545 Chapters
Medium 9781782202738

Seven

Adams, Marie Karnac Books ePub

I don't get nearly so nervous as I used to before giving a talk. In the old days I would vanish into the loo beforehand, letting go all my anxieties in one almighty heave. Afterwards I was lightheaded, a bit on edge and once-removed from myself. Only then could I go out in front of an audience and it was almost as if someone else was addressing the crowd; I was simply the vehicle through which the information was being served. Purging myself beforehand was the way I coped.

Frank noticed my anxiety on Friday morning before I did. I spilled coffee all over the kitchen counter. What I actually did was forget to install the pot in its slot beneath the filter and the freshly brewed coffee poured out everywhere.

I was in the bedroom, blow-drying my hair and even above the racket of the machine I heard the thump, thumping of Frank down below attempting to contain the spillage. He must have tipped the whole contraption into the sink because when I came down to see what was going on, it was lying on its side like a capsized ocean liner. Brown gunk was everywhere, seeping underneath the toaster and the cereal packets and dripping down over the counter into the barely opened cutlery drawer, overflowing onto the floor. Frank looked beside himself, clutching a roll of kitchen towel in one hand and a scrunched-up wad of paper in the other in a frantic effort to mop up the mess.

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Fifteen

Adams, Marie Karnac Books ePub

In Winnipeg there is a new airport, slicker than the old one: souvenir shops and restaurants, with high tech ordering on tablets. My hometown has grown up, expanded in my absence. I am a stranger again, until I hit Portage, the long avenue of my youth opening up into six lanes all the way to town. This road, in either direction, if I stay on it long enough, will take me to the coast—Highway No. 1, an asphalt thread linking the country from one end to the other, a means of escape I failed to recognise as a young woman. Instead the city was like four walls without a door, until disaster struck and they all came tumbling down.

The rental car is smooth. Automatic, it starts at the push of a button, the air conditioner purring. I clutch the steering wheel with both hands and aim straight for my mother's nursing home. On this road, along this track, I float above myself, watching the young woman below. She is the one driving the car: another era, another time zone. She knows the terrain, the map of the city, with her childhood articulated through the indelible actions of muscle memory. She knows when to turn and when not to, recognises hotels and businesses along the strip leading away from the airport. Names have changed over the years, yet this is such familiar territory. The Institute for the Blind on the left, the big electronics store to the right, fast food chains and the Richardson Building up ahead, tumblers falling into place. Where the roller rink used to be, now an imposing university building, the periodic table embossed in its facings. She blinks away the changes. A sudden chill in the air and the new hockey arena looms, monument to the prodigal Jets. She remembers the old one: bright lights and the smell of hot dogs, the sweet yeasty scent of spilt beer, and the slap of the puck against the boards. Blades scraping the ice, the roar of the crowd as another one lands in the net. The sound of the organ slugging out yet another tune: new for old, Eaton's department store gone and a rip in her chest, a streak of pain like fabric tearing across the grain. The car veers for a second into another lane and a truck honks behind her. Hard and angry, too long a scream. A shout like a roar and the car is back on track.

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Nineteen

Adams, Marie Karnac Books ePub

The smell of death was everywhere: on my hands, my clothes, in my hair.

Tom strode across the parking lot towards his truck like it was the open range, his cattle loose beyond the gate. He had friends in town and an ex-wife. He didn't say where he was going and I didn't ask. We both needed time on our own. I watched the truck move down the road, turning left at the corner away from the hotel, a blast of Emmylou from his sound system floating mournfully over the distance between us. I pushed a lock of hair behind my ear, shoved the gearstick into reverse and pointed the car in the opposite direction. I needed to freshen up.

In my room, I ignored the message light on my hotel phone. Frank, doing his best, reaching out. Soon. Soon.

My shower was quick, time enough to slough off the scent of death. I slipped on a dress and a change of shoes, open-toed pumps to ensure my elevation, fresh make-up and lipstick, another purchase from duty free. I stood tall in front of the full-length mirror, one final check to ensure I was fully armed. Every muscle was taut, my jawline set like an axe. I was on a mission—nothing could stop me now. Stuffed my computer into my bag—there could be more time to kill—and headed out the door.

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Seventeen

Adams, Marie Karnac Books ePub

Steady. Steady. Tom led me to the couch. We sat either end, facing one another. Too much space between us, yet too close for comfort. I stood up and moved back to my previous perch at the end of the bed, the birth certificate flat on the table between us. Tom ordered a pot of coffee and we sipped it quietly together in the room. Silence between us wasn't typical and we were suddenly shy, peering at one another over our cups, quick little glances checking up on the other. Occasionally, Tom smiled. Was it me, or himself, he hoped to reassure?

My thinking had fragmented into a disjointed series of words and fractured phrases, nothing holding together. This was not the result of last night's alcohol, or the mark of a restless night, but the splintering, heart-wrenching tiredness of grief. For the first time I truly empathised with my clients’ struggles: Sam in his anguish, Dorothy in her disturbing account of maternal absence, her curiously swinging presentation and resistance in the room. Her bare knees. I took comfort from my work as a therapist, reminding myself that I had come a long way from the young woman who had given birth. The young woman who, almost without thinking, had lost her child.

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Three

Adams, Marie Karnac Books ePub

I am a therapist who prides herself on her ability to remember details. Most clinicians are good at this, but I like to think that I am particularly good at it. If I don't recall something, I need to ask myself why, what is important about this fact or bit of information that I have dismissed it out of memory and, therefore, attention? You see, I cover my back both ways. Both remembering and not remembering are crucial.

At the weekend, however, and in the evening after work, I try to let the day go, leave my patients behind and re-enter my own life. My marriage to Frank is another portal out of one room into another, and this one has light.

Frank has a great capacity for reassurance. I sometimes wonder if he has acquired this through his relationship with numbers, their very concreteness providing him with a stability I certainly don't have. I cling to Frank because he is planted firmly in the ground, a rock of rational thinking. If both of us were busy analysing the other, empathy flying back and forth in both directions, life would be insufferable. The extension of compassion is one thing, to receive it quite another. Perhaps that is why I so often write about it, my preoccupation with this therapeutic essential nothing but an effort to understand what I so abhor receiving myself. I believe I extend it towards my patients, not in a gushing sort of way, but through my very capacity to understand and perceive their pain, though with some clients it isn't so easy to identify with their distress. With my new patient this week, I had experienced such inexplicable confusion I wasn't sure I had really taken her into account at all. Too early to speculate and I pushed any thoughts of her to the back of my mind.

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