Dr. Morrison’s disappointment visibly deepened. Clearing his throat, he flipped to another point in my journal, and read:
Last night I dreamt I was swimming through the hot warm dark, just me and the sound of drums, and there was nothing in the world that could frighten me or hurt me or change the way things were.
Then there was a tearing, ripping sound, and the drums went quiet, and everything was pain, pain, PAIN. I never felt pain like that before, and I tried to scream, but I couldn’t scream—something stopped me from screaming. I fled from the pain, and the pain followed me, and the hot warm dark was turning cold and crushing, until it wasn’t comfort, it was death. I was going to die. I had to run as fast as I could, had to find a new way to run, and the sound of drums was fading out, fading into silence.
If I didn’t get to safety before the drums stopped, I was never going to get to safety at all. I had to save the drums. The drums were everything.
He looked up. “That’s an odd amount of importance to place on a sound, don’t you think? What do the drums represent to you, Sally?”
“I don’t know. It was just a dream I had.” It was a dream I had almost every night. I only wrote it down because Nathan said that maybe Dr. Morrison would stop pushing quite so hard if he felt like he had something to interpret. Well, he had something to interpret, and it wasn’t making him back off. If anything, it was doing the opposite. I made a mental note to smack my boyfriend next time I saw him.
“Dreams mean things. They’re our subconscious trying to communicate with us.”
The smug look on his face was too much. “You’re about to tell me I’m dreaming about being in the womb, aren’t you? That’s what you always say when you want to sound impressive.”
His smug expression didn’t waver.
“Look, I can’t be dreaming about being in the womb, since that would require remembering anything before the accident, and I don’t.” I struggled to keep my tone level. “I’m having nightmares based on the things people have told me about my accident, that’s all. Everything is great, and then suddenly everything goes to hell? It doesn’t take a genius to guess that the drums are my heart beating. I know they lost me twice in the ambulance, and that the head trauma was so bad they thought I was actually brain-dead. If I hadn’t woken up when I did, they would have pulled the plug. I mean, maybe I don’t like the girl they say I was, but at least she didn’t have to go through physical therapy, or relearn the English language, or relearn everything about living a normal life. Do I feel isolated from her? You bet I do. Lucky bitch died that day, at least as long as her memories stay gone. I’m just the one who has to deal with all the paperwork.”
Dr. Morrison raised an eyebrow, looking nonplussed. Then he reached for his notepad. “Interesting,” he said.
Somehow I managed not to groan.
The rest of the session was as smooth as any of them ever were. Dr. Morrison asked questions geared to make me blow up again; I dodged them as best as I could, and bit the inside of my lip every time I felt like I might lose my cool. At the end of the hour, we were both disappointed. He was disappointed because I hadn’t done more yelling, and I was disappointed because I’d yelled in the first place. I hate losing my temper. Even more, I hate losing it in front of people like Dr. Morrison. Being Sally Mitchell sucks sometimes. There’s always another doctor who wants a question answered and thinks the best way to do it is to poke a stick through the bars of my metaphorical cage. I didn’t volunteer to be the first person whose life was saved by a tapeworm. It just happened.
I have to remind myself of that whenever things get too ridiculous: I am alive because of a genetically engineered tapeworm. Not a miracle; God was not involved in my survival. They can call it an “implant” or an “Intestinal Bodyguard,” with or without that damn trademark, but the fact remains that we’re talking about a tapeworm. A big, ugly, blind, parasitic invertebrate that lives in my small intestine, where it naturally secretes a variety of useful chemicals, including—as it turns out—some that both stimulate brain activity and clean toxic byproducts out of blood.
The doctors were as surprised by that as I was. They’re still investigating whether the tapeworm’s miracle drugs are connected to my memory loss. Frankly, I neither care nor particularly want to know. I’m happy with who I’ve become since the accident.
Dr. Morrison’s receptionist smiled blandly as I signed out. SymboGen required physically-witnessed time stamps for my sessions. I smiled just as blandly back. It was the safest thing to do. I’d tried being friendly during my first six months of sessions, until I learned that I was basically under review from the time I stepped through the door. Anything I did while inside the office could be entered into my file. Since those first six months included more than a few crying jags in the lobby, they were enough to buy me even more therapy.
“Have a nice day, Miss Mitchell,” said the receptionist, taking back her clipboard. “See you next week.”
I smiled at her again, sincerely this time. “Only if my doctors agree with whatever assessment Dr. Morrison comes up with, instead of agreeing with me. If there is any justice in this world, you’ll never be seeing me again.”
Maybe the comment was ill-advised, but it still felt good to see her perfectly made-up eyes widen in shock. She was still gaping at me as I turned back to the door and made my way quickly out of the office, into the sweet freedom of the afternoon air.