Rose Water

Chapter 22

Life is like quicksand, seemingly harmless until you step inside of it. You struggle, trying desperately to stay above the surface. If you're lucky, you'll find out it is all… an illusion.

A smokescreen designed to make you feel safe, secure, loved, hated, appreciated and important. Significance… is oxygen.

When you're sinking, drowning, suffocating inside your life all you want… is for someone to pull you up, rinse you off and tell you that you are loved. Loved so much by someone else that they would risk their life, follow you into the quicksand, to save you.

Packaged romance.

I feel Freddy's hand as it starts to move under the waist of my jeans and I impulsively thrust into him. He is under me, lying on my bed and holding me close with his arm. I let my mind wander and in an instant I see Brian's face flash before my eyes. Freddy is kissing my neck now, sucking on the tender flesh. He is going to leave a mark, a hickey… a HICKEY. No, no, stop. Stop before it's too late.

If you can't have the one you love… love the one you're with.

My eyes fly open and I start to panic as his other hand moves under the waist of my jeans, creeping toward the front and searching for my cock. "Stop, stop," I say as I push off of him. Freddy sits up and runs a hand over his mouth.

"What the fuck?" He asks. I grab my shirt from by his head and swing my legs over the edge of the bed, putting my back to him. "You can't just start something and then all of a sudden stop."

I look over at him. There is lust, anger and disappointment mixing together behind his eyes. "Yeah, I can," I say as I grab my sketchbook off the floor and smooth out the pages. I get up and walk toward the door, grabbing my journal along the way. "I have to go see Gerri."

I see Freddy lay back on the bed as I close the door. I wait for the latch to click behind me before letting out a huge rush of air and buckling my belt. I push away from the door and start the long walk to Gerri's office. Every step I take as I approach the door makes me want to pause, runaway… disappear.

Every step I take… is slower than the last.

I knock on the door to Gerri's office and wait for her to call me in. "Just a minute," she says. Her voice comes through the intercom that is attached to the wall next to the door.

Solid wood partition.

My session was supposed to start ten minutes ago, but I can faintly hear Moaning Meredith in there crying so I'm not so worried anymore about Gerri being pissed. I sit down on one of the chairs across from the door and stare at the reflection of the fluorescent lights in the linoleum. I can see the reflections of the people as the walk by. I don't recognize half of them.

I hear the door to Gerri's office start to creak and I look up. "… And remember what we talked about, okay?" Gerri tells Meredith.

"I will," Meredith says as she wipes at her nose again. I sit still, praying that that'll make me invisible. She turns to leave and looks right at me. I can see her reflection in the floor.

Please don't talk to me. Please don't touch me. Move along Moaning Meredith... there's nothing to see. I stand up and adjust my shirt.

"Justin," she says as she throws her arms around my neck. She is always so warm and open. If it wasn't for the crying she might be able to pass for at least semi - normal. I personally blame the Care Bears for her delightful delightfulness.

"It's so good to see you. We all heard about what happened, are you okay, Huh?" She pushes me back and holds onto my arms as she looks at me.

"I'm fine," I tell her. She nods her hair and sniffs before pulling me close to her again. Her breath is warm as it plays across my neck. "Meredith, really, I'm fine." I pull away from her and smile a little. "I'm fine."

"Okay," she says as she wipes at her nose again and clutches her journal close to her chest. "Well, I guess I'll see you later," she says.

"Yeah," I tell her. I can go the rest of my stay without seeing Meredith. She takes too much of my energy.

"Okay, okay, bye," she says and takes off down the hall. I reach up and move the hair out of my face. When my arm is halfway up I smell vanilla. I bring my arm close and inhale deeply. "Ugh," I say quietly. "I smell like Meredith."

"Justin, your session started some time ago, so what'd you say you come on in," Gerri says from the comfort of her office. I walk into the office and sit down on the sofa, as far away from her as I can get.

She pretends like she doesn't notice. I know she does.

"How are you feeling today?" I roll my eyes and play with the pages of my journal. I told myself that it was time to let go, time to cross over the hump and start a new life. It was so easy to say. It's not so easy to do. "Justin?"

"I'm thinking," I tell her. It's true, I am thinking. Gerri sits back and waits for me to talk. Why do we always have to talk? "Why do we always have to talk?"

"Because, it's not always good to hold everything in," she tells me. I roll my eyes and get up off the sofa, tossing my books to the side. I walk over to the window and look down at the courtyard below. "Sometimes if we say things out loud it helps us to sort them out."

"Yeah, well, sometimes people need to shut the fuck up," I say as I watch the people walking around down below. "People talk too much and even when they shut up and hear you… they hardly ever listen to you. All they see are your lips moving."

If you're going to walk across the fire, you might as well get burned.

"Is that why you cut yourself, because no one listens?" I don't answer her. I can't make it make sense for her. I can't make her see the world through my eyes. I can't make her into me, even if it's for just a day. Second hand comprehension.

I turn around from the window and walk back over to the sofa. Gerri gets up and walks over to the other couch and sits down, her shoeless feet tucked under her small frame. I laugh, thinking of how much she reminds me of Daphne sitting like that. The way Daphne was before….

I stop myself. I can't think about that. Not right here. Not right now.

I sit down and stare at Gerri. I force myself to swallow everything and let it all out. I am the only one who can help me.

"Brian, what happens next?"

"You're writing the book, anything you want," he tells me.

"Have you ever felt like the world was swallowing you whole, like if you moved in any direction you would stop existing?" I ask her. I don't wait for her answer.

"Sometimes it seems like everyone is talking at the same time. Their voices start to get tangled. Their expectations seem too big and so far out of reach, impossible, and somewhere along the way… you lose your own voice. You aren't there anymore. All you are is what your parents want you to be, or what your boss expects you to be." I look out the window and smile as the sun catches on the metal fixtures, sending a flash of silver into our atmosphere.

"You are this shell of a person, and then one day you walk through your life and wonder when it all changed. You see all your friends, your clothes, your family but it's all different, altered somehow. The fucked up thing though, is that you don't remember when it all happened. When did it all change? When did life move on and leave you behind?"

I lock eyes with her. She stopped writing awhile ago. She hears me. She is listening to me and she is doing her best to understand.

I grab my sketchpad off the sofa and open it to the first page. It is a large pad, filled with pictures, both old and new; pictures of Molly, my mom, my dad, the school, friends, enemies, hopes, dreams, fears, Brian… my life. I keep my eyes locked on her and I watch as she lets her eyes fall on the pictures in the book.

Step inside of my existence.

I let my gaze follow hers. We both look down at the sketches and as I talk, I slowly turn the pages. "And then you try to play catch up. You run and run as fast as you can to try and keep up, but no matter how hard you try… you can't catch up. Everything is too far away, too far ahead, too far gone. And then you hear your parents fighting, yelling, screaming… and you don't know what for. There is a razor in your hand and when it accidentally slices through your skin you wince, and you cry… but GOD it feels good to just feel something."

I stop talking as I remember the first time I felt the tingle, the buzz of living, as it traveled down my spine and through my entire body.

"There is nothing like that moment, like that first time. No moment matches that moment, but every time after it is just as good, just as different, just as new," I tell her. I can't stop the tears that fall from my eyes and they splash onto the drawings, smudging the delicate charcoal and granite.

Black and white pictures of my past.

"Nothing matters anymore, nothing… because you're dead. You can die over and over and over again, and every time is exciting… and even though you may not catch up to everyone and everything that left you behind, it's okay, because the voices… the voices are quiet."

Now can you see? Now do you understand?

"Now," I tell her as I let the tears fall down my face and into my mouth. "Can you fix me?" Gerri looks at me and taps her pen against her yellow writing tablet before grabbing a tissue from the side table and wiping the tears from her eyes.

"How do you feel after telling me that?" She asks. I stare at her, knowing I have stumped her, knowing I have taken away her words.

"I feel... tired," I tell her. She looks at me and blows her nose on the tissue.

"That's normal. You just took a big step. You let all your thoughts and feelings out into the open and you're still alive," she tells me. "The next thing we have to do is get you to target your negative behavior into something else, something that can absorb your pain and lighten your load without being harmful to you." I nod my head and listen as she talks to me. I listen as she tells me about my feelings and my actions.

I hear her and I listen.

"Why don't we end the session for right now? We'll talk again tomorrow in group and we'll see how well you are able to let others help you at the trust exercise tomorrow." I smile and grab my journal and my sketchpad. I walk out of her office and make a beeline for the lake in the woods.

I need to see the water. I need to see something that changes as much as I do, but that on the surface… always seems to be the same. Surface level illusion.

Distorted reflection.


Family can be a noose around your neck. They can suffocate you, choke you to death. The harder you fight, the tighter the hold becomes, until the day you stop struggling.

Predator versus Prey.

You stand still, no more fight left inside your body. You let them squeeze, collapsing your trachea and cutting off your air supply. You let them have the satisfaction of watching your soul start to give up the fight… and then, then you cut the cord, and watch them fall away.

One thousand lives and counting.

I watch Susanna as she taps her wedding ring against the glass in her hand. She accepted the water with a smile, but she won't drink it. Well learned rules of being a gracious guest.

"Are you going to tell me where my grandson is?" She asks. I smirk, first at her and then at Jennifer. Surely the first thing that she wanted to say was, 'So, you're fucking my grandson,' but she is too polished for that.

Admire the bullshit shine of social acceptance.

"Justin's in a rehab clinic a few hours away from here," I tell her. She asks me question after question. How is Justin? Justin is fine. She doesn't need to know anything other than that. Is he eating? I think so. You don't know for sure? I'm not Justin's handler. He's an adult, he can feed himself.

We dance for what seems like years and she matches my every move. Thirty minutes go by, then an hour and then two. I'm losing my patience. "Look, I am not going to tell you where he is," I finally say. "You are welcome to go home and call all the rehab facilities in the area and see what they tell you."

We fight for the winning move. To the victor… goes Justin.

She doesn't know that I have already won this game. There is no contest. We watch each other, she hates me, and I know it. Me? Well, to me… she doesn't exist.

Wipe the slate clean and erase you from my memory.

"Come Jennifer, Molly, lets go," she says as she gets up from the sofa, placing the glass on the table with controlled calm and practiced dignity. Jennifer gets up immediately, no hesitation or restraint. Molly lingers, taking her time, refusing to bend to the will of her grandmother.

Susanna huffs at her granddaughter as she passes through the heavy metal door. She walks over to the lift and raises the gate. Molly pauses in front of me and smiles. "Tell Justin I love him, okay?" She says with a bright smile. I smile at her and nod. She hugs me and I tense, unprepared for the show of affection. She lets me go and smiles at me before walking to the lift and getting inside.

I look at Jennifer, huddled in the corner and looking so small. Susanna closes the gate and presses the down button. I watch as the lift disappears before sliding the door closed and taking a deep breath.

Close your eyes and count backwards from five.

I lean against the door and close my eyes, taking in the silence. After a few seconds I push away from the door and start toward the bedroom, stripping out of my clothes as I walk. I let my body fall into bed and as sleep washes over me, I smell the water.


Cast your secrets into me and watch them dissolve.

I step up to the water and squat down, watching as the ripples wash over my shoes, getting them wet. I put my journal down in the grass to my right and hold my sketchpad in two hands. I open to the first page and come face to face with Molly. She is young in the sketch, immature, a pain. I rip the picture out and place it in the water, watching as the current carries it away. She is different now.

I turn page after page, ripping out all the pictures and casting them into the water. None of them are accurate. None of them tell the true story. My fingers stop on the picture of Brian. The first one I drew of him. I let my hands cast a shadow over the image as my fingers fold and bend the edges, debating.

Finally, I rip the picture out and cast it into the moving water. Brian is not the same person he was that day, because I am different. He is not the same. He is so much better… and so much more.

The past is set in concrete, unchangeable. The future… is infinite.

Return to Rose Water