TAKE BACK WHAT WAS TAKEN FROM ME
I stared at the furious scrawl before me, page after page, every margin and crevice had deep red, blue, and black ink expressing grief, rage, and a lust for revenge. This was a different Violet than the one who had been living with us the past ten days. Who I had laughed with over a roasting chicken and sang with while drinking tea to “Rolling in the Deep”
WORTHLESS, FAT, UGLY!
I winced. No, Violet, you’re not. I wanted to say.
I never wanted it!!! It wasn’t my fault!
I must let go of responsibility.
I want TO HEAL
I was humiliated.
KILL KILL KILL!!!
I cringed and slapped the workbook shut. Self-disgust slapped me across the face as I realized exactly what I was reading. Her sexual abuse recovery workbook.
I was set with the grim duty of packing up Violet’s things. She was being kicked out and was currently wandering the streets of Texas looking for a CareNow clinic on foot carrying nothing but a wallet, her handbag, and a pack of cigarettes. I was going through her items one by one and packing them up as neatly as I could while utilizing what little space there was in her travel bag and shoebox.
“Oh, I can’t imagine a fresh start, just me and the kids…”
Fresh start. Distance from the past. Now it made sense why those had been practically her catchphrases while she was here.
“Hannah, I know how crippling anxiety can be…”
I didn’t know how deep hers ran. I didn’t know what brand of paranoia she had been dealt. My stomach churned. I looked up to the dresser in the entrance we had been letting her use, and upon opening the second drawer on the right I saw her prescription bag. Impulsively I grabbed it and took out the papers inside, noting the absence of her medication.
Effexor XR. Venlafaxine. I had read about it once or twice in my studies on psychiatric medications. It’s an antidepressant but it can also be used for anxiety. It inhibits the reuptake of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrene (the serotonergic theory of depression is sketchy from what I recall.) her dosage is double the typical prescription for depressed patients, and it’s extended release, meant to stay in her system all the live long day. Someone sure wanted to muzzle her demons. I looked at the date it was filled, the 20th. Merely 48 hours before she moved in. I went into my room and took out my miniature notepad, a little voice in my head shame, shame, shaming what I was doing. But after a moment of contemplation I knew it was a lost cause. I had to know more about Violet Herring. For five-hour blocks of time she spilled out her heart to me, and I had started to do the same. Maybe it was her experience as a therapist, her calm and sympathetic demeanor that made me open up. I didn’t know it when I had been speaking with her that she would go on to betray me with anything that I had shared. I walked back to the dresser and heard my brother’s door open upstairs. I scribbled her drug information and flipped the notepad shut before sliding both the pad and pen into my jacket pocket as Austin descended the stairs. I folded her articles of clothing patiently as he made his lunch and let the dogs out. As soon as I heard his door shut I was back to going through her items, her books, her notes. Guilt repeatedly punched me in the gut with every page I turned, but what I had was beyond curiosity, and for the moment my conscience couldn’t keep me in line as I always allow it to. Always, always, always do the right thing… By the time I had finished with her paper articles I felt like a dead battery from the guilt, halfway wishing that I never read them. But I continued scribbling the notes anyway. Justifying my violation of her hopes, dreams, shameful moments and regrets using some absurd reason or other.
I wanted to tell someone how I felt, what conclusion I had come to, who Violet really was. I had managed a profile of her in the two and a half hours I spent packing her things, it was choppy and filled with holes that I couldn’t fill unless I asked her personal questions up front, but it was enough that I felt I understood her beyond a decent degree. I had a sudden impulse to wash my hands (literally and metaphorically) and flicked on the light in the downstairs bathroom. I looked up at the mirror and saw dark circles under my eyes that were not existent a couple of hours ago.
I knew that I would be playing devil’s advocate again. Violet reminded my mother too much of my bipolar Grandmother for her to see Violet in a more objective light. It’s why she was kicked out. During her brief stay she had come to enjoy one of my favorite books, Treasures of the North, so I packed the trilogy along with my dog-marked, over-tabbed pocket Bible and a handwritten letter along with her items. It felt right. I knew that once mom found out about the letter all hell would break loose, but I had to tell her a few things, and I knew no other way that seemed fitting.
On the 3rd of July, Watson (Heather Madame) and I went to Town Square for the fireworks. I had a persistent headache ever since the Violet fiasco but tried to sound upbeat and enjoy the night. Unfortunately, it was loud and crowded with obnoxious teenagers, deafening rock bands and overpriced slushies. More than once we sought solace in Barnes & Noble. Throughout the night my headache progressed from I-could-use-an-advil to please-kill-me-now status. But the fireworks were somewhat enjoyable except for how up close and personal we were, with every burst of light the ground thumped, and the sound was practically physical. Before the fireworks ended, though, we ventured back into Barnes and split a piece of cheesecake (since The Cheesecake Factory is neighbors with the bookstore, the Starbucks inside Barnes sells their cheesecake) and sipped frappicinos while trying to ignore the immature 15 year olds sitting behind Heather. My head was pounding and even chocolate did little to lessen it. Earlier when we were upstairs in the psychology section of the store I had gotten a text message from my mom:
I really wish you hadn’t left that note with Violet. She’s telling everyone you apologized and I’m crazy.
“Violet you fool. What are you doing?” I mumbled bitterly as I replied to my mom the truth: I never said what she was claiming. My back suddenly ached and my headache worsened. A feeling near betrayal made my heart sink into my stomach and blood rush to my face.
“What is it?” Heather asked, having heard my insult to the absent Violet. I explained the situation to Heather, but I kept it short, a lump was forming in my throat.
After we had dropped off Heather and made our way back home (Austin was a leader at a church camp so luckily he wasn’t present) mom started the interrogation. I voiced my innocence, but she suddenly had that tone in her voice that implies I’m lying.
“I just want to know if you might have said something to imply that you felt I was wrong.” She said calmly. But unfortunately, it didn’t take much for me to lose it.
I slammed my purse on the counter and faced her head-on, using a vocabulary I hadn’t practiced since my preteen years. “Have her send you the freaking letter, photocopy it even. But I did not say any of the bull she’s claiming I did. I was sympathizing with her but I’m on your side, mom. I have always been on your side. I did not say what she is telling everyone I said. And if you ask if I even hinted at it you’re calling me a liar and I did. Not. Lie.” My head was pounding to the point that I could hear each beat of my heart. The waterworks started up and I broke down in the middle of the kitchen. Suddenly her story changed. Of course she believed me, she said, she just wanted to know if I ever thought something like that.
I tried and failed to clear my throat before snatching my purse, I looked at her through the suspended rivers in my vision. “I’m sick of always having to plead my case to you.” I put my hand to my forehead, beads of sweat were already forming and my heart was going a mile a minute.
“You never have to plead your case, I believe you.”
I exhaled loudly, “If you believed me than you wouldn’t keep asking, if you thought I’d never say what she’s claiming than you wouldn’t have to ask.”
“I just want to know if you ever do feel that way, I do believe you.”
I looked to the clock on the stove, it was nearing midnight. I stumbled while making my way up the stairs and pain shot up my arm. I tested the damage and realized I wasn’t able to move it very much without wincing. I would return downstairs a few minutes later to get iced water and walk in on a conversation about how I must be fabricating my every explanation. I can honestly say it was one of the most miserable nights of my life. In the days following my family recieved anonmyous phone calls, though we all know who it is. Little by little the truth came out. Violet was a child abuser who lied about her husband being mentally ill and that she had been in at least six houses in the past two months. I still stick to my profile of the more vulnrable side of Violet, as much as my mom can only look at her name and see Charlene’s face (my grandmother). After looking up her medication in my pill books I was able to piece together a plausible theory of her behavior during her stay. She had told me during her stay that sometimes she will suddenly go off of her meds (and with a serotonin and reuptake inhibitor like Effexor, that is very, very bad) and I believe that 1-3 days before her arrival she did just that. The sudden rush of the neurotransmitters being blocked from reuptake made her happy and focused and manic, but once the hit wore off, she became irritable and depressed. I explained her behavior and the profile I had worked up to my mom and explained a possible explanation for Grandma Charlene’s mental illness as well. Cyclothymic disorder (a milder form of bipolar disorder). Her eyes widened as I explained two of the most off-their-rocker females in our family, she nodded and explained the most accurate parts of my points, sending the criteria for the disorder to her aunt, Charlene’s sister.
The headaches are still persistent, though for my general pain my mom took me to a chiropractor yesterday (I have a curvature of the spine which needs consistent adjustment) and a few days ago my mother purchased an air mattress, which is much more merciful than sleeping on a couch. Thankfully, I no longer have electric-current like pain everywhere, but I’m still quite sore from the adjustment yesterday and the headaches are still difficult to ignore.
I won’t be around very often unless a particular notion strikes, but today I very much felt that I had to write about this, lest I, too, join every single woman in my family and go a little crazy – my mother excluded. And that is the truth.
P.S. As of July 6th, I am a 17-year old.