARING ICE POPS!!’
For the love of…
I am a good mummy. The best.
It’s a start.
There is nothing wrong with who I am – that’s the goal.
I am having pizza for tea tonight. (In case you were wondering.)
What would you say to your bully?