God Loves All His Children: Santa Muerte
The air-conditioner hummed in Dr Cynthia Parnell’s office. Turned up all the way, it made an overbearing noise. From the window, certain shops and businesses could be seen. In their windows, carved pumpkins grinned at the sweating passers-by. To open a window would be to let hot air in.
Dr Parnell checked the electric clock on her desk. 13:58, it read. Rising, she went to her door. She opened it just as her next patient was about to knock. Danielle Harris blinked in surprise. Her hand, raised to knock, instead scratched her wavy, sandy hair. Her posture and stance betrayed her military discipline.
“Danielle. It’s nice to see you,” Dr Parnell said up to Dani, meaning it.
“Hi Cynthia. Nice to see you too.” Dani lowered her arm.
“Would you like to come in? We’ll begin when you’re ready.”
“Sure. That’s cool.”
Dani entered the office and seemed to shiver.
“It’s hot out, isn’t it?” ventured Dr Parnell.
“Yeah it is. Weird too, all the Hallowe’en stuff up and all. It’s like summer doesn’t wanna end.”
“No kidding. Whoever’s in charge of that whole affair should probably be fired.”
“Ah, no-one gets fired in Heaven. They just kind of pat eachother on the head when something goes wrong and pretend like it never happened.”
“Are you implying Heaven is run like a day care for handicapped children?”
“It would explain a lot.”
Dr Parnell chuckled. Dani grinned.
“I can turn down the A/C if you’d prefer,” the therapist offered.
“No need. Hell, it’s a load off. I walked here.” Dani replied. She sat in the patient’s chair, before the desk.
“You walked in this heat? What was that like?”
“Not very fun.”
“Hm. Well, I suppose it’s better than being stuck in a car. You really don’t mind the fans?”
“Not at all.”
“Well, as long as you’re comfortable.” Dr Parnell eased her bulk into her chair, across from Dani. Desk between them, the session began.
“How have you been feeling?” the therapist said.
“Good. Good enough.” Dani shifted in her seat. Getting comfortable.
“Just good enough?”
“Yeah. Things are rough sometimes, but nothing terrible. Nothing I can’t handle.”
“Well, you’re nothing if not tough, Danielle.”
Dani smiled. She took it as a compliment. Her left bicep flexed involuntarily.
Dr Parnell went on. “So your circumstances are still difficult sometimes. Like, your landlord, for example? I remember you had quite a bit of difficulty concerning him.”
“Yeah, he made a lot of noise. Eventually I figured he was all bark and no bite. You know how it is. “Barking dogs seldom bite.” I been to learning to let things go a lot more.”
“Yes, I remember you had some trouble with that early on. How are you now with it? Have you been keeping up with the relaxation techniques I suggested?”
“I have, yeah. I also tried out those online yoga tutorials on YouTube. I didn’t think much of them, but they really do work.”
“So you feel you’ve calmed down?”
Dani scratched the back of her neck. Just at the hairline. “Well – I can’t pretend I don’t get angry. I do, still. A lot. I get angry in work a lot, with customers and my manager. Shi – uh, stuff like that. And sometimes, I feel like – I feel like it’s gonna spill over.”
“Do you have an example in mind?”
“Yeah. I was on the bus, right? This was, I don’t know, two weeks ago? Anyway I’m sitting on the bus and in the other row is this – this, Muslim girl. Girl, woman, I don’t know, I don’t how old she was. Anyway, she’s sitting across from me and she’s just on her phone. Not doing anything, not looking up or saying anything. But I knew she was Muslim because she was wearing the hijab thing.
“I remember thinking how nice this hijab is, like I could describe it to you right now. It was this kinda goldy-orange colour with these beautiful henna-type designs on it. Fabric was all glossy. I don’t know what it was made of but I bet it felt so silky. And I’m staring at this hijab, staring at this girl. And at some point I realise she’s looking back at me. Only not really looking, just sort of glancing at me. Casting these nervous glance my way, right?
“I start thinking what her problem is, then I blink or we go over a bump or something and I realise I’m the one glaring at her. Like, glaring. All frown and evil eyes. So I jump up and turn away but the damage is done. Poor girl must’ve scared for her life. I wanted to say sorry, you know, but what would I have said. And anyway, she got off after like, five minutes. But the worst of it, I spent the next, like, fifteen minutes thinking of ways to neutralise her. You know, if she really did turn out to be a – a threat. I had like six entire plans ready to go before I figured what I was doing.”
Dr Parnell thumbed a pen. “You believe your combat experience makes you a danger to others?”
“Maybe. Maybe. I don’t know. I don’t like hurting people. But I know that sometimes it’s necessary. I don’t like hd porno assessing the threat level of everyone I meet. But I don’t wanna let up. Just in case I’m right and I do need to act.”
“Hm.” The therapist thought a moment about what she would say next. Her thick fingers laced together. Contemplating breaths raised her large bosom up and down. “Danielle, I’m sure you’ve heard this already, but these sessions are all about helping you to re-integrate with society. You’ve been repatriated for eleven months?”
“Eleven months and sixteen days.”
“And before that you experienced things that might break someone without the training you received. And while some of these experiences may have had a negative effect on your psychology, it’ll do no good to beat yourself up over it. It’s natural for you to get angry. It’s natural for you to retain your training in everyday life. They’re simply a part of who you are. The relaxation techniques I taught you are designed to help manage these potentially harmful impulses. Bring them under control, so to speak. The fact that you’ve taken measures yourself is also a great sign.”
“The yoga stuff? That’s just stretches and weird music.”
“It’s not so much the measure itself, but the fact that you, personally, set out to find a way to control yourself. It might not be possible to slay your demons. But I believe it is possible to tame them. So that you can learn to live with them.”
Dani scratched her hair. It was soft and wavy, and made no sound. “You really think so?”
Dr Parnell adjusted her spectacles. “I do, yes. Your progress, in these past few months, have certainly helped prove me right so far.”
Dani seemed to blush and looked away. Her hand still scratched at her hair. “Incidentally,” chirped Dr Parnell, “what’s my threat level?”
“Yours?” Dani said, taken aback. She considered it. “Hmm, I’d say, about, 2 or 3. Outta 10.”
“2 or 3?”
“Maybe 4. But only if you had a weapon. Like a knife or something. And anyone with a gun is at least a 6, anyway.”
Dr Parnell sat in mock contemplation. Meaty fingers interlaced again, in front of her mouth. “I’m sure how I should feel about that” she said after a moment. She laughed, pretence broken. Dani grinned.
“Well then” the therapist exhaled, “is there anything else you’d like to talk about? Anything else I can help you with?
“Uhm, yeah,” said Dani. She didn’t say anything else.
Dr Parnell looked to the side and back again. “Would you, like to tell me about it?”
“Uh-um, yeah,” blustered Dani. Was she blushing? She was. “Just, um, just lest let me… Yeah, so there’s this – uh, I wanted to ask something relationship, related. Sorry, this is probably outside your paycheque.”
“Don’t worry about that. Whatever I can do to help.”
Dr Parnell smiled patiently. “I’m sure.”
“Okay, if you’re sure then – if you’re sure, then okay. So I – recently – got a girlfriend.”
“Oh, congratulations. How long have you been dating?”
“Uh, two – two and a half months now. It doesn’t feel like such a long time, but – is it cool if I don’t tell you her name?”
“Okay, great. So, I mean, things have been good. She’s – she’s actually from the squad, you know, so we got that in common. And we were friends even before – uh, before we got together. Like, already close, so – well anyway, things have been going well. Great actually. We, like go on dates, do couple stuff. But… I mean, we don’t always have a lot of free time, ’cause I’m working at the hardware store and she has her job, but whatever free time we have is usually spent together. And that’s great, so…”
Dani stopped talking. Stuck on a word, she couldn’t unstuck. So she sunk into her seat and thought. Looked around the clean office. Nothing inspired her. Nothing told her what she wanted to say. She looked over at Dr Parnell. Patient, giving her time. To think about what she had to say. “Damn,” Dani said at last. “I’ll just be straight with you, okay?”
“Say you know someone a long time. Say you’ve been through a lot with them, ups and down, good and bad. You stick with them, and they stick with you. After a while you think you know them. Well enough. But then something big happens. Something bad. It changes things Changes them. And they might act the same, talk the same way, but you know something’s different. Something’s not – right. Even if they’re your best friend. Even if you love them. You still know something’s not right.” Dani took another breath. “The question I’m asking is: what do you do if someone you love starts to scare you?”
Seconds ticked by in silence. The A/C hummed. The sound permeated every corner of the room. Like it wanted to be heard. To be acknowledged.
“Scare you?” Dr Parnell said. “Do you believe you’re in danger? If that’s the case, then –”
“No! No, no danger, just…” Dani bit her lip. “Have you ever seen that David Lynch movie Lost Highway? Bill Pullman’s in it.”
“I think I’ve seen bits and pieces.”
“Right, sex izle well, there’s this scene where Bill Pullman’s at a party or something. There’s music, lotsa people around talking and laughing. You know, the last place you’d think anything bad or weird might happen. Then this guy walks in and there’s this moment where his and Bill’s eyes meet. This guy, he’s all pale, blue-lipped. No eyebrows, slicked back, wearing all black. He’s just the definition of creepy. And of course we never learn who he is, what his name is. So this guy walks over and things get all Lynchian and weird.
“But the point is as soon as the guy appears the world freezes. Music stops, no-one’s talking or laughing anymore. It’s like time’s frozen and Bill and this guy are in their own little world. The Creepy Guy has a voice like – like a nightmare. He’s like something out of a nightmare. But as soon as he leaves, the music starts up again, people are making noise again. Like none of it ever happened.”
“And you have experienced moments similar to this with your partner?”
“Yeah. Sometimes she says things, or does things that – don’t make sense. Then she kinda blinks and comes back to herself. Pretends like everything’s normal.” Dani sniffed. “Like me on the bus with the hijab girl, I guess. Ah, forget it. Maybe it’s hypocritical, maybe… I don’t know.”
“Danielle.” A concerned voice. Dani looked over at her therapist. “It seems to me that this is bothering you a lot. I understand if you’d rather not talk about it, but I also insist you get it off your chest. If not to me, then to someone. Anyone you trust.”
Dani sighed. She was quiet. “I trust you,” she told Dr Parnell, and readied herself. “Three weeks ago, we were in my apartment. We were cooking, I was chopping vegetables. And you know, clumsy me, I end up cutting my finger. It’s not bad, but there’s a lot of blood. It gets all over the tomatoes and everything. I must’ve made a noise or something because Le – uh, my girlfriend turns and asks if I’m alright. So I laugh and say sorry, I ruined the veggies, but then – then I see her and I stop. She has this look, like – like a nightmare. At this point, my hand’s all bloody and she – she reaches and grabs my hand and just – stares at it. Stares at the blood. My blood, and – she doesn’t say anything. She’s holding my hand hard, and I remember thinking: “she’s trying to make it run more.” Trying to make me bleed even more.
“Then she –” Dani stopped. Raised her fist to her lips. Lowered it, and went on. “Then she comes closer and raises my hand and she – damn. She licked my hand. Just touched it with her tongue. And on the end of her tongue was this little bead of blood and goes back in her mouth. And she mutters under her breath “Metal.” She was tasting it, understand? Blood tastes like metal. I don’t know – I’m not scared at this point, just confused. I don’t know what to do. I say her name and it’s like a spell was broken. She blinks and kinda looks around. Like she’d forgotten where she was. Then she asks if I’m okay again and everything’s back to normal. I tell her I’m fine, but she goes and gets me a Band-Aid anyway. We finish cooking, and then she was quiet for the rest of the night. I really –” Dani sighed again. There was much in it.
“I really wanted to say something. Ask. But I didn’t know what I’d say. I was – I was scared of what would happen if did. Like what if she got mad? What if she – what if she got all scary again? But I think it would be even worse if she got confused. Like she had no idea what I meant.”
The story ended. No-one spoke for a while. The seconds that ticked by seemed like an eternity. Dr Parnell thought hard. Processing the information. Eyes narrowed. Brow furrowed. Fingers lacing together, coming undone, interlacing again. She thought for a long time. “Have there been any other incidents like the one you’ve described?” she said at last. Dani answered “No. Nothing as bad.”
“Danielle, I – “faltered Dr Parnell, “I – I’m not sure what I can tell you.” Turning to the side, she though some more. Frowning. Formulating an answer. “Danielle, can I ask a personal question?”
“A pers… why, what is it?”
“I want to make sure of something. Just to know what I can do for you.”
Dani frowned herself. “Okay. What’s the question?”
“Are you in love with this person? The one you’ve described to me.”
Dani’s brows raised a centimetre. Without hesitating, she said “Yes.”
“You didn’t think about that very long.”
“I don’t need to.”
Dr Parnell sighed through her nose. “Well, that’s something.” She was quiet again, but only for a moment. “I want you to understand Danielle, in any other circumstance when a partner or spouse displays abusive or potentially harmful behaviour, I’d suggest you immediately go to the police. But this is different. It doesn’t sound like your partner is intent on harming you. But there are things she’s keeping from you. Sides of herself she isn’t showing. That much is clear. And what else is clear is that for a relationship altyazılı porn to survive, communication is vital. It’s not good to keep secrets from people that you love.
“The only advice I can give you in good conscience is to communicate. Talk to your partner. It doesn’t have to be today, or tomorrow, but the only way you can put your concerns to rest is if you confront them head-on. At least, that’s the approach that’s always suited you, right?”
“Right,” Dani said.
Dr Parnell looked at her clock. 14: 52. “Our time’s almost up. I hope I’ve been of help to you.”
“You have,” Dani assured. “You really have. Thanks Cynthia.”
“Any time,” Dr Parnell said. “Oh, one more thing,” she said just before Dani left. “Have you told your partner you love her yet?”
Dani blinked and blushed. A bashful grin played on her lips. “I – I haven’t found a good time.”
Dr Parnell’s smile was kind. “You should probably let her know soon.”
Dani said thank you again, and goodbye. Dr Parnell watched her walk from the building from her window. She checked her clock again. 14:56. Time enough. She knelt. Opened her filing cabinet. Hunted for the file. M. Finding it, she produced it from the cabinet. Opened it. Skimmed it over. The contents were similar to Dani’s. Only far less encouraging. Dr Parnell read the name at the top of the first page. Said it aloud.
The therapist closed the file and looked out her window. Dani could no longer be seen. Dr Parnell’s frown was one of concern.
Dani stuck her keys in the lock and turned the handle. The door didn’t move. Was it stuck again? Shoulder against the wood, she pushed with her weight. Still it wouldn’t move. She stepped back, scratched the back of her neck. Then blinked in realisation. Taking her keys again, she stuck it back in the lock. Turned it, and heard the sound of the lock coming undone. She entered the apartment with a self-deprecating sniff. A woman with brown skin and prosthetic legs was sitting on the dilapidated sofa.
“Oh you’re here,” Dani said. “I thought I left the door unlocked.”
“You did,” Leah answered, head upside down on the sofa backboard to see her. “I got here maybe twenty minutes ago. Went through about the same routine you did just now.”
“…Damn.” Dani couldn’t think of anything more to say. She sat down beside her girlfriend.
“You eat yet?” Leah asked.
“Hm? Mm. Yeah. Had something on the way over. What about you?”
“Same. How was your day?”
“It was okay. Got off work early to go to my appointment.”
“Oh yeah? How was that? – Dan? How was your appointment?”
“What? Oh – right. It was okay. Nothing special.”
Leah frowned a little. “Hey – you okay?”
“You’re kinda out of it, unfocussed. You got something on your mind?”
“I – when don’t I have things on my mind?”
“Leave the smartass bit to me, chica. Did something happen? Something with your shrink? What’s her name again? Prendell?”
“Parnell, and no, nothing happened with Cynthia.”
“Cynthia? Since when are you on first name basis with your shrink?”
“Since a while ago, and stop calling her a shrink. She’s a therapist, and she’s a good one. Why are you so concerned about it? You jealous?”
“Maybe I am, maybe I’m not.”
Dani raised her eyebrows in a placating smile. “Ley, you don’t have to be jealous of Cynthia. She’s cool and all, but she’s just my doctor.”
Leah crossed her arms. Her voice rasped with mock outrage. “You’ve always had a thing for her. It’s the boobs, I know it is. Those damn tig ol’ bitties swinging from her chest.” Pantomiming, she grabbed her own breasts in both hands. “I can’t help it if I was made small!”
Laughing, Dani said: “Well, big boobs aren’t that big a deal. Some people like them small, I guess.”
“Some people?!” Leah glared at her girlfriend through one narrowed eye. “And what about you, eh? You think having big boobs makes you better than me? I could have big tits if I wanted to! I could have all the tits in the world!”
With that, Leah made moves to pounce on Dani. The motion was pantomimed and clearly in jest, but Dani still reacted. She shot up from her seat. One hand at the backboard. The other raised in front of her, fingers splayed. An involuntary bellow. “No!”
Leah froze in place. Silence screeched. “W – Whoa,” Leah stuttered in surprise. “What was that about?”
“N – Nothing, nothing.” Dani stuttered herself. “It’s just – just – it’s nothing.” She looked away, out a window. It was already night. How dark it had gotten so soon.
The silence wailed on. Leah stood up straight and sighed through her nose. “Sorry,” she said. “I always do go that one step too far, huh?”
Dani sighed, and fell back into her seat. “No, I’m sorry. It’s not your fault, it’s – you’re right. There is something on my mind, but – I can’t – explain it right now. I don’t – you know how I’m bad with explaining shit. I will say, I promise. Just not now. Just – could you just sit with me here?” She looked up at Leah with endearing eyes.
Leah said nothing and sat down beside her girlfriend. Cosying up to her. Resting her head on her shoulder. Dani placed her arms round her. They sat there for a while.