Take Back the Memory

By Augustine Sam

General fiction, Literary fiction

Paperback, eBook

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1852
6 mins

CHAPTER 1

The door of the consulting studio swung open at 9.00 a.m. and Dr. Wilson, a slender, pipe-smoking clinical psychologist stuck his hoary head in the doorway. His face lit up at the sight of Paige sitting cross-legged in the cozy waiting room.

“Hello Dr. Lyman,” he smiled courteously, “I had no idea you were here already.”

Paige glanced up, her face a frozen scowl, and gazed at him. She had expected them to be on first-name basis this morning; the unexpected formality fazed her quite a bit.

“Good morning, Dr. Wilson,” she said wryly, “Sorry I’m early, a habit, I guess.”

“Oh, that’s all right,” he said quickly, the smile on his lips waning. “I’ll be with you in a minute.”

She nodded and looked away as he disappeared back into the consulting room. Left alone, she gazed artfully across the lounge. The psychotherapist’s studio was illuminated by the sun’s rays through an opened venetian blind and the balmy sunlit ambience fascinated her.
“Like the cheery whisper of an admirer after a heartbreak,” she said wistfully and rose. As she did so, echoes of distant traffic momentarily brought her to a curt state of mental alertness. Palms sweaty, Paige walked up to the window and opened it. She gazed, mesmerized, at the sun-drenched avenue on the breezy late September morning and noted that the peak time for fall foliage in New York was weeks away yet. She closed the window.

Shrugging, she walked back to her seat and plopped a black zebra-print clutch bag down in her lap, her hand trembling slightly.

“Darn!” she mumbled, her thoughts embracing her daughter, who had convinced her to come.

“I shouldn't be here, Diane,” she whispered savagely. “I just shouldn't.”

Anxious to get control of herself, she heaved a sigh and leaned back on the comfortable davenport, puckering her voluptuous lips.

She was wearing a rose-tinted shirt with a low-cut neckline that revealed an alluring cleavage. A cherry, handcrafted silk scarf was wrapped around her neck, and seemed harmonious with her elegant bearing. She sported knee-high black boots that matched the color of her fringed skirt, accentuating its beauty. Angry with herself for letting Diane convince her to come, she sat up agitatedly. Her glowing red hair tumbled down her slim shoulders in long, bouncy waves and gave her smooth, porcelain-like skin and high cheekbones a vivid sculptural effect.

She started at the sound of a latch unfastening as the door of the consulting room swung open again.

“Sorry to keep you waiting,” Dr. Wilson said from the doorway and then walked up to where she was sitting. Paige rose slowly. Her eyes on his face, she smoothed her skirt and noticed that his courteous smile had not waned completely. Without altering his gait, Dr. Wilson thrust his hand in front of her. Paige took the outstretched hand and shook it gently.

“Can I come in now?” she asked, softening her lips.

“Yes please come in,” he said, gesturing with his hand.

He was clean-shaven and wore no tie; his fawn-striped shirt, unlike hers, was buttoned all the way up. His flat stomach was emphasized by a black croc-print leather belt that held his navy flat-front chino pants together. He wore black semi-brogues and walked with a slight shuffle. Paige followed him into the studio, full of expectation.

“Please sit down,” he said, indicating the black, buckskin couch for patients. “Would you like some coffee?”

“No, thank you,” she answered. She sat on the familiar couch, but as she gazed at him from the corner of her eyes on the chair that should be hers, the magnitude of the moment escaped her.

In the magnifying silence of the room, Dr. Wilson sat composed on his standard, comfortable chair, the tip of his pen held against his lip the way he usually held his pipe. His eyes were on Paige, and hers were on his. For several seconds their eyes locked; at first warily, like two professionals trying to find a meeting ground, a starting point.

“Diane made me come,” she said regretfully and gazed at him. “Frankly, I don’t know why I’m here.”

“You’re here to talk to me,” he said, crossing one leg over the other. “I guess both as a colleague and as a patient, and I’ll love to listen to you as much as I've loved reading your work.”

She uncrossed her legs and quickly re-crossed them, and then she leaned back on the couch, her fringed skirt shifting upwards. She noticed that his eyes, unlike those of most men, remained on her face and not on her legs. She said, “Don’t patronize me; even my own daughter thinks I’m going mad. Don’t lie; you think so, too. But you know, I can still sit on that chair and listen to patients.”

“I know you certainly can,” he responded indulgently. “You were one of the best. But we both know that things aren’t the way they used to be. If you were on this chair, the first thing you would tell the patient would be to admit it and talk to you about it.” He paused and pretended to think, and then he said, without looking at her, “I think you have admitted that much within you, that’s why you allowed Diane to convince you to come, so let’s talk, my friend. Let’s talk about it.”

Paige regarded him suspiciously. Let’s talk about it, she thought. Talk about it? Dr. Wilson’s words jangled in her head like the howl of a campanile. What’s there to talk about? she wondered. A slight irritation rose inside her like the beginning of a toothache. Yet, she knew he was right; things were not the way they used to be. In the course of her checkered life and career, especially in recent years, nothing was the same as they once were. No matter, it hurt her quite a bit the way everyone seemed to think she had gone mad, the way she had been transformed from psychiatrist to patient.

“Be frank with me,” she said, “do you think I am crazy?”

“Aren't we all?” he laughed mirthlessly. “Come on, this is not about you being crazy.”

“What is it about?”

“It’s about you and me having a nice little talk so we can understand how things are.”
She was silent for a while; she wished he could give her a reason to scream. She so desperately wanted to scream at someone this morning, so why not this psychologist, with his calm, upper-class manners?

After what seemed like a long time, she realized, not without some satisfaction, that he was determined to be courteous with her this morning.

“I’m at a loss,” she whined and turned on the couch facing away from him, “I don’t know where to begin, I don’t even know what to talk about. I mean, there are so many things to explore.”

“Let’s start from the endearing subject of your book, are you convinced you want to tell it as it is?”

“Yes.”

“Everything?”

“Every little detail.”

He watched her calmly. “I know you've never been afraid to bare your mind but between me and you, is there any aspect of this memoir that disturbs you a bit?”

“Yes,” she turned and smiled up at him, a strangely wary smile, “but an autobiography has to be frank,” she said. “What’s the point writing it if you are going to shy away from the ugly part? I can’t keep it all inside. I want to let it out.”

“Very well,” he said, his eyes agreeing with her. “Maybe we should talk about some of the traumatizing aspects of the experience you've recalled and want to write about.”

She gazed at him without a word. And her mind began to tumble backwards slowly, very slowly.

“I think it all began with a simple act of love,” she said at length, her voice surprisingly nostalgic. “A simple act of love,” she emphasized, “between me and Bill, when we were kids.”

“I am listening.”

She sat up on the couch. “My life is like a soap opera,” she muttered, grimacing, “a distressing mélange spiced with love, heartbreak and a hidden truth, it will silence your thoughts.”

“I take it you loved this Bill.”

“Don’t interrupt me,” she rebuked him mildly and the psychologist softened his lips but did not smile. “What Bill and I shared wasn't a sensual scream, okay? We were kids.”

“Okay,” he mumbled, nodding.

“We grew up together,” she told him, “it was in Kenya; we were on an unending safari. Bill was a handsome Irish boy. There weren't many white boys around to connect to, you must understand; so I fell desperately in love with him and thought I would marry him someday.” She paused and stared at the rug on the floor of the consulting room, her thoughts a riot. She hated to remember that back then while she was nursing her infantile dreams of matrimony, Bill’s father was formulating a different program for his son.

“Into the service of God you’ll go,” he had told the boy. “A priest, that’s what you are going to be.” Paige glanced up sharply and thoughts jangled in her head. It might have been different, she mused, if Bill had been a Protestant Irish and not Catholic. She gazed at Dr. Wilson’s shoes as memories flooded her mind. She tried to speak and her voice broke but the psychologist’s gentle manners soothed her. She and Bill had attended the same school for expatriate kids in Nairobi, she explained. After the boy’s primary school education, his father bundled him into the junior seminary in Ireland and the world was never the same again. With all contact between them lost, she willed herself to be heartbroken for long, sad years and Bill went on to earn a degree in Theology and was subsequently ordained a priest, or so she thought.

“Did you eventually recover from this heartbreak?” Dr. Wilson asked.

“Maybe I did, in my own way.”

“What happened when you recovered?” He asked her warily.

Her eyes didn't meet his. “A different passion engulfed me then.”

“What kind of passion?”

“Maybe you’ll like to call it vengeance.”

“Was it vengeance?” Dr. Wilson, like her, uncrossed and re-crossed his legs.

“Yes. A strange kind though.”

Their eyes locked. “A strange kind of vengeance, you say?”

Paige nodded and looked away. “It was priesthood that caused Bill to jilt me,” she said in a childlike, defensive voice, “So, I figured a settling of scores might heal me,” she paused, sighed and then said, “I decided to wage a very personal war against priests.”

Dr. Wilson slowly narrowed his eyes. “You mean, like secretly assassinating priests?”

“No,” she frowned, staring at her skirt.

“But a personal war …”

Paige said quickly, “A personal war that made nonsense of their vow, if you know what I mean.”

“Not really.”

She gritted her teeth. “I seduced them, damn it, and then I made them suffer.”

Wilson gaped at her, “You seduced priests to get back at Bill for abandoning you for priesthood?”

“Yes,” she looked up at the psychologist now. “But that is only part of the story.”



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