Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Survive the Recovery"

This poem is spillover from the January 22, 2019 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] ravan and [personal profile] wispfox. It also fills a square in my 12-31-18 card for the Untranslatable Words Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by a pool with [personal profile] ng_moonmoth, [personal profile] fuzzyred, and [personal profile] edorfaus. It belongs to the Shiv thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

"Verschlimmbessern (German): To make something worse when trying to improve it"

"Survive the Recovery"

[Sunday, December 28, 2014]

Shiv jittered and twitched around
his apartment above Blues Moon,
dusting things that were already clean
and trying to find stuff to put away
in a room where it was all put.

The knock on his door made
Shiv jump and drop his rag.

Swearing, he shoved it into
the basket of cleaning supplies
and kicked that into a corner.

Then he opened the door.

"Good morning, Shiv, I'm
glad to see you," Dr. G said.
"May I come inside?"

"Yeah, yeah," Shiv said,
yanking the door wider.

"You look pretty stressed,"
Dr. G said gently. "You know
that I'm available to help with
whatever you need, but if this is
too soon, we don't have to do it now.
We can wait until you feel ready."

Shiv shook his head. "Think
I'd rather just get it over with."

"Okay," Dr. G said. "May I
sit down? Then you can sit
wherever you feel comfortable."

"Go ahead," Shiv said, waving at
the futon, and Dr. G sat on one end.

Shiv dithered over whether to take
the chair or the far end of the futon.

Eventually he gave up and sat
on the futon, because he knew that
he tended to drift toward Dr. G, and
getting up in the middle of the session
would make that really fucking obvious.

"Could I run a bit of a health check?"
Dr. G asked. He looked concerned.

Shiv huffed a breath. "Guess so."

"Thank you," said Dr. G. "Will you
tell me how you feel right now?"

"Wired," Shiv said. "I can't
wind down, it's driving me nuts."

"Your pulse is galloping, no wonder
you feel wired," Dr. G said. "What
have you tried to calm down so far,
and how is it working for you?"

"Tried some stretches, and I
cleaned the place up," Shiv said.
"It kept my hands busy but it
didn't make me feel any better."

"Remember when we discussed
the window of tolerance?" Dr. G said.

"Yeah," Shiv said, nodding vigorously.
"You told me that trauma is like
throwing a rock through a window.
It breaks your ability to adapt
to challenges, until you fix it."

"I think your window is broken
right now, and so we need
to patch that before we can
do anything else," Dr. G said.

"Got any bright ideas?" Shiv said.

"I don't know about you, but I
could use a nice hot cup of tea
right about now," Dr. G said.

"Fuck yeah," Shiv said. "I can't
think like this, though. You pick."

They went into the kitchen, and
Shiv waved a hand at his tea stash,
then started up the electric kettle.

"Let's see what you -- my goodness,
that's a big cabinet full of cope!"
Dr. G exclaimed, staring at it.

"Uh ... it is?" Shiv said. He
hadn't realized it was unusual.

He just had the basic black,
green, and white teas plus things
that Dr. Bloch or Dr. G or Ambrose
or somebody had said would help,
the simples in jars and most of
the blends in their own cartons.

Then Heron had brought over
some stuff, and so had Gray, and
Luci had added a handful from
traditional Chinese medicine ...

Okay, maybe it was adding up.

"It looks like you have found
something that works for you,"
Dr. G said, humming happily
as he spooned catnip, lavender,
peppermint, and just a pinch
of licorice into the tea ball that
had a black cat attached to it.

Shiv got out two coffee cups.
His read, Here's a cup of
calm the fuck down
. He
gave Dr. G the one with
a fuzzed-up cat that read,
I am perfectly calm.

It didn't take long for
the tea to steep.

Shiv poured honey
in his and retreated
to a corner of the futon.

"Sit up a little and give
yourself room to breathe,"
Dr. G said. "Wrap your hands
around the cup to feel how warm
it is. Smell the steam coming up.
Let the sensations ground you."

Shiv followed along, grateful
to have Dr. G guiding him
through the maze of emotions.

"There now, that's a little better,"
Dr. G said. "You're settling down."

Shiv held out a hand, and now
it didn't shake. "Yeah, some."

"Can you think of anything else
that might help?" Dr. G asked.

"Maybe," Shiv said, reaching
into his pocket. His fingers
found the metallic crystal
and pulled it out to play with.

"You really like that bismuth,
don't you?" Dr. G said.

Shiv looked down at
the rainbow prism rippling
in his palm. "Yeah, it's
my new favorite fidget."

"It's good to find things that
help you relax," Dr. G said.

"I sure as hell need it,"
Shiv muttered as he
sipped his tea. "I can't
deal with all this shit."

"You feel overwhelmed,"
Dr. G said. "That is
a natural reaction to
what happened."

"I'm pretty sure it's not
natural to freak out when
a beautiful woman makes
a pass at you," Shiv said.

Nobody had said it this time,
but the Hammerheads had
teased him about it before.

"When she's a predator,
yes, it is," Dr. G insisted.
"Do you feel ready to talk
about this, or do you need
more time? Either is fine."

Shiv garbled out the story
of what Chyou had done,
even though Dr. G had
probably heard it from
several folks already.

Then again, maybe not.
He was so serious about
privacy, he might have
told them not to spill it.

"I'm so sorry to hear that,"
Dr. G said. "We can work on
any of this. What bothers you
the most about what happened?"

"Do I got a sign on me or what?"
Shiv said, his voice breaking.

"What kind of sign?" Dr. G said.

"I dunno, Free Swim?
All-You-Can-Eat Chicken?"
Shiv said. "Whatever makes
people want to pick on me."

"Ah. That's a scary thought,"
Dr. G said. "I don't think you do,
but let's go down the list to make sure."

Shiv blinked. "There's a list?"

"Yes, and you already know it
from your ... other job .. even if
you don't realize it yet," Dr. G said.
"Studies show that criminals look for
specific clues in choosing victims."

"Oh, that," Shiv said, nodding.
"Yeah, okay, that I know."

Dr. G took out his smartphone
and called up a list. "Let's see,
you keep your hands free so that
you can defend yourself, you don't
follow a fixed schedule, you're not nice,
you pay attention to your environment,
you live and travel with other people ..."

As they went down the list, the knot
of worry in Shiv's belly began to loosen.

"In other words, you generally look
like trouble, not a target," Dr. G said.
"The only thing I can see on here that
might cause a problem is confidence.
Sometimes you are very assertive, but
other times you freeze or waffle visibly.
If that concerns you, we can work on it."

"Yeah, maybe," Shiv said. "I think
I used to have a better poker face."

"You're dealing with your feelings
more now, instead of suppressing them,"
Dr. G said. "On the whole, though,
you're making great progress."

"Then why does this shit
keep happening to me?"
Shiv wailed, flailing his hands.

"You've been sexually harassed
or assaulted before?" Dr. G said.
"So far you've hinted at that, but
we haven't discussed it directly."

Shiv hesitated, then nodded.
"Yeah. I grew up in the system,
you know? Shit happens."

"If you were abused in
foster care, that's actionable,
and I can help you deal with it
legally or emotionally," Dr. G said.
"Did it happen once, or more often?"

"I dunno, I lost count," Shiv said.
"Most of it happened when I was
too little to fight back. I got real mean
real fast, though, and most people
backed off. They wanted easy meat."

A shadow crossed the older man's face,
like a hawk soaring over a meadow,
looking for something to swoop down on.

"I'll keep that in mind while I'm working
my way through your files," Dr. G said.

Shiv had given him permission to go
through at least some of the shit.
This way, Shiv didn't have to rat on
anyone in particular, and Dr. G
could still kick their asses.

"Didn't all get written down,"
Shiv said, shaking his head.

"Then I would very much like
to listen to any other complaints
you have," Dr. G said firmly.

Shiv nibbled his lip. "Maybe later."

"Whenever you're ready," Dr. G said.
Then he sighed. "I'm sorry that
the system failed you so horribly."

"Story of my life," Shiv said with
a shrug. "That's just how it is."

"Foster care is supposed to save
children from abusive situations,
not put them into those," Dr. G said.
"It sounds like almost everything
people tried to make things better
wound up making them worse."

"Well, duh," Shiv said. "That's
why I avoid systems when I can.
I got enough shit, I don't need more."

"I know," Dr. G said. "There are
resources that could help you,
but it's hard to see that when
your past experiences have
wrecked your help-seeking."

"I don't need any help," Shiv said,
shivering. "I can take care of myself!"

"Then I'm here if you just want
to rant about the unfairness of
life in general," Dr. G offered.

"Yeah, but that still doesn't
explain why things like this keep
happening to me," Shiv grumbled.
"I'm grown up, it should've worn off.
Why did Chyou have to pick on me?"

"There's a very strong tendency toward
revictimization in survivors of sexual abuse,"
Dr. G said. "Then again, it could just be
that you're physically attractive."

"No matter what the fuck I do,
seems like I always look like
chicken," Shiv said, yanking on
the fringe that shielded his eyes.
"Maybe I should just cut it all off!"

"From what I've heard, you
hated having your hair that short,"
Dr. G said. He looked worried.

"Yeah, I did, but at least I
didn't get fucked when I
looked like that," Shiv said.

"Cutting off your hair would
be a very drastic response to
other people's bad behavior,"
Dr. G said. "Let's see if we can
think of some less radical things
that would work just as well."

"But it's my hair," Shiv said,
glaring at him through slitted eyes.

"It's your hair, so you can do whatever
you want with it. I don't think that you
really want to cut it off, though,"
Dr. G said. "Am I wrong?"

Shiv sighed. "No. But I
gotta try something."

"Then I'll help you think of
solutions that don't make you
feel uncomfortable," Dr. G said.
"It's my responsibility to help you
make good decisions, and avoid
bad ones, not make decisions for you."

"Guess it can't hurt to try," Shiv said,
shuffling in place. "What kind of solutions?"

"Well, if you want to work on confidence,
choosing how to express your emotions, or
roleplaying difficult situations, I can teach you
those skills," Dr. G said. "If you want to talk,
or draw, or cry, or do anything else let out
your feelings, that's in my wheelhouse too."

Shiv shuddered. "Letting it all out --
not my thing. Confidence, maybe.
Do you got any other ideas?"

"Many survivors find that self-defense
makes them feel safer," Dr. G said.
"Tolli and Simon would be delighted
to help you with that angle of approach."

"Yeah, Simon gave me an extendable baton
for Christmas, and offered to teach me
how to use it," Shiv said. "It's cool."

"That would make an excellent addition
to your knife work and boxing lessons,"
Dr. G said. "You might also think about
fashion -- clothes can hint what people
are or aren't interested in doing."

"I'm not sure if I want to wear
two-three layers like Heron does,"
Shiv hedged. "It's a bit much."

"That's okay," said Dr. G. "You
can work out your own style. I've
noticed that you tend to stay as
inconspicuous as possible, but
you like some brighter accents, like
a purple t-shirt with black jeans."

Shiv looked down at his outfit,
where marigold-yellow letters read,
Run like you stole something
across a purple background.

"It was a gift," he said, crossing
his arms over his chest. "I like it."

"That's fine," Dr. G said. "The colors
black, gray, white, and purple make up
the asexual pride flag. That can hint
you aren't interested in hooking up."

"Yeah, but I don't know if I'm ace,"
Shiv said. "Or not ace. Or anything."

"Sexuality is complicated," Dr. G said.
"You don't have to figure it out all at once.
Still, you don't seem to have a high sex drive."

"Thank fuck," Shiv said fervently. "Damn thing
only bothers me once in a while. I don't know
how other guys stand it, bugging them so much."

"Most people enjoy it," Dr. G said. "If you
don't, then you might be gray-asexual. That's
something we can explore later, if you like,
and meanwhile a little purple might help."

Shiv would wear a lot worse than purple
if it made people leave him the fuck alone.

"I may try that out," he said. "I think
I have a few other things in purple."

Mrs. Dr. G had given him another one,
in fact, that read, Oh For Fox Sake
over a picture of a cartoon fox.

"That's a good place to start, then,"
said Dr. G. "You have a good eye
for matching up the colors too."

"Yeah, but I need to get
more winter clothes,"
Shiv said. "Most of
mine's for summer."

He brushed a hand
over Dr. G's sweater,
the purple one that
looked plain until it
went under a light that
showed its hidden design.

Then a shiver crawled
over his skin, making
Shiv pull away again.

Dr. G noticed it, of course.
He noticed everything.

"Is it harder to touch people
now than it was before?"
Dr. G asked gently.

"Yeah," Shiv said,
his voice raspy. He
took another drink of tea.
"But that's not the worst of it."

"Can you tell me what bothers
you more than that?" Dr. G said.

"That night ... I pulled a knife
on Luci," Shiv whispered.
"I didn't even know it was her,
just heard someone coming
and it was in my hand before
I realized what was happening."

"It's scary when your body
does things without consulting
you, isn't it?" Dr. G said.

"Scary and dangerous,"
Shiv said. "I can't afford that!
What if I hurt her? She, she'd
dump me, it's what everyone
does when I hurt people."

Dr. G's eyebrows pulled in,
making that little horseshoe shape
like they did when his knees hurt,
only he was sitting on the futon.

"I'm sorry that people have
abandoned you when you needed
help," Dr. G said. "I don't know Luci
very well yet, but she seems quite loyal.
How did she react to the knife?"

"She worried about me,"
Shiv said, baffled. "I could've
hurt her, why would she do that?"

"Maybe she knows that you don't
normally wave knives at people you
like, so she figured something terrible
must have happened to push you
over the edge," Dr. G suggested.

That was pretty much what
Luci had said to Shiv, but he
still didn't understand it.

"Doesn't matter," he said,
waving it away. "I can't do
things like that. I have to get
a handle on this shit somehow --
before I hurt someone I care about --
only I don't know where to start."

"I can help you with that too,
but it will take time," Dr. G said.
"Changing how you react when
you're upset is a lot of work. Are
you familiar with exposure therapy?"

Shiv jerked away, knocking his back
against the far end of the futon, and
the only reason his tea didn't spill was
because the cup was almost empty.

"I'm not doing that again," he snarled.
"I won't, and you can't make me!"

"Of course not," Dr. G said. "I only
brought it up for contrast, it's not at all
suited to your personality. I'm sorry
that I approached it the wrong way."

Shiv sighed. His hands were
shaking again. "What else
even is there?" he said. "They
told me it was they only way."

"Then they lied to you, or they
were simply mistaken," Dr. G said.
"There are many different therapies.
I would suggest something like
anchoring or counterconditioning."

"What are those?" Shiv said warily.

"Anchoring lets you mentally tie a string
to an emotion so that you can pull it up
whenever you want it," Dr. G explained.
"You focus on a feeling and create
a signal -- like a word or a gesture --
that you can use to retrieve it."

"Okay, that doesn't sound too bad,"
Shiv said. "And the other one?"

"Counterconditioning breaks down
bad associations and replaces them
with good associations," Dr. G said.
"Instead of just grinding away at a fear,
you go to the edge of your tolerance,
stop before you freak out, and then
you do something really fun there."

Shiv tried to imagine that and failed.
"I don't get how that could work."

"You don't like showing people
your hands, right?" Dr. G said.
"I'm guessing that came from
people slapping them or maybe
scolding you for getting dirty."

"Yeah," Shiv admitted as he
jammed them under his legs.

"Now imagine that every time I
asked you to show me your hands,
I put a cookie on them," Dr. G said.
"How long do you think it would take
for you to look forward to that request
instead of hiding your hands?"

Shiv thought about Buzz the Robot
and the bag of homemade marshmallows.
"Probably not that long," he decided.

"So that's a trigger for you, but it's
not a very bad one," Dr. G said.
"Think about something harder --
someone coming up behind you,
or touching you unexpectedly."

Shiv sucked in a breath.
"I -- I don't know if I could
do that at all," he said.
"It wouldn't be safe."

Then he slumped into
the soft futon. "I'm not
safe now, though," he said.

"Neither were Tolli and Simon
when they first came home after
deployment," said Dr. G. "They
had just been in a war zone, and
so they had to relearn how to deal
with the civilian world again. They'll
understand this is hard for you."

Shiv fidgeted. "I don't -- I don't
know if I can," he confessed.

It was getting hard to breathe.

"Okay, that's what I was afraid of,"
Dr. G said. "Sit up. Put your cup down.
Cross and uncross your arms. Feel
how your muscles tense and relax.
Tense ... and relax. That's good.
Take a deep breath. You're safe."

Shiv's whole body shuddered as
he obeyed. He felt like a used rag.

"That's why. That's why," he said.
"I try to do this shit and I freak. You
didn't even do anything to me."

"Yes, I did," said Dr. G. "I asked
you to imagine pushing your limits.
That's stressful, so it upset you."

"Then I'm fucked," Shiv moaned.

"No, you're not," Dr. G said. "I know
that we came into therapy a bit sideways,
so we missed some of the usual steps,
but we can pick those up now."

"Yeah, you've said that before,"
Shiv mused. "What steps?"

"Therapy can bring up a lot of
intense feelings," Dr. G said.
"So it's my job to make sure
you have the skills to deal with
whatever issues we bring up."

"That's not how therapy works,"
Shiv protested. "They always
told me not to run away from
my feelings, that was cheating."
He hunched into myself. "That's
why I hate it, 'cause it hurts."

"That was terribly wrong of them,"
Dr. G said. "Therapy shouldn't hurt.
It might be a little scary, or sad, or
embarrassing -- but it shouldn't
ever make you feel overwhelmed
or unsafe or injured. If that happens,
then your therapist screwed up."

"Yeah well ... that's most of 'em,"
Shiv muttered, looking away.

"But not me," Dr. G said gently.
"If you want to do deepwork, if
you feel ready to tackle some of
the bigger issues, then I will help
and make sure you don't fall in."

"How?" Shiv said, his voice cracking
over the word. "When I start thinking
about this stuff, it's like it ... sucks me in."

"That can happen," Dr. G said. "That's
why you need to learn coping skills first.
It's like tying a rope to the ladder in a pool
so you can pull yourself out if you need to."

"Coping skills?" Shiv said. "I thought
that was stuff like the comfort-cooking."

"That's one kind of coping skill," Dr. G said.
"There are others. Your breathing exercises,
fidget toys, stretching, grounding methods --
those are all examples that can help you
get through deepwork without having
a panic attack. You just need more of
them, and more practice, before we
dig into the challenging areas."

Shiv flashed on Wacker
coaching him in the gym.

"Like working my way up from
light weights to heavier ones?"
Shiv asked, cupping his hands.

"Exactly!" Dr. G grinned at him.
"We'll start with what you can do now,
and then add harder ones later. I'll teach
you new coping skills and make sure they
work for you before pushing you farther."

"That ... might work," Shiv said. "I think
it's worth a try. At least you're offering
to teach me stuff, instead of yelling
at me for not knowing it already."

"Everyone has to learn coping skills,
Shiv," said Dr. G. "We're not born
knowing them. Normally we learn them
growing up, from our parents, but not
everyone is that lucky. Part of my job is
helping you regulate your emotions until
you can do it yourself, and another part
is showing you how to do that."

"That's not -- " he broke off,
looking down, and fidgeted again.

"Not what your previous therapists did?"
Dr. G said. "They were pretty useless, then.
I'll certainly tell them so if I meet them."

Shiv sputtered a laugh, imagining
his asshole therapists trying to face off
against Dr. G and losing. Badly.

"Now there's a pretty picture," he said.

Dr. G gave him thin curl of lips
that almost resembled a smile.

He and Tolli would make
a devastating pair of enforcers,
the brains and the brawn, if
they ever got together like that
in front of a legitimate target.

"Okay, so the system failed you
and your therapists abused
you even worse," Dr. G said.
"They made assumptions about
you based on what other adults
told them -- however incompetent --
and then tried to treat you based on
that instead of your actual needs."

"Pretty much, yeah," Shiv said.
"It's just ... we've been meeting for
months, and I'm just starting to see
that therapy could be more than
something to grit my teeth through,
that it might really help some."

"Given your difficult past, you're
actually making brisk progress,"
Dr. G said. "Have you thought of
anything else that worries you or
might help you work through
what happened recently?"

"I ... don't know," Shiv said,
mulling it over. "Tolli and Simon
helped a lot, getting me out of town
and giving me space to calm down.
Holidays are always weird, though."

"Weird how?" Dr. G asked.

"Oh, you know, the foster thing,"
Shiv said. "Christmas sucked
because I rarely got anything, and
if I did it was just generic stuff, so I
don't have many good memories
to make up for all the stress."

"And then you had to deal with
Chyou's attack on top of that, so
no wonder you're overloaded,"
Dr. G said. "You know, Elisabeth
had some of the same problems.
Her houseparents are lovely people,
but some of the holiday activities that
the Sankofa Home got swept up in
were not as well conceived."

"That helps a little, knowing
somebody understands," Shiv said.
"I was always moving around, I never
knew anyone, so it was just a jumble
and I didn't know what to expect."

"That's not a fun way to spend
Christmas," Dr. G sympathized.

"Yeah," Shiv said. "I kept thinking
of things like that. It was so hard
to keep track of when and where I was,
Tolli and Simon had to make a schedule
with those little icons to mark it out."

"You had more trouble than usual
with flashbacks or dissociation?"
Dr. G said, leaning forward.

"Yeah," Shiv admitted,
inching toward him again.
"It was weird. I started recalling
things I hadn't thought of in years."

"Like what?" Dr. G asked. "I'd love
to hear more, if you want to share."

"There was this Christmas tree,"
Shiv said slowly. "I remember it had
ornaments from all the kids. They asked
me to make one, but I wouldn't. I was
pretty mean to them, I think. I just felt
so awful, I wanted everyone to feel it too.
Seeing Tolli's tree reminded me of it."

"That's sad," Dr. G said. "What else
can you remember about that family?
What kinds of things did they do?"

"They tried to be nice to me,"
Shiv said. "There were cookies
and stuff. They liked to make things.
We were always doing crafts, like
the Christmas ornament shit."

"Can you tell me their names?"
Dr. G asked. His fingers curled
as if beckoning a response.

"It was the Wright family," Shiv said.
He frowned, struggling to dredge up
the names. "Precious, the mother.
Je'son, no, Jeff-er-son, the father.
Carmine, Blaine, Janice -- foster sisters.
Think I had a brother too, what was
his name? Delonn, that was it."

"How did you feel about them?"
Dr. G asked. "Did you like them?"

"I don't think I liked anyone,"
Shiv said. "I don't remember
them hurting me, though,
and that stands out."

"Then I'm going to guess
that you liked them, or at least
disliked them less," Dr. G said.

"Why?" Shiv said, tilting his head.
"I can't pin it down, how can you?"

"You like Tolli and Simon, and
being there reminded you of
the Wrights," Dr. G said. "When
you're in a particular mood, you
tend to recall times when you felt
that way before. So if it wasn't
memories of Chyou resonating,
it was probably happier ones."

"Yeah, maybe," Shiv said,
mouthing the rim of his mug.

"Would you like to reconnect
with them if you could?" Dr. G said.

Shiv shrugged. "Doesn't matter,
nobody wants to put up with me."

"We do," Dr. G said. "I'm going
to bet someone else might, too.
May I check for want-contact forms?"

"Don't got any." Shiv wrinkled his nose.

"I'm sure I saw some in your records,"
Dr. G said. "I didn't look in detail because
I was hunting for something else at the time,
but it's no trouble for me to check now."

"They lied to me?" Shiv said, then
scowled. "Of course they lied,
social workers always lie. They
said I didn't have any of those."

"Well, you do," Dr. G told him.
"Not a large number, but some."

"I guess ... you could see if any of
the names match," Shiv said tentatively.

"I'll do more than that," Dr. G said. "Before
suggesting anything more to you, I'll check
to make sure they're decent people and
won't hurt you if we try for a meeting.
I won't let them anywhere near you
until I'm confident that they're safe."

"Then you can look," Shiv said.
He twisted his fingers together,
winced, then took out his fidget.

Dr. G used his smartphone
to access Shiv's records.

"Your foster parents are here,"
he said. "So are the siblings
you named. Shall I investigate
and see if they're worth a try?"

"Just look? Nothing more
than that?" Shiv hedged.

"Just look for now, and if
they seem promising, I can
talk to them first without
bothering you," Dr. G said.
"I'll tell you my findings
whenever you're ready."

"I don't know," Shiv said.
"Most of my past sucks."

"That's true, but this family
seems to suck a little less,"
Dr. G said. "This could give
you a glimpse of your past, and
you have precious little of that."

Shiv rummaged around in
his memory, trying to find bits
that connected without stirring up
shit he didn't want to deal with.

"They had a big house with
a nice little yard, and lilacs ...
a playroom in the basement,
hardwood floors and trim," he said,
walking through it in his mind.

He recalled a woman's soft lap
and someone playing a piano,
but he didn't say that out loud.

"Anything else?" Dr. G prompted.

"Bunk beds upstairs," Shiv said.
"I had the upper one, with rails
so I couldn't fall out, and I could
reach up to touch the ceiling."

"That's good," Dr. G said.
"You're doing great, Shiv.
You're pulling up a lot more
than you can usually get."

"I remember," Shiv murmured.

Most of his past was a black hole.
This wasn't, and the swirl of images
felt both comforting and alarming.

"Anything bad?" Dr. G said.
"If so, we don't have to do this."

"Not that I can think of," Shiv said.
"It wasn't home, but it was ... homey?
Better than most places I stayed at."

Way, way better than the Smack House
whose basement still gave him nightmares.

"Nothing happens without your consent,"
Dr. G said. "It's your choice, Shiv."

"Fffff ... fine. Do it," Shiv said.

"Thank you," Dr. G said. "It's good
you're getting more of your memories
back. You don't have to talk about them;
you can process them in other ways.
If spending time with Tolli and
Simon helps, go with that."

"Yeah, they said that I could
come out any time," Shiv said.
"They don't seem to mind that I'm
extra messed up 'cause of Chyou."

"They care about you, so they're
upset by what happened, but it
won't make them pull away
from you," Dr. G said.

Shiv leaned against him.
"I don't know what to think,"
he said, clinging to the older man.
"This recovery crap is gonna kill me."

"You survived the abuse," Dr. G said,
his hand feather-light on Shiv's shoulder.
"You're going to survive the recovery."

* * *


This poem is long, so the character, location, and content notes appear elsewhere.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, safety, weblit, writing
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