She dropped the coin into the small painted metal bucket, once a child’s plaything, the formerly bright, cheerful colors had faded to pastel, cracked and peeling, the carousel and cartoon animals within, looking pale and tired. Sitting alone on the dusty windowsill, the bucket was a curious contrast to the bright sun that shone through the window. It had been a strangely long break since the layers of coins were joined by a new companion. But as she dropped the latest coin into the tired bucket, she was transported back to earlier days. Earlier betrayals filled it. One after another, the coins fell. One after another, a tiny bit of her died. It was almost striking how the dead parts left anything left of her being. Perhaps with each disappointment, a smaller piece was taken. Smaller and smaller, until she learned to guard herself carefully.
Inevitably though, she’d be coaxed out of her guardedness by someone promising with his eyes to be different. She’d open her heart and a new piece would be stolen. And a new coin would fall into the bucket. She should be rich by now, she thought. And perhaps she would be when the bucket would find itself unable to hold another occupant. When instead of a clang, she’d gingerly balance a coin on the nearly overflowing mound of copper. Perhaps it would be another year before the bucket would find itself unable to hold one more- Not. One. More. Perhaps it would be sooner. The thing about the coins was they came when they were least expected. Obviously, had she seen them coming, she’d have prevented them from even being needed. Sometimes she’d slam the door shut, narrowly missing heartbreak, she surmised. Sometimes she’d run. She’d feel the wind blowing through her long, fine hair, and feel the freedom as it swept it up, dropping it haphazardly atop her head. And yet, they came. Men were the most common benefactors of the ugly unwanted gift of yet another coin. But women… When a woman added to the pile, its burden was exponentially weightier. Women were cruel. Men were selfish and oppressive, taking what didn’t belong to them, but women- They knew how to inflict a particular brand of suffering on their unwitting recipient.
Fearing men and hating women was no way to live. And life marched on- slowly- almost painfully so. And sure enough, as soon as she began, once again, to listen to the lovebirds as they sang a dainty spring tune, and the wind as it majestically roared through the tall pine trees, exuding their power and might upon whatever was in its path, another coin would find itself into the ugly little bucket.
Today’s coin was courtesy of the new shrink. She really, really, hated shrinks. They were either harmless and incompetent or brusque and harsh. This one was the latter. As she trembled, speaking her truth, telling her story, she stopped periodically to blot her eyes. The tears always seemed to betray her. She loved her tough exterior. It was sexy and rugged and invincible. But the minute she was faced with telling the stories, she dissolved into a puddle of tears. Disgusting! She hated herself for the puddle of tears. “DRY UP!” she’d repeat, in her own head, a relic of earlier years as a sobbing little girl, being screamed at, to “DRY UP!” by the man she peered up at, through her squinty brown eyes, who stood over twice as tall as she, round like a buddha, and nearly naked as one. As she looked up his mean eyes threatened her and she stifled the sobs, as carefully as she could, breaking out with an occasional burst of air from her lungs which refused to contain it any longer into her waiting hands, covering her face.
Today, as she sat in the small, cold, office her familiar harangue filled her own head. “DRY UP, stupid woman!” she’d repeat silently until the tears stopped. The story she told, the same every time, for the gawker-du-jour, the voyeur into her special hell, who was the one who was supposedly going to make her better. Of course it never happened. The years passed. She grew older, replacing her supple tan skin for lighter finely crinkled, slightly less elastic skin. Her blonde streak emanating from the corner of her hairline, just above her left eyebrow, expanded each year, looking ever so slightly more GRAY than blonde. The plump blonde haired woman with the teal blouse with a thick ruffle around the plunging neckline had a voice that was hoarser than the woman expected. She had many more surprises to come. As the woman recounted, yet again, the sordid past she’d somehow emerged from the shrink would add a running commentary.
She didn’t think to be offended- not at first anyway, but as she ruminated on the words that spilled out of the shrink’s overactive mouth, the woman realized the heftiness of the implications therein. “It’s common,” the shrink emotionlessly commented, “for a child molested before the age of 5 to split into multiple personalities. It then becomes necessary to merge the personalities to help that person become a whole person” The woman balked. “Um, NO. I don’t have multiple personalities. “ The shrink continued the line of questioning and settled on her next point. “Did your mother do drugs when she was pregnant with you?” “How the hell would I know that? The woman silently mocked. “I don’t even remember my 10th birthday party. “ She politely replied. “I don’t know. Probably. I might be able to ask my dad.” “Because,” went on the shrink, “drug use, even, they are discovering, simply marijuana, can cause significant behavioral issues and cognitive problems to the developing fetus. “So she’s talked to me for 5 minutes and already she’s discovered a catastrophic mental break resulting in multiple persons living inside my head, as well as the suggestion that I am either brain damaged or STUPID. Nice, “ Thought the woman. But the final blow was yet to come. The woman could barely believe she’d heard the shrink correctly when she asked, “Were you raped? Penetrated with a penis or an object? Or did he just touch you?” Did he JUST touch me? Did she seriously just say that? Did he JUST touch me? Instead of smacking the smug shrink upside the head, she replied politely, “I’m not sure. I, um… d-don’t have a lot of memory. I remember a few details, but I can’t say for certain.” The detailed questioning went on, The awkward, stuttered answers following.
The familiar feeling washed over the woman as she walked down the sidewalk to her waiting vehicle, grateful to be breathing the fresh air instead of the stale office air, glad to be free of the pointed, invasive, diagnostic questions, realizing that yet again, she’d shared a part of her with someone wholly unworthy of her trust and her story. It didn’t really matter anyway, she told herself as she started the truck’s loud engine. But she knew she was lying to herself. She knew the coin would fall, devoured by the ocean of similar, faceless coins that resided in the bucket. And another- YET another -part of the woman died that day.