Camila sat across from her therapist, nervous as hell. This was her very first visit and she didn’t know what to expect. She’d heard terrible insults flung at people who sought therapy and she didn’t want to be on the receiving end of those insults. Of course, she realized just then, most of those insults were from her predatory father. Her purse was in her lap and she was white knuckling the leather strap unintentionally.
Jill sat back, relaxing her posture a bit, asking Carmelita how she was today and making small talk to break the ice. It was Jill’s job to make her patient feel comfortable enough to open up about whatever dark secrets she was keeping that horrified her. That’s pretty much the short and skinny of all therapy patients. They were traumatized by something they weren’t allowed to talk about openly, whether it be from internal inhibition or the admonishment and control of other human beings.
Camila began to relax as she got to know her new doctor. Jill seamlessly led into the therapy session from the small talk as her knuckles became less white.
“Camila, I want you to know that we should go at whatever pace you are comfortable with. You can never tell me too much but you can definitely tell me too little, which is a waste of your resources. However, I can’t make you do anything you don’t want to do,” Jill said to her.
“Okay… that’s a good point, Dr. Jill. I guess… I guess I’ll start with the fact that I’ve been raped,” Camila said bluntly.
“Would you like to face your attacker and name them in court? There are legal actions you can take for this transgression against you. You can hold them accountable for their actions,” Dr. Jill informed her.
“I… I think so. M-maybe I’ll just tell you the story for now. I’m embarrassed,” Camila replied, thinking about what it would mean to take her husband to court for rape. She supposed she better be ready for divorce first, and she thought she was but she wasn’t sure yet. Jill nodded, typing as Camila spoke, taking notes. This started to make Camila feel important. Everything she said was being recorded.
“I’ve been married for twelve years to my husband, Manny. For a long time, we were happy, or I thought so. My biggest problem with Manny is he was always forgetting our anniversary. He could remember my birthday no problem, but it’s like the day we got married isn’t very important to him. Some years, our anniversary comes and goes without anything happening at all. I would remind him for a while, but he still did a lackluster job of making it special. This, year, though… it was different. I was sure he forgot, but then he came home at the last minute with a white lasagna — my favorite — and a ring. He was dressed up, like he wanted to impress me. It reeked of foul play somehow, but the only person I’d told about what I wanted for my anniversary was the woman who did my mani-pedi. And the life coach that was sitting next to me, but that lady was rooting for me to stand up for myself and demand better and if it doesn’t get better, I need to leave.” Camila added more and more details, telling her therapist about how she’d told the two gals all about how she dreamed of a new ring, something flashy and avant garde. How her favorite dish was calamari, quickly followed by white lasagna.
Just then, it dawned on Camila that Crystal had been digging for information subtly. The woman had never spoke of herself at all. Could she know Manny? She didn’t tell her therapist that part.
“So I went home from getting my nails did and Manny appeared a while later, toting a white lasagna that didn’t have any brand names on it. It was the best lasagna we’ve ever had, really. And he had wine. White wine. Chateau Ste Michelle, stuff he’d never bought before. He likes red wine and beer, mostly, but it went so well with the lasagna we drank the whole bottle together. And he was dressed up, almost as sharp looking as the day we got married. And he brought candles home to make it a candle-lit dinner. And then to top it all off, he gives me a ring on one knee, like he’s asking me to be his wife all over again. And for a time, I forgot how pissed off I am at him for always forgetting. I just know he won’t remember next year, but that life coach lady did tell me I ought to remind him three times in the future… one month before, one week before, and the day before. She made sense when she said all that. Manny’s in the technology industry and he sometimes works a few extra hours here and there and I guess he probably does forget, with his work deadlines and everything… it’s humiliating to have to remind him, though. It makes me feel like a petulant child to be given the task of remembering our anniversary,” Camila said. Jill was tap-tap-tapping away, taking notes.
“It sounds like the burden of remembering something you felt was a great time in your life is taking a toll on you,” Crystal said to her. “You remember it so fondly and it seems like a chore for him to keep it in mind every year, and it becomes a chore to you to remind him. It’s a mental burden. In fact, it’s one that most women experience. You are not alone, Camila.” Jill paused for a moment to let the words sink in. Camila was nodding, wordless, so Jill continued, “Have you ever considered the idea that because you take on this mental burden, because it’s so important to you, you are failing to allow him to grow into it? That he doesn’t have to remember it at all because you do and you’ll remind him, no matter what, even if it comes and goes.”
Camila shook her head. She hadn’t thought of that. “If Manny were here with you, I’d suggest he put it on his work calendar to repeat yearly. In fact, he should put your birthday in there, too, and consider taking the day or week off to take you on a trip or staycation. If you did have kids, I’d encourage him to put their birthdays in there, too, with a one week reminder and another reminder four days before and one last one the day before. That way, he has three prompts that don’t come from his wife to do something special for his loved ones. In fact, he can put it on his personal calendar, too, if he uses one, but once you add it to your work calendar, it becomes official,” Jill told her. “IF you want to, you can suggest it to Manny. It doesn’t mean you have to stay, either, it’s just a tip he could use to become a better person in general. We all forget important days with our family if we get too lost in our work. We’re human, after all.”
Camila had tears in her eyes. Why hadn’t she thought of something so simple years ago? Why hadn’t she just started marking their wall calendar with the event? She could do it every time she received a new calendar and then she’d know it was in there. She could even mark his birthday and hers, even though they never forgot birthdays. She felt stupid, in a word. She could have taken action all this time in such a small way and then dumped the responsibility of doing something about it onto Manny.
Jill took Camila’s silence for a few moments, letting the woman think through whatever was on her mind, then she said, “It’s almost time, Camila. We have about ten more minutes. Is there anything really pressing you want to discuss that’s separate from your recent anniversary? It’s okay if you want to wait, this is your speed.” Camila appreciated the gentle reminder.
“Do you think it’s possible that life coach knows Manny?” Camila blurted out. “I can’t help but think she does, but I’d want to know how. I thought she was just a really young woman getting her nails done. The only thing I remember about her is that she said it was the first time in a year she’d gone out for a mani-pedi and her name is Crystal. She gave me a card and everything in case I needed more help gaining direction.”
“Anything is possible,” Jill stated calmly. “You will have to ask your husband about it to know for sure. She might be employed at the same company or she might be the spouse of one of his coworkers, she could double as a bartender at his favorite bar if he has one, she could be someone he’s talked to for direction of his own. Men often find outlets for solutions because they feel driven to take action.”
“I… hope he’s not sleeping with her,” she said, finally.
“If she was, why would she help him give you the best anniversary you’ve had in years?” Jill asked her gently. Camila brightened just then. Dr. Jill was right. Why would some floozy try to make their marriage better? Unless…
“Dr. Jill, there is one more thing. I… I’m sort of not completely faithful to my husband… There’s this guy named Diego that he’s known since childhood that recently divorced and I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I was wondering if they divorced because he wants to pursue me, but now I don’t know. I haven’t seen him once since it has been officially over. That doesn’t stop me from thinking about divorcing Manny to chase him, though,” she admitted. She expected to be shamed for this, but nothing of the sort happened.
“I don’t want to burst your bubble,” Jill began, even though she was about to do just that, “but, logically, it sounds like Diego divorced for other reasons. If he wanted to sweep you off your feet, he would have tried that by now. Men don’t like to be alone for long at all. I’d wager he has another woman on his radar. Men don’t play hard to get, women do.”
Camila’s heart sank at Jill’s logic. She was right again. “If he’s indeed your husband’s best friend, you could ask him all about it. I’d suggest you stay celibate until you decide if you’re going to stay or go, though. Simply because sex confuses us, releasing feel-good hormones that contradict how we feel otherwise, especially for abusive significant others. Not that I’m trying to say your husband is abusive. I’m trying to say that you sound confused right now and it might help to simply try to be friends or roommates with your husband until your mind is made up. If you tell him you’re trying to figure yourself out and you need a break from the bedroom, he should appreciate that, especially if you decide to share a bed… but if not, send him to the couch. Don’t sleep on the couch yourself — the male body is more suited to that activity than the female body. Clear, open, honest communication is all you ever need to get what you desire from a reasonable man. So far, he sounds very reasonable, but if you don’t think he is… ask him to sleep at Diego’s so you can have space and you know exactly where he is.”
Camila was perplexed as she mulled over the advice Dr. Jill just gave to her. It was the end of the session, though, so she found herself standing and shaking the doctor’s hand before leaving. She thought she should write down all that great advice and logic as soon as possible, so she sat in her car, tapping away on her phone. Dr. Jill was a keeper, Camila thought. She also thought about contacting Crystal to ask her directly how she knew Manny, though she wasn’t sure she’d like the answer or even trust her answer. Then again, was she going to trust Manny’s answer?
Super_Fox#8259 was her Discord ID. There was nothing else on the card besides her name and the title “Life Coach.” The rest was taken up by a wholesome graphic of nature combined with technology. Camila decided to download Discord and friend the woman, once she figured out how to do so.