writing to survive
. . . only the retelling counts

Another three-day bender

On Thursday nights, exhausted, I can easily find myself pulled into the flattened allure of the Internet. I look up people I no longer know or even care to know, find out about their new-to-me lives. I save coats or shoes or pants I would never wear to wish lists no one will ever consult. Or I start writing and get stuck in the mire of me coming off another three-day bender, the memory of my fellow bus passengers following me around hours after my stop (the metallic smell of sweat mixed with the fake freshness of deodorant, the musty aura of pants that have clung too tightly to puckered flesh in the warmth of a San Francisco October day, the implied smoke and booze coming off hands so shaky they can barely grasp the silver bar above).

This was my Thursday: A girl with a deep cough wielding a marker. Trains of children in plaid skirts, clutching hula hoops. My exhausted quiet in a oval of talk. The mysterious police action at Embarcadero. The man who sat his bag on my feet without a thought. The miniature schnauzer, ears and expression alert, next to his person outside the BART station, the two of them waiting on a woman. Twenty-five minutes added to my day and at home the boy with his homework and the dog happy to see me despite my neglect, the walks she’s lost over the last month.

And my Wednesday: A smaller circle of people, each of us clutching a transcript of a long-ago mock counseling session, everyone thinking how they would respond and what they would ask of the phantom client. My partner and I in two mock sessions of our own.
Filmed mock sessions now downloaded to flash drives. This weekend, each of us will go over the session in which we were the counselor. It will be painful and useful and everything will be marked down, written into a narrative, and next Wednesday the professor will tell us what we did right and what we did wrong, in a half-hour meeting one on one. The good news is that my second time as an ersatz counselor went much better than my first. I think. But I haven’t seen the video yet.

And then there’s Tuesday, too long ago now to completely bring to mind, too long a day to hold on to. Four thirty a.m. wakeup, long commute, 4.5 clients in a row, bang bang bang, no time in between, a trip to campus, a class, another commute, a collapse.

Today? I have just two things on the list before I go pick up the boy from school at 2:25. We miss each other. He reaches for my hand on our walks more often these days. I know this time is fleeting, that everything changes. But I am so grateful for what I have now, challenges and all, and how it makes me more aware of my own foibles and faults. I don’t want to wish it away. I don’t want to yell in frustration. I just
am, being in this time and place, thankful for the opportunity to question everything and for the time away from home that allows me to be present while I am here.

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