Chapter 1. All eight of me.
It was Uncle David who first decided to take me to therapy.
I’ve been to heaps of shrinks, tried so many different treatments and medications in my thirty-six years. Some work for a while, pushing the shadows aside for a time. But they always come back.
The drugs are just like sticking a band aid over the wound of a severed limb. The ones that do ‘work,’ leave me numb. I can’t function. I can’t hold a conversation or a job or a memory. I’m a tree without leaves in the autumn – I’m alive, but not.
‘I’m taking you to see a really nice lady, okay Suzie Q?’ Uncle David said to me as he took me by the hand.
I was seven.
By that time, I had been caught sleepwalking or been brought home by Jason (the young fella whose yard Violet seemed to prefer) so many times. It affected my aunt and uncle so badly that sometimes no one in the house slept but me.
He kept smiling at me the entire drive to the kiddie shrink. But his eyes weren’t smiling. Even as a small child I could see his worry. I took out my little black feather and stroked it against my face.
The doctor’s office was fake cheerful. It had partitions of kid’s paintings and cute little murals on the walls, a corner with used toys for us to play with and bright yellow curtains with happy little clowns performing all over them. But I could see through it. Under all the bright colours, it was just like the foster home. Sterile and shadowy.
Uncle David walked in to the office with me. I held onto his hand. I didn’t want him to go, but something in me just knew that the doctor was going to say that he had to.
The doctor stood at the door, holding it open for us as we passed through. She was very tall for a woman, taller than my uncle and wiry. Her office smelled like cleaning products and stale jellybeans. She had several bean bags in a corner and a bookshelf full of colourful figurines. They were all different shapes and sizes. There was music playing in the background, I recognised the nursery rhyme Baa Baa Black Sheep.
‘Hello, Mr O’Brien, my name is Dr Kerry Sonson.’ The doctor held out her hand to shake my uncle’s. He took it and she shook his hand with vigour, placing her other hand over the top of his. ‘And this must be little Suzie,’ she said, knelling down to me. ‘You can call me Kerry, okay?’
She stood back up and said quietly to my uncle, ‘It’s … necessary for the guardian to leave the room in my treatments. I apologise if this is not suitable for you, but … it’s the way I work.’
Uncle David nodded and smiled weakly. He bent down to me. He looked into my eyes, like he was searching for something. ‘I’ll just be out here, okay Suzie Q?’ He held my hand tightly.
Dr Kerry bent down too. ‘I have some toys over here that I want to show you. Would you like to come have a look?’ She held out her hand to me.
I turned away from her and flung myself into my uncle’s arms. He laughed nervously.
‘It’s okay, Suzie Q. I’ll just be on the other side of that door. I promise I’m not leaving you. Okay?’ He started to pry me off his body. Pushing me away from him hesitantly. The doctor took me gently by the hand and began to lead me towards the big bookshelf full of toys and I watched as my uncle stood up and exited the room, never taking his eyes off me.
I looked up at the seemingly giant bookcase. Figurines filling every shelf, all set out and evenly spaced. ‘Suzie, I would like you to pick out some toys to play with? Pick as many as you want. If you can’t reach one that you want, just tell me and I will get it down for you,’ said the doctor.
I picked out several toys, mostly from the top three shelves that I couldn’t reach. Dr Kerry showed me over to a sandbox that was on the opposite side of her room. She climbed into the sand, first flicking off her modest heels and placing her stockinged toes in the white sand.
‘Take off your shoes and come in, Suzie,’ she said holding a hand out to me. I looked at the sandpit. My mum had never let me go in them. She had always told me they were dirty.
I slipped off my shoes. I looked at the doctor’s outstretched hand and took it, stepping into the sand with the caution of someone stepping into a pit of fire.
‘Do you not like the sand, Suzie?’ the doctor asked.
‘Mum always told me that sandpits are dirty. She said cats … poop in them,’ I said, whispering the last bit.
The doctor laughed a kind, light-hearted chuckle. ‘I can promise you that no cats have pooped in this sandpit,’ she said.
I sat down in the sand and dumped all my toys onto its surface. ‘What do you want to play?’ I asked.
‘I want you to play whatever you want to play,’ she said.
I looked down at my choices and started to play. Making the toys interact with one another.
After a while, the doctor spoke. ‘Who’s this, under here?’ she said, pointing to a toy buried under the sand.
‘My mum,’ I said and continued to play.
‘And who are these three?’ she asked, pointing to some toys that sat atop a castle I had made.
‘Em and Aunt Miriam and Uncle David,’ I said, not straying from my play.
‘And these guys over here?’ she asked, pointing to a circle of toys.
‘That’s me,’ I said.
‘Okay, and this one?’ she singled out one of the toys in the circle.
‘That one’s me too,’ I said.
‘I thought you said that this one was you?’ she asked, pointing to the first.
‘They’re all me,’ I said.
I had begun sleep walking when I was six years old.
I still remember the first time they found me. I sat in a chair in the Police station, with no memory of what had happened previously, swinging my legs above the ground and clutching my pillow. There was a young man standing in front of me talking to an officer. The officer nodded seriously and wrote everything down. The young man had found me and brought me there.
I heard the slip slap of thongs on running feet. ‘Suzie!’ Uncle David had yelled.
I looked up to see him running towards me, dodging the rows of seats in the police waiting room. ‘Uncle David!’ I had never been so happy to see him in my entire life. I jumped off the chair and ran to him, hugging his legs.
The young man and the police officer looked at Uncle David with surprise and both walked over to him. The policeman was the first to talk. ‘Is this your niece?’
‘Yes, we woke up this morning and she was just gone.’ He bent down to me and looked me over. At this point I got scared. What if he was angry with me? ‘Are you okay? Where did you go?’
I started to cry and just hugged him again. I didn’t want him to be mad with me. And I honestly didn’t know where I had gone.
The young man stepped forward and cleared his throat. ‘She was asleep in my front yard this morning. My name’s Jason, by the way,’ he said, holding out his hand for Uncle David to shake. Uncle David looked at him suspiciously, but said nothing, shaking his hand anyway. ‘I woke her up to see where she had come from and at first she seemed fine. She told me her name was Violet and she had stopped to sleep under my tree, told me that she liked the funny mushrooms that were growing under it.’
Uncle David looked at me, waiting for an explanation.
‘I asked her if she had touched or eaten the mushrooms,’ Jason said, turning to the policeman. ‘Because they’re those poisonous red ones with the white spots, and she went strange, kinda off in her own world. Then she started freaking out, not knowing where she was or how she got there. Told me her name was Suzie Hugo. So I brought her here, I didn’t know what else to do.’
‘Where are the girl’s parents, Mr..?’ asked the policeman.
‘David O’Brien,’ he said as he picked me up. He turned me away from the officer and whispered. ‘I’m her guardian. Her mother’s dead. Come on, Suzie, let’s get you home.’
Uncle David walked out of the station and put me in the car. He watched me in the rear-view mirror as we drove around looking for Aunt Miriam and Emily. I stared out the window and said nothing. Later that day he bought a chain to fit to the front door.
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Sorry for the lazy blog,