“Each has his past shut in him like the leaves of a book know to him by heart; and his friends could only read the title.” —Virginia Woolf
Once again I sat in a well lit room with uncomfortable furniture and cheap panel carpeting underneath my feet, greeted by generic wallcoverings and the hint of detergent every room has that has never truly been lived in.
A few strangers sat across the room from me with a box of Kleenex conspicuously in view and wrenching hands at the ready, though happily just out of sight. (Their smiles were genuine enough but I did not know these people so while polite, they were inconsequential.)
“Purell,” I thought.
For some strange reason I noticed hand sanitizer as being the first thing that was missing and I caught myself looking at different parts of the room for it. (I mean seriously—how can you maintain a cold clinical environment with the personality of pine bark without some visible amount of isopropyl alcohol and glycerin?)
I shook it off.
I was actually in a pretty tight spot. I had experienced something horrible enough that my employer sought to contract a team of counselors to ensure I and a few others stayed on the Reservation rather than strike out and destroy ourselves (or even worse, take a job elsewhere). I assured them this was completely unnecessary, but I would comply with whatever they wanted.
I closed my eyes and visualized rolling green hills gently coated with gauze-like mist framed against a placid sea interrupted only now and then by the random breaching of the occasional dolphin, and I looked inward. I smiled…kindly.
“OK,” was the response.
A small room filled with large people and I chose a seat based on relation to the rest of the room instead of just the location of the door, for once, and took root. And so we Shared.
One of the first things the preemptors asked was if we had gone through this process before, by show of hands. She had been through this once before so it was OK, she espoused. “I’ve been in your chairs before.”
There were a dozen of us in this room and six, including myself, raised a hand. The preemptor nodded appreciatively and smiled, and asked how many times we’d been here for perspective.
“Once,” two of the four said. “Twice,” said two others. “Once,” confirmed the last two in the circle before me, and so I said “eight.” This was my eighth session in such an environment and I wasn’t sure I should be honest when asked for that information, but there it was.
The preemptor continued to smile but held it longer than I would have expected, though she still eventually marched onwards of course. (Once again, I’m the only one at the beach they hate in advance; thanks honey.)
As for us? Rules were read and stories were told from first-person perspectives and the mood of the place began to appreciably change for the better, though the stories had a definite matching ratio of tragedies and victories dictated by chance that so many of these kids and senior officers blamed themselves for losing were now sitting in this very room. It was madness…but then, wasn’t that why we were there, or being hired to eventually be there, if not to rest forever?
Regardless, those stories…thank God for them.
We crawl, we walk, we crawl again, so who was I to throw a wrench in the works? I allowed the “venting lady” to begin upon my arrival and to take hold, as well, but that will have had to be enough for the night.
(I love you all the same, my Boat People. All of you.)
“Experience is the worst teacher: It gives you the test first and instruction afterwards.” —Benjamin Franklin
When officer Alexander D. Teach is not patrolling our fair city on the heels of the criminal element, he spends his spare time volunteering for the Boehm Birth Defects Center.