After Therapy (Sabine)

Photo by Brian Jiz on Pexels.com

After therapy, I follow Dr. Sims’ advice and take myself out on a date.

“Ask yourself why you choose to live in fantasy,” her words echo.

When the waiter comes to take my order, he asks if anyone will be joining.

I consider saying yes, but more pathetic than eating at a restaurant alone is being stood up by a date who doesn’t exist. And it doesn’t cure my ADHD—attention-deficit/hyperactive daydreaming.

Okay, that’s not a real diagnosis, but it was enough to get me an appointment with Dr. Sims.

And, as the waiter sits across from me, possibly…a date?

© 2023 Nortina Simmons

Previous: Back in Therapy (Hannah)


It’s StoryADay May! I’m not promising that I will write a story every day this month, but I’m going to try. Today’s prompt is simply to write a 100-word story. I had another story in mind for my Therapy Sessions series, but that one is much longer than 100 words. Maybe I’ll post it tomorrow or at a later date. For now, say hello to our newest character, Sabine!

Distance

blurred silhouette of a hand reaching out
Photo by Maisa Borges on Pexels.com

“My love,” she says as she tilts the bottle under the rush of hot water from the faucet. She looks over her shoulder. He’s standing by the door cracked open. A sliver of light from the apartment corridor pours in. He reaches back for the knob.

Oh, how she wishes he would push it closed, take those three giant steps with his long lanky legs to come behind her, as he used to long days after work, their bodies fitting together like puzzle pieces. How she wishes he would wrap his arms around her waist and whisper in her ear, “My love,” the way he did thirteen months ago, before…

A sudden cry from the monitor by the sink grabs her attention for only a second, and in that second, the distance between them grows. The door is open wider now. His body fits in the crack, blocking the light, one foot already in the hall.

“Will you get that?” he says facing away from her. His voice already sounds miles away.

But that isn’t a phone she can answer and tell its caller to ring back later or a TV she can put on mute. That is a baby. Their baby. And has he even touched it? Fed it? Changed a single diaper? Does he know that it has his eyes? Does he realize that she still doesn’t feel like a mother, that she looks at it like it’s a thing, a thing that won’t be quiet, that won’t stop?

She wants to ask him…

If he comes back.

© 2018-2023 Nortina Simmons


 Originally published January 13, 2018.

A child formed in the snow

6-in snowman on a porch
Photo by Nortina Simmons

Two inches of the powdery stuff packed underneath a tenth of an inch of sleet and freezing rain was just enough to build my snow baby.

Her lips were red as pomegranate juice, and I used holly berries for her eyes, the pointed tip of a carrot for her nose, and rosemary stems for her arms. I slid the beaded bracelet I’d won in a gift basket from a long-forgotten charity event over her head to make a necklace.

She wasn’t the one we’d lost, but she was perfect, and she was mine. I brought her home with all the love I could manifest from my half-empty heart and made our house her home.

Continue reading “A child formed in the snow”

NoHoldsBarredPoetryWritingChallenge Day 18: Millennial Snow White

woman lying in brown grass mirror edited photo
I don't know when I stopped
living and started existing.

The coffee keeps me up. 
A sandwich for lunch, 
a bowl of noodles for dinner—
just enough sustenance to 
keep me existing until
tomorrow, when I replay
the same days as I have
for the last six months.
Present but not here,
hearing but not listening,
visible but simply a ghost. 

One day I will meet a prince,
who, with a kiss, will wake 
me from this cycle of 
dreaming and bring life into 
my purpose for being, again.

© 2022 Nortina Simmons

Overwhelmed

Woman sitting in bathtub with water

Work was traumatic. My frustration with constantly being asked stupid questions had reached its limit.

“Learn to do your fucking job!” I snapped at my boss.

Meeting with HR in the morning. I might be unemployed by lunch.

Tonight will be about self-care. I draw a bubble bath, pour myself a glass of wine, light a few candles, play smooth R&B from my phone’s speakers.

A knock on the bathroom door catches my attention. It’s my husband.

“We need to talk about what the lawyer said.”

I might be divorced by dinner.

I sink to the bottom of the tub.

© Nortina Simmons

Hurricane Season

All I see for miles are fishing lines. End of the season, most of the vacationers have gone back to school and work. The only people left on the beach are fishers, those who live here, and those who are drawn.

Me being the latter.

I grab a sandwich in plastic wrap from my tote bag just as a sudden gust of wind blows the sand around me in a swirl. When I bite into the sandwich, just underneath the crunch of the lettuce, the sand grains roll across the grooves of my teeth.

Hurricane season. Just over 100 miles off shore, a storm is churning the waters. The clouds from the outer bands have started to roll in, and the stifling humidity is a warning that the storm is getting closer, growing stronger.

Wherever the path turns in the next 24 hours will determine whether this area will be under a mandatory evacuation. By this time tomorrow, the beach may be complete deserted, save for one body.

Mine.

I honestly don’t know how I got here—willing and ready to be swept away by the storm—only that I needed to get away from Brian and the kids.

Brian and the kids.

I know what you’re thinking. And honestly, I don’t think I’m a bad mom or wife. But I’ve made mistakes. The latest was leaving Cam alone at Wal-Mart for two hours.

It wasn’t intentional, I just . . . forgot. One minute, I was sending her back to the store to return the shopping cart, and the next, I was driving back home, as if she were never with me in the first place.

And even as I was unloading the trunk, I still didn’t realize that I was alone, that the child I had taken with me was now missing. I only noticed that the house was empty, quiet. I savored that, immediately made myself comfortable on the couch in front of a good Netflix rom-com to snooze to, and began to dream about the violent calm of the waves crashing onto shore repeatedly, one after the other, until a rapped knocking startled me out of my sleep.

When I opened the door, I found the cop and my daughter, her face red and swollen from crying, and Brian, pulling up with the boys behind the police cruiser, getting out of the car, furious.

“How could you leave her! How could you be so stupid! Goddammit! Do you know what could have happened to her! Do you have any idea how dangerous that was!”

And the officer saying, “Ma’am, are you suffering from any type of stress or depression?”

“You can’t use postpartum anymore, Susan. Jared is four!” He spat it out with pure disgust, as if he couldn’t stomach the taste of my name on his tongue.

I could tell the cop was becoming uncomfortable, he rested his hand on the baton in his belt and looked anywhere but at me and my husband, finally settling on the top of Cam’s head. “This could have been a lot worse. I could be here for different reasons.”

“Thank you, officer, for bringing her home. I promise you this will never happen again. Susan’s not leaving this house ever, with any of our children.” He cut me a glare that could have pierced the thickest of rhinoceros skin.

“Let’s hope not.” The chagrin in his face. Did he even know what he was saying? I saw his wedding ring. Did he treat his wife like this? How could he turn a blind eye? But that’s exactly what he did. He said, “Y’all have a nice rest of the day,” and left without looking back. Part of me wanted to call his department later that night to complain about him willfully ignoring an ensuing domestic dispute. The moment he left, I was on the floor, barely able to see out of my left eye, the blurry images of my husband and children hovering over me. The word “stupid” heard over and over.

If my kids ever had sympathy for me through the years of Brian’s hatred and abuse, that ended the day I left Cam.

And now I’ve left them all.

I dig my feet deeper into the sand, plant myself to bear the brunt of the storm soon to come. Can I do this? Give up so easily? Is this my only option?

A man with a cooler approaches. “Best time of the year to catch the good ones, amiright? ” he says excitedly and tosses me a Ziploc bag containing a trout as big as my forearm that slaps against my thighs.

“Uh, sure, thanks.” I can’t remember the last time I’ve had fish. Brian hates seafood, won’t even let me cook it for the children. So many times I’ve caved for him, his preferences, his wants and demands.

The man waves and continues on, donating the morning’s catch to anyone by themselves on the beach.

I stuff the Ziploc bag into my tote. Scaling and gutting it will be messy, but I’ll rent an Extended Stay for the night, cook it with maybe some grits and gravy, or cheese, or stop by the local fish market and add some shrimp or scallops to go with it. Make it my last supper meal before taking the three-hour drive back to face the reality of the hell I live in. I will have three hours to decide how I will tell Brian I’m leaving him, finally, for good.

© Nortina Simmons

Escape

So I took the week off from work without any real plans to do anything or go anywhere. High as gas is, who can afford it, amirite?

I don’t think I even wanted a “vacation,” as none of the options suggested to me really stood out as something I would be willing to spend money on.

Honestly, when I decided to take the week off, it was because I didn’t feel like working anymore and I didn’t want to quit. Two and a half years working from home, the unending feeling of existential dread, and no end to this pandemic in sight (and I’m not just talking about COVID; this country is sick with more than just “flu-like symptoms” these days), I find myself lacking motivation more than ever. I find it harder and harder to focus on or even want to work, especially when it feels like the world as we know it is ending—like I’m just sitting here waiting to die. The expectation to maintain that same level of productivity we had at the beginning of this pandemic is beyond unrealistic at this point. It’s as if we’re all in denial of the inevitable.

And I know what you’re going to say. “Nortina, you need to get out of the fucking house.” I agree. And I at least try to make myself go on a walk every morning (rather than doom scroll Twitter when I wake up—even though I still do that). And since it’s finally started to cool off (we’ve reached that time of the year we here in North Carolina like to call “False Autumn”), I’ve been taking longer walks and sitting outside on my balcony. It’s been nice, but it’s all I’m willing to do right now because I don’t really feel like going out.

You can call it lazy or boring, call it depression, call it needing friends. Honestly, I couldn’t explain it to you even if I tried, but everyone’s definition of this funk that I’m in is wrong, and everyone’s suggestion for how to fix it is wrong.

I don’t want to go anywhere, but I don’t want to feel empty either, like I’ve wasted the week the way I’ve wasted the last few years and return to work having accomplished nothing from this break and feeling that same lack of motivation to do anything. And I really should get a therapist; I’ve been telling myself that for months now, but then the old-school Christian in me is like “Girl, if you don’t get on your knees and pray.” But what I’ve been doing instead is listening nonstop to Michael Jackson and imagining a fantasy world where he’s still alive because…because…I don’t know, I want to Xscape this reality?

Yeah, I’m definitely on the verge of a mental breakdown, I fear…

Music was his escape though, right? And I guess writing would be mine, although I haven’t written anything in months. So here I am, typing up what is essentially a diary entry for strangers on the internet. But at least if I put it out there, then maybe I can hold myself accountable.

So this week, I am going to write, and I’m going to try to not let the perfectionist in me kill whatever ideas I have that are scratching toward the surface. And maybe I’ll finally finish editing the book everyone’s been waiting on.

And maybe by the end of this week I will have escaped this funk and found my drive, my motivation, my push again.

But let’s be realistic here. I’m never gonna stop listening to Michael Jackson.

Still in Therapy (Joan)

“Tell me about your dream.”

“It all seemed so easy. Short lines, getting through security. Even testing was a breeze.”

“So why didn’t you ultimately get on the plane?”

My gaze drifts to the framed PhD certificate mounted on the wall behind her. I can just barely see my reflection, the tears welling in my eyes.

“Joan, you have this habit of self-sabotage. When something feels too good to be true, you often presume that it is.”

I spin the wedding band on my finger so fast it flies off and lands in her lap.

“Why don’t you call him?”

© 2021 Nortina Simmons

Previous: Another Therapy Session (Joan)

Next: Back in Therapy (Hannah)

Another Therapy Session (Joan)

“The seasonal depression is coming in hard this year, Dr. Sims.”

“Why do you think this time of year gets you so down?”

I never know how to answer this question. Loneliness? Overworked?

I glance out the window. The sky is completely clear of clouds. The sun shines brightly. The leaves are still on the trees, still a deep forest green.

“It’s pretty warm for December, isn’t it?”

“Huh?”

“Seventy the high, right?” I didn’t even wear a jacket leaving the house. Now I’m thinking of that song.

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…

No snow this year. More disappointment.  

© 2021 Nortina Simmons

Previous: Therapy Session (Joan)

Next: Still in Therapy (Joan)

Therapy Session (Joan)

“All my life, men have told me they loved me, then left me in that same breath.”

“Why do you think they leave? Do you blame yourself?”

I spin the gold band around my ring finger.  The only reminder I have of my ill-fated marriage, though no one knows. We eloped.

“Let’s talk about your father?”

“He left when I was ten.”

“Joan.”

I look up. Her eyes chide me over the rim of her glasses. Our routine for the last two months.

“You’re only wasting your money if you don’t open up.”

“I’ll see you next week, Dr. Sims.”

© 2021 Nortina Simmons

Next: Another Therapy Session (Joan)