Friday, February 4, 2011

Group Therapy

once again she awoke to the sound of screaming, as usual it was her own. She caught her breath and willed herself to slow her racing heart and when she was almost in control, her stomach went through the floor and great heaving sobs shook her violently. She nearly suffocated herself in her pillow trying to suppress the sounds of her lamenting.

A fleeting thought snaked a sinister path through her pain, a simple escape, a painless end. The threw the pillow into the darkness where it made a muffled sound, ‘No’ she screamed into her mind, she was not a coward and she was not going out that way.

She rose, pulling on a pair of coveralls which felt rough against her sweaty skin. She splashed water on her face and found, with some difficulty, that not all the discomfort in her stomach was in her mind. She couldn’t remember the last time she had eaten, ‘maybe yesterday, at the party?’ she thought. She looked back at her bed in disgust. The threat of sleep and the spectres that visited her in the night prompted her to go to the galley instead.

Even here, in the Guild compound, they didn’t call a kitchen by its name; it was a galley, like on a Longrunner. Moving had become second nature to this crew, even those with roots kept the habits of the roving. Tom pondered this as he sat in the dark corner of the galley with a tumbler and a bottle of whiskey. He had not had anything to drink at the party, thought he had desperately wanted to. The thought of loosing any of his wits and saying the wrong thing had kept him painfully sober, something her felt he could rectify now.

She shuffled into the dark room and made her way by memory to the refrigerator. Opening the doors wide, Jo inspected the contents, trying to balance nutritional imperatives with emotional needs. She settled on a large container of pudding, she left the fridge door open to light the counter where she fumbled for a spoon. In the corner of her eyes she saw the ghostly outline of a figure and swung her head violently to dispel the apparition. To her initial shock and then relief she found it was only the Doc. Anger followed quickly.

“What in the hell are you doing there, sitting in the dark like some kind of, of…” She stammered, clutching the pudding container with both arms defensively.

“I think Ben calls it self-medicating, I see you have chosen your poison. Why don’t you grab a spoon and join me?” Tom said quietly, raising his hand to the switch by the table and shedding a cone of soft yellow light on his immediate surroundings. Josephina could now see the bottle and glass. She swallowed, sighed and slammed the fridge shut, opting for a large wooden spoon on the counter instead of fumbling through the drawers in search of something more civilised. 'Besides', she thought, the ladle was proportional to the pudding vessel.

“What’s you deal Doc?” she said as she slid into a seat opposite him and started on her comfort food.

“It’s too complex, I haven’t quite figured out the axis of my condition.” He said looking at his glass as if it were a mirror.

“Oh” She offered helplessly.

They sat in silence a short while, unsure which of them was more uncomfortable and both feeling guilty about being upset in front of the other.

“Are you staying here on the compound, I would have figured back in the TNTR or the Casino apartments.” She said, obviously more uncomfortable with the silence than Tom who had learnt to be perfectly alone around others over the course of his cycles in the ESE field hospitals.

“Lita is in one and Julie in the other, and I can’t bear to be close to either of them.” He said, surprised by his own candour. This was why he hadn’t been drinking at the party he reminded himself. He raised his glass up and right, it wasn’t the motion of a toast, Jo watched and couldn’t figure it out.

“You didn’t look very comfortable at the party yesterday. If you don’t mind my asking, is it ‘cause of Julie and Lita?”

“I’m not comfortable around any of you to be honest.” He said raising his left hand brusquely, shaking his wrist and snapping of his watch and setting it down on the table.

“I don’t know what I’m doing here? I don’t know if this is home anymore? I need to figure things out and I don’t feel like I can with everyone around. It’s like they expect something from me, or worse, I expect something from them and I don’t see where I get the right to do that? You know what; it feels just like when I found you guys rolling around in Massada in ’19. Like the outsider looking in.” He shifted his watch around on the table nervously, then teasing his tumbler around. She couldn’t remember him having nervous ticks like this before, she found it very distracting but shook her attention free and looked him in the eye.

“Yeah, you’ve been away a while, but look around you. The caravan that just came into this place, the Casino, all of that you built with us. Most of what we got we got because of you, if you don’t have a right to be here then none of us do.”

He locked eyes with her, shifting his gaze from one socket to the other, she felt he was scanning her, tying to analyse her and it made her uncomfortable but she refused to back down from a good staring contest and matched his stare.

“OK Jo, here’s the real problem. Kain is still on about the mission, he wants me to help, just like back in the day. But I have a problem with the way he runs things, to a point. Maybe I just see there's more to be done?”

“What else is new?” She interjected but he continued.

“I went to Peace River for, well I’m not too sure why, but I think I was looking to make up for what I’ve done. Except I did it out here, this is where I have apologies to make…I’m digressing.” We took a sip of his glass and started passing it from hand to hand, letting it roll across his fingers fluidly while he continued. “Anyway, in Peace River we got caught, scratch that, I got caught with my pants down. I’ve been out of it for cycles and the Forzi are not who they once were. It’s complicated and I don’t know what’s going on and it frustrates me. I should have known something was up, I should have stayed on top of things…”

“Instead of running away?” Jo asked as much as accused. Tom set his glass down and picked up his watch instead, starting to turn it end over end.

“Yes. That’s a fair assessment. I got scared and I thought escape would solve the problem. Of course I rationalized it and even deluded myself that it was the best for everyone.”

“Well I don’t think Lita and Julie agree.” She said between spoonfuls.

“I see where you stand. Anyway, I feel responsible; I haven’t felt that in a long time. Guilty yes, ashamed yes, but responsible? That's been a while.”

“So what ya going to do about it Doc? You’re the man with the plan, at least, you used to be.”

“I’ve got some ideas.” He said his eyes down on the table, he raised his arms up, elbow down, in a weird ‘hands up’ kind of pantomime. Jo looked at the whiskey and thought to herself that this must be the second bottle he was on. He snapped on finger, then the other.

“I`ve got ideas but I don’t know if I can achieve them alone and I don’t know if they will align perfectly with what Kain has in mind. So I’m back to wondering if I’m just an outsider. Surrounded by everyone I care about but alone.”

“Well that is some of the most serious bullshit I’ve heard in a while Chambers, you’ve gotta to be pretty damned blind and self-centered not to see through your self-pity and realise that everyone here believes in you. Hell, they care about you. You’ve saved their lives and made them better!”

“Sound familiar” He said gently, catching her off guard. She was confused a moment, then his words words resonated and her answer echoed in her mind. She felt inexplicably ashamed for the nth time in weeks. A ball formed in her throat and she dropped her spoon, afraid she was going to be sick. She threw an accusing glare at him for doing this to her but all she found was pain reflected in his shimmering eyes.

He put his hands down and reached for her, she withdrew but he caught her fingers. “Look who’s talking Josephina. How about you realise that you aren’t alone either.” She looked away, tears welling up. He slid out of his chair and knelt by her side.

“You are no burden, you have carried others and cared for them and they would do the same for you.” He whispered and she sobbed once heavily, gasping for air as she tried to stifle her emotions. “We loved you, no matter what.” He held onto her hands firmly but tenderly, on bent knee next to her hunched and convulsing frame and she collapsed into his arms.

She cried for five minutes straight, when she could finally pull out of his fatherly embrace, her face was a mess. He offered her a napkin, the only thing at hand, which she took with a small smile. When she looked at him through hazy, tear filled eyes she could see that he too had been crying. They smiled at each other and then laughed briefly. She felt more composed, but also suddenly more serious.

“This isn’t going to be easy is it?” She said sullenly.

“No” he said, wiping away the tears on her cheeks, temples and chin. “This is just the beginning.”

“For both of us.” Jo offered, returning the gentle action of drying his face. He nodded knowingly, a sign of introspection for a moment as he too internalised some deeper resolve and resolution.

“Can you sleep?” He asked, as if on cue she yawned. She was surprised to find she was exhausted, her head was pounding from the crying, but she was definitely drowsy.

“Yes” came her answer, somewhat incredulously. He stood her up and put his arm around her shoulder, walking her back in the direction of her dorm.

“That’s the lacrimosic release of prolactin as well as the dopamine response from your first EMDR session.”


“Crying secretes a protein which help regular hormones and stimulated eye movement is the therapy technique I told you about today. The watch, the glass, my hands; I provoked the equivalent of rapid eye responses in you which simulates restful sleep. We’ll do a lot more of that.” He explained kindly.

She laughed lightly, realising now what all his ‘ticks’ had been. They were at her door and he gave her a little wave when she stopped. “What about you Doc, what’s your therapy gonna be?”

He bit the inside of his cheek and wiped away a stray tear; coming to a final internal decision.

“This, this and other stuff. I’m going to stay and do the things I do best.”


Hermes 72 - Heavy Gear RPG - Most artwork Copyright 2002 Dream Pod 9, Inc.